🌷 How To Plan a Lake Como Day Trip: Itinerary + Map

Colorful buildings near the shore of a blue lake.

Lake Como is a large lake in Northern Italy that’s surrounded by picturesque towns along its shores. Featuring idyllic scenery, blue water and beautiful gardens, Lake Como has been a popular destination for centuries.

I took a day trip to Lake Como’s two most unique and popular towns, Varenna and Bellagio, during my trip to Italy and thought they were some of the best places to visit. This post covers:

  • 🏰 Best towns and villages
  • 🗓ïļ 2 different day trip itineraries
  • 📍 Map with key places pinned
  • 💰 My trip’s expense breakdown
  • 🚂 How to get around Lake Como

Planning a trip to Italy? This Italy guide covers things to know before getting there, including the best places to visit, how to get around, common scams and cultural differences.

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Lake Como at a Glance

Below is some general information on Lake Como to help you plan your trip.

🏰 Known For

Lake Como, also called Lario or “Lago di Como”, is known for:

  • The picturesque and charming towns surrounding its shores
  • The scenic natural beauty that combines clear water and lush landscapes
  • Magnificent villas overlooking the lake. At 1,300 feet deep, it’s also the deepest lake in Italy.
  • Being filmed in various famous movies (e.g., for Star Wars, Casino Royale, Ocean’s Twelve) and housing a mansion owned by George Clooney

An alternative to Lake Como is Lake Garda, which is not as picturesque, but has a wider range of water activities.

📍 Location

Lake Como is located in Northern Italy, about one to two hours north of Milan by train. Given the short train ride, Lake Como is one of the best day trips from Milan.

My train from Milan took an hour and a half to reach Varenna, one of Lake Como’s most popular towns.

☀ïļ Best Time To Visit

Spring and fall are some of the best times to visit Lake Como if you prefer fewer crowds. If you want to prioritize swimming and water activities, summer is the best time to visit Lake Como.

  • Spring (April to June) is a great time to visit Lake Como if you want to prioritize fewer crowds. The weather is on the chillier side with highs of 70°F in the later months. I visited in May and I had to wear a light puff jacket and long pants.
  • Fall (September to October) is another great time to visit Lake Como since the weather is pleasant (average temperatures of 50°F to 75°F) and there are fewer tourists by then.
  • Summer (July to August) is the peak season. During the summer months, the weather is hot and humid (average temperatures of 65°F to 85°F), which is great for water activities, but it’s very crowded.
  • Winter (November to March) is the off-season in Lake Como and some of the businesses close down. Winter sees average temperatures of 38°F to 50°F).

🗓ïļ How Long To Visit

You can spend one to three days on Lake Como depending on how many towns you plan to visit. Given Lake Como’s proximity to Milan (one to two hours by train), it’s a popular day trip destination from Milan.

Taking a full-day trip to Lake Como, which is what I did, will allow you to visit two to three of its most popular towns.

This Northern Italy itinerary shows you how to fit in a Lake Como trip.

A woman sitting in front of a large lake with a mountain in the background.
Visiting Lake Como in May meant wearing a light jacket.

Best Towns and Villages in Lake Como

Lake Como is surrounded by more than 10 towns and villages. The map below shows the most well-known places around Lake Como in rough popularity order.

Here are three things to keep in mind when selecting towns you plan to visit.

The three most popular towns in Lake Como are Bellagio, Varenna and the town of Como.

Bellagio and Varenna are known to be the two most unique and picturesque towns. The itinerary below focuses on these two towns.

For another Italy region with extremely picturesque villages, consider visiting and hiking through Cinque Terre.

ðŸŠī Villa-Focused Towns

Some towns and villages are small and have only one main attraction, which is usually a villa. Villa Carlotta in Tremezzo, Villa del Balbianello in Lenno and Villa d’Este in Cernobbio are good examples.

Each villa is beautiful and unique in its own way, but you may have a limited tolerance on how many you want to see. If you enjoy looking at villas, you can also take a highly-rated boat tour that passes by multiple famous villas in an hour.

ðŸĪŦ Towns With Fewer Tourists

Some of the smaller towns will not have a must-see attraction, but they’re still beautiful and a good option if you want fewer crowds, especially during the high season. Menaggio, Lecco and Nesso are good examples of these types of towns.

This Lake Como map shows the best places around the lake in rough popularity order.

3 Essential Tips for Visiting Lake Como

Here are three practical tips to keep in mind when visiting Lake Como.

🚂 Tip #1: Plan your transportation method.

There are several ways to get around Lake Como and they each have particular things you’ll want to keep in mind (e.g., ferries don’t run late into the night, buses aren’t as frequent as you may think, trains are only available in some areas), so make sure to plan ahead.

ðŸ’ķ Tip #2: Bring small euro bills.

Several of Lake Como’s towns will have attractions with small entrance fees that are cash-only and will not accept credit cards. Paying with cash is also the easiest way to take the buses around Lake Como.

This Italy trip cost breakdown has more money and cash-related tips.

👟 Tip #3: Wear comfortable shoes.

To get some of the best views in Lake Como, you’ll need to walk up cobblestone stairs or hike up roads for up to 30 minutes (e.g., Castello di Vezio, which has breathtaking views, is located on a hill).

A narrow street surrounded by yellow buildings decorated with plants.
A street with stairs in Bellagio, one of Lake Como’s most famous towns. (Photo by my friend, Nami Sumida.)

Getting Around Lake Como

Here’s how to get to Lake Como and how to get around once you get there.

Getting to Lake Como from Milan

Most visitors travel to Lake Como from Milan, which is the easiest and best way to get to the lake. From Milan, you can take direct trains to Como or Varenna.

I took a Trenitalia train from Milano Centrale train station to the Varenna Esino train station. The train ticket cost ~$7 USD one-way and took an hour and a half on a Wednesday morning.

A woman standing on a red bridge with a lush, green mountain behind her.
Standing near the Varenna Esino train station.

Getting Around Lake Como

Once you’re in Lake Como, you can move between the towns by public transport (which includes the ferry, bus and train), taking a taxi/Uber or booking a guided tour.

ðŸ›Ĩïļ By Ferry

Taking public ferries is one of the most efficient and affordable ways to get around Lake Como, especially if you’re trying to cross the lake in the central area.

The ferries are operated by Navigaziones Laghi (their official website has up-to-date information). A one-way fast ferry journey between two of the most popular towns, Verenna to Bellagio, took me 15 minutes and cost ₮4.60 (~$5 USD).

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

Colorful buildings in a lush, green mountain on the shore of a blue lake.
A view of Lake Como while riding a ferry.

🚌 By Bus

The bus service around Lake Como is provided by ASF and there are several routes you can take (see ASF’s official website for a bus map). Bus ticket prices will depend on the length of your journey.

The easiest way to board a Lake Como bus is to pay cash on the bus, so make sure to have small euro bills or coins as the driver won’t provide change. One of my friends had to ask a local on the bus to break her bill.

🚂 By Train

If you want to visit the eastern side of Lake Como (which includes Varenna and Como), you can travel by train. The western side, which includes Bellagio, is harder to get to by train.

🚕 By Taxi or Uber

Taking a taxi or Uber is the most expensive, but fastest, way to get around Lake Como on land.

You can find taxis waiting at major bus stops and train stations, but keep in mind that they might be rare in some areas around Lake Como. One of my friends staying in Cernobbio had to wait 45 minutes for a taxi after her hotel called it for her.

🗚ïļ By Guided Tour

If you don’t want to spend time researching and planning a Lake Como trip, this highly-rated Lake Como day trip visits three of the most popular surrounding towns.

Full-Day Trip Itineraries for Lake Como

Here are two itinerary options for Lake Como.

Itinerary Option #1: Varenna and Bellagio

Below is a great way to spend a day in Lake Como while visiting the two most popular towns, Varenna and Bellagio. This one-day itinerary gives you plenty of time to explore the two most picturesque and unique towns around Lake Como.

This day trip itinerary is also the improved version of my Lake Como itinerary. I’ve included some of my actual timestamps to give you an idea of how long you might need for each activity and how to efficiently sequence things.

Lake Como Itinerary

Morning🚆 Train from Milan to Varenna (10–11:30 am)
🏰 Explore Castello di Vezio (12–12:45 pm)
Afternoon👟 Walk around Varenna’s town area (1:15–1:45 pm)
🌷 Visit Villa Monastero (1:45–2:45 pm)
ðŸ›Ĩïļ Take a ~3 pm ferry to Bellagio (3–3:15 pm)
ðŸĶ Explore Bellagio’s town area (3:15–4:30 pm)
💧 Walk down Bellagio’s waterfront (4:30–5 pm)
👟 Walk to Bellagio’s east side (5–5:30 pm)
ðŸĶ Grab a snack in Bellagio’s town area before heading back (5:30–5:55 pm)
EveningðŸ›Ĩïļ Take the 5:55 pm ferry back to Varenna (5:55–6:10 pm)
🚆 Train back to Milan (6:30–8 pm)

Itinerary Option #2: Three Towns

If you want to maximize visiting more towns in one day, below is a great way to visit Lake Como’s three most popular towns, Varenna, Bellagio and Como. You’ll need to shorten your stays in Varenna and Bellagio and prioritize their top attractions to fit in Como.

Como is further away from Varenna and Bellagio, so you can alternatively visit a closer and smaller town, like Menaggio, to lessen your transportation time.

Lake Como Itinerary

Morning🚆 Train from Milan to Varenna (9–10:30 am)
🏰 Explore Castello di Vezio (11–12 pm)
Afternoon👟 Walk around Varenna’s town area (12:30–1:15 pm)
ðŸ›Ĩïļ Take a ~1:30 pm ferry to Bellagio (1:30–1:45 pm)
ðŸĶ Explore Bellagio’s town area (1:45–2:45 pm)
💧 Walk down Bellagio’s waterfront (2:45–3:15 pm)
👟 Walk to Bellagio’s east side (3:15–3:45 pm)
ðŸ›Ĩïļ Take a ~4 pm ferry to Como (4–5 pm)
Evening⛩ïļ Explore the city of Como (5–7 pm)
🚆 Train back to Milan (7–8 pm)

If you prefer to take the hassle out of planning a Lake Como trip, this small group guided tour takes you to Varenna, Bellagio and Como.

Lake Como Map With Recommended Places

This Italy map has all the recommended places in Lake Como pinned.

Great Things To Do in Varenna

The town of Varenna is often described as Lake Como’s most romantic town with its narrow streets, colorful buildings and breathtaking lake views.

Colorful buildings in a lush, green mountain next to a blue lake.
A view of Varenna from Lake Como. (Photo by my friend, Nami Sumida.)

Varenna is also one of the towns that can be easily reached by train from Milan (take a Trenitalia train to the Varenna Esino train station).

Here are three of the best things to do in Varenna, two of which are the town’s main attractions.

1. Walk up to Castello di Vezio

ðŸĪ” Why: Located on a hill overlooking the town, Castello di Vezio is a medieval castle that has spectacular views of Lake Como.

A high-up view of a large lake surrounded by lush green mountains.
A view of Lake Como from Castello di Vezio.

🏰 What to do there: Walk up the hill to Castello di Vezio and enjoy the views of Lake Como from different angles in the garden. You can also go down underground tunnels that were used in WWII. During the summers, the castle hosts a “birds of prey” show on some days.

A woman leaning against a balcony overlooking a lake with a large mountain behind it.
One of Castello di Vezio’s viewpoints.

⏰ Suggested duration: It takes about 30 minutes to walk from the Varenna train station to Castello di Vezio since it’s located on a hill. Once you’re in the castle, expect to spend 45 minutes to an hour looking out at the views and exploring its gardens and tunnels.

💰 Expected cost: Castello di Vezio has an entrance fee of ₮4 (~$4.40 USD) that can be paid with cash or debit/credit card. You don’t need to buy the tickets in advance.

🍀 My take: With its breathtaking lake views, Castello di Vezio was one of my trip’s highlights even though I visited it on a cloudy day. I also enjoyed walking up to the castle after sitting on a train for over an hour.

2. Visit Villa Monastero

ðŸĪ” Why: Villa Monastero’s is one of Varenna’s most notable attractions. The villa features lake views and one of Lake Como’s best botanical gardens.

âœĻ What to do there: Villa Monastero has 14 rooms to look at and several lake viewpoints in its expansive botanical garden.

⏰ Suggested duration: You can spend anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour and a half in Villa Monastero.

💰 Expected cost: Villa Monastero has an entrance fee of ₮10 (~$11 USD) for access to the garden only and an entrance fee of ₮13 (~$14.30 USD) for access to the entire property.

🍀 My take: I didn’t make it to Villa Monastero since I ended up spending more time walking around Varenna’s town center, but from afar, it looks like it has a stunning garden. It seems like a good place to spend extra time if you’re not in a rush to catch your next ferry ride.

3. Explore Varenna’s town center

ðŸĪ” Why: Varenna’s small town is picturesque and has several scenic spots that are pedestrian-friendly.

Colorful buildings surrounded by lush, green trees next to a blue lake.
A view from Varenna’s town. (Photo by my friend, Nami Sumida.)

âœĻ Where to explore: Varenna has two scenic popular spots: the Walk of Lovers and Molo Riva Grande. The waterfront also has several cafes and restaurants to grab a quick bite.

⏰ Suggested duration: You can walk from one end of Varenna’s town to the other end in 10 minutes or less. If you slow down to enjoy the beautiful scenery, you can spend roughly 30 minutes exploring it.

💰 Expected cost: None of Varenna’s scenic spots have an entrance fee.

🍀 My take: I spent more time walking through Bellagio’s town than Varenna’s town because the former is bigger and has more things to see, but I thought Varenna was more beautiful overall.

Great Things To Do in Bellagio

Bellagio, sometimes called the “Pearl of Lake Como”, is regarded as Lake Como’s most beautiful town and has more shops compared to Varenna.

Colorful buildings near the shore of a blue lake.
A view of Bellagio from Lake Como. (Photo by my friend, Nami Sumida.)

A one-way ferry journey from Verenna to Bellagio takes about 15 minutes and costs ₮4.60 (~$5 USD).

Here are three great things to do in Bellagio.

1. Explore Bellagio’s Old Town

ðŸĪ” Why: Bellagio’s town center, also referred to as Old Town, is a highlight for visitors. Walking through the town’s traditional architecture and picturesque area is considered a worthwhile experience in itself.

âœĻ What to do there: Bellagio’s Old Town is a happening place lined with shops, restaurants and cafes. Pick a street and start walking around to see what shops catch your interest. This famous street is particularly scenic.

A narrow cobblestone street surrounded by colorful buildings.
The famous street in Bellagio.

⏰ Suggested duration: You can spend one to two hours exploring Bellagio’s town center and checking out its various shops.

💰 Expected cost: Bellagio’s town center doesn’t have any entrance fees.

🍀 My take: Bellagio’s Old Town has many winding and narrow roads and while this famous street is worth visiting, I found it fun to just walk around aimlessly while eating gelato.

A woman holding a gelato while standing in a narrow, pedestrian-friendly street.
My friend enjoying a gelato in Bellagio.

2. Walk down Bellagio’s waterfront promenade

ðŸĪ” Why: Bellagio has a well-paved promenade where you can see some stunning views of Lake Como within a short walk.

âœĻ What to do there: Walk along the waterfront and look out at Lake Como. The promenade also has gardens, gelato shops, cafes and benches to rest on. Start your promenade walk here on the north side and end it here on the south side. There’s a set of staircases around here that leads into the lake.

A woman standing on a staircase that leads into a lake.
A staircase leading to Lake Como near Bellagio’s waterfront.

⏰ Suggested duration: Walking Bellagio’s waterfront promenade only takes about 10 minutes, but you’ll likely spend closer to 20 to 30 minutes taking photos and admiring the views.

💰 Expected cost: There are no associated costs to walking down Bellagio’s waterfront promenade.

🍀 My take: Leisurely walking down Bellagio’s flat and open waterfront promenade is a nice calm break after exploring the town’s narrow and stair-filled streets.

3. Cross over to Bellagio’s east side

ðŸĪ” Why: Bellagio’s east side shows a calmer and quieter side of Bellagio. You also pass by colorful houses, gardens and cobblestone stairs while making your way over.

A woman walking down a long set of cobblestone stairs leading into a lake.
Walking down a cobblestone staircase leading into Lake Como.

âœĻ What to do there: Make your way down a set of stairs to this scenic spot on Bellagio’s east side.

A woman staring out into a lake with boats on it.
On the east side of Bellagio.

⏰ Suggested duration: It takes roughly 20 to 30 minutes to walk from Bellagio’s waterfront promenade to the town’s east side.

💰 Expected cost: There are no associated costs to walking to Bellagio’s east side.

🍀 My take: I enjoyed walking to Bellagio’s quieter east side after exploring the bustling town and tourist-heavy waterfront. However, the views are not as spectacular on the east side.

If you want to see more picturesque towns in Italy, Cinque Terre was my favorite place to explore.

Lake Como Trip Cost

If you do a boat tour or visit a lot of villas, a trip to Lake Como can be expensive (more than $100 USD). However, if you take advantage of Lake Como’s low-cost or free attractions and focus on exploring its natural beauty, your Lake Como trip can be very affordable.

My one-day trip to Lake Como cost a total of $62 USD. Despite the cloudy weather, it was a beautiful day trip and easily one of the most beautiful places I visited in Italy during my two-week stay.

Below are my travel expenses by category for Lake Como. My entire trip’s cost breakdown and budget tips are in this Italy travel cost guide.

Total Cost
🍝 Food$33
🚇 Transportation (Ferry + Train)$24
⭐ Castello di Vezio entrance fee $5
A woman standing next to a gate surrounded by purple flowers and green plants.
Walking around Bellagio’s more quiet side of town.

If you have any questions or thoughts, feel free to leave them in the comments below.

🧋 This site is run entirely by me, Lukiih. I spend hours writing each article to ensure its accuracy and conciseness. If you find my site helpful, you can say thanks by buying me bubble tea!

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