Conquering Lake Como In One Day

Many Italian travel plans will include a visit to Lake Como.  La Dolce Vita is perhaps no better epitomized than this stunning locale, a short ride from Milan.  The lake represents Italian beauty and elegance.  In addition to the flock or tourists that visit the lake, the coastline is dotted with stunning homes that serve as getaways for the rich and famous. 

While longer stays are ideal, it is possible to see the highlights and have a great time with only a day trip from Milan.  A little planning and you can have a great time and see the best and most popular spots.

Transportation to Lake Como is easy from Milan.  The lake takes on the shape of an upside down Y. Guests can take the train to either side of the lake, allowing you to start on one side and end at the other without having to double back. 

The main question is do you want to begin your day or end it in Varenna.  The village is truly a highlight and also one of the busiest parts of the lake.  They advantage of beginning your day in Varenna is fewer crowds.  The advantage of ending here is being able to have a picturesque dinner and a stunning sunset, although with more visitors around than in the morning   There is no wrong answer, but we’ll end our day in Varenna in this itinerary.  

That means we begin our day in Como.  Multiple train companies service the Milan to Como route.  The better known train company is Trenitalia and it runs between Milan Central and Como San Giovanni station. San Giovanni is a long walk or short bus ride away from the main part of town.  The train trip lasts about an hour from Milan. 

The better option is using regional service Trenord.  It offer routes from Milan Central to Como San Giovanni in as little as 36 minutes or from Milan Cadorna to Como Nord Lago in less than 1 hour.  The advantage of arriving at Como Nord Lago is its location right next to the lake front.  No matter if you want the quick service between Milan Central and Como or the location of the arrival station when departing from Milan Cadorna, you will will want to use Trenord.   

Como is the largest town in the lake district, but the one you will want to spend the least time in.  Como is beautiful, but will not compare to the other stops on the trip.  The highlight is the Cathedral or Duomo.  The city also has plenty of shopping and dining options.  To get a panorama of the lake, take the funicular to the top of one of the many steep hills that overlook the lake.

There are many boat tours you can take, but for a self guided trip, buy a ticket for the ferry.  There are options for a regular ferry that makes stops at every little village along the way (there are a lot of them) or the rapid boat with fewer stops that cuts down the travel time considerably.  If time is a factor, the extra money for the rapid ferry is worth it.  You can buy an unlimited day pass to use the ferry as many times as you would like.  Different passes cover different parts of the lake, so be sure to get one that will cover your entire day.

Como lies at the edge of the southern tip of the lake.  Take the ferry up to Tremezzo.  Menaggio is another popular choice, but the main reason to visit Tremezzo is visiting the Villa Carlotta.  Once an extravagant estate, today it is a museum and botanical gardens that overlooks the lake.  A spring visit is an absolute must to see the flowers in full bloom. 

From Tremezzo, take the 25 minute ferry ride to Bellagio.  The queen of Lake Como, Bellagio sits at the junction of the two legs.  Exploring the town by foot is a great way to get acquainted.  There are plenty of high end shops and cafes along the lake front.  Hotels are on the lake front and extend into the hills along with many homes.  Many resorts have lake side gardens.  Among the best is the I Giardini di Villa Melzi.  If you are not a guest of the hotel there is a small fee to explore this gorgeous lake front garden.  Bellagio has absolutely stunning scenery and is with good reason the most popular destination on the lake. 


A 15 minute ferry from Bellagio leads us to Varenna.  The charming town does not have the acclaim of Bellagio, but is arguably the better community.  While it can get busy, there is a certain peacefulness while wandering the steep narrow lanes of shops and eateries.  Lakeside cafes and gardens are as beautiful as Bellagio. A path called Lover’s Walk hugs the coastline with commanding views of the lake.  Varenna has its own train station with a direct line back to Milan Central in about an hour.  

If you are in the area Lake Como is an absolute must see and if you are not planning on visiting Northern Italy, consider adding it on simply for being able to see this jewel.  With so many amazing Italian locations to choose from, there will inevitably be some great places left off.  Lake Como is definitely one of those must do’s.  Even a day trip will be well worth your time.

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