If you’re visiting Lake Como with the family, look past the lakeside villas and posh restaurants to focus on the great outdoors, where beaches and boats provide the lion’s share of the fun.
There are always crowds in the summer but also ways to bypass them. Some of the main piers—Como and Cernobbio, for example—have pleasant waterfront parks nearby where my kids like to let off steam between boat rides, while the boat rides themselves are the main event. Older kids will love the summer water sports. You can paddleboard from many private beaches, and there’s a Blevio beach that offers banana boat fun. Lastly, the gelato—while not unique to Lake Como—is a hit with all ages.
Pack bug spray to combat summer mosquitoes on otherwise pleasant Lake Como.
If you only have time for one thing, make it a boat ride.
Check out the central lake towns of Bellagio, Varenna, and Menaggio by boat. Skip the ticket lines by booking online. Opt for the free circulation cruises, which let you hop on and off in the central lake area. Make sure you board a fast boat (corse rapide). Alternatively, opt for a private day cruise that’s easier to plan around kids. Teens may appreciate wooden speedboat options that lend a certain James Bond vibe.
On land, ice cream parlors and photo opportunities abound. The gelateria Il Gabbiano of Menaggio offers a terrace where little ones can totter around.
Visit the hill town of Brunate today to snap family photographs against a dramatic Lake Como backdrop. If you don’t want to hike, ride the historic Como-Brunate Funicular Railway instead. The ride takes about 10 minutes, but the sweeping lake views are a highlight of the trip for all ages. At the top, check out the Volta Lighthouse. Kids will love the challenge of the spiral staircase, and adults will appreciate the bird’s-eye views over Cernobbio below.
Brunate is a historic town with many cobbled alleys. If you’re traveling with toddlers or babies, opt for a carrier over a stroller.
Introduce the family to Lombardy food without having to grace the swanky restaurants. Private cooking classes with Como locals offer the chance for kids to roll up their sleeves and get involved with preparing dishes like pasta and polenta, and to experience local culture, too, with classes taking place in the host’s own home.
Another option is a cooking experience in Bellagio that teams a group cooking class with entry tickets to the botanical gardens at Villa Melzi. After getting your fill of Italian food, the kids can burn off steam by playing nascondino (hide-and-seek) amid the azaleas.