If you are in Como and you want to see the lake and some of its beautiful towns from a different perspective, I recommend taking the Greenway. And if you like hiking/trekking, you would enjoy this walk a lot.
Also if you are in Como for a short period of time, and you don’t have a car, this could be the best tour for you. In our case, we were in Milan just for a long weekend, so we spent only a night and less than 2 days in the lake.
Hence, even if you are in Milan and want to spend a minimum time in one of the lakes, this could be a great option. There is no need to rent a car or take a boat tour, you will only need a train from Milan to Como, and a bus from Como to the Greenway.
What is it?
The Greenway of Lake Como is a 10.5 km (6.5 miles) hiking trail following the Lake Como shore from Colonno to Cadenabbia di Griante.
The hiking path is pleasant and easy to follow and passes through ancient and charming villages, picturesque gardens, elegant houses, Romanesque and Baroque churches and more. You will find breathtaking views of the Lake for multiple angles and heights.
Moreover, the path follows the traces of the “Antica Strada Regina”, an antique connections road build by the Romans to connect Como with other towns over the Alps.
How to get there?
By bus is the easiest way to get to the start (or any point in between) of The Greenway. The bus C10 operates the route Como-Menaggio-Colico, and takes 45 minutes from Como San Giovanni to Colonno. The cost is €4.6 per ticket, which is valid for a single journey.
There are plenty of stops in Como and the rest of the towns, and if you have a mobile phone with Internet, Google maps will tell you the exact times and locations.
By boat is also possible, the trick is to find the right one at the right time and going to the right location without too many stops (unless you want to enjoy the ride). This is because not all boats go to all the towns. For instance, we could not find a boat to Colonno, and the bus stop is just opposite the pier, so we took the bus instead. If you prefer boats, “Navigazione Lago di Como” offers three types of boat services: Slow Boat, Rapid-Service and Car Ferry.
By car could also be an option. If you are staying in Como you can just drive to Colonno, find a parking space (we saw plenty of spaces available) and take the trail. The disadvantage is that you will need to come back for the car; whereas with the bus, you can walk the full 10.5 km path (or less) and take the bus back at the other end.
The trail starts on a hilly road in the town of Colonno. The bus driver will know about this, so you can just tell him you are going to The Greenway. The same bus stops all along the way so you can take it whenever you are tired, either to go back or to move between towns.
The trail is 10.5 km (6.5 miles) and takes around 3 hours and a half to complete. It may take much more if you stop for coffee, snacks, lunch, loo or too many pictures.
As general advice, continue straight and follow the route you are in unless you see a sign to turn. Don’t turn or take another path just because it looks nicer. Signs are scattered but cautiously located in strategic places so can follow the path.
Most websites and blogs divide the trail into 5 or more smaller stages. The main ones are:
Colonno – Sala Comacina
The path starts close to the bus stop, on the southern end of Colonno. You will head to the centre of the town along Via Civetta. You will pass a stone bridge crossing the Torrente Pessetta, and then get to the Town’s bell tower. You will also notice a church, which is called San Michele Arcangelo, and it can be visited with a 200 metres deviation.
The path continues above the village along an ancient Roman road known as Strada Regina for Queen Theodolinda, a Lombard queen who lived on Lake Como from 589 to 616.
Sala Comacina – Ossuccio
The path continues and reaches the cemetery of Sala Comacina and San Roco chapel. At this point, as in the other stages, you can deviate from the Greenway for some time en enjoy spectacular views of the lake and Isola Comacina (Lake Como’s only inhabited island), which you can reach by ferry.
Back on the path (Via Andrea Castelli), you will see the bell tower of Santa Maria Maddalena, and afterwards, on the main lake street, you will find the Church of Santi Eufemia and Vincenzo and the beautiful Villa Giovio Balbiano (see picture above), where the second stage ends. This 16th century Villa is in Ossuccio and it is one of the most important historical palaces on the shores of the lake.
Between this stage and the next one, we stopped for a snack, a refreshment and a fundamental visit to the restroom at il Baretto bar (see picture above). Bear in mind that some stages are long and there are no public toilets or coffee shops, so better to be prepared, or to stop along the way accordingly.
Ossuccio – Lenno
You will then cross a bridge over Torrente Parlana (Parlana stream) and walk towards the centre of Lenno. Along the way, you will pass in front of 16th-century Villa Monastero, and then you will have the option to deviate and visit Villa del Balbianello (former home of an American General and the eccentric explorer Count Guido Monzoni). This visit requires a 1km (25-minute) walk.
Otherwise, you can continue the Greenway towards the Lenno beach, and you will find the Church of Santo Stefano, the Romanesque Baptistery of San Giovanni, and the little harbour.
Lenno – Tremezzo
The Greenway will lead you to the next bridge and over the Torrente Pola (Pola stream) and then to the main street by a tiny alley. You will then need to turn left (Hotel San Giorgio) and continue uphill until you reach Mezzegra.
Follow the signs and you will turn right and then left into Via Pola Vecchia. You will then continue on Via Giulia Brentano, passing the Church of San Giuseppe and the Church of Sant’Abbondio.
You will then reach a 17th-century wealthy family’s residence, Palazzo Brentano. You will continue downhill towards the lake taking Via delle Gere, then cross the bridge over Torrente Bolvedro, and finally, get to the main street than follows de lake’s shore. There are a number of bus stops on this street if you want to go back.
Tremezzo – Griante
After 20-25 minutes you will find the Grand Hotel Tremezzo, which is one of the finest hotels in the lake. It is a luxury hotel that includes a stunning wooden deck facing the lake and 3 swimming pools (one floating in the lake).
A few more minutes and you will reach Villa Carlotta and its botanical garden, which comprises a 14-acres of landscaped gardens and a frieze of Alexander entering Babylon, commissioned by Napoleon. Both the museum and the gardens are open to the public and worth visiting.
Along the final stage of the path, you will find more villas and mansions, such as Villa Collina as you pass Cadenabbia. On the shore you will find the Anglican Church of the Ascension, which was consecrated in 1891. And before reaching the end of the Greenway, you will see Villa Margherita (19th century) and Villa Maria (20th century).