When trying to decide where to stay on Lake Como in northern Italy’s Lombardy region, most people end up shortlisting the same four towns & villages; Como, Menaggio, Bellagio and Varenna. In this post, we’d like to introduce a fifth option for you to consider; the peaceful & idyllic village of Argegno.
Argegno (pronounced ar-GEE-nioh) may not have the glitz and glamour of its larger, more popular neighbours, but it makes up for it with plenty of Italian authenticity, fewer crowds and a tranquil & welcoming atmosphere.
We’ve collated ten reasons why we think Argegno is worthy of your consideration. If you’re open to the idea of staying somewhere a little quieter and quainter than Lake Como’s big four tourist destinations, read on.
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1. Argegno is Super Cute
Argegno is a small village that is home to around 650 permanent inhabitants and boasts only a handful of amenities (as you’ll see as we delve further into this post). Since the village is penned into a small area of land between two mountains to the West and Lake Como to the East, there’s not been a great deal of room for expansion. Newcomers have come along and built new homes on the upper slopes, but thankfully the new builds are out of sight and haven’t affected Argegno’s irresistible ancient charm.
To get a flavour of Argegno’s ‘super cute’ status, we recommend an exploration of the narrow cobbled alleyways leading off of the village’s central square, Piazza Roma. Head towards the orange building at the top of the square with ‘panificio’ (bakery) written on its awning and turn left. Then just keep walking to see what you can find.
To take in ALL of Argegno’s cuteness at once (or at least most of it), there are two options. The first is to take the cable car to Pigra (see further on for more details). The views of Argegno and the surrounding area from the gondola are fabulous.
Another great view of the village can be enjoyed from the pedestrian bridge crossing the stream between the Marina and Via Lungo Telo di Sinistra. This spot is particular good for selfies.
2. Argegno Feels Authentically Italian
Lake Como’s ‘mid-lake’ towns of Varenna, Menaggio and Bellagio are very popular with tourists, offering lots of options for shopping, restaurants, accommodation and things to do. Their popularity means they can get rather busy, particularly in the peak Summer season.
Argegno doesn’t have a long list of amenities at its disposal and therefore isn’t as well known. Since there are fewer crowds and fewer businesses specifically targeting tourists, Argegno feels much more authentically Italian than it’s busier cousins. While by day, the village might see some visitors, particularly those who are keen on taking the cable car up to Pigra, by the evening the tourists have left and the village returns to its naturally tranquil state.
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3. Decent bus & boat links to/from Argegno
Like most of the towns and villages on the edge of Lake Como, Argegno is served by fairly regular buses and passenger ferries.
ASF Autolinee operates busses between Como and Menaggio that call at Argegno. Services are not as frequent as they could be and are therefore very busy, but it is better than no service at all. If you’re keen on visiting nearby Villa Carlotta, the bus will be able to take you there from Argegno in around 15-20 minutes.
Similarly to many parts of Italy, buying bus tickets can be a bit of nuisance. Occasionally, we found it was possible to buy a ticket on board the bus, but typically, you’re advised to buy before you board. In Argegno, bus tickets can be purchased from Bar Mota on Piazza Testi.
Gestione Navigazione Laghi operates ferries across Lake Como and some of them (a mixture of slow and fast services) call at Argegno. Similarly to the buses, services are a bit hit and miss, so study those timetables carefully.
Tickets can be purchased from ticket offices that can normally be found alongside the jetty. Ticket offices in smaller towns and villages are only open a short time before a departure, so don’t panic if you find an office is closed. Just wait by the window and someone should come along to help you.
Go with the flow
Since busses and ferries to/from Argegno are fairly infrequent compared to other larger towns, we often needed to transfer between busses and ferries to get to our intended destination. Ensure you make a note of departure times and, in particular, the time of the final departure of the day and you’ll be fine.
Our advice would be to take as relaxed an approach to Italian public transport as the Italians do and allow for delays and long waits. Just go with the flow and take any delay as an opportunity to soak in your surroundings.
4. This Incredible Airbnb
There are a few hotels in Argegno with decent reviews, but we didn’t look them up while we were planning our trip. Instead, we headed straight for Airbnb and, to our delight, found an absolutely incredible place to stay.
When we saw the photos of Villa Emma on Airbnb’s website, we knew instantly it was somewhere we had to stay. The photos showed a grand Italian villa with a terracotta exterior and lavish frescoes adorning the walls and ceilings throughout the property. It looked so exceptionally unique, we booked it almost immediately.
Upon arrival at Villa Emma, we were warmly greeted by Emma herself. She lived on the first and second floors of the villa. We would be staying on the ground floor. Despite a language barrier, she showed us around her home and we followed, mouths agape and consumed by a growing feeling of disbelief that this was going to be our home for the next week.
The decorations were even more decadent than the photos let on. Marble statues sat alongside brightly-coloured 5 metre-high frescoes. Candelabras and chandeliers lit rooms filled with fine mahogany furniture. The sweet smell of Jasmine wafted in through huge open windows that allowed us to see the surrounding mountains. It was like a film set!
During our stay, both Emma and her daughter-in-law Mara were brilliant hosts. Mara was keen to help us make the most of our stay and kindly gave us a lift to the nearby Villa Carlotta. On another occasion, Jade and I were welcomed upstairs by Emma’s extended family who were celebrating a birthday and were keen to share their cake and wine with us.
Jade and I couldn’t believe our luck. Villa Emma is still, by some considerable margin, the best Airbnb we’ve ever stayed in.
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5. Great High-End Restaurants
Argegno has a reasonable number of great restaurants and while there is some variation, most tend to cater to the upper end of the market.
During our stay, Jade and I treated ourselves by eating out at two restaurants that were recommended to us by our Airbnb hosts.
La P’Osteria can be found in a pretty spot away from the main road and alongside the stream that runs through the centre of the village. We chose a table outside so that we could enjoy the peaceful ambiance and the scenery and enjoyed two simple pasta dishes, both of which were fresh and tasty. The pasta seemed to be homemade and was perfectly al dente. Though perhaps a little bit pricey for what it was, we really enjoyed ourselves, thanks largely to a steady flow of local wine.
Ristorante la Piazzetta
For something a bit fancier, try Ristorante la Piazzetta on Piazza Roma. If you’re after a truly authentic Italian dining experience, you’ll like it here. We decided to dine al fresco again (we live in the UK, so we don’t get to do it very often) and loved the peaceful and cosy atmosphere. Around us, fellow diners quietly chatted amongst themselves and clinked glasses of local wines whilst others strolled past, stopping to peruse menus or take photos of the nearby fountain. It was a lovely experience.
6. This Awesome Ice Cream Place
We could wax lyrical about Gelato Di Zoe, a small ice cream kiosk on Argegno’s small Piazza Roma central square. We’ll keep things simple though by saying that Zoe’s rich, creamy and silky smooth gelato is the best we’ve ever had.
Keen to provide you with a fair and balanced review, we popped over to sample Zoe’s wares on our final evening in Argegno and promptly ordered three generous scoops stuffed neatly into a brioche bun. It was a spectacularly decadent treat and a memorable part of our entire trip.
Believe me, it’s a hard life being bloggers!
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7. Catch the Cable Car to Pigra
Despite all of the mountains surrounding it, Lake Como is home to only a handful of cable cars. This is a shame. We love cable cars!
Thankfully, Argegno is the base station to a cable car system, taking passengers 540 metres up to the tiny & scenic village of Pigra. A return ticket costs €3.90 and the journey takes just five minutes.
Not only do you have to be okay with heights on the Pigra cable car, but you also have to be okay with enclosed spaces. The gondola fits only 12 people inside and even then, it’s at a squeeze. Don’t be discouraged however, as the views are so ridiculously gorgeous and the journey is so quick, you won’t have much time to panic.
Upon arrival in Pigra, most visitors spend the first 15 minutes taking in the stunning views of Lake Como below from the cable car station. They then follow the signs to ‘belvedere’, ‘viewpoint’ in Italian. The viewpoint provides more fantastic views, though they are somewhat obscured by pylon lines, so don’t expect amazing photos. The walk through shady woodland is lovely though, particularly if it’s a hot, sunny day.
After filling your camera’s memory card with breathtaking shots, there’s only really two other things to do in Pigra. The first is to get a drink and perhaps something to eat from one of the few restaurants in the village. We found a nice, modern restaurant tucked away alongside a small sports field on Via Santa Margherita. We were warmly welcomed and upon informing the owner we were vegetarian, he made us a tasty mixed salad with fresh bread.
The second thing to do in Pigra to explore the historic centre of the village. Helpfully, the local Friends of the Council Association have set up a sign-posted walking route around the village, taking in all of the major points of interest. You can find out more and see the map on their website. Jade and I really enjoyed exploring the peaceful cobbled alleyways and rustic architecture.
8. This Pretty Lakeside Cafe
Jade and I visited Il Porto for pastries and cappuccino on our final morning in Argegno. Having ordered, we found a table underneath a canopy of foliage and overlooking Lake Como. The hazy morning sunshine made the clear water sparkle and clouded the adjacent mountain peaks. We both found it hard to leave.
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9. Argegno’s Controversial Lido
You wouldn’t think something as innocuous as a Lido would be the cause of fierce consternation within a local community. In Argegno however, the local swimming pool is a controversial topic.
The locals we spoke to told us that Lido di Argegno was developed without planning permission and was therefore operating outside the law. This, together with concerns that the Lido’s minimalist architecture was out of place with the existing style in the village had put some noses out of joint.
It appeared the dispute had peaked during our visit. The gates were firmly locked all week and a notice from the local authorities indicated that they had stepped in to try and find a resolution.
Since our visit, it does appear the the Lido is open again, though only during warmer months. The pool is small (and apparently unheated), but there is an on-site bar and a pontoon that leads into the lake itself. Online reviews are largely positive, so it might be worth checking out.
Swim in Lake Como for Free!
If you’re keen to splash about but you’re not willing to pay for the privilege, there are ways of getting into the lake itself for free. Look for some stone steps leading from the walls of the stream opposite the marina and then walk along the shingle towards the mouth of the stream.
If you do take a dip in the lake, take great care. There’s no life guards, so you go for a dip at your own risk. Also bear in mind, the lake is made up of glacial meltwater, so it’s pretty chilly (or ‘refreshing’ depending on your point of view) even in the Summer.
10. Fresh Local Produce from this Market
A travelling fresh food market visits Argegno every Monday and offers locals and visitors a way to avoid the trouble of getting fresh produce from neighbouring communities. The produce we saw was notable in its size and quality. The aubergine (egg plant) and onions were enormous and seemed to be reasonably priced too.
In this post, I’ve presented ten reasons why Argegno should be on your shortlist when trying to decide where to stay on Lake Como. While the ‘mid-lake’ towns might offer you lots of tourist-friendly hotels, restaurants and attractions, if you’d rather get a peaceful dose of authentic Italian village life, we think Argegno is your best bet.
Have you been to Argegno? If so, do you have any tips or advice for future visitors? Share you thoughts in the comments below.