Though it is not necessarily on the average traveler’s radar, November and December are great months to visit Lake Como. The mountaintops in the distance are charming in their snowcapped winter coat, the cobbled streets of lakeside villages are pleasantly cleared of the summer crowds and the cherished culinary treats of the season are just waiting to be discovered. Many of the area’s alberghi– even our very own Palazzo del Vice Re – are closed from November to April, but you’ll find a wide range of rooms available in everything from quaint inns to grand hotels. In fact, the shoulder season often comes with very reasonable accommodation prices that make a wintry stay all the more appealing. This blog post is designed to whet your appetite for a great stay on Lake Como in the winter months, with details on what to expect weather-wise as well as some ideas for activities that are particularly suited to the season.
Lake Como weather in November and December
The weather on Lake Como is a topic of much discussion – but much of it centers around the main season through October. Though October is still likely to give us a warm day or two above the 60°F mark, the temperatures drop considerably from Halloween on. If you are wondering what Lake Como is like in November, the average temperature is around 47°F, with a high of 52°F and a low of 41°F. You can expect around 13 days of rain and probably as many days of fog. Often as thick as pea soup, the fog can shroud the otherwise stunning scenery, but the mysterious, quiet atmosphere it creates does have its charms. And there is nothing better than waking up after a foggy day to a crisp clear view of the lake! December is one of the driest months of the year, although temperatures stay in the mid-thirties for most of the month – so you best bundle up when you’re out exploring Lake Como in December.
Living as a Local in the Shoulder Season
One of the main perks of visiting the area in the winter months is the opportunity to experience what it is like to be a Lake Como local. With some of the more touristy restaurants and sights shut for the winter, those establishments that stay open tend to cater to local residents and to offer food, ambiance and experiences that are as authentic as they come. You can also expect to meet more locals in your daily adventures, which offer the kind of cross-cultural encounters that enrich a travel experience.
Things to do on Lake Como in November and December
A lot of the daytrips we recommend to our guests during the summer season on Lake Como are equally exciting during winter, though some might presume the season is slow. Quite the contrary! What November and December lack in hot sunshine and alfresco entertainments, they make up for in crisp cold air and snow-capped mountain views – plus a wide range of activities perfect for all types of travelers.
Winter is the perfect season in which to enjoy some of Lake Como’s most traditional culinary treats. Polenta served with a stick-to-your-ribs sauce with game like boar or rabbit or mixed with copious amounts of butter and cheese in the local treat “Tuc”, truffles shaved on top of everything from pasta to steak, and roast chestnuts sold steaming hot on every corner. There are events throughout the area to celebrate the tastes of the season, like the “Selvatica” initiative running until mid-November, in which select local restaurants offer a unique menu based on game, freshwater fish and food foraged locally. In the nearby Valtellina region, the restaurants in the town of Teglio compete with each other to make the best Pizzoccheri – a rich local dish made with buckwheat pasta, cabbage, potatoes and the local Casera cheese – every weekend until the end of November, and the town of Sondrio has a festival celebrating local raw milk cheeses from November 16-17, which includes live music, children’s activities and vineyard walks. Tremezzina Gastronomica 2019 hosts events at various local restaurants in Tremezzina until November 30.
Winter is a great time to explore the outdoors on Lake Como – even though there are no watersports! The foliage is so sparse that you have uninterrupted views of the lake from hiking trails like the Sentiere del Viandante, the so-called Wayfarer’s trail that is particularly lovely in the stretch between Varenna and Bellano, or the Greenway del Lago, which winds its way along the lake between Colonno and Griante. True mountaineers will love the Palazzo’s “house mountain”, Monte San Primo, which has the added bonus of a meal of rich mountain fare at the Rifugio Martina after your hike (open only on the weekends in winter). And for fans of downhill skiing, there are even a few small ski slopes in the direct vicinity of Lake Como – Piani di Bobbio to the east or Madesimo to the north. These small resorts are great for families and skiers of all abilities, with modern lifts, restaurants and snow cannons as well as fun parks and race courses. For a special treat, take the Bernina Express for a daytrip in the Swiss Alps. Leaving from Tirano on the Swiss border, this panoramic railway speeds through the stunning snow-covered scenery to St. Moritz.
For Culture Connoisseurs:
When the weather outside is frightening, it’s a good time to go inside and visit some of the area’s cultural highlights! Villa Carlotta with its collection of 18th and 19th-century art and beautifully furnished private apartments of the mid-19th-century owners are well worth a visit – and even the botanical gardens have their wintry charms. The museum and gardens are open the first weekend of November and the long holiday weekend from December 6 to 8.
Villa del Balbianello on its promontory near Lenno is open with reduced hours from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. in the months from November to January, and has a beautiful collection of maps, furniture, primitive art and souvenirs from the last owner’s mountaineering exploits (guided tour only, closed Mondays and Wednesdays). On December 8 from 8:30 to 10:30 p.m., Villa del Balbianello hosts the Notte dei Presepi to open its annual exhibit of nativity scenes, which runs until January 6, 2020.
Villa Monastero in Varenna is also open on Sundays during the winter as well as every day from December 26 to January 6 from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Visitors will enjoy the House Museum with its beautifully furnished rooms and exquisite artwork as well as the botanical gardens.
Como’s Museo della Seta (open Tuesday through Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.) does a good job highlighting the city’s history in the silk trade and hosting a range changing exhibits – the current edition displays the drawings and fashion of famous designer Lorenzo Riva until March 2020.
All public museums are free of charge for visitors on the first Sunday of the month from October to March – and that includes the Tempo Voltiano, dedicated to physicist and inventor of the battery Alessandro Volta, as well as the Paolo Giovio Archaeological Museum in Como.
For Santa’s Elves:
December is also the month when Christmas markets appear across Lake Como, inviting visitors to stroll among the stands selling artisanal wares and regional foods, to drink a hot cup of the mulled wine known as “vin brulé” and to admire the Christmas lights. One of the most extravagant is the Città dei Balocchi event in Como town from late November until early January, in which the entire downtown area is transformed into a Christmas paradise. The historic buildings are lit up with stunning multi-colored lighting displays, an ice-skating rink is installed in Piazza Cavour and family-friendly theatrical performances and craft workshops are held in the magic castle. For the past few years, the Consorzio Como Turistico has enlisted the assistance of 14 communities across the lake – including our very own Lezzeno! – to light up their lakeside churches, monuments, villas and bridges from mid-December until after Christmas, giving visitors what is a most beautiful “life-sized” nativity scene to admire from the land or the water.