This Charming Town Near A Stunning Gorge Is A Hidden Gem On Italy's Lake Como

Often overlooked by the ritzy, iconic villages sprawled along the extravagant Lake Como, Bellano is a laid-back lakeside getaway perched on the eastern shore. Fondly known as the "Town of Artists", Bellano has developed a reputation as a creative and colorful destination. It's also the birthplace of several influential Italian icons, including writer and novelist Tommaso Grossi. Bellano is just one of the many picturesque jewels in Italy's northern Lombardy region and boasts a peaceful, quiet atmosphere, unlike its opulent and bustling next-door neighbors, like Bellagio and Menaggio.

It's easily the kind of place in Italy where you'll find locals spending slow mornings sipping coffee on one of the many picturesque terraces that line the perimeter of the lake. Medieval abodes, ancient arches, and picturesque courtyards branch off from Piazza Grossi, the main square. Aside from the gorgeous Gothic facades and Neoclassical architecture, Bellano is famous for its beautifully carved ravine with a cascading waterfall, known as Orrido di Bellano. 

While Bellano's primary piazza is perched on the water's edge, the municipality extends up the face of the mountain to Vendorgno, offering stunning mountain sceneries from the tip of Mount Muggio. This historical village is part of an ancient settlement housing several architectural relics. Despite the increased tourism scene, Vendrogno still retains many pieces of its pastoral and agricultural past, ingrained into the town's heritage.

Spend an idyllic day in Bellano

A dreamy labyrinth of local boutiques, wine bars, and cafes peppering the town's cobblestone streets, Bellano is every bit the quintessential Italian gem. While gorgeous throughout each of the four seasons, the summer months beckon visitors to the sun-soaked shores of the town's main beach dappled with white sunbeds and umbrellas. Perhaps the most coveted spot in town for sunbathing, it's the perfect all-day oasis to soak in the sunshine. It's attached to a full-service restaurant, bar, and access to a swimming pool. For a post-beach snack, Ristorante Alkimia and Pasticceria Lorla are two of the best restaurants in Bellano for classic Italian dishes and freshly-baked pastries.

Explore the local market that takes place every Thursday in the summer. Aisles of stalls selling artisan crafts and fresh produce make it a vibrant hotspot to gain an authentic Lake Como experience. You can also drive, cycle, or catch the bus to the alpine village of Vendrogno, part of the larger Muggiasca area that encompasses seven small hamlets. One of the most fascinating landmarks in Vendrogno is the Museum of Milk and History (MUU) which dives deep into the ancient life and culture of the region, particularly its history as a flourishing dairy farm. The museum is divided into various sections that explore the procession of milk, topography, work routines in the stable, and traditional labor tasks assigned to women.

Visit Orrido Di Bellano

One of the main highlights is Orrido di Bellano, a spectacular evergreen canyon flowering with colorful buds amidst ravines, caves, and waterfalls. Molded into the dazzling canyon by erosion from the Pioverna stream and Adda glacier, it has been formed slowly over 15 million years. The gorge is open year-round but is best visited during the gap between spring and fall. A collection of small footbridges provide up-close views of the rushing waterfalls that feed the flora that thrive in this canyon. The beauty of Orrido di Bellano has served as an inspiration to prospering creatives around the world since the 1900s, including artists and writers who featured the gorge in their works.

To see all that this park has to offer, guests should plan to spend at least an hour and a half. Orrido di Bellano can get quite busy during peak seasons and it's often best to visit early in the day or in the evening to avoid excess crowds. Aside from the caves, pools, and grottos to see throughout the canyon, an old stone tower known as Casa del Diavol sits high above the rushing waters below. As daylight hours turn to dusk, head to Belvedere viewpoint — the best spot to watch the last rays of the sun sink into the majestic vistas. While there's lots to see and do, here are some mistakes to avoid when visiting Lake Como.