Nothing can beat a dip in cool lake or river waters on a hot summer afternoon – and nowhere can look so inviting as one of the many beaches on Lake Como. BUT is the water really as welcoming as it looks? The short answer is yes, in the vast majority of cases not only are the beaches approved for swimming but they have been classified as ‘excellent’. And it is the Italian State Ministry of Health that says so as a result of constant monitoring over the summer season of beaches not only on the coast but also for freshwater locations like Lake Como.
However it pays to check the details just in case you select the only beach on the Como leg of the lake closed temporarily due to unacceptable levels of microbial pollutants. So this is definitely a good news story reinforcing the progress made in recent years to improve water quality. Even Varese’s lido on Lake Schiranna is now classified as ‘excellent’ which is no mean achievement for a lake without any major outlet and surrounded by both urban and agricultural development.
Beaches on the western shore
Let’s take a closer look at the beaches in the lower half of the lake on the Como leg by starting in Como itself. We should match our expectations to the fact that Como is a sizable town with a slightly dysfunctional history behind its water purification infrastructure (nothing too alarming but certainly noticeable as a musky scent emanating from the purification plant on Via Innocenzo XI in warm weather).
The positive news is that the water quality is improving year on year and, as with last year, the lido in Villa Olmo has again been certified safe for swimming. The classification is however a modest ‘satisfactory’. This is the only beach in Como tested and measured by the state although they are considering the feasibility of including the beach at the Tempio Voltiano and the lido in Viale Geno within the monitoring programme next year. I would personally avoid swimming off the Tempio Voltiano due to its proximity to the mouth of the River Cosia which carries output from the purification plant into the lake.
The lido in Viale Geno is just down the road from the HQ of Como Nuoto where members swim happily in the lake as well as in the swimming pool and where they recently organised a competition for professional swimmers to cross the lake to Cernobbio from there. If the water is clean enough for them, I am sure it is good enough for those on the banks of the lido one hundred metres away.
The Ministry of Health (Ministero della Salute) test the water for two particular microbes originating from human or animal waste. They are Enterococci and E-Coli (Escherichia Coli). Safety levels are standard across the European Union. Check out their website (only in Italian unsurprisingly) to look up the status of beaches across the whole of Italy.
Leaving Como and going up the west side of the lake, the next beach to be tested is the one on the border of Cernobbio within the old trotting track in the grounds of Villa Erba. This also passed with a ‘satisfactory’ classification. I am not sure exactly how accessible this beach is given that the gates to the trotting track are often closed but maybe volunteers provide access over the summer. If so, this is a great location just on the edge of Como.
The next beach is the lido at Moltrasio where the water here is classified as ‘excellent’. If visiting the Clooneys in Laglio, you are unlikely to be visiting the very attractive public beach at Riva del Tenciù which is just as well since it is closed this season due to the nearby construction work on the lakefront. Brienno has a great beach accessed through the Parco Pubblico. This is classified one down from excellent as ‘good’.
Argegno’s lido is ‘excellent’. Lenno’s lido is also ‘excellent’. Lenno’s Spiaggia San Giorgio is also approved for swimming but classified as ‘new’ presumably since it lacks historical data. Moving on to Tremezzo, its beach in the Parco Teresio Olivelli is approved for swimming but also is classified as ‘new’. Meanwhile the beach at Torrente Bolvedro is ‘excellent’.
‘New’ crops up twice as a classification of approved beaches in Menaggio, – the Spiaggia Cantone and the Spiaggia Lerai. The Menaggio lido is classified as ‘excellent’.
Beaches from Como to Bellagio
Leaving Como on the winding road to Bellagio, the first beach to be tested is the Lido Riva at Faggeto Lario which gains an ‘excellent’ as also does the Rosina at Nesso. However at Lezzeno there is the only beach in our list with a temporary ban on swimming due to effluent levels. This is the Spiaggia Rivabella Crotto. Not to worry though since the other two beaches in Lezzeno – Bognana and Spiaggia Salice – are both approved for swimming and classed as ‘excellent’. Finally at Bellagio, the jewel of the lake, the beaches at La Punta and Rivetto are both classed as ‘excellent’. See our recent article on E-Biking in Bellagio to get some idea of the beauty of this place.
We haven’t touched on the great beaches to be found above Menaggio or those on the Lecco leg of the lake but there are some great locations for swimming in both areas and you can always use the Ministry of Health website to check on their water quality.
So to summarise, out of twenty beaches, one was closed due to construction and another temporarily due to pollution. Of the eighteen remaining, two were classed as satisfactory, one as good, four as new and the eleven remaining as excellent. All in all, a positive set of figures reassuring me for one that I will have no hesitation in taking a dip whenever the water beckons. My favourite location for wild swimming is Lake Montorfano just to the south of Como. Both this and the equally calm and peaceful Lake Pusiano on the road to Erba are both classified positively. With the heat now building up nicely, the lake(s) could not be more inviting.