Cernobbio, a small town overlooking Lake Como, is a delightful village of medieval origin that still shows the signs of its ancient and elegant past. It’s perfect destination for your holiday in Lake Como or for a quick visit as well.
Known to be the location of important international events (including the Ambrosetti Forum in Villa d’Este), Cernobbio offers many attractions.
Cernobbio is sitting at the foot of Mount Bisbino (1325 meters a.s.l.) and just a few kilometers north of the city of Como, on the modern highway that follows the ancient Roman road, the Via Regina, along the western shore of the lake.
Cernobbio is a preternaturally picturesque town, with a comely, tree-lined, flower- bedecked waterfront. It’s waterfront, narrow old streets and piazzas are lined with the handsome, impeccable shops, cafes, trattoria, restaurants, professional offices, homes and apartment buildings, all painted in the muted buttery tones that one sees around the entire Lake District. Down at the harbour, ferries coming to and departing from the jetty connect all the other major towns and villages on the Lake, and add to Cernobbio’s pleasant bustle.
Cernobbio, then, is a must see stop over in the Lake Como, even if the stop is for a few hours. It is full of pleasant things to do and see – and therefore has that wonderful potential to produce warm and long lasting memories.
What To Do in Cernobbio
Visit the old town center and the lakefront walking through the narrow streets of the old town that surround our apartments and discover its old courtyards and shops. You will feel like you’re stepping back in time! And after taking a few photographs head to Piazza Risorgimento, the vast lakeside area which is also known as Riva di Cernobbio.
Cernobbio’s lakeside is undoubtedly one of the most characteristic of all Lake Como. On the porphyry floor of Piazza Risorgimento you will meet many tourists like you and you can drink a coffee or taste an ice cream at one of the many pretty bars in the area. If you are just passing through and want to know what to do in Cernobbio in little time, walking around Riva di Cernobbio is probably your best choice.
Extending south and north of the town are the envy-inducing villas, built mostly in the 19th century, by the titled nobility of many of Europe’s courts and the sometimes wealthier titans of industry who made their money in Milan, Torino and other Italian and European cities.
The best way to see these villas, whose impressive facades and cascading gardens are mirrored in the lake, is from the water. That means, if you wish to see them, that, unless you have certain divine powers, you must rent a boat, take a guided boat tour of the lake or crane your head from the decks of one of the numerous ferries plying their trade on Lago di Como. You can spend worse days, that’s for sure.
Many of these villas have been converted into comfortable hotels, and of these the most impressive – and most comfortable (if you have the bucks) is the large and very grand Villa d’Este, whose original elements were constructed in 1568 for Cardinal Tolomeo Gallio, a native of the area. The Villa is built on the site of an old convent – or “Coenobium” in Latin – and this is the origin of the town’s name.
Ever heard about Villa Bernasconi? Among Cernobbio’s Villas, Villa Bernasconi (whose construction dates back to the early 20th century) is undoubtedly worth a visit.
There are two other prominent villas in Cernobbio: Villa Erba and Villa Pizzo. The former, built in 1899, on the foundations of an existing villa (Villa Nuova) which, itself, had been built on land once occupied by a monastery. It is now now used as a very busy conference center. Villa Pizzo, dating to the mid 16th century, sits in a vast, tree-shaded park. Its interior boasts a number of 17th century frescoes.
Another thing to do in Cernobbio is a stroll around Giardino della Valle, a vast botanical garden born on a land that, thirty years ago, was just an abusive landfill. But, thanks to a local lady, now the community has one of the most suggestive green areas of all Lake Como.
Visiting Cernobbio goes beyond just appreciating the impressive beauty of historic homes or enjoying the colors of flowers and plants that enrich parks and gardens: visiting Cernobbio also means walking around the streets and admire its architectural peculiarities.
Do not miss the opportunity to see the Church of Madonna delle Grazie or, as they call it from here, “Chiesa della Madonna delle Grazie”. In the 17th century, the initial structure was expanded and the icon of the Madonna nursing the Child was placed in the center of the altar.
All is not tourism, recreation and diversion in Cernobbio. Like Como, Lecco, and other towns on and around Lago di Como, where mulberry bushes are abundant, Cernobbio was very involved in the manfucture of raw silk used by garment makers in Milan and other southern Italian cities. Indeed, one of the very first factories dedicated to this purpose was established here, and the industry survives to this day.
If you want to “escape” from the town, head to Rovenna a little north and west rising up Monte Bisbino. Look for the farmhouses at Alpe Scarone sitting on the slopes at about 600 meters above sea level, and then the for signs for the Foxhole – the Buco della Volpe – which is a large cave with large underground pools and streams. Further up the mountain there is 15th century sanctuary dedicated to the Virgin Mary which offers stunning views of Cernobbio and the glorious network of valleys and mountains which enclose it.
Hikers will enjoy a long and beautiful trail called the Via dei Monti Lariani which takes one from the 600 meter to the 1200 meter level.
Where To Stay in Cernobbio
Cernobbio offers you the best of both worlds when you visit Lake Como. It is close enough to Como town to enjoy all the attractions that it has to offer. At the same time, Cernobbio is far away enough from the bustle of Como to have a unique charm all of its own.
In general, accommodation prices are somewhat lower in Cernobbio than in Como. Furthermore, this small town has a good boat connection and is also served by Como taxis. So if you miss your ferry or bus back to Cernobbio, you will still be able to get back to your accommodation easily.
$$$: Gran Hotel Imperiale