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Panoramic view of Lake Como with the <a href="/content/Alps" style="color:blue">Alps</a> and <a href="/content/Bellagio_(Italian_region)" style="color:blue">Bellagio</a>
Panoramic view of Lake Como with the Alps and Bellagio

Lake Como (Italian: Lago di Como [ˈlaːɡo di ˈkɔːmo], locally [ˈkoːmo]; Western Lombard: Lagh de Còmm [ˈlɑː‿dːe ˈkɔm],[18] Cómm [ˈkom] or Cùmm [ˈkum]), also known as Lario (Italian: [ˈlaːrjo]; after the Latin: Larius Lacus), is a lake of glacial origin in Lombardy, Italy. It has an area of 146 square kilometres (56 sq mi), making it the third-largest lake in Italy, after Lake Garda and Lake Maggiore. At over 400 metres (1,300 ft) deep, it is the fifth deepest lake in Europe, and the deepest outside Norway; the bottom of the lake is more than 200 metres (660 ft) below sea level.

Lake Como has been a popular retreat for aristocrats and wealthy people since Roman times, and a very popular tourist attraction with many artistic and cultural gems. It has many villas and palaces such as Villa Olmo, Villa Serbelloni, and Villa Carlotta. Many famous people have had and have homes on the shores of Lake Como.

One of its particularity is its characteristic "Y" shape, which forms the so-called "Larian Triangle", with the little town of Canzo as its capital.

In 2014, The Huffington Post called it the most beautiful lake in the world for its microclimate and environment with prestigious villas and villages.[2]

Etymology


The lake's name in Latin is Larius, Italianised as Lario, but this name is rarely used; it is usually called Lago di Como (literally "lake of Como"). In guidebooks the lake may be variously referred to as Lake Como, Lake of Como, or Como Lake. Its name comes from the city of Como, known to the Romans as Comum.

Geography


The lake is shaped much like an inverted letter "Y". The northern branch begins at the town of Colico, while the towns of Como and Lecco sit at the ends of the southwestern and southeastern branches respectively. The small towns of Bellagio, Menaggio and Lierna are situated at the intersection of the three branches of the lake: a triangular boat service operates between them.

Lake Como is fed primarily by the Adda River, which enters the lake near Colico and flows out at Lecco. This geological conformation makes the southwestern branch a dead end, and so Como, unlike Lecco, is often flooded.

The mountainous pre-alpine territory between the two southern arms of the lake (between Como, Bellagio, and Lecco) is known as the Larian Triangle,[3] or Triangolo lariano. The source of the river Lambro is here. At the centre of the triangle, the town of Canzo is the seat of the Comunità montana del Triangolo lariano, an association of the 31 municipalities that represent the 71,000 inhabitants of the area.

Lake Como weather is humid subtropical (Cfa in the Köppen climate classification). In the winter, the lake helps to maintain a higher temperature in the surrounding region. Average daily temperatures range from about 3.7 °C (39 °F) in January to 23.4 °C (74 °F) in July, according to historical weather data from Como.[4] Water temperatures can reach an average of 24 °C (75 °F) during the month of July. Snowfall is erratic and primarily affects the higher elevations. Rainfall is heaviest in May and lowest during the winter months.

Tourism


As a tourist destination, Lake Como is popular for its landscapes, wildlife, and spas.[5] It is a venue for sailing, windsurfing, and kitesurfing.[6] In 1818 Percy Bysshe Shelley wrote to Thomas Love Peacock: "This lake exceeds anything I ever beheld in beauty, with the exception of the arbutus islands of Killarney. It is long and narrow, and has the appearance of a mighty river winding among the mountains and the forests".[7]

In the area surrounding Lake Como there are several farms which produce goods such as honey, olive oil, cheese, milk, eggs and salamis. Visitors can find lists of these farms and typically visit the farm itself in person to make their purchases.[8]

In 2018, both a fashion event of the Italian luxury label Dolce and Gabbana and a Netflix production starring Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston took place at Lake Como.[9][10]

The lake is well known for the attractive villas that have been built there since Roman times, when Pliny the Younger built the Comedia and the Tragedia resorts. Many villas on the lake shores have admirable gardens that benefit from the mild climate induced by the stabilizing presence of 22.5 cubic kilometres (5.4 cu mi) of lake water and can sustain many subtropical and Mediterranean plants.

Villa Carlotta was built for the Milanese Marquis Giorgio Clerici in 1690 and occupies a site of over 7 hectares (17 acres) at Tremezzo, facing the Bellagio peninsula. An Italian garden (with steps, fountains, and sculptures) was laid out at the same time. The villa was later sold to powerful banker and Napoleonic politician Giovanni Battista Sommariva. Stendhal was his guest in 1818, and his visit is recalled at the start of La Chartreuse de Parme. In 1843 it was purchased by Princess Marianne of Nassau as a wedding present for her daughter Carlotta, after whom the villa is now named. The latter, together with her husband Georg II of Saxen-Meiningen, laid out the woodland landscape park in Romantic style. The villa today includes a museum of agricultural implements as well as important works of sculpture by Sommariva's friend Antonio Canova and by Luigi Acquisti.[11]

Villa d'Este, in Cernobbio, was built in 1568 by Cardinal Tolomeo Gallio, a native of the town. In 1816–1817 the villa was home to Caroline of Brunswick, estranged wife of the Prince of Wales and shortly to become Queen Consort of King George IV of the United Kingdom. The landscaped gardens in the English style are a product of this period. Later in the century it was turned into a luxury hotel. Today the Villa d'Este is known for attracting celebrity guests.

Villa del Balbianello, famous for its elaborate terraced gardens, lies on a promontory of the western shore of the lake near Isola Comacina. Built in 1787 on the site of a Franciscan monastery, it was the final home of the explorer Guido Monzino and today houses a museum devoted to his work.

Villa Melzi d'Eril in Bellagio was built in neo-classical style by architect Giocondo Albertolli in 1808–1810 as the summer residence of Duke Francesco Melzi d'Eril, who was vice-president of the Napoleonic Italian Republic. The park includes an orangery, a private chapel, fine statues, and a Japanese garden, and is planted, as often on lake Como, with huge rhododendrons. 19th-century guests at the Villa included Stendhal and Franz Liszt.[12]

Villa Serbelloni, also in Bellagio, hosts the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center, a 50-acre (200,000 m2) international conference center set up and managed by the Rockefeller Foundation since 1959, which also operates a "scholar-in-residence" program for scholars from around the world. This is believed to have been the site of Pliny the Younger's villa "Tragedia". Its well-known park was created at the end of the 18th century by Alessandro Serbelloni.

Many famous people have or have had homes on the shores of Lake Como, such as Matthew Bellamy, John Kerry, Madonna, George Clooney,[13] Gianni Versace, Ronaldinho, Sylvester Stallone, Julian Lennon, Richard Branson, Ben Spies, and Pierina Legnani.

The Lake Como ferry service is a highly developed public transport system linking the many small towns around the Lake. A motorized service began in 1826 when a steamship with sails, the "Lario", was launched by the newly established Società privilegiata per l'impresa dei battelli a vapore nel Regno Lombardo Veneto. Since 1952 the system has been run under the auspices of a government organization called first the Gestione Commissariale Governativa and subsequently the Gestione Governativa Navigazione Laghi, which is also responsible for services on Lake Maggiore and Lake Garda.[14][15]

Today there are three main services:

  • Motorship services along the western branch and northern end of the Lake (between Colico or Piona and Como town), with additional shuttles to the mid-lake area.
  • Fast services that follow broadly the same route, but use faster hydrofoils, stop less frequently, and cost extra.
  • Ferries that run only between the popular mid-lake villages of Menaggio, Bellagio, and Varenna, plus Cadenabbia. Some of these boats carry vehicles as well as passengers.[16]

The Sacro Monte di Ossuccio ("Holy Mount of Ossuccio") is a sanctuary located on a hillside slope between olive groves and woods along the western edge of Lake Como facing Isola Comacina. Fifteen Baroque inspired chapels, built between 1635 and 1710, and dedicated to the Mysteries of the Rosary are dotted along the way that leads to the Monastery. This building is the last in the chain and is dedicated to the Coronation of the Virgin.

In 2003, the Sacri Monti of Piedmont and Lombardy, including that of Ossuccio, were added by UNESCO to the World Heritage List.

Villages, resorts, and other remarkable localities near the lake


References in literature


Depictions in popular culture


Lake Como was used as filming location for movies such as The Pleasure Garden (1925), Bobby Deerfield (1977), A Month by the Lake (1995), Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones (2002), Ocean's Twelve (2004), Casino Royale (2006), and Imagine You & Me (2016), and for the music videos Gwen Stefani's "Cool" and John Legend's "All of Me".

In television, it was also used as a set for the Chuck episode "Chuck Versus the Honeymooners". In Series 21 of the British television series Top Gear, Richard Hammond races around the perimeter of the lake in an Alfa Romeo 4C while Jeremy Clarkson uses a Gibbs Quadski. In the daytime drama The Bold and the Beautiful, Stephanie Forrester (Susan Flannery) tossed long-time rival Sally Spectra (Darlene Conley) into Lake Como after Sally tries to prevent Stephanie from getting to her own wedding. It was also the setting for a scene in Season 5; Episode 2 "Greyson Blaise" of The Blacklist (TV Series).

Sports


Lake Como is the setting of the annual Classic cycling race, the Giro di Lombardia (Tour of Lombardy).

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