Lake Como is a fantastic day trip option from Milan! Here’s everything you need to know to plan one without renting a car.
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Everyone loves talking about visiting George Clooney, but here’s what you can actually do in a day in Lake Como!
Keep in mind Lake Como is a bit of a seasonal destination, meaning there are fewer restaurants and hotels over in the mid/late fall. But if you find yourself in Milan, it makes a fantastic day trip!
Getting to Lake Como
If you’re thinking of heading to Lake Como for the day, the easiest way to get there is by train.
It’s always a treat to rent a car and explore on your own, opening your options up to some of the smaller spots and more off-the-beaten-path towns. This guide focuses on what’s reachable without one!
It’s only an hour to reach Varenna! That’s the easiest arrival spot. Be sure to keep your eyes on the windows – you get beautiful sneak peeks of the water and the mountains for much of the ride.
Lake Como Ferries
The ferry system is really easy in Lake Como. You can check out the rates and schedules on their website, but there’s no need to pre-book tickets. You can either buy tickets as you go or get a circular, meaning you can take that route and get off at as many stops as you want until you get back to where you started.
You can buy tickets online, but they sell out online before selling out in person. Plan to get to the station a little early (at least 15 minutes); they start loading before the listed time to leave on schedule!
Generally, the signage makes it pretty easy to know if you’re getting on the correct ferry. Ask if you’re not sure – staff will point you in the right direction, especially at the larger ports like Bellagio.
In summer, they offer a combo train+ferry ticket for day trippers! Worth checking out if you’re heading there in summertime.
Formerly a quiet fishing village, Varenna has the picturesque charm of a small town!
It’s a cute picturesque walk downhill from the train station to the lake shore.
Turn left at the ferry dock to see Varenna itself. Lake Como is best enjoyed as a stroll, soaking up the beautiful paths along the water. Make sure to keep going as far as Vecchio Porto (the old port) for some options to grab a coffee at Bar Il Molo or a gelato at Riva Gelateria.
If you like visiting historic homes, head to Villa Monastero. As the name implies, the building was originally a 12th-century monastery dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Both the home and gardens require an entry ticket
If you’re planning to visit outside of summer, note that the villa typically opens in late May and the gardens open in April. Both close in early November.
Bellagio is the other big stop on a day trip to Lake Como!
While not huge, Bellagio is much bigger than Varenna and tends to be what people picture when they think of Lake Como. There are a ton of five-star hotels and elegant terraces lining the shoreline, giving plenty of gorgeous photos on the ferry ride.
By this time, you’re probably hungry, so start with lunch!
If you’re looking for an elegant meal, head to La Goletta in Hotel Serbelloni. The food is great and the setting is stunning, overlooking the pool and the lake.
If you’re looking for something amazing but for a more normal price point, head to Trattoria San Giacomo. It’s the kind of place where the specials shift depending on seasonal ingredients, and you should order whatever the waiter tells you is best. Sit outside if you can!
After lunch, it’s time to wander. The town is cute, with plenty of quaint side streets to wander.
Stick your head in the Basilica San Giacomo – I always like to see the churches and compare styles. This one has brick columns you won’t see often in Italy.
Just next door is a darling shop, L’angolo Delle Idee, full of gorgeous hand-blown glass. They’re beautiful souvenirs and the owner does a solid job wrapping them in bubble wrap to keep them safe for the trip home!
If you’re looking for more beautiful green space, Parco Villa Serbelloni is a massive park just above Bellagio. It’s only accessible via guided tours but it’s an easy way to soak up more of the stunning landscape of the lake nestled within the mountains. It only takes a few visitors per day, so book in advance!
Want something not involving a guided tour? Giardini di Villa Melzi still has ticketed entry but you can wander as long as you want! Walk along the lakefront past the ferry dock to find it.
Before you head back on the ferry, go do a wine tasting at Enoteca La Principessa! It’s a small wine shop where you can order a tasting or by the glass. Or, grab a bottle to enjoy back at your hotel later!
There are tons of other gems along Lake Como, but that’s about what there’s time for in a day!
If you’re thinking of staying overnight, here are a few great hotel options. All are easy without a car!
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