How to Plan a Day Trip to Lake Como From Milan

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Lake Como is one of the most popular places in Italy. Famous for its resort towns and villas, Lake Como has a reputation for being a playground for the rich and famous. Which of course, means that when it comes to travel in Italy, Lake Como has a reputation for being a more expensive destination, especially during high-season. However, for those who want to visit you don’t have to spend a fortune to see this beautiful part of Italy. It’s easy to do a day trip to Lake Como from Milan. Here’s what you need to know.

Waterline view of Varenna town on Lake Como on a sunny October day

How to get to Lake Como From Milan

So, how far is Lake Como from Milan? It’s only a little over an hour by train. There are regular trains from Milan to Lake Como making it easy to come and go as you please. Since they are local trains you don’t even need to book your ticket in advance. You can just arrive at Milan Central Station, buy your ticket, and hop on a train to Varenna. It’s that easy.

How to Get Around Lake Como

Boat and pink Villa on the shores of Lake Como

Varenna will be the starting point because, as said above, it’s where you can take the train from Milan. The Varenna train station is just a few minutes’ walk from the waterfront of Varenna itself, so you don’t need to worry about any buses or taxis. Just head down to the lake.

Varenna, and all the towns here, are best explored on foot. The towns are small but the streets are cobblestone so wear comfortable shoes. You will be walking a lot on your day trip to Lake Como from Milan.

Since the towns are so small, you can easily see more than one during the day. There are four towns that you can choose from on a day trip to Lake Como from Milan. Varenna, which is where the train station is located, Bellagio, Menaggio, and Cadenabbia. There are, of course, other towns in Lake Como but these are all close enough together that it’s easy to hop between them. I suggest choosing two towns to visit during your day trip. However, if you have a full day and come during summer when there are longer, fuller days then you can likely fit in 3.

To travel between these different towns in Lake Como, you’ll want to take a ferry. Each town has a ferry station and they do run quite regularly, but you’ll need to check the schedule for the routes. You can find the current schedule online here. Note that the schedule varies on Sundays and public holidays.

Ferry tickets can be purchased at the desk. It’s easiest to buy a return ticket and just hold on to it until you need to come back- just make sure you don’t lose it! 

How to Spend One Day in Lake Como

For my day trip to Lake Como from Milan, I visited two towns: Varenna and Bellagio. I felt like I had ample time to explore both so that would be what I suggest, especially for a first-time visitor.

Varenna

Hannah in a red dress sitting on the shore of Varenna, looking at Lake Como

Varenna is a colourful town that was originally a fishing village. To be honest, I expected it would be somewhat boring as one of the main hubs for travel in and out of Lake Como since this is where the train station is located, but I actually loved Varenna and preferred it to Bellagio. The multi-coloured houses on the waterfront are so bright, the views across the lake are stunning, and there are so many picturesque winding alleyways. It was really fun to explore.

Varenna does have a castle at the top. It’s a steep climb to get there and we were short on time in the end so skipped it but, from what I’ve seen, there are some great views from the top. There is also a little beach here so if it’s a hot day, wear a swimsuit under your clothes so you can take a dip! Varenna is also home to Villa Monastero which is actually open year-round and might be of interest.

Bellagio

Bellagio as seen from above

Bellagio is known as ‘the pearl’ of Lake Como. It’s the most famous town in Lake Como but, like Varenna, very small and easy to explore in just a couple of hours. Wander through the streets filled with some great places to eat and cute boutique shops. There’s a nice path along the waterfront and it’s worth walking down to Punta Spartivento, which is the end-point of the peninsula.

Optional: A Boat Tour

One of the most popular things to do in Lake Como is a boat tour. However, they can be pretty expensive. I love boats and scenic views but since I visited at the end of October daylight hours were limited so I was busy enough with my time between Varenna and Bellagio. However, if I had visited during the summer months, I’d be inclined to take one of the boat tours and see more of Lake Como from the water. What I did see from the ferry was gorgeous. You can book a private 2 hour boat tour here.

Is Lake Como Worth Visiting?

drone shot of Varenna, Lake Como

Absolutely, yes. Sure, it’s busy and expensive but it is popular for a reason. In my opinion, Lake Como truly is an incredibly beautiful destination and worth seeing while in Italy. Personally, I think a day trip to Lake Como from Milan was the perfect amount of time. I was able to see two of the towns, view the area from the water, have a delicious meal (and of course, gelato!) and take a number of photos before happily heading back to the city.

Final Tips for a Day Trip From Milan to Lake Como

One of the first things to note is that Lake Como is very much a seasonal destination. I visited at the end of October and many of the big villas to visit were already closed for the season. Similarly, some hotels and restaurants had also shut down. For a day trip, it’s not such a big deal. However, if you did think of staying longer you’d likely be disappointed.

Despite going towards the end of the season, it was still quite busy with tourists. I can only imagine how crowded it must get in the summer. For this reason, I suggest getting the train from Milan to Lake Como (Varenna) early in the morning. This way you can have a bit of time before the crowds to walk around and take some photos.

Restaurants can also get really busy really quickly, especially since many of them are quite small. Some spots do take reservations if you know exactly where you want to go. Otherwise, I suggest eating an earlier lunch (most places open around noon) and getting there right away to grab a meal before the big lunchtime crowd.

Finally, be mindful of the weather. Lake Como really is an outdoor destination and if you are only going for a day trip, you want a nice day, not a rainy one. Try to leave a little flexibility in your schedule to change your plans so you can ensure you visit on a dry day. Exploring the narrow streets and riding the ferries in rain isn’t going to be the experience you want.

A day trip to Lake Como from Milan is so easy and a perfect opportunity to see this part of the country. I highly recommend adding it to your itinerary! As you can see from above, it’s pretty easy to do on your own. But, if you prefer, you can also join an organized day trip from Milan. Here are a couple options to consider:

A Note on Travel Insurance in Italy

Please, do NOT travel without travel insurance! I’ve had to rely on mine multiple times. While the cost may seem annoying and better spent elsewhere, trust me when I say you’ll be sorry if you don’t have it. For just a couple bucks a day, you can save yourself a whole lot of stress and money. I like to recommend SafetyWing for travel medical insurance as they are one of the most affordable options I’ve found, plus, they are who I use and I have had great experiences with them. Learn more about the importance of travel insurance here.

Day trip to Lake Como from Milan

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