35mm film photo of Lake Como Italy by Kate Ferguson

August in Lake Como—a Great Time to Vacation

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August in Lake Como, Italy is a wonderful time of year. I enjoyed visiting the town of Varenna for my brother’s summer wedding. (A trip that was made even more special by the fact that the wedding had been postponed not once but twice because of the 2020 quarantine.)

We spent about a week in Varenna before heading to Switzerland and split our lodging time in Lake Como between a local apartment and the Hotel Villa Cipressi where the wedding was held. 

Varenna's Hotel Villa Cipressi
Hotel Villa Cipressi

The Hotel Villa Cipressi

The Varenna-based Hotel Villa Cipressi is located directly on Lake Como with views of Bellagio across the way. It’s a very popular wedding spot since it is outrageously beautiful with lakeside views.

A wedding reception on 35mm film at Villa Cipressi Varenna
The wedding reception, on 35mm

The villa was built between the years 1400-1800 and most recently renovated in 2018. There are a variety of stand-alone buildings on the beautiful property in addition to the main hotel area.

My favorite part of the property was the very romantic breakfast room. It was built in the 1400s and the walls are detailed with delicate frescos.

Waiters would whisk out carafes of Americanos, which I’d sip while gazing upon the lakeside palm trees, gently moving with the warm morning breeze just outside of the fully flung open windows. Italy does the flung-open window well.

The breakfast room at Hotel Villa Cipressi Varenna
The grand breakfast room.

Villa Cipressi is also home to a botanical garden that extends along the lake shore. Next door is the Villa Monastero, which has been an ancient convent and a patrician residency. In addition to now being a museum, Villa Monastero is used as a conference center. I can pretty confidently say that having a conference at Villa Monastero would be like none other.

The view from Villa Monastero
The view from Villa Monastero

It’s possible to visit both the garden and the Villa Monastero whether you’re staying at Villa Cipressi or not. Both are good activities during a summer visit.

Great things to do in August in Lake Como

1. Boating on the lake

August in Lake Como is a great time for enjoying everything that the lake has to offer, such as boating.

Varenna, Italy was founded in 769 (!) by local fishermen and then destroyed in 1129 by its rival commune, Como. Allied with Milan, it rebuilt, welcoming other refugees from Isola Comacina. The lake is a central aspect of the community, then and now.

There are a variety of opportunities for enjoying the lake, like swimming, and boating. In addition to riding the ferry to other towns across the lake (like going to lunch in Bellagio), we spent a day in rented speed boats.

35mm film photo of Lake Como Italy by Kate Ferguson
Swimming in Lake Como on 35mm film

This allows you to drive around the lake and ogle at villas, many of which, besides being historical and interesting, have been featured in movies like Star Wars and TV shows like Succession.

As it’s warm in the summer it’s also the perfect time to jump off the boat and take a swim. I only took a few photos while boating (on account of all the swimming) but they’re some of my favorites from the entire trip.

Check the weather before you go boating

The weather in August in Lake Como was mostly warm and gorgeous, but it can rain. And on my visit, it did. On the day we chose to rent boats, a storm was rolling in. Our picturesque afternoon of swimming was not quite as picturesque as we rode back to the shores of Varenna. The winds got us good in our tiny speed boats.

I would have gladly captured some photos and video to prove just how torrential it was, but no recording device would have survived it. We climbed onto the Lake Como dock, soaked, acting like we’d been at sea for a week. Let’s just say it took days for my sandals to dry out.

A boat on a beautiful summer day on Lake Como
Lake Como, 35mm film

Please follow this very obvious advice—if a storm is due to come in, perhaps wait on your boat ride. Another option would be hiring a boat with a driver and putting your fate in the hands of professionals instead of your brother who elected himself captain.

2. Visit the Castle of Vezio

The Castle of Vezio, AKA Castello di Zezio or Vezio Castle, is a 1,000-year-old castle that overlooks Lake Como. You can get there on foot from the village, and the castle is all open air, making it a good activity for nice weather.

The castle is open from March until early November and may be open on other weekends throughout the year if there is good weather. Regardless of the month, the castle is closed to the public when it rains.

Purchasing a ticket allows you to go into the castle and explore at your leisure, as well as catch some great views of the lake. The castle is also a training ground for birds of prey. So depending on when you go, you might get to see some of that as well.

The hike to Vezio Castle

There are two different ways to get to the Vezio Castle. The first goes from the Varenna Ferry Pier through Vezzio. It is shaded most of the way and only takes about 15 minutes.

The other takes the Scabium trail to get to the Castle of Vezio, which starts in the Piazza S. Giorgio of Varenna. It’s about a 30-minute walk that climbs steadily upwards.

I took the hike to the Vezio Castle not once, not twice, but three different times. The first time was a semi-failure because we hiked up to see the castle and the castle was not open. We knew this of course, because like any good traveling team we had checked the opening times online.

But my dad had a real bee in his bonnet to beat the heat and start our first day in Varenna with a 6:30 AM wake-up call. My jet lag wasn’t thrilled but I do appreciate the get-up-and-go mentality. So we hiked. (This was a good warm-up for the next leg of our trip: the Swiss Alps.)

The second time we hiked up was during business hours. We viewed the castle grounds, climbed up and down a turret staircase or two, and ate at the on-site cafe. I don’t remember what I ate so much as how much time I spent dodging the ever-present bees—which is just something to know about Varenna. Bees love it!

On the hike up we also stopped by a little jewelry/pottery shop called The Vezio Ceramics, where I got a beautiful ring made by an artist in Greece. This is the only business that I noticed on the hike, the rest of the buildings appear to be private apartments and homes.

The third time I hiked back up to the castle was specifically to get more goods from The Vezio Ceramics. Yes, I will hike an incline again and yet again for some unique finds. I got my mom a gift…and two more rings for myself. They’re stunning, okay!

3. Lunching in Bellagio, Italy

From Varenna, you can easily catch a ferry to other towns around the lake. We went over to Bellagio a couple of times for lunch.

a lunch in Bellagio Italy
A Bellagio lunch

Bellagio, or the “Pearl of Lake Como” is where you’ll find the more upscale shops if doing some serious shopping is your thing. Similar to Varenna it has restaurants tucked back into cobblestone alleys and beautiful gardens and public spaces.

Some of the villas worth visiting in Bellagio are the Villa Melzi, and Villa Serbelloni, the latter of which is currently owned by the Rockefeller Foundation and has 50 acres of parks and gardens.

4. Dining out in Varenna

Fresh fish, fresh pasta, Campari Spritz’s. I don’t know that you could go wrong with food in Varenna, Italy although, of course, some spots are more exciting than others. One thing I enjoyed about the city was how the restaurants dealt with the steps. The entire town is set on the hillside, so there are steps everywhere.

The kitchens of the restaurants are often in different locations than where the food is served, which means the waitstaff is bringing it up and down the steps. One restaurant that we went to had a few different dining rooms in different locations. The one that we dined in was kind of like a stone cave that contained a bar and maybe five or six tables. Unique!

A dinner plate in Varenna Italy
Every meal was delicious.

August is the perfect time savor delicious Italian cuisine in the open air. Lakeside restaurants and cafés offer al fresco dining, allowing you to enjoy your meals with breathtaking views of the lake.

5. Visit the blooming gardens

The well-known gardens around Lake Como, such as Villa Carlotta and Villa del Balbianello, are in full bloom during August. These botanical wonders are full of vibrant flowers and manicured landscapes.

6. Attend local events

August often sees local festivals and events in towns around Lake Como. From traditional processions to music festivals, you may have the chance to immerse yourself in the local culture and festivities.

On my visit, there was one evening where an orchestra played on the steps of a church in the village. All were welcome to sit and enjoy the show.

7. Relax by the Lake

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how much fun it was to swim in the lake and layout on the (somewhat rocky) Italian shore. There are tons of places to access the beach, being that the entire town of Varenna is on the lake. We went to a few different places and I enjoyed every refreshing minute.

One of the days my sister and I went to lay out sans phones and legitimately lost track of time. It was perfectly hot and quintessentially Italian, with locals and tourists alike lying side by side by the shore and on the docks.

This is about around the time that I started feeling a little wistful—I think in the moment I described the feeling as “devastated”—to leave. I highly enjoyed August in Lake Como.

Lake Como weather in August

In Varenna in August you can expect highs of 77 degrees Fahrenheit and lows of 66. On average it only rains 9 days a month, but it isn’t extremely cold when it does.

For most of the trip, I got by wearing shorts, tank tops, or linen-type pants. On the day that it rained, I donned a jacket—but only to get from my hotel to the rehearsal dinner.

People getting on the Lake Como ferry
An August crowd boarding the ferry.

Aibnbs in Lake Como

Before we checked into the Hotel Villa Cipressi our group stayed in various Airbnbs around the village. There were five of us in my house, which was a two-story property just steps from Varenna’s promenade.

These properties have been there for quite some time you may encounter some surprises. Ours, for example, had no living room or sitting area outside of the kitchen. You can imagine how much gathering we did in there! Two of the three bedrooms were upstairs and the patio had a view of the lake. All was good.

A view of Lake Como from Varenna Italy
A view of Lake Como

A note on wif-fi

I found the wifi to be a bit slow in various areas of Lake Como. In some, I was unable to upload videos at all. This would not be an issue for general internet usage, for me, someone who works remotely it was. If I visit again I would take a portable hotspot just in case. (Or totally take work off—imagine that!)

Kate Ferguson in Varenna Italy
A night out in Varenna

Groceries in Lake Como

One of the perks of staying at an Airbnb is that you do some cooking yourself. Not that you want to skip out on the delightful local cuisine but maybe you want to whip up a breakfast before you leave the house for the day.

There are no major grocery stores within the village of Varenna but there are pharmacies in the village, as well as traditional markets that have almost everything you need. Fruit, vegetables, cheese, pasta, eggs, wine…you’re set.

FAQs about visiting Lake Como in August

What is the weather like in August at Lake Como?

In August, Lake Como experiences warm and pleasant weather, making it an ideal time to visit this stunning destination in northern Italy. Daytime temperatures have an average high of 77 degrees Fahrenheit, 25 degrees Celsius.

Can you swim in Lake Como in August?

Summer is the best time of year to swim in Lake Como. The water temperature in August is typically comfortable for swimming and water activities, ranging from around 68 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit, 20 to 25 degrees Celsius.

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