Nestled under the majestic Alps, lying one of the most picturesque sceneries in the world, Lake Como. This enchanting Italian lake is such a fairytale getaway with ochre-colorful houses hemming in sparkling blue water and snow-capped mountains. This blog will be my Lake Como travel guide and tips.
1. About Lake Como
1.1. About Lake Como
Lake Como (also known as Lago di Como) is the third largest of the Italian lakes (after Lake Garda and Lake Maggiore). Located under the Alps, the tranquil Lake Como offer one of the most picturesque sceneries in the world.
For this reason, Lake Como has become a spectacular getaway for not only tourists but also celebrities namely Geroge Clooney, Donnatella Versace, Madonna, etc. However, Lake Como is not popular among Asian and not their first choice when traveling to Italy (as they tend to visit popular places namely Rome, Venice or Florence).
And you will wonder why Lake Como is my top-place-to-visit in Italy. It’s all come from my favorite music video in 2005 – “Cool” by Gwen Stefani. The music video was filmed in Lake Como. The timeless beauty of Lake Como captured my heart from the very first scene.
“After all that we’ve been through, I know we’re cool”. After 12 years since the release of this music video, I have a chance to visit Lake Como. And how do you know Lake Como?
1.2. Where is Lake Como?
Lake Como is located in the region of Lombardy, northern Italy. Just 51km away from Milan but Lake Como offered a totally different vibe. You won’t see high density of buildings or big crowds, but a relaxed pace to unwind and breathe some mountain fresh air at the foot of the Alps.
Moreover Lake Como is close to the southern border of Switzerland, which makes it accessible for a day-trip outside Italia.
1.3. What makes Lake Como special?
This iconic Italian lake becomes a favourite retreat for many reasons. Folded into the Alps, the tranquil Lake Como boasts one of the most picturesque sceneries in the world with magnificent mountains rising from the sparkling blue water.
Under this breathtaking landscape are lovely lakeside towns where people escape for holiday. There are a wide range of incredible sights and experiences to be explored such as sunbathing, boat riding, water skiing, etc.
Despite a huge number of visitors, Lake Como has retained its signature vibes which make urban life seem far away.
2. Lake Como climate and Best time to travel to Lake Como
Balmy weather under the Mediterranean sun makes Lake Como an all year round destination. And summer (June to August) is the best time to visit Lake Como, with the average temperature of 27°C. Since the lake is located under the Alps, its climate is more pleasant than other place in northern Italy.
As the summertime goes by, tourists start taking over lakeside towns. But don’t worry, Lake Como is not as crowded as other tourist destinations in Italy. I travelled to Lake Como in mid-August (even on Saturday) and the famous Bellagio is unexpectedly quiet.
However, everything is more expensive in this period (accomodation, admission fee, transport). If you are on a budget, travel to Lake Como in shoulder season (April – May or September – November), but not wintertime. During the wintertime, some businesses are closed and ferries will run less frequently. As a result, this will not be a good time to travel to Lake Como.
3. How to travel to Lake Como from Milan
You can travel to Lake Como from Milan in many ways: train, bus or self-driving. However it will depend on where in Lake Como you want to go and where in Milan you depart. In this blog post, I will show how to reach Lake Como if you wish to make the most of your day trip from Milan.
I choose Milan Central Station as my departure point as it is easier to reach this station from my hotel than others. From Milan Central Station, there will be 2 options to reach Lake Como: Como Town and Varenna. My recommendation is take the train to Varenna.
As from Varenna, it is easier to access Bellagio or Menaggio than from Como Town (it only takes 20 minutes to go from Varenna to Bellagio, but more than 1 hours to go from Como Town to Bellagio by ferry). And Varenna has more things to do than Como Town (just my opinion).
4. Where to stay in Lake Como
Staying in gorgeous houses overlooking the turquoise blue water will be one of the best things to do in Lake Como. However “everything has its price”.
It is pricey to stay overnight in Lake Como (about 80€/night for a typical apartment rental). And it may be another challenge to reach your accommodation (you will walk through some stairways and hilly roads with luggage).
Moreover, if you wish to travel to other destinations in Italy, you have to transit via Milan. So I would not recommend staying overnight in Lake Como, take the day trip from Milan instead.
If you wish to stay overnight, my recommendation is stay at Varenna. I have explain the reason why in the previous part of this “Lake Como Travel Guide”
5. What transport to travel around Lake Como
As Lake Como is huge in size and shaped like an inverted Y, it will be complicated and time-consuming to travel around Lake Como by land.
For that reason, the best way to travel around Lake Como is definitely Ferry. And you can enjoy the breathtaking scenery along the way. Ferry timetable and fare are shown in the ferry dock, so make sure to take a photo (or you can find more details about the ferry timetable and detailed fare here).
Another way to travel if you are not on a budget is private water taxi. But on my day trip, it’s not necessary to use this kind of transportation.
6. Lake Como Tourist Attractions
Dotting the coastline of Lake Como are glamorous villas (Villa del Balbianello, Villa Monastero) and fairytale villages (Bellagio, Menaggio and Varenna). These aforementioned names are Lake Como tourist attractions and I will tell you more about them.
The three famous lakseside towns namely, Bellagio, Varenna and Mennagio form the “Golden Triangle” of Lake Como. And each town has its own unique charm:
With orchre-coloured houses nestling under the backdrop of enormous mountains, Varenna is such a hidden gem of Lake Como.
However, this town is often overshadowed by the intense spotlight of Bellagio. But believe me you will not regret visiting Varenna.
Besides the typical Italian architecture townhouse and villas, Varenna boasts one of the most romantic lakefront promenades in the world – Walk of Lovers (don’t forget to check this area before leaving to another town).
Seated in the promontory where the inverted Y-shaped lake seperated into 2 branches, Bellgio is referred to as the “pearl of Lake Como”. The postcard-perfect town enchants visitors with quaint cobbled streets and charming lakefront promenade.
The town has two main areas to explore – the inner town and the area on the lakefront. But don’t spend too much time on the lakefront area. Going inside the narrow street that winds their way up to the hill instead and you will find some lovely shops and restaurants.
Unlike Bellagio and Varenna, Menaggio is a more affordable and pleasant option for those who wish to find a quiet place to unwind.
Tourist-filled streets are barely seen in this lakeside town, but a quiet and relaxing atmosphere. This will be a best place to sip a cup of coffee and slowly watch the magnificent beauty of Lake Como.
Opulent villas that once belonged to artists and explorers, have been renovated and become favourite tourist attractions. Some of the most famous villas include Villa del Balbianello, Villa Monastero, Villa Carlotta and Villa d’Este.
In my trip to Lake Como, I picked Villa Monastero and Villa del Balbianello. And here is a short introduction about these two tourist attractions.
6.4. Villa del Balbianello
Perhaps the most gorgeous villa in the entire lake, Villa del Balbianello draws visitors by its glamorous design and unique charm. The villa has been featured in a variety of films, including A Month by the Lake, Star Wars: Episode II Attack of the Clones, James Bond: Casino Royale,etc.
However, it will be more challenging to reach this villa than others since you need to take the ferry to Lenno first and walk through the hilly woods. If you are not on a tight budget, take the water taxi instead.
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6.5. Villa Monastero
Rested on the eastern shore of Lake Como, Villa Monastero is another must-visit villa. Used to be an ancient convent and a patrician residency, Villa Monastero has experienced continuous restoration and renovation to become what you see today.
The stunning villa also includes a spectacular and fascinating botanical garden which features numerous flowers and rare plants. Favoured by the lake and mild climate, this garden brings magnificent vibes in almost every season of the year.
7. Lake Como day trip itinerary
7.1. Lake Como day trip Itinerary
If you plan to make the most of your day trip, be sure to board the early train to Lake Como (7:00 – 8:30) and board the late train back to Milan (19:00 – 20:00). So you will have more time to spend in Lake Como.
As Lake Como is huge in size, it is impossible to visit all tourist attractions in one day. Therefore, only pick your favourite and day-trip accessible places. I only visited Varenna, Bellagio, Lenno, Villa Monastero and Villa del Balbianello on my day trip.
And I think it is not too rush and enough time to explore every tourist attraction. You can find my itinerary below (and please note that this itinerary is for reference only).
08:20 – 09:23: Train Milan Central Station – Varenna Esino
09:45: Visit Villa Monastero
11:00: Stroll around Varenna
11:30: Lunch at Bar Il Molo – Varenna
16:30: Villa del Balbianello
18:15: Back to Varenna
19:07 – 20:40: Train Varenna Esino – Milan Central Station.
7.2. Lake Como tourist map
For more information about my itinerary, please find my Lake Como tourist map below. Besides aforementioned places in my itinerary, I will list some other favorite tourist destinations.
8. Lake Como travel guide and tips
– Bar Il Molo is my recommendation for dining in Lake Como. This restaurant is located right on the lakefront area where you can see Varenna’’s ochre houses. And don’t forget to try the signature Lasagne which gets a lot of recommendations from Tripadvisor.
– Student get discount when visiting tourist attractions so don’t forget to bring your Student Cards (though they don’t even check for student cards)
– Board the early train to Lake Como and board the late train back to Milan, so you can make the most of your Lake Como day trip from Milan.
This is my Lake Como travel guide and tips. If you have any further questions, do not hesitate to contact me or follow other blog related to traveling in Italy:
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