Lake Como in a day

A quickie tour of the highlights of Lake Como in one day (using public transportation)

The easiest way by far to see Lake Como in just a day is to take a guided day tour like the nine-hour Lake Como Day Trip from Milan, which visits the town of Como, with time for sightseeing, shopping, and lunch, then takes a cruise along the lake to the village of Bellagio before returning to Milan in the early evening.

If, however, you want to go it alone (and don't have a car) you can tour Lake Como using public transportation—a combination of trains, buses, and ferries.

Here's the plan.

Train from Milan (8:20am)

Hop a train at Milan's Stazione Centrale direct to the lakeside town of Varenna (1:03 hr.).

There is a train only once every two hours, so try for the 8:20am from Milan so you're there by 9:23am.

Varenna (9:23am–10:25am)

Recommended hotels in Varenna
Hotel Royal Victoria [€€€]
Hotel Eremo Gaudio [€€]
» More hotels (Venere, Booking)
Villa Monastero. (Photo by Aconcagua)
Villa Monastero. (Photo by Aconcagua)
In Varenna, wander the terraced gardens of Villa Monastero and Villa Cipressi—real die-hards in good shape might make a dash up the 20-minute path to see the Romantically crumbling ruins of Castello di Vezio with its fine lake views.

Do all this in a hurry so you can board the 10:25am ferry ( for the 10-minute ride across the lake to the postcard village of Bellagio.

Bellagio (10:35am–2:42pm)

Recommended hotels in Bellagio
Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni [€€€]
Hotel du Lac [€€]
Hotel Il Perlo Panorama [€€]
Hotel Suisse [€€]
» More hotels (Venere, Booking)
Bellagio, Lago di ComoIn Bellagio, walk out of the ferry dock and turn left to follow the main road, which almost immediately curves to the right to head steeply up to Piazza della Chiesa.

This is where (at Piazza della Chiesa 14) you'll find the tourist office, which is where you'll meet your group for the 11am tour of the gardens and mansion of the famous Villa Serbelloni. (You must book this one ahead of time at tel. +39-031-951-1555 or +39-031-950-204—and it only departs if at least 6 people sign up; there's a second tour daily at 3:30pm.)

Splash out on lunch in Bellagio at Barchetta (Salita Mella 13; tel. +39-031-951-030,; closed Tues and late Oct–Mar) before moving on down the lake to the town of Como, famous for centuries for its fine silks. You have two choices on how to get there:

  • By bus: The bus from Bellagio to Como ( takes 70 minutes, is more frequent, and costs a bit less.
  • By boat: The far more scenic option is to take a 40-min cruise from Bellagio to Como along the lake's southwestern arm, sliding past elaborate villas surrounded by sumptuous gardens that run all the way down to the water's edge ( You might catch the 2:42pm ferry—which would give you more time in Como—if not, the next (and final) boat to Como leaves at 3:31pm (at 3:27pm on Sundays).

Como (3:25pm–dinner)

An aerial view of Como on Lago di ComoFrom Como's ( cafe-lined lakeside Piazza Cavour and adjacent Giardini Pubblici gardens (containing a neoclassical rotunda called the Tempio Voltano, its clutch of exhibits devoted mainly to electrical pioneer Alessandro Volta; tel. +39-574-705; open 10am–noon and 3–6pm [2–4pm in winter]; closed Mon), make your way to the town's main square, Piazza del Duomo.

The facade of the Como Duomo
The facade of the Como Duomo. (Photo by Sailko)
Piazza del Duomo
is lined by medieval buildings, including the zebra-striped Broletto (Town Hall) and Torre del Comune tower, and by Como's top sight, the Gothic-Renaissance Duomo (Piazza del Duomo, tel. +39-031-265-244; open daily 7:30am–noon and 3–7pm). The cathedral's facade is covered with statues—including, oddly, two most excellent pagans flanking the entrance (ancient hometown heroes, Roman historians Pliny the Elder—who died reporting, on the scene, when Vesuvius blew its top and buried Pompeii—and his nephew Pliny the Younger).

Just south of this, amid the tangle of medieval alleys lined by wood-beamed buildings of shopping drag Corso Vittorio Emanuele II (good for grabbing some silk scarf or tie souvenirs), rises the church of San Fedele (Piazza S. Fedele; open daily 8am–noon and 3:30–7pm), parts of which date back to the 6th century.

Frescoes in the apse of the Basilica di San'Abbondio, Como
Frescoes in the apse of the Basilica di San'Abbondio, Como. (Photo by Sailko)
My favorite Como sight lies in an industrial district southwest of the city center (Como's small, so it's maybe a 15-minute walk from San Fedele).

It's one to which most tourists don't make it but where most Como residents are dying to have their weddings: the gorgeous Romanesque Basilica di Sant'Abbondio church, built in the 11th century and elaborately frescoed inside in the 14th century (Via Sant'Abbondio, the continuation of Via A. Gramsci across Viale Roosevelt, tel. +39- 631-338-8111;; open daily 8am–6pm—in winter to 4:30pm).

In summer especially (and if you skip Sant'Abbondio), you might have time to take a quick trip up the Brunate Funicular (Lungo Lario Trieste, tel. +39-031-303-608, on the northeast end of town; it runs every 15 or 20 minutes from 6am to 10:30pm and the ride up the mountain takes only 7 minutes up for some spectacular lake views, and some nice hikes down from the top (the tourist office has maps).

Though there are plenty of fine restaurants in town, my favorite is the simple home-cooking at the comfy Ristorante Sociale (Via Rodari 6; tel. +39-031-264-042;; closed Tuesday), an inexpensive trattoria with fixed-price meals favored by theater types, the local ladies' auxiliary, and hometown soccer team.

Recommended hotels in Como
Albergo Le Due Corti [€€€]
Hotel Metropole Suisse au Lac [€€]
Albergo del Duca [€€]
» More hotels (Venere, Booking)
You can return to Milan by train in the late evening after dinner—or you can simply spend the night in Como. Many people tack Lake Como onto the final day of their trip to Italy, planning to fly home from Milan airport the next day.

Since it's almost as easy to get to the Milan-Malpensa airport from Como as it is from Milan (in fact, the airport is actually closer to Como), why bother fighting your way back into the big, bad city when you can spend that last night in Italy by the lovely lakeside?

Tips & links

Tours of Lake Como

If you'd prefer to take a day trip of Lake Como from Milan with an expert guide, consider booking one through our partners at

Hotels on Lake Como
How to get around Lake Como

If you don't take a tour or have a rental car, the easiest way is by bus ( or by boat ( Buses are a little cheaper and more frequent, but Lake Como ferries are faster and way, way more scenic—especially since many of those amazing villas with their fabulous gardens are protected behind high walls on the landlubbing side—but from the water, you get a full-on view. Bring binoculars (and hey: you might even see George Clooney!).

How to get to Milan Malpensa airport from Como

If you stayed in Como for the last night of your trip and need to get to the airport, in the morning grab the Ferrovie Nord rail line ( from Como to Saronno, where you transfer (quickly; the layover is about 10 min.) to the Como line. There are about 2–3 trains per hour; total travel time is 60–80 min; it costs around €8.75. Some summers, Autostradale ( offers direct bus between Malpensa and Como by way of Varese; check to see if it's on when you travel.

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