Lake Como, Italy

The Lake Effect

Iyna Bort Caruso

After George Clooney bought 30-room villa on the shores of Lake Como in 2002, the region experienced a phenomenon that became known as the “Clooney Effect.” Real estate prices rose with an influx of international buyers. The reality is that this exquisite spot in the foothills of the Alps has been attracting the wealthy since Roman times.

Como is Italy’s most popular lakeside retreat, a place of beauty, serenity and accessibility. Its strategic northern location provides quick access to major cities in Italy and Switzerland as well as to European highways.

Lake Como is a long-established weekend home destination for Milanese. Milan is just 40 miles away from the lake’s southern end. Italians prefer homes in the center of town while their international counterparts tend to seek out locales on the water with views. Lake Como is one of the most sought-out areas for overseas buyers in all of Italy. It is a market traditionally dominated by British and Americans, although luxury buyers from Asia, Russia and the Middle East are getting into the mix.

A dearth of waterfront estates, difficult terrain and laws aimed at limiting excessive development have kept Lake Como real estate prices high. Housing options range from flats and townhouses to penthouses and palaces. Newer developments are small scale and low rise.

Dozens of villages line the lake’s Y-shaped coastline. The facades of waterside mansions are both faded and fabulous. Como is a walled city with a historic center. Like many of its neighbors, the resort spot has charming squares, open air cafes and a lovely lakeside promenade. Bellagio is some 18 miles north. This “Pearl of the Lake” is located at the junction where the lake separates into two branches. The dreamy compact towns of Tremezzo, Menaggio and Varenna are among those that share lovely views, pedestrian-friendly alleys and stunning Mediterranean gardens. Some may call all the attention to this region the “Clooney Effect,” but the grandeur of Italy’s Lakes District is larger than a single celebrity. The Como Effect is more like it.