Italy has so much to offer, with both unique cities and staggering natural beauty. In this guide, we’re giving you a bit of both. First up is the city of Milan which offers so much history, arts and culture. You’ll get to explore Milanese city life before travelling to the easily accessible and breathtaking Lake Como.
This is the perfect trip for those looking for a taste of the city, followed by the peaceful tranquility of Lake Como.
Milan is a bustling and lively city with plenty to explore. We recommend you spend at least half a day in the city, riding the trams and seeing the main sights. Firstly, visit Piazza del Duomo and stare in awe at the imposing Duomo di Milano (Milan Cathedral). It’s definitely worth a visit inside to marvel at the impressive interior. And take a trip up onto the rooftop for fantastic views.
Next, be sure to check out the beautiful Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, located next to the cathedral. This shopping and dining arcade is a beautiful example of 19th century Italian architecture. Have a browse in the shops and eat amazing gelato from Amorino. For a real taste of Milan shopping, take a short walk over to Milan’s fashion district, Quadrilatero della moda. Here you’ll find Prada (founded in Milan), Gucci, Versace, Louis Vuitton and many more designer brand stores.
If you wish to spend a little longer in Milan then check out our 48 Hours In Milan: What To Do, See & Eat guide to get the most out of your time in the city.
Travelling From Milan To Lake Como
Milan to Como travel time: 30 minutes – 1 hour.
Milan to Varenna travel time: 1 hour 5 minutes.
It’s easy to travel from Milan to Lake Como via train, with frequent trains heading to and from the city of Como (Como San Giovanni Station) and Varenna (Varenna Esino Station) every day.
Trenitalia Trenord trains from Milan to Como and Varenna depart from either Milano Centrale or the Milano Cadorna station. Make sure you know which station you need to depart from and where to get off so you don’t have a last-minute panic while you’re travelling. Most trains run directly through Como and Varenna so you shouldn’t need to change trains, but always double-check!
If you want to visit other towns and villages around Lake Como, you can use Como or Varenna as your base and then travel via ferry to the other destinations.
Milan to Como travel time: 1 hour.
Italy’s bus company, FlixBus, operates a daily service from Milan to Como which takes approximately an hour, depending on traffic. In summer it can take a little longer due to the number of holidaymakers on the roads. The Flixbus departs from Lampugnano bus station and drops you off in the centre of Como. Again, from here you can catch local buses or take the ferry to other towns on the lake.
Milan to Como travel time: 1 hour.
Travelling from Milan to Como by car is one of the best ways to travel simply because you can go at your own pace and make some scenic stops along the way. This 30-mile drive can easily be done without any stops in about an hour. The best route for driving from Milan to Como is via the A9/E35 motorways. Both of these roads are toll roads, so you’ll need to get tickets from the toll booths and pay later at the pay booths. You can pay with Euros or a credit card.
If you do wish to stop along the way, Spina Verde Park offers great views over Lake Como with hiking trails and it’s also home to Baradello Castle, which dates back to the 12th century.
It’s important to bare in mind that Lake Como operates an urban traffic restriction (Zona a Traffico Limitato). This means that cars are restricted from driving through large parts of the city unless you are a local resident. It is best to check before you travel to see if your hotel offers parking, in which case you should be fine. You can also travel between some of Lake Como’s towns using car ferries.
Getting around Lake Como
By ferry & boat
The best and most scenic way to travel around the towns and villages of Lake Como is by ferry or boat. The ferries regular and reliable, making it an easy and stress-free way to travel around the lake.
There are three types of public ferries/boats that operate on Lake Como:
- Slow boat (battello): Perfect for leisurely travellers wanting to enjoy the scenery and take photos.
- Fast service by hydrofoil (aliscafo): For when you want to reach your next destination as quickly as possible.
- Car ferry (traghetto): Operating in the central lake area, between Bellagio, Varenna, Menaggio, and Cadenabbia. It also takes pedestrian passengers.
Bus services operate all around Lake Como and although the services are reliable, it is a slower and less scenic way to travel. It is one of the cheapest ways to travel around the lake though.
Provided that you plan in advance, then taking a car around Lake Como can be a great option. You’ll be able to travel at your own pace, with plenty of scenic stops along the way. Just make sure that you are aware of Como’s urban traffic restriction, mentioned above and ensure that your hotels have a parking space for you.
There are several taxi companies that operate around the Lake Como area. Taxis are the most expensive but quickest way to travel. You’ll be able to find taxi services at public transport hubs including bus and train stations.
Where to stay in Lake Como
We recommend spending 3-4 days exploring Lake Como, beginning in the city of Como and travelling on to Bellagio, Varenna and Menaggio.
Como is the largest city in Lake Como and there is plenty to see and do here. There are lots of historical sites such as Duomo di Como (Como Cathedral), and the Basilica of Saint Abundius. Como also has a funicular that you can ride to the top of to reach Brunate, where you’ll have stunning views over Lake Como. Como also has lots of amazing restaurants, bars and even nightclubs. In fact, out of everywhere in Lake Como, it has the best nightlife.
You can also easily visit Cernobbio from Como. The ferry takes less than 13 minutes and is somewhat of a hidden gem on Lake Como. It’s a nice picturesque place to visit and take in views of the lake. George Clooney even has a villa near the village.
Where to eat in Como?
- Ristorante Sottovoce combines spectacular fine dining with stunning views over Lake Como.
- Rivenoteca has a cosy and welcoming vibe, with lovely Lombardian food and great wines.
- Mystic Burger is an upscale burger restaurant serving creative burger concoctions alongside wings and skewers. There are plenty of great vegan and vegetarian burgers too.
Where to stay in Como?
- $$$ – Suites & Atelier Lake Como
- $$ – Hilton Lake Como
- $ – B&B La Darsena
Travel time: The ferry from Como to Bellagio takes 40 to 50 minutes.
It’s no wonder The Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas, United States, named itself after this Lake Como village. Known as the Pearl of Lake Como, Bellagio is one of the most beautiful villages in Europe and has plenty of sightseeing opportunities too. The Giardini di Villa Melzi is a wonderful lakeside botanical garden with amazing views of the lake and the nearby mountains. Additionally, the Basilica of St. Giacomo is a great example of Roman architecture in a picturesque square.
It’s also worth walking further along from the church to the Punta Spartivento for even more amazing views over the lake. Bellagio is also filled with mind-blowing villas which house art and have beautiful gardens to wander around.
Where to eat in Bellagio?
- The B-Lake Restaurant Bellagio serves delicious food in a unique setting.
- Babayaga has a lovely shaded terrace, with lovely food including pasta, pizza, burgers and freshwater fish.
- Bistrot Antichi Sapori is another fantastic spot to indulge in pizza, pasta and impressive burgers.
Where to stay in Bellagio?
- $$$ – Borgo le Terrazze
- $$ – Hotel Belvedere
- $ Agriturismo La Derta
Travel time: The ferry from Bellagio to Varenna takes 15 minutes.
Varenna is a charming village and is the perfect place to stay for a romantic stay as it is extremely picturesque and you can stay close to the water. The former fishing village has a beautiful boardwalk to stroll along and enjoy the tranquility of the water. Sights to see include the Church of St. John the Baptist, Castello di Vezio, Villa Monastero and Villa Carlotta.
Where to eat in Varenna?
- Al Prato Restaurant offers spectacular food and it is well worth booking a table in advance so you don’t miss out on this dining experience.
- Osteria Quatro Pass serves creative Italian dishes including pasta, seafood and freshwater fish within their lovely setting surrounded by stone walls & vaulted ceilings.
- Il Cavatappi does great antipasti, pasta and regional dishes in a laid-back, cute alley setting.
Where to stay in Varenna?
- $$$ – Hotel Villa Cipressi
- $$ – Hotel du lac
- $ – Michelangelo B&B
Travel time: The ferry from Varenna to Menaggio takes 15 minutes.
Our final stop on Lake Como is the town of Menaggio. Located near the centre of the lake, it’s well connected for reaching all parts of the lake, with excellent ferry links. The ancient town of Menaggio is well known for its elegant lake promenade and is a lovely spot for a relaxing and scenic walk. Menaggio’s old town is a fascinating place to explore and take in beautiful, colourful buildings.
The Church of Santa Marta is steeped in history with a medieval holy water font at the entrance to the church. The interior walls are adorned with precious paintings dating back to the 17th century. Menaggio is also a great place to rent a boat and take to the lake for yourself.
Where to eat in Menaggio?
- Il Ristorante Di Paolo is a lovely lakeside restaurant with food that matches its luxurious setting.
- Pizzeria Lugano does brilliant pizzas and has great wines too.
- Diverso Bracery is a lovely upscale restaurant with great meat and steak among Italian dishes.
Where to stay in Menaggio?
- $$$ – Grand Hotel Victoria concept & spa
- $$ – Grand Hotel Menaggio
- $ – Hotel Riviera
Taking the trip from Milan to Lake Como is such a great way to get more out of your holiday. With a number of options for travelling from Milan to Lake Como it’s easy to see why so many people do it. So, whether you decide to get the train, a bus or rent a car you can take in all the best sights of Milan and Lake Como for a memorable Italian adventure.
If you’re after more Italian holiday guides then be sure to check out our 48 Hours In Venice: What To Do, See & Eat guide or The Ultimate Naples & Amalfi Coast 5 Day Itinerary.