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Map of Lake Como

Ferry from Cernobbio to Bellagio

Rooftops of Cernobbio
by Luca Marletta

A fall scene in Cernobbio
by Luca Marletta

Welcome to Cernobbio
From Jesse's Journeys in Italy

Population: 7,031 (2004)
Official site: 

Visit our Lake District Portal

Cernobbio, sitting at the foot of Mount Bisbino (1325 meters a.s.l.), is another of the lovely towns in Italy's Lake District that attract a tidal wave of tourists during the high season, and goodly crowds at most other times of the year.  It sits 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.

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.

The property was purchased by Princess Caroline of Brunswick a descendant of the d'Este family who ruled Modena and Ferrara through long stretches of the late middle ages.  Princess Caroline was England's Princess of Wales at that time, later becoming Queen Consort to her husband King George IV.

Princess Caroline bestowed English-style gardens on the Villa's estate, and refurbished it into the high style of the mid 19th century, "La belle epoque".  The current owners of the hotel have retained that hushed and elegant style and cater to the wealthly and merely well-to-do to this day. The large, well-tended park that surrounds the main structures feature natural caves and quite unnatural fountains and sculptures.  Famously, there is a large floating swimming pool off one end of the hotel which draws fresh, cool water from Lake Como.

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.

The principal church of the town is the Chiesa San Michele di Rovenna, which was built in the 18th century, but with a Romanesque processional.  Its altar, designed by G.B. Barberini was carved in the Baroque style. There is nothing sacred in architecture!

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.  The Italian Alpine Club has conveniently marked the trail along its whole length.
Cernobbio, then, is a must see stop over in the Lake District, 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.  Try to visit in the off-season though - such memories will have vastly fewer tourists cluttering the view.

By Vian Andrews, October 21st, 2006


4550′N 94′E


Como - 8 km;
Menaggio - 31 km;
Varenna - 33 km;
Verbania - 33 km;
Lecco - 34 km;
Bellagio - 34 km;
Milan - 52 km;
Stresa - 104 km;
Verbania - 116 km



Coat of Arms of Cernobbio


Villa d'Este at Cernobbio

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