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

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 in almost any bar or cafe, filled with tuna in oil and arugula and tomato, or with turkey and vinegar mayonnaise, and the best ones are hot with melty cheese inside and a crisp, flexible outside.

The garden of Villa Lario

Villa Lario

A guest room at Villa MUSA

Francesco Lopazio

Where to stay

If your budget is high, post it on Passalacqua, the city’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 medium to high budget, if a remote, quiet sanctuary appeals, consider Villa Lario, a contemporary 18-room hotel tucked away on the side of 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 Lake Como, which opened on the shore of the charming fishing village of Sala Comacina in June 2022. Its lakeside bar GAIA has magical superpowers – it can convert work stress into another round of less aperitifs of ten minutes, flat – and a gracious patio with panoramic views from its comfortable sofas. There are also plenty of private villas for rent, such as the rustic-chic Villa Torno a few minutes south of Villa Lario, or Villa Moussa if you are looking for the sunny west coast.

If you’re looking to spend less on accommodation, count yourself lucky if you can snag one of the three stylish bedrooms 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 chic, spartan lodging further north—Large central for windsurfing and other water sports, as well as hiking routes – check out Casa Olea in Cremia, a newly opened minimalist joint 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, make your way up Agritourism Treterre, perched on top of a loop road with a severe incline. 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 the city center of Como, for example to catch an early train or because you prefer the convenience of staying in a city, book a room at Albricci Peregrini Palace, a 15th-century palace transformed into the treasure chest of a boutique hotel with Venetian plaster walls, elegant furnishings and luxurious finishes that are well worth your time. Como is packed with people for a good reason, after all.