Even though I studied abroad in Italy four years ago, I never made it to Lake Como and I always regretted it. That’s why I decided I definitely wanted to add it to our itinerary for my return trip to Italy! We were flying into Milan, which was perfect because you can get to lake Como from Milan in under an hour.
We landed in Milan Saturday morning, and checked into our AirBNB. We chose a place close to the train station so that we would be able to easily catch an early train to the lake the next morning. Plus, the train station is only a 20-minute walk to the city center, so we were still able to see the Duomo and the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II (the world’s oldest shopping mall). We would highly recommend this apartment to anyone visiting Milan – we loved staying there!
Sunday morning, we were off to the lake! We stopped for a quick breakfast at Caffe Napoli, which is a typical Italian cafe that seemed to have a few locations around the city. Breakfast in Italy usually consists of espresso and a pastry, so my favorite combo to get is a cornetto cioccolato (chocolate croissant) and cappucino. The cappucinos in Italy are smaller than what you get in the US, but they are soo yummy and affordable! (Usually less than € 1.30). This cafe put a scoop of a sweet hazelnut cream into the cappucino, which made it extra delicious!
After breakfast, we walked to the train station. There were three cities on Lake Como that we wanted to visit: Varenna, Bellagio, and Como, and we planned to visit them in this order. We wanted to go to Varenna first because it is the furthest from Milan and we thought we would get the longest train ride out of the way first; however, the next train to Varenna didn’t leave for an hour after we arrived, and the next train to Como was in 15 minutes, so we decided to reverse the order to get there sooner. Once we bought our tickets, we were off! **Tip: when you search “Como” in the ticket machine a few options come up, so the station that you want is “Como S. Giovanni.”**
In about 40 minutes, we had arrived at the Como train station. Once we got off, we followed signs to walk down to the waterfront. After a 10-minute walk, we arrived at the lake and were able to take in all the breathtaking views. Although I tried to capture the beauty, pictures really don’t do it justice. We were really lucky to have perfect weather, so we started walking around the lake and exploring the town. After some time exploring, we started making our way to the funicular that would take us up a mountain to a town called Brunate so that we could see the lake from higher up. On the way, we stopped for some homemade gelato at Gelateria Lariana, and it was delicious!
When we arrived at the bottom of the funicular, the line looked intimidating, but they brought people up every 15 minutes so it moved fairly quickly. After about a half hour, it was our turn and we were headed up the mountain. The ride was less than 10 minutes, and once we arrived at the top, the views were spectacular. There were a few walking paths, so we spent some time exploring and taking pictures of the lake from different angles. After about an hour, we went back down and found the ferry that would take us to Bellagio.
When we arrived at the ferry, the line looked intimidating again, but the boat was large enough so we were able to get on the next ferry that came. The ride to Bellagio was a little under an hour, but we wouldn’t have minded an even longer journey because the views the whole way were beautiful.
Once we arrived in Bellagio, we started exploring the town. Bellagio is famous for being one of the most beautiful lake towns in the world, and we could see why it had this reputation. Each of the streets were filled with shops, restaurants, and cafes, and we had so much fun walking up and down the streets and exploring. After a little while, we decided to stop for a drink. In Italy during the hours before dinnertime, if you order drinks at a bar or restaurant they will usually bring you some kind of snack, or what they call “aperitivo.” The traditional drink to order is an aperol spritz (which I happen to love!) so we ordered these, and then we were brought a meat and cheese plate (for free!) This was the perfect little snack before dinnertime.
Once we finished our drinks, we got back on the ferry to head to Varenna. We explored the waterfront of Varenna a little bit, but by this time the sun was going down and we were hungry for dinner, so we stopped in at a restaurant called Albergo Ristorante Montecodeno (part of the Varenna Montecodeno Hotel). We loved this restaurant. The prices were great (it was only € 34.50 for two pasta dishes and a bottle of wine – plus no tipping in Italy!) and our food tasted very fresh and delicious. Once we finished our pasta and wine, we walked to the train station to catch the train back to Milan. The ride home was only about an hour, so we were back at our apartment in no time.
We loved going to Lake Como, and would highly recommend it as an easy day trip from Milan! There are many tours you can take that organize day trips, but we knew it would be cheaper to plan it ourselves, and liked the idea of being in charge of our own schedule. In case you’re curious how much a day trip would cost, I listed our travel expenses (in euros) below. Feel free to comment with any questions! Buon viaggio!
Train from Milan to Como: € 14.00
Ticket for Funicular in Como: € 5.50
Ferry from Como to Bellagio: € 14.80
Ferry from Bellagio to Varenna: € 4.30
Train from Varenna to Milan: € 15.00