Visitors flock to Lake Como from across the world to experience its lazy lakeside basking, its rare historical highlights and its delectable food and wine. One aspect of this unparalleled landscape that sometimes gets overlooked is the vast network of hiking trails criss-crossing the Lake Como hills, with daytrips perfect for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts at all levels of fitness. Not only do the higher altitudes offer cool air and blissful shade when terrestrial temperatures soar, but they also give hikers the chance to gain insight into the area’s past and to sample traditional mountain fare at mountain inns known as rifugi. Lake Como has a special magic from above and these panoramas have to be seen to be believed!

For detailed information, buy a 1:50,000 map of Lake Como and surroundings from the popular mapmakers at KOMPASS or a 1:35,000 map called Carta dei Sentieri della Communita Montana Lario Intelvese, both of which should be available at tourist offices or bookstores around Lake Como.  The Palazzo staff is, of course, always on hand to assist you in finding the right hike for you. Alternatively, we can arrange for a trek with one of our expert local guides who know every peak and valley surrounding Lake Como. They can add interesting historical and natural detail to any hike and take the guesswork out of your planning!

Read below for a small selection of our favorite hikes and get in touch with us to find out more:

Sentiero del Viandante

Bellano – Varenna, 2 to 3 hours hike, elevation gain: approx. 1845 ft.

It’s hard to choose which is more stunning: the view of the mountains from the lake or the view of the lake from the mountains – take this hike to find out your preference! The hike begins in Bellano, which you can reach by ferry from Bellagio. This bustling lakeside town saw its fair share of battles throughout the Middle Ages and served as the area’s primary port town for centuries. If you have time, stop into the Orrido di Bellano, a natural gorge 15 million years in the making with elevated walkways along the waterfall. From there it’s just a quick wander up the hill to what is known as the Sentiero del Viandante, or Wayfarer’s Path. This 28-mile path runs from Abbadia Lariana in the south all the way to Colico in the north and is marked with bright orange signs. Follow in the footsteps of the merchants and shepherds, pilgrims and warriors who have traveled these paths since man first came to the lake.

This section of the path, from Bellano to Varenna, takes you past religious shrines, dilapidated farmhouses known as rustici and lush chestnut and birch forests. There is ample evidence on the path of just how enterprising the locals, known as Comaschi, have always been: precarious terraced vineyards and olive groves, centuries-old dry-stone walls made entirely without mortar and the ruins of an old stone quarry where locals worked at great physical risk to extract the area’s famed black marble occhiadino. Around almost every corner Lake Como shines in its majestic glory down below. As you approach Varenna, you can’t miss the 12th-century Castello di Vezio with its turrets, towers and daily falconry demonstrations. The lakeside village of Varenna is a great spot for some well-deserved refreshment, before returning to Bellagio by boat.

Monte San Primo

Rifugio Martina to Monte San Primo and back, 2-3 hours hike, elevation gain: approx. 1900 feet

Bellagio to Rifugio Martina, 4 to 5 hours hike, elevation gain: approx. 3300 feet

Dorsale del Triangolo Lariano, approx. 12 hours hike, elevation gain: approx. 4600 feet total

Monte San Primo is not Lake Como’s tallest mountain (that would be Monte Legnone on the northeastern shore at 8,500 feet!), but it is the highest peak of the so-called Triangolo Lariano, that triangular wedge of mountainous terrain between the Lecco and Como branches of the lake. There are several ways for guests at the Palazzo to tackle this particular peak, from quick stroll to ambitious trekking. No matter which path you choose, the sweeping views across the lake and the Alps is something you’ll never forget. And don’t miss a chance for some hearty mountain fare – Rifugio Martina and inns like it serve polenta uncia, positively swimming in butter and garlic, along with stick-to-your-rib stews made with venison, boar or rabbit hunted on these very hills.

The easiest way to get to the top is to leave your car at Rifugio Martina – and that’s where the easy stops! The path to the peak is short, steep and rocky, but you can reward yourself with a hearty lunch back at the inn. Slightly more adventurous types can start in the hamlet of San Giovanni in Bellagio, enjoy about 4 to 5 hours of (at times strenuous) hiking to Rifugio Martina and allow us to arrange for collection after lunch. True mountaineers will not pass up the chance to explore more of the area on the Dorsale del Triangolo Lariano, a hiking path that zigs and zags its way from Como to Bellagio. Start with Como’s funicular railway to Brunate – known as the Balcony of the Alps – and make your way to Bellagio on a two-day trek. We’d be happy to reserve a catered mountain chalet for the overnight or recommend a guide to show you the way.

Il Sentiero delle Espressioni

Alpe Comana – Monte Comana peak and back, approx. 2.5 hours, elevation gain: 1300 feet

This hike is a great one for families! With a pretty easy climb, exciting tales of yesteryear smugglers and a collection of eccentric wood statues, no one thinks to ask, “Are we there yet?” question. Drive to Argegno across the lake from Lezzeno, wind your way up the hill to Schignano and then take the small road to Perla-Posa. Find a spot along the road to park where you see the yellow signs for Sentiero delle Espressioni and start on your way, passing first through Alpe Nava. The mountains between Lake Como and Lake Lugano were a smugglers’ paradise from the 1800s until the 1970s. So-called spalloni scrambled across the Swiss border with 80-pound burlap packs of contraband strapped to their shoulders, or spalle, traveling under cover of darkness to avoid the finanzieri. This hike in the Valle d’Intelvi follows in these illicit footsteps.

Watch out for the sign marking the beginning of the trail, with a bit of background on the sculptures and the Valle d’Intelvi area. Nearby Schignano is famous for its extravagant Carnevale celebrations (our Mardi Gras!) and the skilled artisans who have carved wooden masks for the annual parade for over 200 years. These same artisans decided to put their skills to work in this forest, getting inspiration from an assortment of tree trunks and creating weird and wonderful sculptures for the hikers to see. The trail is dotted with them as you continue past Alpe Comana (which is a great spot for a meal!) to the peak of Monte Comana, where an amazing panorama across Lake Como awaits you. On the return, retrace your steps back to Alpe Comana or descend via Roccolo del Messo and witness the most recent collection of statues.

Rifugio Menaggio

Breglia to Rifugio Menaggio and back, 3 to 4 hours hiking, elevation gain: 2100 feet

Take the bus to Breglia or park your car in a small lot by the town church, about a 20-minute drive from the ferry station in Menaggio (take care on the hairpin turns!). From here, the signs for Rifugio Menaggio take you in and out of the woods along a nice path. After about 45 minutes, you come to a small picnic area with a fountain – a great place to take a break and fill up your water bottles. Not long after that, you’ll have to choose between taking the Sentiero Alto and the Sentiero Basso. We would always recommend taking the Sentiero Alto for the panoramic views, unless of course there has been a heavy snowfall and the Sentiero Basso would steer you clear of any avalanches. Watch your step along the path, which can be narrow at times.

In less than 2 hours you reach the Rifugio Menaggio, but you may want to continue on the path to the left side of the inn for about 15 minutes to the Pizzo Coppa lookout point. The views from here are unbelievable, extending across Lake Como to Lake Lugano and the entire Menaggio valley. Either way, you have earned the right to sit back and enjoy a meal of the Rifugio’s traditional mountain fare. Everything from local cured meats and cheese to polenta with or without a side of hearty game stew. And even though it might not seem like a good idea, the Rifugio serves a tasty house wine – though it may render any further hiking impossible. More adventurous types might just grab a quick bite and continue to the summit of Monte Grona, adding another 2 hours and 1100 feet elevation gain to the tour!