"The geography of Lake Como with its distinctive Y shape and steep mountains gives buyers plenty of choice," says Sam Cleps of Savills associate Habitat Real Estate. There are small apartments in towns, large estates fronting the lake and villas high above it. Prices range widely, too: last year a house in Carate sold for £30.6 million but you can find apartments for £200,000.
Prices are dependent on views, traffic noise and lake access. Most buyers want privacy, some outside space and to be able to stroll to local shops and bars. Property prices peak on the west shore between Como Town in the south and Menaggio. The northern end of the lake around Domaso is the most remote and also the windiest, perfect for sailing and surfing, while the eastern shore is quieter and less developed.
Beloved by American tourists with good potential rental returns, Bellagio sits at the intersection of Lake Como's two southern branches, forming a golden triangle of tourist and property hotspots with Varenna and Menaggio. Its pretty centre, framed by the Alps, features cobbled streets spilling down to the lake shore.
Residenza La Spiaggia is a small development of seven newly restored apartments around a communal swimming pool five minutes' walk from the lake and the town centre. Prices start from £201,700 for a 645sq ft ground-floor apartment, including underground parking, through Savills.
Nearby, a substantial and very private villa with beautifully proportioned rooms in need of modernising but structurally sound, with 600 feet of lake frontage, private dock and 2.5 acre gardens is £5.24 million, a good example of the variety available in the market.
ABOVE THE LAKE
Roads around the lake get crowded and noisy in summer — another reason many look to the cooler slopes above it. "If you are thinking of buying a property here, but are not in the same financial league as film star George Clooney, Como's most famous resident, look for somewhere at the uphill edge of a village," says Roger Coombes of Cluttons Italy. You can get away from the crowds and enjoy the best views over the lake and surrounding mountains.
In Cernobbio, home to five-star hotel Villa d'Este, Coombes is selling three one- and two-bedroom flats in a former toy factory, 300 feet above the lake. The spacious loft-style apartments, priced from £282,380 to £532,490, all have expansive windows and terraces or private gardens.
Good views are also part of the attraction of Viste di Bellano, a gated development of 27 properties priced from £258,180 and five minutes from Varenna. One- to three-bedroom apartments and townhouses one mile from the lake on the eastern shore are for sale through Select Resorts.
By Argegno, 15 minutes from Como Town, a charming five-bedroom detached house off the beaten track in a small hamlet is £645,440, while even further above the lake in Lanzo d'Intelvi, close to the Swiss border and ski slopes, an immaculate fivebedroom villa is £484,000. Both through Savills.
LIVE WITH MR CLOONEY
George Clooney's estate in Laglio has put this small town on the western banks of the lake on the radar for celebrity spotters. Just steps from the Clooney residence, a detached Liberty villa opposite the lake with two bedrooms is for sale at £685,780.
Nearby in chic Moltrasio a three-bedroom apartment of 1,507sq ft in a period house with communal pool and jasmine-filled gardens is £1.29 million, also through Savills. The house is on a busy road but its position on the lake overlooking Torno, where former Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi has a new home, is a delight.
Savills: 020 7016 3740, savills.com/international
Cluttons Italy: 00 39 075 845 0100, cluttonsitaly.com
Select Resorts: 01202 765011, selectresorts.co.uk