Italy's Lake Como is the deepest lake in Europe, in the foothills of the Alps, and is just a short drive from Milan. The contrast between the hustle and bustle of the city and the serene tranquillity of the lake could not be more striking.
The area boasts impressive scenery with mountains rolling down to the water's edge and, while the summer months are hot, it is often possible to see snow on the peaks of the mountains across the lake.
The lake has long been a popular destination for Italians escaping the heat of the cities and as a result there are many historic and beautiful villas lining the shores, such as the Villa Carlotta and the Villa D'Este, as well as many larger villas that have in recent years been converted into luxury hotels.
The area's beauty has earned it a reputation among the stars with Como being used as a location for the James Bond film Casino Royale and with a number of celebrities, among them George Clooney, choosing to make Como their second home.
Some of the most spectacular views are to be found near the middle of the lake, between Tremezzo, Mennagio, Bellagio and Varenna where the sheer scale of the area can be seen.
As for Bellagio, guide books run out of adjectives trying to do the place justice. Art nouveau hotels and cafes range along the waterfront, punctuated by shops selling expensive kitsch.