Lake Como is one of the most beautiful places in Italy and an amazing trip for those visiting the North of the country! Check out our Lake Como tips, what to do in a day there, how to get there and other important information for your trip!
The third largest lake in Italy, Lake Como is located in the Lombardy region, of which Milan is the capital, in the North of the country and close to the Swiss border. It is shaped like the letter “Y” upside down, reaches a depth of up to 410 meters, and served as a vacation destination for noble families in the 16th century. The scenery of the region is simply fantastic, marked by its crystal-clear water that varies in shades of green and blue, the nearby mountain scenery, and its forests.
The Lake Como region is known as a luxury destination in Italy, with many celebrity homes in the vicinity. And the success of the place becomes completely understandable on a quick tour of the place. The landscape is breathtaking and enchants with every new angle discovered. Its well-preserved natural setting contrasts with the urban beauty of the charming little towns that have grown up on the shores of the water. The attractions along the lake vary from palaces, castles, alleys, and wonderful gardens… to the towns themselves, which are pure charm!
There are several small towns along Lake Como, including Como itself, Tremezzo, Varenna, Bellagio, and Cernobbio, which are among the most popular. A tour of the region can be done in a single day (including a round trip from Milan), but for those who have more time, I highly recommend staying in one of the coastal towns. The place is really impressive and breathtakingly beautiful… ideal for a romantic trip, for those who like to get to know small towns, admire beautiful landscapes and breathe the fresh mountain air!
How to get to Lake Como
Lake Como is about 50 km from Milan or 270 km from Venice and can be reached by train from these cities. The region is large and has many small towns, so it can be explored in different ways. As there are several towns along the lake, the ideal is to think also about the schedule you intend to do there and which places to visit.
The towns on Lake Como itself can be explored on foot, because they are generally small. To go from one town to another it is possible to use public transportation by boat, which are used by tourists and locals for their daily commute (and certainly make the trip even more special) or by bus.
For those who are driving, the ease of having a vehicle can speed up the travel, allowing you to go to different cities, reach the most distant attractions and create your own itinerary. The region has beautiful, narrow roads and larger ferries that allow you to go from one side of the lake to the other, even with vehicles.
Leaving Milan and visiting Lake Como by train
This is the most practical way for those who have little time to visit Lake Como. To visit the place you just have to take a train from Milan and get off in Como. There is no need to buy the ticket in advance, but the ideal is to leave Milan very early to make the most of the day! After taking a train you should go to the Como ferry terminal and take a boat to the town around Lake Como that you decide to visit.
Getting to Como by train
The nearest train station from where the boats that travel on Lake Como leave is the Como Lake station, but there are other train stations that also serve the traveler arriving in the city.
- From Milano Cardona station you can take a direct train to Como Lago station, a 1 hour trip for €4.80
- From Milano Centrale station you can take a train to Como San Giovanni station, also for €4.80. The Como San Giovanni station is a little further away from the ferry terminal that will take you to the other towns around Lake Como, but it is only a 12 minute walk from the ferry terminal to the train station. Along the way you can take the opportunity to see part of the city! That’s what I did!
Once you arrive in Como you can use the boat transportation to go from one town to another on the lake. In the same day I managed to visit the towns of Varenna, Bellagio, and Tremezzo, but the trip was a little rushed. Very important for those who want to visit several places in one day is to pay attention to the schedule of the boats, because just like buses or trains, they have a defined route and time to stop at each “station”.
During the summer, when it is high season in Europe, the boats may be more crowded, so if you are interested in getting to know the region calmly, I recommend spending more than one day there.
Lake Como boat transportation
The boat transportation on Lake Como works just like a bus line, which stops at established times, follows a route, has direct routes and others with more stops. The boats also have different models – some are smaller and some are larger, have a cafeteria, restrooms, space for transporting cars, and different floors, for example.
From the city of Como, for example, the best idea is to take a boat to the center of the Lake, where the city of Bellagio is located. In and around Bellagio there is another boat line (traguetto), which connects the towns of Bellagio, Varenna and Menaggio. There are more than 40 towns connected by boat transport from Lake Como.
What to do in Lake Como – Attractions
The attractions of the Lake are the scenery itself, the towns around it, with their charming buildings and bucolic scenery. However, in some towns there are points of interest that are well worth seeing. Below you can see our one-day itinerary on Lake Como!
I left Milan around 7am by train, taking a train from Milan to Como. Around 8am I was already in Como, I walked around a little bit and went to the maritime terminal on the shores of Lake Como. I caught the first boat between Como and Bellagio, which left at 9AM. About 1 hour later I disembarked in little Bellagio!
Known as one of the most beautiful towns on Lake Como, Bellagio has around 4,000 inhabitants. As soon as you disembark at the pier in town there is a tourist information point, which offers all the necessary information for a day there. At this tourist information point you can pick up a pamphlet with indications on how to take a “self-guided tour” that will take you to some of Bellagio’s points of interest, among them the “Punta Spartivento”, a panoramic point with a beautiful view of the area, the Villa Serbelloni, the Salita Serbelloni, the most beautiful and photogenic little street in the area, as well as Via Lungolago, with a lakeside promenade that is wonderful for relaxing and taking some pictures.
Another beautiful destination in the Lake Como region, Varenna has fewer than a thousand inhabitants and is a picturesque village with a beautiful coastline. Like many other old towns in Italy, Varenna has steep alleys, stairways, flower gardens, colorful buildings, and even an ancient castle. Every walk through the village is accompanied by beautiful views, with new perspectives to observe the incredible lake in front of you. It is a great place to have lunch with a beautiful view, drink some wine, and relax. Because of the friendly atmosphere and diversity of restaurants, it was in Varenna that we had our lunch… with a view of Lake Como, of course!
Among Varenna’s attractions are:
- Passeggiata degli Innamorati, a lakeside walking route that is not to be missed and with enchanting scenery;
- Varenna’s historic center, with its charming buildings;
- The Villa Cipressi Gardens, a complex with gardens and an old building that is now a hotel (I highly recommend visiting the gardens for those looking for a quiet activity)
- Castelo di Vezio (€4), a thousand-year-old castle that stands high in the mountains of Varenna and served as a defense point. The ruins of Vezio Castle are open to the public and are a little away from the center of Varenna – from the top of the fortification tower the view is amazing, I highly recommend it! You can access it by cab or walking.
After visiting the Castello di Vezio, I went straight to the port to catch the next boat to Tremezzina, where Villa Carlota is located. If you are planning to do the same, be aware of the time of the boats, including the return boat to Como!
Villa Carlota – Tremezzina
Considered one of the main tourist attractions on Lake Como, Villa Carlotta (€12) is a museum and botanical garden. The well-kept space blends the natural and historical beauty of the region in a unique way. Built at the end of the 17th century, the property received its name when Princess Marianna of Prussia, who owned the place at the time, gifted the place to her daughter, Carlotta, in 1850.
Today the Villa is a highlight in the region for its architectural and artistic ensemble, which blends an adorned building, with beautiful works of art, to an incredible and beautifully ornamented garden. The place is wonderful and breathtaking!
After visiting Villa Carlotta, I took a boat from Tremezzo, near Villa Carlotta to the town of Como, where I took the train back to Milan.
Again, I reinforce the warning to keep an eye on the schedule of the boats, because they have limited travel and space. At the end of the day, for example, there is not always so much free space on the boats to return to Como. I recommend that the return ticket to Como be purchased at the beginning of your tour day, not at the end of the day!
How many days to stay in Lake Como: Several other towns on Lake Como offer interesting and beautiful attractions, so those who wish to get to know the region better can stay a few days there. One day was enough just to get a taste of what this area of Italy is all about.
One day was just enough to get a taste of what this area of Italy is capable of offering and to leave the desire to return there as soon as possible!
If you can, stay 2 or 3 days in the Lake Como Region, or, even better, make an itinerary through Northern Italy that also includes the other nearby lakes, Garda and Maggiore, which are also wonderful![