Enjoy a day around Lake Como
Lake Como is one of, if not the most beautiful day-trip you can do from Milan. Its shores are littered with cute little towns and villas, popular with visitors for more than 100 years.
The lake is shaped like an inverted Y and being the third largest in Italy, you cannot possibly visit every single town. However, you will have a great day and admire much beauty if you follow this itinerary:
Milan > Varenna > Bellagio > Como > Milan
I do suggest you start your journey earlier than I did because, in the end, I seriously had to rush and could've enjoyed it even more. Not helping matters, I visited over a long weekend in Germany/Austria, which means those places were packed with tourists. Keep that in mind and do not underestimate the queues!
Shame on me, I lost the 10:20 am train that would take me directly (and in half the time) to Varenna. Since the next one wouldn't leave in another 2 hours, I decided to "waste" that time en-route, instead of sitting and waiting.
From Milano Garibaldi, at the same price, there's also a (much less frequent) train with a stop-over in Lecco, with a total journey time of at least 2h, depending on how long you choose to spend there.
Since I'd have to change trains anyway, I made a 1h stop and walked around a bit. This was an unexpectedly nice surprise since it wasn't even in my original plan to go there. The station is 550m away from the lake, which you cover going through a street lined with shops, until a greener and more open area, full of restaurants, view to the mountain and then more shops by the lake.
However, it is nothing spectacular, so in the interest of time, I'd definitely skip Lecco in favor of the next cities on this plan, unless your start super early.
Your best option is to start your journey at Milano Centrale for a direct train to Varenna, with a journey time of 1h03.
You arrive at Varenna-Esino-Perledo and the station is at the top of the hill. From there, you will walk down the little streets until you reach the lake. Right after a little square, you'll see the ferries port.
The only way to buy your ferry ticket is from the office on the port, no online sales are available. So before heading into town, buy your ticket to Bellagio.
Keep walking and you will be rewarded with a fairy tale small town on the lake shore, with flower corridor, charming stairways, restaurants with a view and cute shops.
Should you want to stop for a snack or meal, the restaurant Vecchia Varenna offers tables on a lovely terrace overlooking the lake.
To arrive in Bellagio, the "pearl of the lake", you'll take a 15min ferry to reach the intersection of the inverted Y. This is a fancier and quite touristy town.
Again, it's best to buy your ticket on to Como as soon as you arrive. You have two options of ferries: a regular one (taking roughly 2h) and a fast one (roughly 1h), costing 10,40€ and 14,80€, respectively.
Just go and get in line. I learned it the hard way, as when I finally reached the cashier, the tickets to the fast ferry I planned to take were sold out. Tickets to the regular ferry never sell out and are not time-restricted, however, they will stop boarding people as soon as they deem it full enough.
Bought your ticket? Good. Now, you can explore Bellagio and a fun way to do it is to hop on a mini-tour aboard the Trombetta Express. At only 5€ for a 20-25min tour, you'll cover the highlights of the city quickly. One of the stops is right in front of the ferry port, so you can't miss it. You can also hop off at the other stop and return with the same ticket.
If you can, relax a bit before heading for the ferry terminal, as it can get crowded. Right next to it, you will find restaurants and bars.
Bellagio > Como
The route down this leg of the lake on to Como is the most scenic one, so try to get a seat with unrestricted views on top of the ferry and keep your camera at hand. The regular ferry will stop at every town on the way to Como, and it's a lot of stops.
I skipped Como this time since I had already visited a while ago. And being the largest city of all these, Como will get a dedicated post in the future 🙂
When you get off the ferry, the closest station to take your train back to Milan is Como Nord Lago, taking you to Milano Cadorna (M1/M2) in roughly 1 hour. If you prefer to go directly to Milano Centrale, take the train at Como S. Giovanni, with a shorter journey time of 37min.
Have you visited this area? What was your favorite part? Comment below and let me know!