2020’s tourist season has got off to a late start for reasons we know all too well! I had feared that the Coronavirus lockdown might have led to a deterioration in water quality if maintenance of the many lakeside septic tanks had been impacted. (There were some days in winter when a walk along Como’s Viale Geno made me fear the worst). However there is absolutely no cause for concern as the lake swimming season (officially running from 1st June to 30th September) has again started with excellent results. The first two sets of data from government controls of water quality are now in and all beaches on the Como leg of the lake are deemed swimmable with the vast majority classified as ‘excellent’.
As with last year, I have checked the latest data for the twenty two beaches monitored on the Como leg of the lake from Griante on the west bank and Bellagio on the east to Como itself. One of these, the Spiaggia Rivabella Crotto at Lezzeno, was closed last year due to unacceptably high levels of pollution. The figures for this year are fine so I am not sure if the closure order still stands. In any case, Lezzeno has two other beaches with excellent results that could provide an alternative. The beach at Laglio is not recorded since it remains technically closed due to construction work on the lakefront – now into its third year!
All the others are swimmable with most recording only trace evidence of bacteria with the following exceptions. Como’s beach at Villa Olmo only manages to gain a ‘sufficient’ rating. Como’s other official lake lido at Villa Geno has better but not perfect results but unfortunately it remains closed to the public due to a prolonged piece of local council bureaucracy. If based in Como, I recommend a short trip to the lido at Moltrasio which has some of the cleanest water across the whole lake. Argegno’s lakefront and lido register some of the cleanest water on the lake for the second year running. Another ‘lido’ which does not appear to offer any access to the public is the beach within the old galloping track of Villa Erba. This beach, used by the Cernobbio Sailing Club, is near to where the River Breggia enters the lake. Last year the season started badly for them due possibly to issues upstream in the purification plant in Chiasso. There are no issues so far this year. The lido at Faggeto Lario shares excellent results in addition to the lidos at Argegno and Moltrasio. The Faggeto lido is also a plastic-free zone but remember that virus control measures require customers to book places in advance. Go to this website to make your reservation.
Detailed figures for 2020 are included in the table below. For those of you wanting details of the beaches either at the top end of the lake or on the Lecco leg, please refer to the government website following this link, and enter in the name of the Comune, e.g. Abbadia Lariana. Ensure you enlarge the map sufficiently to make evident the individual beaches in each comune and then click on your preferred location. Since there are only two months’ data for this season, the classification of excellent, good or acceptable is based on last year. You need to check the actual results to evaluate the current state.
From Como to Griante
The hot weather does tempt some people in Como to enter the water by the Tempio Voltiano in the lakeside park. Unfortunately this is also where the Cosia river enters the lake having passed by Como’s water treatment plant just up the road. This is also not an official beach and it is not a good idea to swim there. Hopefully the data for Villa Olmo’s lido will improve but the lido does have its own swimming pool for those not happy with the lake. There is also a swimming pool lido in Cernobbio looking over the gardens of Villa Erba.
Go out beyond Cernobbio to Moltrasio and you will find an excellently clean lido. Carate Urio has a popular beach on a lawn in front of the church but it is not monitored. Laglio’s beach remains closed due to ongoing construction work on the lakefront.
You then arrive at Brienno which is my favourite location for swimming on the west side of the lake. Brienno’s beach is within the small public park on the northern edge of the town. It consists of a couple of platforms built on the mountainside over the lake with a bar offering sun beds and umbrellas if required. The bar provides all necessary facilities alongside simple dishes like rice or pasta salad and sandwiches. The water quality is monitored and is good. Brienno itself is a delightful little town of old fishermen’s dwellings linked by a maze of narrow streets. It is not on the main tourist map so remains pleasantly relaxing throughout the summer.
On from Brienno, Argegno’s lido is excellent. Colonno’s beach is also very good. Lenno has three monitored beaches. All are well within acceptable standards but not as good as Argegno or Tremezzina to its north. Finally, there are two beaches reviewed in Griante and both have excellent scores this year.
From Como to Bellagio
The first beach to be monitored on the eastern side of the Como leg is at Faggeto Lario. Its results are excellent this year as are those for Nesso, the next monitored beach on the road north. Between Faggeto Lario and Nesso there is an unmonitored beach which happens to be my favourite spot for lake swimming on this side. It is Careno. The water here may not be monitored but I can assure you that it looks and feels good. Also there are no dense areas of population nearby least of all in Careno itself which is a very small town. This is a beautiful place to come and lounge in the shadow of the Romanesque bell tower of San Martino. The beach consists of a grassy area, and, if the level of the lake is low, a gravelly section. There are no public facilities here. However, if you have wisely booked lunch at the nearby Trattoria del Porto (call +39 031 910195 for reservations), you should be able to use their facilities. The restaurant specialises in lake fish and offers a fixed menu that usually includes two of Lake Como’s traditional local delicacies – missoltini and perch fillets with rice. There are not a large number of boats stopping at Careno but the schedule does allow you to arrive in good time to sunbathe and swim, eat, digest and then return home. Here you have all the ingredients for a perfect lazy excursion well off the normal tourist track – a spot that, like Brienno over the water, remains delightfully quiet and calm also in high summer during the week.
Lezzeno is the next town on the road to Bellagio. Here there are three monitored beaches with the Spiaggia Rivabella Crotto being the only one in our area closed last year due to unacceptable levels of pollution. This year, however, its results are very good. The neighbouring beaches in Lezzeno at Bagnana and Salice have always been excellent. Finally we arrive at Bellagio’s beaches at Rivetto and Punta Spartivento. Both are classified as ‘excellent’.
The EU’s Bathing Water Directive
All the countries within the European Union apply the standards defined in the 2006 Bathing Water Directive. These require member states to monitor rivers, lakes and beaches regularly, to report their results and immediately publicise closure whenever any specific location fails to achieve acceptable levels. There is a broad range of poisonous bacteria that can enter the water either from sewage, water treatment centres or as agricultural or industrial run-off. Beyond causing gastroenteritis, they may also lead to very serious conditions such as meningitis. Rather than test for the wide variety of possible bacteria, the tests focus on identifying the number of units of just two microorganisms, e-coli and intestinal enterococci. Levels of these provide a good indication of general levels for the other harmful bacteria. Units are measured per one hundred millitres with any number below 1000 acceptable for e-coli and below 500 for enterococci. Depending on results, the water from each site is then classified as being either excellent, good, sufficient or poor.
Here are the latest figures for those beaches close to Como.