Lake Como is a part of Italy that has attracted stellar names going as far back as the Roman era. These days several Hollywood stars and business moguls are so won over by its chic beauty that they now own homes here while countless others are regular visitors. Indeed, such is its star appeal that parts of the Bond movie Casino Royale and the Star Wars blockbuster Attack of the Clones were shot here.
Lake Como, in Italy’s Lombardy region, forms an inverted “Y” that begins in the foot of the Alps near the border with Switzerland and runs southwards for around 30 miles. Its outstanding views and the Alps forming a stunning backdrop mean this is among Italy’s most desirable locations for real estate investors.
Among the costliest as well. The invasion of the glitterati caused a boom in the market that has seen values climbing by an average 5% year on year. Ignore the global slump, the situation here has remained buoyant, fuelled by demand from the rich elite of Milan and financiers and bankers based across the Swiss border. The area is chock-a-block with Euro 10million villas if you are after a sprawling home on the banks of the lake with a Hollywood heart-throb next door.
However, the good news is you don’t need to have a millionaire’s bank balance to snap up a property here. In Laglio, a converted lakeside warehouse development with 36 apartments recently became available with prices from just under Euro138,000 to Euro 400,000 for a two-bedroom flat. In Lenno, 10 miles away, you can find a new-build flat for just Euro 165,000. Meanwhile, in nearby Tremezzo, Euro 250,000 can buy you a two-bedroom lake-view flat with terrace.
There are even better bargains further north up the lake. Areas on the north-west banks such as Domaso, Pianello Lario and Musso are a great alternative for properties under Euro 300,000.
In Pianello Lario, a new development with lake views just 500 metres from the water’s edge and complete wit pool offers prices from Euro 110,000 for one bedroom, Euro 145,000 for two bedrooms and Euro 205,000 for small villas. Given the proximity of the Alps rental potential is pretty strong, up to around Euro 900 weekly. Gravedona, some four miles north is cheaper still. Here, budget around Euro 100,000 for a two-bedroom flat with a view over the water, albeit you may have to sacrifice being close to the water.
Lake Como has bewitched visitors from all walks of life almost since time immemorial. The Roman poet Virgil, who would have known it as Lake Lario, referred to its allure. Some years on, Pliny The Younger owned two villas here. Early in the 19th century Shelley wrote effusively about how it “exceeds anything I ever beheld in beauty”. And literary icon Henry James was left spellbound as he wrote: “One can’t describe the beauty of the Italian Lakes, nor would one try if one could.”
It’s not hard to see why. This is Italy’s third largest after Garda and Maggiore and is 145sq km of calm blue water overlooked by mountains and woodland, a picture postcard of stunning beauty.
The view is marvellous from virtually every step of its 180km coastline. However, it’s hard to beat its central section around Bellagio, Menaggio and Varenna, where the lake divides into two forked sections, one ending in Como, the other Lecco.
Bellagio is known locally as The pearl of the lake and many Italians will tell you this is the prettiest town in Europe. Walk along its charming cobbled streets, gazing at the view, or hop on a ferry to Varenna or Menaggio, the peaks of the Alps soaring majestically in the background, and you would sing its praises too. Six airports serve the area: three in Milan and others in Verona, Brescia and Lugano, Switzerland.