Visit Lenno, Lake Como for 2020/21 with SNO®
Lenno’s lovely – a gaggle of gorgeous old buildings between the forested foothills of Monte di Tremezzo and the Gulf of Venus off Como’s western shore.
Come here for hiking heaven, insanely good olive oil, lazy days at the lido and - not least - the godfather of Italian lake villas: beautiful Balbianello.
Lenno nabs prime position right on the legendary Greenway del Lago di Como. This 10km trail starts down in Colonno and passes through Sala Comacina and Ossuccio before reaching Lenno, then continues north to Mezzegra, Tremezzo and Griante. A lot of the path lies on the Roman-built Strada Regina and along the way you’ll see historic hamlets, olive groves, chapels, medieval bridges and old towers. You can do the whole thing in one go or head south one day, north the next.
The walk from Lenno up to Villa del Balbianello, which juts out into the lake, is a must. Amble around the gardens, spot scenes from films (like Casino Royale and Star Wars) and even if your legs are raring for more exercise, catch the water taxi back for the views from the water.
South of Lenno, the Argegno cable car takes you up to Pigra, where you can explore the village and hike down to Colonno (which puts you back on the Greenway) or continue over towards Lago di Piano and/or Lake Lugano.
Up the lake in Cadenabbia, the San Martino hike is another favourite, taking you up a cobbled old path to the famous church on the clifftop. Cadenabbia’s also where you can catch the ferry to other lake towns for wanders further afield: Bellagio’s brilliant if you want to explore more historic hamlets, while Varenna is the access point for an ancient mule’s track called the Wayfarers Trail with its natural and architectural beauties.
You can’t visit an Italian lake without gorging gelato on the lakeside, and in Lenno, La Fabbrica del Gelato’s your place. There’s usually a fabulous range of flavours, with options like ice lollys and milkshakes too. You also can’t come to Lenno without dunking a chunk of bread (or nine) into its famous olive oil, which makes for a super snack or appetiser. For something more than nibbles but still on the waterfront, Chef Matteo at the Albergo Lenno creates delicious lunches and dinners using Italian and international flavours. Up in the hills behind Lenno, Il Cris Ristorante cooks up tasty Italian classics.
For a dining experience like no other, hop over to Isola Comacina and its only restaurant, Locanda. According to island lore, a medieval bishop made a deathly curse against anyone who brought guests to the island. In 1958, three men had just decided to open a restaurant there when two of them suddenly died. The third (Lino Nessi, aka Cotoletta) believed the only way to escape the curse was to perform an ‘exorcism of fire’ every time someone ate there. Lino passed the baton to a cracking chap called Benvenuto Puricelli, who continues the exorcism tradition (heads up – the ‘fire’ takes the form of a particularly potent drink). The restaurant still serves the original menu and recipes, and the lake views are stunning as ever.
Lenno has no shortage of trails to explore on two wheels. Local companies – like Bici Sport 2000 – offer rentals if you’re not bringing your own bike and there’s always the option to hire a guide if you’d prefer a local in the lead.
While mountain bikers head north to scale Tabbiadello, long haulers can do a loop via Lake Lugano and those wanting to stick to the lakeside (we don’t blame you, it’s very scenic) can peddle up to explore Tremezzo, Cadenabbia and Menaggio.
Cycle (or drive) up to Cadenabbia and you can catch the ferry to Bellagio for two of the most famous rides in Italy – Madonna del Ghisallo (a hill home to the shrine of cycling and Museo Del Ciclismo) and Muro di Sormano (famed for its gruelling gradient). Neither are for the fainthearted, but you can always opt for an E-Bike if you want a helping hand.
When it comes to mountain biking, the ancient mule tracks surrounding the lake are incredible. The loop to Rifugio Venini is always a hit with experienced riders, and there’s a super, not-too-testing trail along the Adda River – keep going and you can reach Milan, then get the train back. A 10-15 minute drive south along the Via Statale leads to Argegno, where you can take a funicular up to Pigra, then ride back down the mountainside. It’s also possible to do the uphill climb with a few stops along the way.
Lenno (pronounce it: Leh-no) is one of the hamlets belonging to Tremezzina, a part of Lake Como’s western shore with no end of activities. Around the village itself, Lido di Lenno’s the ultimate spot to relax, cold drink in hand, and soak up the surroundings. Water taxis whizz from here to sites along the shore, like the legendary Villa Del Balbianello. It’s often possible to hire motorboats from here too. If you prefer more action, one thing Lenno really shines for is canyoning. Trips along the Perlana river take you to caves, jumps and some spectacular sights and there are local guides to show you the ropes.
There’s an age-old fishing culture here (the story goes that Pliny the Younger would fish from his villa window in Roman times), and early mornings often see locals casting lines off the jetty. You might find their catches for sale at the weekly market (usually Tuesday mornings) as well as olive oils and other local produce.
Lenno’s far too relaxed to have a wild nightlife, but that’s precisely why people like it here. The Hotel Lenno Bar usually has a happy hour but beyond that, it’s all about lovely, leisurely dinners, a bottle (or two) of vino and those glorious lake views.
Lenno’s closest airport is Milan Malpensa, followed by Milan Linate and Bergamo. The flight time from the UK is about 2 hours. Our holidays tend to come with airport transfers, but if you want to drive instead, there are hire companies at the airports.
The other option for connecting to Lake Como is rail: there is a station at Malpensa airport and if you’re flying into Linate or Bergamo, you can catch the bus to the main stations in Milan. The rail line runs to Como, which has buses to take you up to Lenno.
This historic home hogs one hell of a peninsular, spectacular Avedo, just south of the centre of Lenno. It was built in the late 11th century for Cardinal Angelo Maria Durini (who bagged the whole headland for his second home) but these days is best known as the place where James Bond recuperates in Casino Royale and Anakin Skywalker ties the knot with Padmé Amidala in Attack of the Clones. You’ll find a handful of buildings set in stonkingly stunning gardens – the centre one home to the library and cartographers hall with a delightful porch and pop-the-question-pretty balconies.
Find yourself at a loose end on a Friday night and the street market on the promenade is the place to be. Usually running between June and September (double check dates with the Tourist Office to be sure), it opens at 6 with delicious local produce, regional foods and creations by artisans. It’s worth visiting alone to see Lenno all lit up, but we’ve never managed not to buy anything…
A Romanesque bell tower and 18th century belfry are the focal points of Santo Stefano on the outside, while indoors you’ll find stuccoes, frescoes and paintings. A trap door in the nave reveals stairs to an underground crypt - the frescoes are thought to date back to the 14th century and other features centuries before that.
Found in the XI Febbraio square, this octagonal stone building is believed to date back to the late 11th century. The inside has Baroque features and 18th century frescoes.
In Cassanova, near the Perlana river, this simple building used to be the burial ground for those who’d died from epidemics. The architecture dates back to the early 11th century.
In a scenic spot, this abbey was founded in 1143 and named for a nearby spring. After being abandoned in the 16th century then inhabited by bandits, it was rebuilt at the start of the 17th century and decorated with frescoes and stuccoes. You enter the monastery through a striking stone portal and the church can be recognised by its square bell tower and two side chapels.
This Art Nouveau house was designed by Mario Tosatto, a painter-architect in the early 20th century. It continues to be used by creatives for exhibitions, courses and conferences.
Mountains on one side, Venere Gulf on the other and the art of Dolce far Niente down pat: when it calls for some downtime by the lake, this is our favourite place to be. There’s sand to spread out on, sunbeds and parasols to hire if you want them and one seriously scenic restaurant (with a spiffing wine list). Entrance fee’s usually around 10 Euros.
On the other side of Lenno from the Avedo peninsular, Ossuccio is a delightfully quiet town with a pretty Romanesque abbey.
Boats from here take you to Isola Comacina, the only island in lake and a real tiddler, just 600m long. It has a fascinating history, with past lives as a Roman stronghold and artists colony, numerous sieges, the mysterious Holy Grail and a medieval Bishop’s curse. These days, you’ll find the 17th century Church of S. Giovanni, three artists houses and a fascinating restaurant, as well as a number of archaeological sites (including 9 former churches).
Tremezzo (3km): 5-10-minute drive/bus or 50 minute walk from Lenno
Cadenabbia (4km): 10-minute drive/bus or 50 minute walk from Lenno