I own a home on Lake Como, and delight in spending the holiday season there with family and friends. It’s been a tradition of many years standing.
Although Lake Como is a popular tourist destination during the summer months, it slows down quite a bit during winter when I like to visit. The luscious gardens that are popular with summer tourists will close as will many of the villas. Most of the action takes place on the ski slopes – which are only about a two-hour drive away.
I make it a point to visit two particular cities on Lake Como during the holiday season.
I start at the beginning of December with the city of Como itself, situated on the southern tip of the lake. Some travel pundits don’t consider Como to be scenic when compared to one of the “mid-lake” villages, but I’ve always disagreed with that sentiment.
The reason I take my family and friends to Como during the beginning of December is because the Christmas markets are held only during the first two weeks of the month and they are a delight.
After shopping or browsing the markets, it’s time for a delicious meal. The weather was mild, so we chose L’antica Riva (The Ancient Shore), a charming restaurant in a building that’s over four hundred years old, with a beautiful view over the lake. As usual, my companions opted for the seafood dishes, but I opted, instead, for their delicious Chateaubriand, which was prepared to perfection.
After enjoying a leisurely meal, we strolled around the city center – the Piazza Duomo, Piazza Verdi, Piazza Grimaldi, Piazza Roma, Via Fontana, and the Piazza Volta, enjoying the Magic Light Festival, which features projectors of lights that enhance the beauty of Como’s already beautiful buildings.
During our stay, we also visited Menaggio, one of the few lakeside villages that has enough action to welcome tourists year-round. Menaggio is on the western shore of the lake, pretty much in the center of Lake Como which makes it so popular.
Menaggio bustles during December, with a welcoming holiday atmosphere and plenty of Christmas stalls. Situated right on Lake Como, most of the cuisine, year-round, is fished right out of the lake. Not all of its restaurants are open, but we stopped in at Il Ristorante da Paolo, on Largo Cavour. There we enjoyed a local favorite, the risotto with fillet of perch.
What about traditional Christmas dishes, you ask? Well, they are only served on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and rather than go out to eat, I prepared these dishes myself - the Feast of the Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve, and my own favorite oven-roasted lamb with potatoes.
All in all, it was another wonderful December in peaceful Lake Como.
Rory Brown is a food critic and blogger specializing in healthy diet and lifestyle choices. Beginning in Charleston, SC, he has attracted a large following by offering nuanced takes on fine cuisine with a focus on health. Rory Brown splits his time between Charleston, Kauai, Sydney, and Lake Como, keeping his finger firmly on the culinary pulse across the globe.