๐ŸŒท Lake Como Day Trip: Firsthand Review & Tips

Colorful buildings near the shore of a blue lake.
๐Ÿ€ Lukiih’s Overall Rating7.3
๐Ÿฆ„ UniquenessHigh
๐Ÿ˜Š EnjoymentModerate
๐Ÿ’ฐ ValueModerate
๐ŸŽ’ PreparationMinimal
Overall Rating is based on a weighted average of factors (learn more).

Lake Como, a popular day trip destination, is a large lake in northern Italy surrounded by charming towns. Here, I review my day trip experience with a coherent rating system before sharing firsthand tips.

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๐Ÿ€ Lukiih’s Overall Rating

7.3
I highly recommend taking a day trip to Lake Como โ€“ try to prioritize it.

My overall rating is based on a weighted average of four factors travelers consider important when assessing an experience. I break down the factors in my review below.

Verdict

I took a day trip to Lake Comoโ€™s two most unique towns from Milan and highly recommend the experience. A day at the lake is enough time to enjoy the idyllic scenery, blue water, villas, and beautiful gardens.

After accounting for train and ferry transportation, food, and attractions, the day trip is moderately priced.

Minimal preparation is required, as you mainly need to figure out transportation and don’t have to worry too much about getting advanced tickets.

Colorful buildings surrounded by lush, green trees next to a blue lake.
Varenna, Lake Como (photo by my friend, Nami Sumida)

Planning a trip? Here’s what to know about Italy.

๐Ÿ† Where Does It Rank?

A day trip to Lake Como ranks as my #3 thing to do in Italy. Here’s how it compares to other experiences on my trip:

#ExperienceLocationOverall Rating
1โ›ฐ๏ธ Cinque Terre HikeLiguria8.0
2๐Ÿฅ– Cicchetti by CanalsVenice7.6
3๐Ÿ’ง Lake Como Day TripLombardy7.3
4๐ŸŽจ Sistine Chapel / Vatican CityRome7.3
5๐Ÿท Tuscany Wine TourFlorence7.1
6๐ŸŒŠ Trevi FountainRome6.8
7๐Ÿšฃโ€โ™‚๏ธ Gondola RideVenice6.6
8๐Ÿ–ผ๏ธ Uffizi GalleryFlorence6.5
9๐ŸŸ๏ธ ColosseumRome6.4
10๐Ÿฐ Brunelleschiโ€™s DomeFlorence6.4
11โ˜€๏ธ Michelangelo PlazaFlorence6.3
12๐Ÿฐ St. Mark’s SquareVenice6.3
13๐ŸŒน Rose GardenFlorence6.1
14๐Ÿง€ Parma Day TripEmilia-Romagna5.9
15๐Ÿ Pasta Making ClassFlorence5.7
16๐Ÿƒโ€โ™€๏ธ Spanish StepsRome5.5
17๐ŸŒ‰ Rialto BridgeVenice5.1
18๐ŸŒณ Boboli GardensFlorence4.9
Overall Rating is calculated using Lukiihโ€™s rating system.

See myย Italy itineraryย featuring the experiences above.

โœˆ๏ธ About My Trip

For context on my review, here’s what to know about my trip:

  • ๐Ÿ€ย Self-fundedย โ€“ I finance my trips and don’t receive sponsorship, so this review reflects my honest opinions.
  • ๐Ÿ—“๏ธ 2022 โ€“ This post has updated 2024 information, but I visited Lake Como in 2022.
  • โ˜€๏ธ Low season โ€“ My Italy trip was in May when it was less crowded and expensive.

๐Ÿฆ„ Uniqueness: High

The Uniqueness Score is based on how rare and memorable an experience is.

Rarity: Rare

Lake Como is a rare experience, as less than ten comparable lakes exist worldwide.

๐Ÿ’Ž What Makes It Rare?

  • The lake is one of the world’s most famous, with stunning scenery and exceptionally picturesque towns.
  • It’s known as Italy’s deepest lake andย a popular film location. It’s been featured in movies likeย Star Wars,ย Casino Royale, andย Oceanโ€™s Twelve.

๐ŸŒ What Makes It Less Rare?

  • Lakes with breathtaking scenery and villages exist, but the villages vary in style. These include Slovenia’s Lake Bled, Austria’s Lake Hallstatt, Switzerland’s Lake Geneva, and France’s Lake Annecy.
Colorful buildings in a lush, green mountain on the shore of a blue lake.
Lake Como

Memorability: High

Visiting Lake Como is one of my most memorable experiences in Italy.

๐Ÿ“ธ What Makes It Memorable?

  • The lake has several attractions, such as castles and villas, from which you can take in the natural scenery from a high vantage point. I visited Varenna and Bellagio, the two most unique towns, and found them exceptionally charming.

๐Ÿ’ค What Makes It Forgettable?

  • The lake is known for water activities, but many are unavailable if you visit during the low season, like I did.

See below for the best times to visit.

๐Ÿ˜Š Enjoyment: Moderate

The Enjoyment Score is based on how much happiness and reward an experience provides.

Happiness: High

I found visiting Lake Como fun and delightful.

๐Ÿ˜ƒ What Makes It Enjoyable?

  • There are many beautiful things to see. The towns around the lake are all picturesque, and some have quieter environments.

๐Ÿ’ค What Makes It Forgettable?

  • Due to the lake’s wishbone-like shape, the most efficient way to get around is by ferry. The journeys between towns can be unpleasant if you have motion sickness like me.
A woman leaning against a balcony overlooking a lake with a large mountain behind it.
Castello di Vezio over Lake Como

Reward: Low

Visiting Lake Como is not a particularly rewarding experience.

๐ŸŒŸ What Makes It Rewarding?

  • It’s primarily a sightseeing place; you’ll have to explore and walk to see many of the town’s points of interest.

๐Ÿคท๐Ÿปโ€โ™€๏ธ What Makes It Less Rewarding?

  • It has been a popular day trip destination for centuries, so it’s very accessible and not particularly enriching or challenging to visit.

๐Ÿ’ฐ Value: Moderate

The Value Score is determined by the price divided by the duration of an experience. All prices mentioned here are in USD.

Cost Estimate: $90 PP

A day trip to Lake Como costs about $70 to $150, depending on the activities you do and how many towns you visit. At about $90 per person for a full-day trip, I consider this experienceย moderately priced.

Lukiih Spent: $62

I spent $62 in Lake Como, and below is my breakdown. My total cost is lower because I only paid for a few activities and attractions.

Expense CategoryTotal Cost
๐Ÿ Food$33
๐Ÿš‡ Train from Milan$14
โ›ด๏ธ Ferry rides$10
๐Ÿฐ Attraction$5

Seeย my Italy trip expenses.

๐ŸŽ’ Preparation: Minimal

The Preparation Score is based on the required skills & fitness, transportation, and bookings & packing. The higher the score, the less preparation is needed.

Skills & Fitness: None

You don’t need any skills or fitness to visit Lake Como. You’ll have to explore the towns on foot but can move at your own pace.

Transportation: Moderate

Lake Como is located in the Lombardy region in northern Italy. Many of the lake’s small towns are accessible by train.

  • ๐Ÿš† Method โ€“ The best way to get there is by Italy’s excellent train infrastructure.
  • โฐ Duration โ€“ Getting to the lake from Milan, the closest major city, takes one to two hours, depending on which town you’re going to. I took a Trenitalia trainย from Milan, and the journey to Varenna took 90 minutes.

Read on for how to get around.

A woman standing on a red bridge with a lush, green mountain behind her.
Near Varenna Esino station

Booking & Packing: Minimal

To visit Lake Como, youโ€™ll need minimal booking and packing:

  • ๐ŸŽŸ๏ธ Tickets โ€“ You don’t need to book anything in advance unless you’re considering a day trip tour.
  • ๐ŸŽ’ Packing โ€“ If you plan to explore a lot, wear comfortable shoes and bring a swimsuit for water activities in the summer.

How To Guide & Tips

Interested in visiting Lake Como after reading my review? Below is a practical how-to guide and firsthand tips.

When To Visit

The best time to visit Lake Como depends on what you want to prioritize.

SeasonMonthsCharacteristics
๐Ÿƒ SpringApr-Junโ€“ Great for fewer crowds
โ€“ Weather hits highs of 70 ยฐF
โ˜€๏ธ SummerJul-Augโ€“ Peak season, so crowded
โ€“ Hot and humid (65-85 ยฐF)
โ€“ Great for water activities
๐Ÿ‚ FallSep-Octโ€“ Great for fewer crowds
โ€“ Temperatures of 50-75 ยฐF
โ„๏ธ WinterNov-Marโ€“ Off-season
โ€“ Some businesses are closed
โ€“ Temperatures of 38-50 ยฐF
Lake Comoโ€™s Seasons and Weather

I visited in May and had to wear a light puff jacket and long pants during my trip.

Top of guide โ†‘

Towns & Villages

More than ten towns and villages surround Lake Como.

  • ๐Ÿฅ‡ Most popular โ€“ The three most famous towns are Bellagio, Varenna, and Como. The former two are known to be the most unique and picturesque towns.
Colorful buildings near the shore of a blue lake.
Bellagio (photo by my friend, Nami Sumida)
  • ๐Ÿชด Villa-focused โ€“ Some small towns and villages have only one main attraction, which is usually a villa. Villa Carlotta in Tremezzo, Villa del Balbianello in Lenno, and Villa dโ€™Este in Cernobbio are good examples.

If you enjoy looking at villas, you can take a highly-rated boat trip that passes by famous ones.

  • ๐Ÿคซ Quieter towns โ€“ Some smaller towns do not have a must-see attraction, but theyโ€™re still beautiful and a good option if you want fewer crowds, especially during the high season. Menaggio, Lecco, and Nesso are good examples.

Top of guide โ†‘

How To Get Around

Aside from walking, there are four ways to get around Lake Como:

  • ๐Ÿ›ฅ๏ธ Ferry โ€“ Public ferries, operated by Navigaziones Laghi, are one of the most efficient and affordable ways to get around, especially if youโ€™re trying to cross the lake in the central area.

Double-check the departure gate with the ferry employees because the port signs are not always accurate. A handful of visitors and I missed one of our boats because we stood next to the wrong gate, so we had to wait another 40 minutes for the next ferry.

  • ๐ŸšŒ Bus โ€“ ASF provides bus service around the lake. There are several routes, and bus ticket prices vary by the length of the journey.

The easiest way to board an ASF bus is to pay cash on the bus, so make sure to have small euro bills or coins, as the driver wonโ€™t provide change.

  • ๐Ÿš‚ Train โ€“ You can travel by train to mainly visit the eastern side, which includes Varenna and Como. The western side, which includes Bellagio, is more challenging to get to by train.
  • ๐Ÿš• Taxi or Uber โ€“ This is the most expensive but fastest way to get around on land. Taxis are waiting at major bus stops and train stations, but they are rare in some areas. One of my friends staying in Cernobbio had to wait 45 minutes for a taxi after her hotel called it.

If you want to minimize planning, you can outsource all your planning by going on a well-rated Lake Como day trip tour.

Top of guide โ†‘

Itinerary: Varenna and Bellagio

This itinerary explores the two most picturesque and unique towns and is an improved version of what I did. Iโ€™ve included suggested times for each activity based on my firsthand experience.

Morning
๐Ÿš†Take the train from Milan to Varenna10โ€“11:30 am
๐ŸฐExplore Castello di Vezio12โ€“12:45 pm
Afternoon
๐Ÿ‘ŸExplore Varennaโ€™s town area1:15โ€“1:45 pm
๐ŸŒทVisit Villa Monastero1:45โ€“2:45 pm
๐Ÿ›ฅ๏ธTake a ~3 pm ferry to Bellagio3โ€“3:15 pm
๐ŸฆExplore Bellagioโ€™s town area3:15โ€“4:30 pm
๐Ÿ’งWalk down Bellagioโ€™s waterfront4:30โ€“5 pm
๐Ÿ‘ŸWalk to Bellagioโ€™s east side5โ€“5:30 pm
๐ŸฆGrab a snack before heading back5:30โ€“5:55 pm
Evening
๐Ÿ›ฅ๏ธTake the 5:55 pm ferry back to Varenna5:55โ€“6:10 pm
๐Ÿš†Take the train back to Milan6:30โ€“8 pm

๐Ÿ“ Varenna

Varenna is the lake’s most romantic town, with narrow streets, colorful buildings, and breathtaking views. Here are its top attractions:

  • Castello di Vezio โ€“ A medieval castle with spectacular views and my favorite attraction in Varenna. Check the current price.
A high-up view of a large lake surrounded by lush green mountains.
Castello di Vezio’s trail
  • Villa Monastero โ€“ One of Varennaโ€™s most notable attractions. The villa features lake views and one of the area’s best botanical gardens. Check the current price.
  • Varenna’s town center โ€“ The center has two scenic spots: the Walk of Lovers and Molo Riva Grande. The waterfront has cafes and restaurants where you can grab a quick bite.

๐Ÿ“ Bellagio

Bellagio, sometimes called the “Pearl of Lake Como,” is considered the most beautiful town. Here are its top attractions:

  • Old Town โ€“ A highlight for visitors, the town center is a happening place lined with shops, restaurants, and cafes. This famous street is particularly scenic.
A narrow cobblestone street surrounded by colorful buildings.
Bellagio’s famous street
  • Promenade โ€“ Bellagio’s promenade offers stunning views of the lake.
  • East side โ€“ The east side shows the town’s calmer and quieter side. While making your way over, you pass by colorful houses, gardens, and cobblestone stairs. Here’s a scenic spot.
A woman standing next to a gate surrounded by purple flowers and green plants.
Bellagio’s east side

Top of guide โ†‘

Italy Trip Planner 2024

To make your travel preparation easier, download the trip planner below. It has destination-specific travel information, itinerary, map, and packing list.

My trip planners are built on Notion, which I use for all my travel planning. I genuinely love this tool and creating an account is free.

Three Notion template screenshots are shown: travel information, itinerary, and map + packing list templates.
Preview of Italy trip planner.

Thoughts? Questions? Leave a comment below.

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