From Como it is easy to take the train to either Lugano or Bellinzona in Switzerland. They are both beautiful places and worth a visit.
Since 2000 the three castles, Castelgrande, Montebello and Sasso Corbarco, have been an UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Bellinzona has a beautiful location. It is situated by Ticino River in Ticino Valley and has a strategic position along the route over the Alpine passes. A fortress was built already in Roman times, it was later added to by the Bishop of Como. When Bellinzona was under the control of the Dukes of Milan two more castles were built and they had, not only a good defence, but also control over the passing traffic and trade.
Below Castelgrande is the Old Town of Bellinzona with narrow cobbled streets, some squares and fine buildings, like the Town Hall with a courtyard with Renaissance arcades around.
I visited Bellinzona on a sunny day in February and I enjoyed my stay very much. I walked around in the Old Town, ate at a café and visited all three castles by foot.
Lugano is a town with 57 000 inhabitants in southern Switzerland. It is a popular tourist destination in summer and that is easy to understand. The landscape around is beautiful with the Lake Lugano and the mountains. There are good opportunities for outdoor activities in the surroundings and in the city there are some museums, parks and an Old Town.
I visited Lugano a sunny day in February (on a daytrip from Italy). When I arrived in the morning there was a haze and the mountains on the opposite side of the lake could not be seen. When I came back in late afternoon it was clear and the landscape looked totally different.
From the lighthouse and the plateaus around you can see Switzerland, first of all the border and Chiasso, the first Swiss town after crossing the border. From up there it looks as one town, and practically it is merged to Italy, it is funny how borders don't exist in the air. :-)
Also, the plateaus near the lighthouse are very suitable for relaxing and play (I guess that's why there are so many kids). There are also lovely hikes.
Easily reachable from Como is another interesting point above lake Lugano, it is so called Balcone d'Italia (the balcony of Italy), near Lanzo d'Intelvi. It's a wonderful viewpoint at over 1300m overlooking the valley of Lugano, and entire Lugano lake, the Swiss Alps, and it's the last piece of soil of Italy, under the balcony there is Switzerlnd already! :)
The view from there and the sunsets are stunning.
There is a nice bar/restaurant, so go in the afternoon, enjoy the day light view and stay for the sunset, taking something in the bar, or even having a dinner.
The mountain you can see in the back as a sort of a "hunch" is Monte Rosa, over 4000m high!!!
Lugano is veeeeeeery near Como, I'm not sure exactly (you can check that out), but definitely between 15 and 25km away, not more! However, you'll have to cross the border, since Switzerland is not in the EU. If you have an adequate passport, you might not even need it, only an ID card, like Italians for instance. My minority needs not only the passport, but a Swiss visa as well.
Lugano is on the namesake lake, Lago di Lugano, that is shared between Switzerland and Italy.
Leaving Como by car, travelling towards north, you'll meet Italy-Switzerland border.
The first Swiss city is Chiasso, the last Como neighborhood is Ponte Chiasso.
Rememeber: fuel your car in Switzerland!