This Popular Town On Italy's Lake Como Is Overrated (And Where To Stay Instead)

There's nothing that creates more excitement than packing your bags with sunglasses and swimsuits in preparation for an idyllic Italian lakeside vacation. Lake Como is considered one of the most popular of Italy's lakes, with crystal-clear water and a captivating canvas of Romanesque architecture tucked among its seaside villages. The glamorized cobblestone town of Bellagio is nestled in Italy's Lombardy region and sits at the southern fork of Lake Como. While this fairytale-like village has garnered much attention as one of Lake Como's top travel destinations, that doesn't necessarily make it a dream come true. Given its reputation as a hot spot on the shores of Lake Como, guests should prepare to pay a pretty penny when staying in Bellagio, particularly during spring and summer. Restaurants and hotels know they're nestled in prime tourist territory, charging higher rates for visitors eager to check Lake Como off their bucket list. 

That's not to say travelers should dismiss Lake Como entirely. Not every village perched on this idolized waterfront is a tourist sensation overrun with crowds and overpriced cocktails. Nesso, in particular, is a hidden gem along the silent eastern shore of Lake Como. Marked by an unhurried lifestyle and scenic hillsides dotted with coastal hamlets, this dreamy Italian village is worth more than the attention it receives. Often described as a fairytale town, the village is dappled with opulent villas owned by the affluent, who claim these shores as their summer home.

Nesso, Italy — A sleepy alternative lakeside gem

Perched on the eastern side of Italy's emerald-colored lake, you'd think this picturesque patch of lush vegetation and colorful architecture would be flooded with tourists. However, the cobblestone paths that snake through the village are some of the quietest in Lake Como, and they are rarely filled with anyone but locals and the occasional traveler diverging from the popular towns of Bellagio and Como. This postcard-perfect European village is hidden so well among the verdant plantation that visitors have been known to drive right through without even noticing! Medieval bridges, cascading waterfalls, and exquisite seafood plates all await visitors who find themselves lost in the sweet, sleepy town of Nesso.

Welcoming guests to this enchanting small town is Orrido di Nesso, a steep natural gorge that splits the town into two separate sections. Forged by two fast-flowing rivers running between these rocks, the adjoining rivers form a breathtaking waterfall that plunges over 650 feet! Situated right in front of this idyllic lush backdrop is yet another iconic landmark known as the Ponte della Civera. An ancient medieval footbridge made of stone, it's the perfect place for a photoshoot before heading into the town's main city square, Piazza Castello. The heart of Nesso is brought to life by cultural landmarks teeming with the town's rich heritage. Fresco-filled churches, like Santi Pietro e Paolo and the medieval Castello di San Lorenzo (a beautiful European castle), create a lovely backdrop framed by the rocky cliffs.

Find a nature-rich oasis in Nesso, Italy

Blanked in rich green hillsides and vine-covered cliffs, outdoor enthusiasts will be entranced by the nature-filled excursions Nesso has to offer its guests. One gem in particular is the stunning Strada Regia — an 18.5-mile pedestrian footpath linking several villages located along this stretch of coastline. Cutting through densely wooded areas, picturesque hollows, and stone hamlets, travelers can look for signs for Strada Regia throughout the town and hike as far or as short as you want.

Nesso is small in nature and surrounded by tiny hamlets dotting the hillsides above the lake. Careno is a particularly captivating town, composed of a labyrinth of winding staircases that snake through the small cobblestone villas. Just a five-minute drive from Nesso, travelerblog the Church of San Martino, a photogenic structure filled with frescoes that date back to approximately 1184. 

After a day spent strolling through the rich native wilderness that surrounds this region, scoping out a well-deserved meal should be the next thing on your bucket list. When it comes to authentic, handmade food, Trattoria del Porto offers some of the best seafood in this town, sourcing fresh catch finds straight from Lake Como! Located in the town of Careno, it boasts an enviable menu of classic Italian seafood plates. Back in Nesso, Pizzeria da Eugenio offers some of the best pizzas in town, baked to perfection in wood-fired ovens. This traditional Italian pizzeria was founded in 1896 and boasts an al fresco terrace that overlooks the sparkling shores of Lake Como.