Lake Como in northern Italy is one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations. The lake receives about 1.4 million annual visitors, a truly stunning number.
So many people visit Lake Como because of the truly spectacular scenery. The Y-shaped lake stretches out beneath the mountains and offers breathtaking views. Several charming towns nestled along the shore, such as Como, Bellagio, and Torna, that offer the classical Italian experience.
Many celebrities and wealthy people make this their summer home, and you can spot famous people (or at least their mansions and classical gardens) from a boat tour of the lake.
With so many people visiting, you may be wondering if it is the right thing to do to join them. Is Lake Como worth the hype, or will you run into unpleasant surprises such as crime when you show up?
This travel guide can help you prepare for planning a trip by going in-depth when it comes to safety. Here is what you need to know about making sure your trip there goes smoothly.
Is Lake Como Safe to Visit in 2023?
Yes, Lake Como is safe to visit. The area is fairly remote and populated with small towns, not cities, and violent crime is unheard of.
However, like in most popular tourist destinations around the world, you may run into pickpockets or other petty thieves.
Lake Como is located in Italy, so it’s a good idea to research the safety of the whole country first. Luckily, all of Italy is safe to visit. Most countries such as Canada give travelers the green light to go to all of Italy, including Como.
You just have to take the same precautions you would take at home against basic crimes such as:
- Bag snatching
- Verbal harassment
Other countries are a bit more cautious in their travel advisory for Italy. For example, the United States advises travelers to exercise increased caution in Italy due to the risk of civil unrest and terrorism.
However, these risks don’t apply to Lake Como. The region around the lake is sparsely populated and peaceful, so larger disruptive events are highly unlikely.
Plus, it isn’t a significant political target the way that a big city such as Naples or the capital Rome might be, so it is extremely unlikely to experience protests or a terrorist attack.
Lake Como occasionally experiences flooding and landslides. For example, in July 2021, heavy rain triggered landslides around Lake Como and caused many towns to evacuate.
Although heavy rain events are becoming more common in northern Italy, it is unlikely that disaster will strike during your vacation.
Make sure that you check the weather ahead of time and cancel if there is heavy rain predicted (even if there won’t be flooding, that won’t be the best weather for exploring Lake Como.) Some people prefer to use Lake Como as a base for a more active vacation.
Lake Como is popular for activities such as boating, but make sure that you are engaging with any water sports safely.
Make sure that you only take a boat out on your own if you are experienced. The lake has surprisingly strong wind patterns that can affect smaller craft. The winds tend to be calmer in the morning.
Lake Como has designated areas for water sports such as boating and water skiing. Before you head into the water, make sure that you are in the right area for the activity that you are planning.
If you are swimming, only stick to designated beaches. You don’t want to go swimming in an area reserved for boating, putting yourself in danger!
Many tourists go hiking in the beautiful hills around Lake Como, but you want to make sure that you do so safely. Make sure that someone always knows which route you are taking so they can alert the authorities if you go missing.
Be careful that you don’t overexert yourself or take a wrong turn — there have been accidental deaths of hikers in the past.
Crime in Lake Como
Crime is a concern for people whenever they travel. You don’t want to be the victim of a crime when you’re far from home and have to navigate a foreign justice system, often in a different language.
Lake Como itself doesn’t experience crime — it’s a lake, a body of water. However, the towns around Lake Como, from Como to Bellagio, are a different story.
Whenever you’re around other people, you’re at risk of experiencing crime. Lake Como is in the Lombardy region of Italy. Lombardy is the province of Italy that has the highest crime rate, at 4,866.3 incidents per 100,000 people.
However, the vast majority of these criminal incidents happen in the main regional city of Milan. Smaller places such as the towns around Lake Como have much lower crime rates.
Although Como is close enough to Milan to make a day trip, it is a world away in terms of safety. According to the perception of people who responded to Numbeo’s crime survey, the crime rate in Como is low.
The area scores a 28.39 out of 100 on the crime index, which is a low value. People report the most concern about drug abuse, corruption, and petty theft.
Violent crime rates are very low to nonexistent. Many residents are concerned that crime is increasing. However, even with the increase in crime, Lake Como is still very safe. Plus, the increase is not unique to Lake Como.
All around the world, the end of COVID-19 lockdowns brought a spike in crime that is starting to calm down now, a few years later.
The crime rate around the lake tends to increase during the tourist high season. The larger crowds provide cover for thieves and scammers of all kinds, and more opportunities.
However, it is unlikely that you will encounter anything more severe than pickpocketing. Even with the slight bump in crime during the summer high season, the crime rate is still very safe.
The most common crime in Italy is pickpocketing, and Lake Como is no different. As the Australian government warns in its travel advisory, petty crime is common in popular tourist destinations and tends to increase during the summer and autumn high season.
As Lake Como receives millions of visitors a year, this warning obviously applies to the lake. Many travelers are victimized before they even make it to Lake Como.
Thieves operate on the often-packed buses and trains that take tourists from nearby cities such as Milan to Lake Como.
When you are traveling to the lake, make sure that you have a physical grasp on your bag and your valuables as pickpockets could take advantage of the crowds to brush up against you.
Bag snatching isn’t as common in the towns around Lake Como, but pickpocketing can happen. The peak time for pickpocketing is in the summer, mid-morning to mid-afternoon when the crowds of day trippers arrive.
Make sure that your things are somewhere where they are hard to steal, such as a money belt, front pocket, or zipped compartment of your bag. You should also be careful not to leave your things unattended.
Don’t leave your phone or wallet on the table when you sit down in a café or restaurant terrace as that makes it easy to snatch. Don’t put your bag down while you wander over to get a good picture.
All it takes is one moment of inattention to leave more than just your heart in Lake Como.
Most incidents of theft tend to happen it is the biggest town surrounding the lake and the one that is most popular among tourists. Although theft can occur in other towns as well, it is far less likely in a sleepier town such as Menaggio.
Like any popular tourist destination, Lake Como has its fair share of scammers that often target tourists. Be careful to avoid popular scams when you are in Como.
Although scams are not dangerous, the frustration may ruin your trip. Local businesses sometimes take advantage of tourists with hidden fees, such as the infamous case when a local café charged a British tourist extra money for cutting a sandwich in half.
Before ordering, always look through the menu and read any fine print carefully for hidden charges.
Some hidden charges are posted towards the back of the business, near the bar area so tourists won’t see when they sit down, so try to do a scan before you order anything.
When booking anything around Lake Como, make sure that you are booking through a reputable business. You don’t want to book a rental home or tour, only to show up and find that it doesn’t exist.
When pre-booking ferry tickets, you should also make sure that you are only doing so through the official website. You don’t want to pay twice for your tickets.
Scams in Lake Como are not as common as they are in other parts of Italy, but they still occur (the crowds of tourists are far too lucrative a temptation for scammers). Just use your common sense and you should be able to avoid them.
Avoiding Bad Areas
Since Lake Como is so safe, there are no bad areas per se, although you may want to hold onto your purse a bit tighter in the streets of Como during the peak summer crowds.
The only area that may get a bit sketchy is the area around Como San Giovanni, the main train station near the lake.
The area near the train station may feel a bit seedy after dark, although criminal incidents are few and far between. Train and bus stations in general tend to feel sketchy at night wherever you go.
Things to Consider
Here are a few additional safety tips for visiting Lake Como:
- Be prepared for the summer crowds. Every day, thousands of people visit Lake Como in the summer, causing ferries, buses, and accommodation to fill up quickly. Avoid the crowds by booking during shoulder season or arriving early in the morning if you visit in the summer.
- Book your ferry tickets online. You can buy your ferry tickets ahead of time on the official website. This saves you from waiting in long lines to buy in-person tickets, and from the confusion about ferry schedules (they are not transparently posted).
- Be careful when driving. The roads around Lake Como are in okay condition, but they tend to be hilly and winding. Local drivers don’t always use the caution that these road conditions require.
- Be prepared for the hills! The streets in the towns are hilly and cobblestoned, with plenty of stairs. People with wheelchairs or baby strollers may struggle outside of the main town of Como.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some frequently asked questions about visiting Lake Como:
How safe is Lake Como, Italy?
Lake Como, Italy, is very safe. It has a very low crime rate and besides the occasional pickpocket, it is highly unlikely that you might encounter a crime while you are visiting.
How many days in Lake Como is enough?
You want to budget about 3 days for Lake Como. That way you can experience the lake without the crowds of day trippers and explore all the little towns around it.
Why can’t you swim in Lake Como?
You can swim in Lake Como, and there are several beautiful beaches towards the north of the lake. Only swim in designated swimming areas to avoid boat traffic. You can’t swim near the city of Como because the water isn’t clean.
Is Lake Como, Italy, worth visiting?
Lake Como is absolutely worth visiting. The scenery is stunning, and the atmosphere is a typical Italian example of la dolce vita.
Is it safe to walk around Como at night?
Most of the towns in this area, including Como, are safe even at night. However, avoid the area around the main train station, which can get a bit sketchy.
So, Is Lake Como Safe to Visit?
Lake Como is definitely safe to visit! As long as you prepare for the crowds (and the pickpockets) that inevitably descend on the lake each summer, you can have a great time.
So, with so much to see and do and a very safe environment in which to stay, what are you waiting for — book your trip today and experience for yourself all that Lake Como has to offer. Happy travels!