From its majestic mountains to its picturesque coastline, Italy's natural beauty is hard to beat. There are seemingly countless destinations for you to explore if you're looking to get away from the bustling cities of Rome, Venice and Florence, and one of the best is Lake Como. Located in the northernmost reaches of Italy in Lombardy, this stunning natural formation offers some of the best views in Europe, but there is plenty to do aside from admiring the scenery.
Visit the villas
Given its natural appeal, Lake Como has been a popular destination for Italy's wealthiest residents for centuries, and as a result, some impressive pieces of architecture have sprung up along its banks. Some of the villas date back to Roman times, and while they are all sure to impress you with their intricate design and sheer size, there are a few that stand above the rest.
Villa Carlotta is one of the few homes you can't miss. Built in 1690, the villa is situated in a sprawling compound that encompasses approximately 17 acres. The home itself is certainly impressive, as it contains many stunning pieces of art, but it's the gardens that surround it that really set Villa Carlotta apart from the rest. An estimated 800 different plants are on display throughout the grounds, making for a truly unique experience.
Hit the water
Only experiencing Lake Como from the shore would be a mistake. You should also head out on the water on the many ferries that help locals reach the various towns situated around the lake. Not only will riding the ferry give you a different perspective of the lake and its picturesque landscape, but you can also explore many of the villages located along the route. Bellagio is particularly memorable, thanks to its views of the Alps as well as its delicious cuisine.
Don't forget the hike
Lake Como is surrounded by the Alps, so you'd be remiss if you didn't take the opportunity to inject some adventure travel to your visit. There are plenty of opportunities for hiking, but one of the best is the commune of Brunate, which stands about 1,500 feet above the lake below. After taking a funicular (also known as a cable railway) to the tiny village, you can see all that the Alps have to offer.