Italy’s Como has a backdrop of green hills and centuries of history inside its medieval walls. The city faces the southwest tip of the famous Lake Como, known as one of the most photo-worthy places in Europe. There’s plenty to do, from touring the water by boat to riding the funicular up the hill to the sleepy settlement of Brunate. Head to a rustic lakeside osteria (local restaurant) to eat simple grilled fish, and explore the cosy drinking dens dotted all over town.
Como hostels are as charming as the city itself. You’ll find free Wi-Fi in most, and some have air con for the summer heat. To set you up for a day of exploring, choose a Como hostel that has a laid-back Italian free breakfast of fresh fruit, pastries and coffee. You can pick a dorm room in a pretty house with plants and flowers on the outdoor terrace or stay in a medieval building nestled high in the woods.
Como’s atmospheric old town is a maze of pathways and historic squares. Here, you'll see the Gothic Como Cathedral, Basilica di San Fedele and the 12th-century Porta Torre gateway. The elegant main square, Piazza Cavour, opens out to the waterfront and is lined with colourful buildings, ice cream shops and café terraces where you can sit and watch the boats. Walk west to reach the grand Villa Olmo, an 18th-century aristocratic summer home that's now an exhibition centre with lakeside gardens.
From Como, you can easily explore the villages that cling to the hills. A boat trip around the southern arm of the lake stops off at pretty towns like Cernobbio, Moltrasio, Torno and Blevio. For an old-world experience away from the crowds, head to the magical lakeside hamlet of Brienno. It's 10km from Como and relatively untouched by visitors. After a day of exploring, you'll be able to choose from the jazz bars, late-night cafés and downtown clubs that make up Como’s nightlife.
Milan’s Malpensa airport is 50km from Como, and the two are well connected by rail or bus. Take the express train from the airport to Saronno and change for a train to Como Lago station, right on the waterfront. The journey takes around 90 minutes. The Como San Giovanni station, 10 minutes from the centre, has trains to and from Milan's Stazione Centrale. To see the lakeside towns and villages, get on one of the buses or hydrofoil ferries that run regularly from Como.