One of the highlights of our Milan trip was our day trip to Lake Como. The lake is located at the base of the Italian and Swiss Alps, it’s very close to Milan, which makes it a perfect day trip option. Lake Como is surrounded by magical mountain views and sleepy Italian towns, so it’s perfect for couples, families or just travelers in need of a relaxing day by a lake.
About the lake
Lake Como is a beautiful lake of glacial origin in Lombardy. It’s one of the deepest lakes in Europe. It’s the third largest lakes in Italy, and one of the most popular places in Italy for building villas. Villas have been built here since the Roman times, many villas are on the lake shores and visitors can visit their gardens.
view of Lake Como
There are more options in getting around Lake Como.
You certainly can take an organized tour as well, but it will leave you with less freedom of course. They will take you to all the places and give you a certain time to wander around. Here are the best tours that you can check out and take one if you don’t want to worry about planning a trip by yourself:
If you like to be flexible or you want to plan your own schedule, we think the best option is to get around by motorships and ferries. You can also drive from one city to another, or apparently take a train, but we think it’s more fun to take a ferry because you will get amazed by all the views! By car or train, you will miss this unforgettable experience!
The most beautiful towns around the lake are Como, Bellagio, and Varenna. They are all so different, but they are all very charming! Eventually, if you want to spend more time in one town, you can skip one town. For example, you can also skip Varenna, and just do 2 towns. But if you’re adventurous like us, and you can wake up early, then you can do all 3 in one day.
Leaving Milan early in the morning, and spending approx. 3-4 hours in every town. We left Milan at 7 am and we came back at 9 pm. It isn’t so exhausting as it sounds, as we spent some time in every town just watching the views, eating ice cream, although we also walked a lot around the pretty streets everywhere.
Map showing the route:
From Milan to Como
Price: 4.50 euro / person
Duration: 1 hour
Como should be the first stop of your day trip in Lake Como. The trains are departing from the central station in Milan.
You can either buy your tickets online or in the central station. We think the best is to get your return ticket as well! Online you can buy tickets on the website of Trenitalia.
We took the train very early in the morning, about 7.30 am so that we can arrive as early as possible to Como.
We arrived in Como at 8.30 am, at that time everything was actually still closed, so the town was very calm. There is a tourist information center right in the building of the train station, we got a map there. You can also get information there about the departure times of trains and ferries to Bellagio or to other towns.
From the train station, it takes only 15 minutes on foot to reach the center of the town. Como has a very charming town, its population is about 84.000. From here you will have picturesque views of the Lake Como.
In the old town, you will find a huge and impressive Como Cathedral. There are also some nice museums, like the archeological museum. You can take a small boat trip on the lake as well, or sip a tasty Italian coffee. The cafés and restaurants open a bit later, about 10 am, but then they get full super fast, as all the visitors arrive!
Just start to walk around the lake and you will most likely get the most amazing views! 🙂
The town center of Como
Buy your tickets for the motorship or hydrofoil to Bellagio right after you reach the old town of Como. The port is very beautiful, and you will find a small ticket desk there, where you can purchase your ticket to Bellagio. The line can be very long, so don’t try to buy your ticket 15 minutes before the departure of the ferry you want to take. We bought our ticket at 9 am when there were was no line, and at 11 am (the departure time of our ferry) there were at least 50 people in the lines, hoping to get a ticket for the next ferry!
From Como - To Bellagio
Price: 10.40 euro / person
Duration: 1,30 hour
Hydrofoil - fast service (that’s what we took to spare time)
Price: 14.80 euro / person
Duration: 50 min.
Bellagio is known as the “Pearl of Lake Como”. You will arrive at the main port here, but the ferry to Varenna departs from the other station. It’s just 5 minutes by walking and you will see it from the main port as well! You can also take a map of Bellagio in the small tourist information center that is right in the main port.
Things to do in Bellagio:
- Stroll around the pretty, narrow streets - the town center is full of colorful streets, where you can find lots of restaurants, shops. You can find lots of handcrafted art or handmade icecream, that is delicious! 🙂
- Villa Melzi - you can stroll around the beautiful gardens of the villa, but there is a small entrance fee as well
- Punta Spartivento - this is one of the most beautiful viewpoints, you will get amazed by the view of the lake and mountains
- Relax at the beach: the public stony beach is San Giovanni or you can go to the Lido di Bellagio, which is equipped with a bar, wifi
Some of the best tours featured by GetYourGuide
From Bellagio - To Varenna
Duration: 15 minutes
Price: 4.60 eur
Tip: If you can, get your ticket to Varenna in Bellagio right when you arrive in Bellagio - for the same reason as in Como.
Our absolute favorite was actually the town Varenna, it was the highlight of our Lake Como day trip. When you walk to the center of Varenna from the ferry station, you will watch the wonderful Riva Grande promenade. This is a lake promenade, where boats come and go, and the view is absolutely amazing: boats, colorful houses, mountains. Perfect spot for the sunset as well 🙂
From the Riva Grande, you can climb up some stairs and go up to walk around other cute streets. In the town center, you will find the massive Church of St. Giorgio.
One of the best things to do in Varenna is visiting the Villa Monastero and its wonderful gardens. It’s only open from March until November!
If you have even more time here, you can walk up to the Castello di Vezio, an ancient medieval fortress! There you can visit an interesting museum dedicated to the Lariosaurus, an extinct sea reptile that was found in the region.
If you like hiking, you can walk the Sentiero del Viandante, a 45 km long road through the mountains.
Back from Varenna-Esino (train station) to Milan
Duration: 1 hour 25 min,
Price: 6,50 eur
You can buy your ticket in advance, online on the website of Trenitalia. We recommend this, as there is no ticket office at the train station! However, we read that you can get train ticket in some stores in the town or maybe in the tourist information.
The train station is not far, 15 minutes by walking from the Riva Grande. If you can’t find it, just ask it in one of the restaurants, we did the same!
The train station is very small, there are just two platforms, and it’s written on the signs, which direction is to Milan. Our train was late for 15 minutes, but it doesn’t mean that every train will arrive late, so just be there earlier 🙂