Milan to Lake Como: Your Ultimate Day Trip Guide

Lake Como is a destination that offers a perfect blend of natural beauty, cultural richness, and recreational opportunities. Whether you’re seeking relaxation, adventure, or a romantic escape, Lake Como has something to offer for everyone.

As you embark on this day trip, you will discover that Lake Como is not just a destination; it’s an experience that lingers long after you’ve returned to the hustle and bustle of the city.

From the picturesque villages of Bellagio, Menaggio, and Varenna to the historical grandeur of Como, this journey is a tapestry of scenic wonder and cultural exploration.

Read more about our experience, top recommendations and suggested itinerary for a day trip to Lake Como from Milan.

Overview

Lake Como or “Lago di Como” in Italian, is one of Italy’s most breath-taking and famous lakes. Nestled in the Lombardy region of Northern Italy, it’s renowned for its stunning natural beauty, charming lakeside towns, and a rich cultural heritage.

Due to it’s proximity to the city of Milan, Lake Como is a popular day trip destination from Milan.

Lake Como is the third-largest lake in Italy and one of the deepest in Europe, surrounded by towering alpine mountains and lush green hills. The lake is dotted with a series of charming towns and villages, each with its own unique character and appeal.

Notable ones include Bellagio, Varenna, Menaggio, and Como, all of which we managed to visit during our trip. These villages boast narrow cobblestone streets, colourful buildings, and lakeside promenades, making them perfect for leisurely walks and exploration.

Lake Como is also famous for its historic villas and their beautifully landscaped gardens with their own architectural and botanical splendour. It was unrealistic for us to visit these villas and instead we chose to wander around and explore the towns.

How to Get to Lake Como from Milan

Lake Como is easily accessible from Milan, making it a popular day trip or weekend getaway for both locals and tourists. When we planned our trip to Milan, we immediately allocated a day to visit Lake Como.

Getting to Lake Como from Milan is quite easy, as Milan serves as a major transportation hub in Northern Italy. Here are a few options on how to get to Lake Como:

  • By train: The most convenient way to reach Lake Como from Milan is by taking a train. You can catch a train from Milan’s central train station, Milano Centrale, to various towns around Lake Como, including Varenna, Como, and Bellagio. The tickets are super affordable (€5-€7.50 p/p one way). We took the train from Milan to Varenna and on the way back we took the train from Como to Milan. Check for train times and prices via Trainline here
  • By car – If you prefer flexibility in your schedule and want to explore Lake Como at your own pace, going by car could be an option. The journey takes around 1.5 to 2 hours, depending on your destination, traffic conditions, and the specific route you take. We don’t have a car, so this wasn’t really an option for us. If you are considering renting a car, check Rentalcars.com to find the best deal.
  • By bus: There are bus services that connect Milan to Lake Como as well. Buses are slower compared to trains, and travel times may vary depending on the route and traffic. We immediately disregarded this option due to the convenience of going by train.
  • Join an organised tour: If you prefer a guided experience and don’t want to worry about transportation logistics, you can book a guided tour from Milan to Lake Como. These tours often include transportation, guided sightseeing, and sometimes even lunch.

Visiting Milan and Lake Como was part of our interrail trip around Europe in 2023, so it only made sense that we travel by train to the lake. After some research, we made up our mind and decided to travel by train from Milano Centrale (our hotel Hotel Windsor was only 10 minutes away from the train station).

Read more about our review of Hotel Windsor in Milan.

We took the train from Milan to Varenna and bought a one way ticket on the day. After visiting Varenna, Menaggio and Bellagio we made our way to Como by boat. The towns are well connected by boat and if you are going by car, you can catch certain ferries and cross with your car.

We finished the day at Como and took the train back from Como S. Giovanni to Milan. The train station at Como is a bit further from the central part of the city, so do allocate some extra time to catch your train.

Places to Visit at Lake Como

Varenna

This was our first stop for the day. Varenna beckons travellers with its serene beauty, picturesque promenades, and tranquil ambiance. After arriving from Milan, Varenna felt like a world apart, offering an ideal escape for a day trip from the bustling city.

The town’s picturesque waterfront, complete with pastel-coloured houses and cobblestone streets, exudes charm. What sets Varenna apart from other Lake Como towns is its peaceful and unhurried atmosphere.

It’s the perfect place to unwind, relax, and appreciate the simple joys of life – we simply sat on a bench and enjoyed the beautiful views.

Varenna’s small size is its greatest asset. You can easily explore the town on foot, allowing you to soak in its enchanting atmosphere at a leisurely pace. Meander through the narrow alleys, lined with blooming flowers, and take in the stunning views of the lake and surrounding mountains.

One of Varenna’s gems is Villa Monastero, a historic villa that boasts beautifully landscaped gardens and a stunning lakefront setting. We passed by the villa but didn’t visit due to time constraints. If you find yourself with some more time, feel free to check it out.

We also saw plenty of people swimming in the clear waters of Lake Como, in case you were wondering if you can go to the beach at Lake Como.

Whether you’re traveling with a loved one or seeking solitude, Varenna’s romantic ambiance is undeniable. I wish we had more time to enjoy this charming place but we had to take the ferry to Menaggio and continue with our plan.

Menaggio

As you approach Menaggio, the stunning views of Lake Como framed by the surrounding mountains leave a great first impression. This postcard-worthy scene welcomes you as you step off the ferry or disembark from a scenic drive along the lake’s edge.

Menaggio’s lakeside promenade is the perfect place to begin your exploration. Lined with cafes, gelaterias, and colorful buildings, it’s an ideal spot to take a leisurely stroll, bask in the sun, and watch boats gently glide across the serene waters.

Menaggio offers several charming restaurants and cafes where you can relish traditional Italian cuisine. As you dine by the lake, you can admire the postcard-perfect views of the lake and the surrounding mountains.

As it was lunch time, we stopped here for a refreshing Aperol Spritz and lunch with a view. We chose Cafe Del Pess for this.

While Menaggio may be less famous than its neighbours, it boasts a unique tranquillity that allows you to savour the beauty of Lake Como without the crowds. It’s an authentic Italian experience that allows you to immerse yourself in local culture.

In all honesty, out of the four towns we visited, Menaggio was our least favourite but it’s still a charming place which we suggest you include in your travel plans. After lunch, we explored a bit more of the town before catching the ferry to Bellagio.

Bellagio

Nestled at the meeting point of Lake Como’s three branches, Bellagio is often affectionately referred to as the “Pearl of Lake Como.” As you step off the ferry onto the picturesque promenade, it’s easy to understand why. The pictures just don’t do enough justice!

The journey to Bellagio itself is a delight. The ferry ride from Varenna offers breath-taking views of the surrounding mountains and the charming villages that adorn the shores of the lake. As you approach Bellagio, its stunning waterfront setting becomes increasingly apparent. Needless to say that we took a lot of photos.

Bellagio’s charm is immediately evident as you wander through its narrow cobblestone streets. Colourful buildings, boutiques, and cafes beckon, inviting you to explore every corner of this idyllic town.

Amidst the enchanting beauty of Bellagio, the Basilica of St. Giacomo stands as a beacon of history and spirituality. Tucked away in the heart of this charming town, this medieval church is a testament to Bellagio’s rich heritage.

Bellagio offers plenty of opportunities for shopping and collecting souvenirs. Whether it’s a piece of locally crafted jewellery, fridge magnets or some delectable Italian delicacies, the town’s boutiques and shops have you covered.

We got a fridge magnet from there but worth noting that the little shop didn’t accept card payments, so might be a good idea to have some cash on you when visiting the lake.

One of Bellagio’s most enduring qualities is its vantage point over Lake Como. The panoramic views from the town are truly enchanting, making it an ideal place to savour the beauty of the lake from above.

We sat down for a drink to enjoy the views, although we did struggle to find a terrace with good views and available spaces. We settled on Hotel Excelsior Splendide.

Shortly after we realised we had to board the ferry to Como. This was rather unfortunate but if we were to miss the ferry, we wouldn’t have been able to explore Como and enjoy a nice dinner by the lake.

One of the highlights of Bellagio is Villa Melzi and its magnificent gardens. We didn’t visit the place but could be something for you to consider when in Bellagio.

A day trip to Lake Como wouldn’t be complete without experiencing the charms of Bellagio. It was time for us to get the ferry to our last stop – Como. We took the regular ferry from Bellagio to Como (it took 2 hours) and really soaked the picturesque views and scenery the lake has to offer.

This reminded us of our cruise on Lake Zurich when we visited Zurich; just that this was better 🙂

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Como

Como is not just a transit hub but an enchanting destination in its own right, with a rich history, stunning architecture, and the breath-taking backdrop of Lake Como. We initially considered starting our trip from Como but after some more research decided to change this and leave Como as the last stop before returning to Milan.

As you arrive in Como, you’ll be greeted by the splendid vista of Lake Como and the surrounding hills. The town itself is a delightful blend of old-world charm and modern elegance.

After arriving from Bellagio, we decided to sit down for a meal and enjoy some food by the lake. We chose Ristorante Pizzeria Funicolare and would definitely recommend.

There are a lot of nice restaurants by the lake and yet we were surprised to see how empty these were. Perhaps all the tourists from the ferry were rushing to the train station and only a few stopped for dinner on the way.

Como’s promenade along the lake is a wonderful place to enjoy a leisurely stroll and savour the lakeside views. You can also find cosy cafes and gelaterias here, perfect for a quick refreshment while taking in the scenery.

Tip: As the day winds down, find a peaceful spot by the lake to watch the sunset over Lake Como. The warm, golden light casting its glow on the water is an unforgettable sight that leaves a lasting impression.

One of Como’s most iconic landmarks is its magnificent cathedral. The Como Cathedral, known for its striking Gothic-Renaissance architecture, is a testament to the town’s historical and religious significance.

As we were heading to the train station, we explored a bit more of Como and were impressed of the hustle and bustle and the night life the town offers.

Suggested 1-day Itinerary of Lake Como from Milan

There are different options to organise a day at Lake Como and we considered at least three different itineraries before we agreed on the optimal route for us. It was important to visit Bellagio and Como and enjoy a cruise on Lake Como.

We weren’t interested in visiting the famous villas, instead we wanted to wander around and get a feel for this beautiful place.

Here is our proposed itinerary for a day trip to Lake Como from Milan:

  1. Train from Milan to Varenna (the earlier the better)
  2. Explore Varenna – allow at least 2 hours
  3. Get a ferry from Varenna to Menaggio
  4. Lunch and spare time in Menaggio – allow 2 hours
  5. Get a ferry from Menaggio to Bellagio
  6. Enjoy the beautiful Bellagio and sit down for a drink – allow at least 3 hours
  7. Get a ferry from Bellagio to Como (it takes 1.5 – 2 hours depending on the ferry you get)
  8. Dinner and spare time in Como – allow 2.5 – 3 hours
  9. Train from Como to Milan

Tip: It’s very important to check the ferry schedule and plan your trip accordingly. Check here Lake Como tickets and timetable.

It’s good to have a rough schedule in mind and if you enjoy a certain place, just spend more time there. As mentioned above, Menaggio was our least favourite but still worth a visit. We spent less time there than initially planned and in return got more time for our favourite Bellagio.

Organised Tours to Lake Como from Milan

If you are still unsure how to get to Lake Como or considering different tour options, have a look these organised tours and decide which one is best for you.

Final Remarks

From the charming streets of Varenna to the serene ambiance of Menaggio, the hidden treasures of Bellagio, and the historical allure of Como, each town along the shores of Lake Como is a unique chapter in a story waiting to be written.

As the day unfolds, you will traverse cobblestone streets, savour authentic Italian cuisine, and bask in the beauty of one of the most breath-taking lakes in the world. The feelings cant’ be explained, you just need to visa Lake Como to understand what we are talking about.

As you return to Milan, you’ll carry with you not only the memories of Lake Como’s exquisite towns but also the serene calm and magic of this place. And you will leave knowing that your day trip has merely scratched the surface of the endless wonders waiting to be explored on your next visit to this Italian paradise.

Ready to book? Below are some recommendations to get your trip started:


  • Accommodation – would recommend booking your accommodation through an aggregator such as Booking.com or Agoda to get the best rates. We also use TripAdvisor to read reviews.

  • Transport – consider Rentalcars.com for car renting or if you rely on public transport, you can use Omio for trains, coaches, ferries, airport transfers and even flights.

  • Activities – a great option is GetYourGuide, Klook or Viator for tours, excursions, experiences and tickets to many tourist attractions.

  • Travel money – we have Starling Bank accounts (UK residents only) with 0% fees on FX and a good Mastercard exchange rate. Revolut is another good option.

  • Internet abroad – with Airalo or Nomad you can access a wide range of eSIMs (digital SIM cards) available for different countries and regions.

  • Luggage storage – if you need to store your bags whilst exploring the destination, you can use Radical Storage to find your closest luggage storage and enjoy your journey until the very end.

As an Amazon Associate and member of various other affiliate programmes, some of the links in this article are affiliate links, meaning at no additional cost to you, we will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.


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