Hidden gems of Lake Como that aren’t showing up on your Instagram feed and where to find them

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For lunch anywhere along the lake, don’t sleep on the piadine, a kind of Italian sandwich that most closely resembles a flour tortilla quesadilla. You can get one at almost any bar or cafe, stuffed with tuna in oil, arugula and tomatoes, or turkey and vinegar mayonnaise, and the best ones are hot with melted cheese inside and a crisp, flexible exterior.

The garden of Villa Lario

Villa Lario

A guest room at Villa MUSA

Francesco Lopazio

Where to stay

If your budget is high, head to Passalacqua, the town’s newest luxury hotel, which sits at the end of a narrow, winding road on the shore of Moltrasio. Part of the Grand Hotel Tremezzo family, the restored 18th-century super-villa offers immaculate service, views, and grounds, plus a bar cart that had me gasping audibly, with hardly any crowds. (It has just 24 rooms and a similar property footprint to the GHT, which has 90 rooms, so Passalacqua feels serene; though if you’re feeling lonely, you can visit the fuzzy chickens penned to one side of the gardens, laying eggs for breakfast.)

For a moderate-to-high budget, if a remote, quiet sanctuary appeals, consider Villa Lario, a contemporary 18-room hotel tucked into the steep road halfway between Como and Bellagio. Or if you’re looking for a stylish spot that lets you explore on foot, book a room at MUSA Lago di Como, which opened on the shore of the charming fishing village of Sala Comacina in June 2022. Its waterfront GAIA bar du lac has magical superpowers: he can convert the stress of work into another round of appetizers in less than ten minutes, flat and a gracious patio with panoramic views from his comfortable sofas. There are also plenty of private villas for rent, like the rustic-chic Villa Torno a few minutes south of Villa Lario, or Villa Musa if you’re looking for the sunny west coast.

If you’re looking to spend less on accommodation, count yourself lucky if you can secure one of three stylish rooms at Villa Lina, a bed and breakfast with an amazing location and the kindest owners. Each of its rooms is soothingly appointed in neutral tones, with frontal lake views, and is conveniently located on the walking path that connects each cluster of restaurants and bars in Tremezzo. For the intrepid, sporty traveler looking for spartan chic accommodation further north – Grand Central for windsurfing and other water sports, plus hiking routes – check out Casa Olea in Cremia, a minimalist joint recently opened in a restored 18th century presbytery. (Come with a rental car, as there aren’t many dining options nearby.) Or, for the lavender-scented poolside slopes, head to Agriturismo Treterre , perched atop a loop road with a stern note. Treterre offers scenic seclusion and a landscape that essentially forces your shoulders around your ears, with a restaurant that chops down the property’s farmland.

And if you need a room in downtown Como, for example to catch an early train or because you prefer the convenience of staying in a city, book a room at Palazzo Albricci Peregrini, a 15th century palace transformed into the treasure chest of a boutique hotel with Venetian plaster walls, elegant furnishings and lavish finishes that are well worth your time. Como is packed with people for a good reason, after all.

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