Lake Como is located in northern Italy. It can be easily accessed from Milan, and many choose to take daytrips from Milan. That being said, it is nicer to visit Lake Como on more than just a daytrip. If traveling from outside of Milan, plan to travel to one of the two Milan Airports: Milan Malpensa or Milan Linate. Milan Malpensa is bigger and further outside the city with more flights, while Milan Linate is closer to the city center. Alternatively, if coming from a town in Italy, you can also consider taking a fast train to Milan before heading to Lake Como.
Traveling from Milan Malpensa to the city center is best done by train. Catch the train from the airport to Milano Centrale or Milano Cadorna, depending on where your end destination is. The drive from Milan Linate to Milan is about 15 – 30 minutes, and there is also a bus option to reach the airport.
Once in Milan, the next step is to get yourself to Como. Lake Como is a Y shaped lake with towns all along the lake. At the bottom of the V in the Y is a very commonly visited area as there are a number of Italian towns easily accessible to each other by ferry including Bellagio, Menaggio, Varenna, and Tremezzo. If hoping to see a few different towns, this is a great place to head as you can base yourself in one town while still having the opportunity to see different towns.
In order to travel from Milan to your Como destination, they main two options include renting a car or taking the train. If you would like to have flexibility to drive around the lake to different towns, then a car might be how you choose to travel. However, if you are happy to rely on trains and the ferries available, a car is not necessary. Ferries run frequently between many of the towns, and once you get a feel for reading the different timetables for ferry schedules, it is easy to travel to different areas of Lake Como.
If traveling by train from Milan to Como, you will likely depart from Milano Centrale. You can either take a train to Varenna, bringing you to the bottom of the V in the Y of the lake or alternatively take a train to Como. I would recommend going straight to Varenna, especially on your way to Lake Como. The train to the town of Como is slower, and the ferry lines tend to be incredibly long in Como, unlike any other towns around the lake.
Thus, if you are interested in seeing the town of Como, plan to end your travels in Como so you can avoid the lengthy ferry queues. Como itself is much larger and commercialized than other towns so keep this in mind; it does not have the cute town feel most other towns display. Trains run from Milano-Centrale to Varenna-Esino about 1x per hour and the journey time is also about 1 hour.
When it comes to getting around Como, you should plan to use the ferries unless you have a car. Cars can go on some ferries. The ferries are easy to use and run quite frequently, especially between the main towns in the center of the Lake. Thus, to avoid the hassle of a car, plan to use the ferry.
When planning your day, if going further, be sure to check if you are getting on a slow or fast ferry. The route between Como and Colico has some ferries which run an express service, only stopping at key destinations, and also has a slow ferry stopping at many more towns. Prices of ferry tickets are a bit steep, and can quickly add-up.
There is no option for a “day” pass so every time you travel on the ferry, you must buy a separate ticket. Tickets cost between €2.50 and €15. That being said, you do not have much control over this factor and it would be a shame to miss out on seeing towns you would like to visit
Examples of timetables can be found here. There are a few key routes to note:
Once in the towns, you can explore on foot. Most of the towns are on the shore and carry-on up the hillside behind the water. Thus, your best bet to exploring the towns is to wander around the streets.
Deciding where to stay when visiting Lake Como may seem overwhelming at first; there are a few key considerations which can help determine the best place to base yourself on your trip. As mentioned above, Lake Como is the shape of an upside down Y.
Como is the biggest city along the lake, located at the far edge. Although the lake is named after this town, unless you prefer a bigger town feel, I would not recommend staying here. It lacks charm and feels busy compared to other towns along the Lake. On the other extreme, there are tons of tiny towns dotted all along the lake. If you would like a quiet and relaxed trip, without feeling surrounded by other travelers, pick a small town with nice accommodations where you can spend your time.
For most visitors, the best area to stay will be in one of the towns in the middle of the lake: Varenna, Menaggio, Bellagio, or Tremezzo. These towns are all quite small and charming. They are well-connected to each other, making it easy to access different parts of the Lake in one visit. With any of these options, you cannot go wrong, but they do each have their advantages so consider the below when picking.
With its own train station, Varenna is a very convenient town to stay in as you can arrive and depart from the town and be in Milan within an hour. This is especially helpful on travel days as other towns would require you to catch a ferry to Varenna (or Como) first where you catch a train back to Milan. The town is on the East side of the lake, meaning there is afternoon sun over the town and into the evening until the sunset. It is quite a cute town and is more peaceful than Bellagio.
Probably the biggest, and most well-known of the towns, Bellagio seems to be the town most people default to stay in when unsure. Try to stay in walking distance of the water as this is where you will go for ferries and the majority of shops and restaurants are closer to the Lake itself. Bellagio has some fancy hotels available if looking for more luxurious accommodations. It is also on the East side of the lake, giving it afternoon and evening sun.
Opposite from Varenna and Bellagio, Menaggio is on the West side of the lake. This means it is a lovely spot to be up early and enjoying the sun. However, it gets shaded late in the afternoon and into the evening so you will not get a sunset here. Menaggio feels the most authentic and is bigger than Varenna but smaller than Bellagio. Another perk about Menaggio is its accessibility to other lakes. This is a great spot to rent e-bikes from and venture away from Lake Como to see the surrounding hillside towns and other lakes like Lake Lugano.
Not as conveniently connected as Varenna, Bellagio and Menaggio, which easily make the points of a triangle, Tremezzo is still a suitable option. One of the nicest hotels, Grand Hotel Tremezzo, can be found here, with a swimming pool built into the lake. Tremezzo is also on the West side of the lake, meaning no sunsets, but there is a nice walk that can be done along the water towards Lenno from Tremezzo.
One of the most well-known towns on Lake Como, plan an afternoon to explore Bellagio. Walk out to La Punta Spartivento, about a 10 minute walk from the ferry dock and enjoy a beautiful view over the lake where you can see Varenna and mountains in the background. The town itself is made-up of small cobblestone streets with lots of boutique stores, gelato shops, and restaurants. Grab a table and a drink at one of the restaurants along the water and catch a sunset in the evening.
The town of Menaggio feels authentic, with more locals around than compared to Bellagio and Varenna. Piazza Garibaldi is the centre of the town, just a few minutes from the ferry dock. From the Piazza, walk along the lake promenade and enjoy the surrounding views. Consider visiting Menaggio in the morning as the sun reaches here early in the day, making for a great stop for a morning walk and lunch on a terrace. On the second and fourth Friday of the month, there will be a market set-up in Via Stoppani.
Varenna is very small, and may feel crowded with tourists if visiting on a nice sunny day in or around the summer months as it is easily accessible from Milan (1 hour train). From the ferry dock, walk along the water where you will then inevitably walk along Varenna’s Walk of Lovers Promenade. It is often covered in flowers and provides nice views over the Lake. Continuing over the Promenade, you reach the town center. Depending on the time of day, grab a coffee on a terrace, have a drink by the water or indulge in a gelato to enjoy while wandering through the town streets.
If feeling up for a short hike, hike up to Castello di Vezio. The hike takes about 20 – 30 minutes and is a somewhat steep hike up. At the top, you can pay to visit the castle or walk around and enjoy the views. I recommend starting the hike near the ferry dock (following signs) and then walking down the other side so you can enjoy a change of scenery on the way up and down.
Tremezzo and Lenno are both quaint towns on the same side of Lake Como as Menaggio. Each town is accompanied by a famous Villa. Tremezzo has Villa Carlotta nearby, and Lenno has Villa del Balbionello. Both towns also sit along the Greenway del Lago Como. Plan an afternoon visiting this area. You can start at Villa Carlotta, visiting inside if you like, and over to Tremezzo. Then continue on the Greenway del Lago Como to Lenno. Stop along the way for a drink or gelato, before finally reaching Villa del Balbionello.
Both villas require tickets to visit. Villa Carlotta is easily seen from the outside and on the ferry, but Villa del Balbionello is hidden away. In fact, one of the best ways to see this villa is by boat. Villa del Balbionello is known for its appearances in Star Wars and Casino Royale.
Although one of the larger towns along the lake, Como does not require much time to visit. Consider stopping through for a panini or gelato when your visit of Lake Como is coming to an end. The town itself will feel busier and lacks the charm many of the other towns have along the Lake.
Lake Como has countless charming towns. Visiting a few different ones allows you to enjoy different spots along the Lake, but make sure to venture outside the towns and explore the surrounding land. Lake Como is surrounded by mountains, and near a few other lakes. Consider signing up for an e-bike tour to access areas you would not see otherwise. Of course you can opt for a normal bike tour as well, but keep in mind the area is full of hills. Coming from someone who loves being active, I was glad to have the e-bike as it allowed my group to cover a lot more ground in a shorter period of time, and to work on the bike ride without the tour becoming more focused on the exercise aspect than the view.
Bebike Como, based just up the street (about a 10 drive) from the port or town centre, is an excellent bike tour. Luigi & Emily provide group or private tours and completely tailor the experience to your group. Upon arrival, the e-bikes are set-up ready for you with bike bags, snacks and water available to pack with you. Luigi starts by taking you away from the house, and allows you time to get used to the e-bike. He then takes the group to an area where they can get accustomed to the e-bikes and learn how to use the motor. It is perfectly fine if you have never used an e-bike before this trip.
Wear clothing / shoes that are comfortable for a 4 – 5 hour bike adventure, but know that the pace will be based on your desired pace. Luigi offers different places to stop for a coffee or gelato, and stops along the route to talk about the surrounding area and point out nice viewpoints. The tour could not have been better. We had a gorgeous sunny April day for our morning bike tour.
Communication was excellent, with Emily and Luigi getting in touch with our group to determine if we had flexibility due to unknown weather conditions. They also were very helpful in explaining how to get to BeBike from Bellagio (supporting with the best ferry to take and where to catch a taxi). I highly recommend this tour as a way to explore the mountains around Lake Como, get out and be active, and be taken through areas you surely would not find on your own. The true local tour!
6 mile (10 km) walk running through small Italian villages, with views of villas, gardens and the lake along the way. The walk starts from Colonno and ends in Griante, but you can easily do a portion of the walk and start where is most suitable for your itinerary.
The end to end path runs from Colonno > Sala Comacina > Ossuccio > Lenno > Mezzegra > Tremezzo > Griante.
A nice part of the walk is the section from Villa Carlotta (near Tremezzo) to Villa del Balbionello (near Lenno).
If visiting in the summer or just are lucky with warmer weather, get out on the lake and enjoy a few hours relaxing on a boat.
Located at the top of a long stone path of stairs, this restaurant usually has a wait and does not take reservations. That being said, there is a wine bar across the street where you can grab a drink while you wait. The wine bar has seating inside, or are perfectly happy for you to sit on the wider steps outside while waiting for a dinner table. Although not thoroughly impressed with the quality of Italian food around Lake Como, this restaurant probably provided our best Italian dinner.
A cute restaurant along a small street in Bellagio, serving a variety of Italian pasta dishes along with fish and meat options for a Secondi course.
A few streets away from the lake and town center, this is a less touristy and delicious spot for lunch. All the food here was delicious; try the bruschetta, charcuterie board or one of the pasta specials to fill your Italian cravings.
Well-known for their delicious paninis, grab a quick lunch snack here
Cute little wine bar hidden on the side streets of Bellagio, with indoor and outdoor seating available
Located at the top of the steps on a main street in Bellagio, this wine bar is perfect for a pre-dinner drink. You can sit on the stone stairs or grab a seat inside depending on your preference. They also work with the restaurant across the way so it is easy to grab a drink at the wine bar while waiting for a table at Trattoria San Giacomo
This is a great spot to grab a drink and watch the sunset as they have tables right along the water.
Food and drinks here are nothing special, but the location is prime for a sunset drink. Grab a table here in the evening and a glass of wine to watch the sun hideaway behind the mountains.
With a few locations, this spot is well-known around Lake Como for their gelato. With lots of flavors, this spot is worth a stop for an afternoon or evening gelato.
Just a few minutes from Varenna’s Lovers promenade, this spot will surely have a line. Grab some gelato here when visiting Varenna
Located just off the ferry port in Como, Gelato Lariana has tons of flavors to choose from whether you prefer chocolate and cookie based flavors or fruitier options.
Around the corner from Gelato Lariana, still not far from the port, this has a more upscale feel with more standard gelato flavors available
Due to its proximity to Milan, Lake Como is a perfect long weekend getaway. Spending 2 – 3 nights here gives you enough time to explore various towns and do a partial day activity like a bike ride or boat tour. If visiting in the summer months, an additional night may be nice so you can enjoy both a day on the water and a day spent biking around the lakes. When planning your trip, consider 1 – 2 activities per day where an activity could include 1) visiting a new town 2) boat tour 3) bike tour 4) exploring villas 5) relaxing by the pool. Thinking about what activities intrigue you the most on a trip to Lake Como will allow you to determine how many nights are required.
The weather around Lake Como is often questionable, especially in the spring since it is surrounded by mountains. This makes it difficult to correctly predict the weather and it seems often the weather predictions are pessimistic. Rain or a storm could be possible many days, but at the same time, the clouds may be shielded by the mountains and never reach Lake Como. Keep this in mind when looking at weather forecast as your trip approaches. For us, the weather forecast predicted rain all weekend. Ultimately, we arrived and it was cloudy, but by the evening the sun was shining and the following two days we had perfect sunny weather and mild temperatures
Transportation and Accommodations
Things to do and see
Food and Drinks