Lake Como: to Visit or Not? My In-Depth Guide

Nadia Podrabinek Nadia Podrabinek

Written by Nadia Podrabinek

Is Lake Como Worth Visiting?

Lake Como is one of the most beautiful lakes in northern Italy. The views are not only confined to the lake – the surroundings are just as stunning. The mountains, sunsets, villas, and small towns provide a perfect escape from Milan or any other big city.

It is absolutely worth visiting!

If you love nature, beauty, and harmony in all its manifestations, this is the right place to relish in them. I feel a bit envious of the people who live there (or were able to buy a vacation villa).

Key takeaways

  • Lake Como is heaven on Earth – absolutely breathtaking.
  • Take boat tours, explore villas, eat, chill, repeat.
  • The ferries are the best way to get around.
  • Bellagio is a crowded tourism center of Lake Como, with souvenir stores, etc.
  • Varenna is the main town in the area, and you can take a ferry boat ride to almost any point of interest from there.

I have visited this destination three times now and enjoy being there more each time. So here is my list of things to do in Lake Como to make the most of your trip.

Where is Lake Como and how to get there

You will find the lake 32 miles (52 km) to the north of Milan, Lombardy, on the Italian border with Switzerland.

There are two ways to get to Lake Como from Milan:

  • By car: With several highways leading to Lake Como, many travel guides say it is the easiest way, but I disagree. Expect to spend at least an hour-and-a-half on the road to Varenna, which can be pretty busy during the Summer.
  • By train: This is the best way to get to Lake Como, in my opinion. Hop on the hourly train at Milano Centrale and enjoy a hassle-free ride for roughly an hour. The train operator is Trenord. Do not forget to take the train to Varenna Esino station, not Como Borghi (mistaken by many as Lake Como’s central station).
  • I would not recommend going by bus as it is not a very reliable mode of public transportation in the area. 
Read also: Is Lake Garda worth visiting?

Why Como is worth visiting

It is one of the most beautiful corners of the Earth! If you are ever in the Milan area and have a few extra days to kill – I beg you, please come see this lake.

One thing to know about Lake Como is that it is massive, and it has numerous villages and small towns along its coast.

The main town is Varenna, the best starting point. From there, you can quickly get around Lake Como (either by ferry or car).

While there is no doubt that Lake Como is a gorgeous destination, here are 13 more reasons why it is worth your time:

  1. The stunning mountain backdrop, crystal-clear waters, and picturesque coastal settlements. Expect to take volumes of Instagram-worthy photos.
  2. Lake Como is a tranquil and peaceful location to relax and absorb the beauty of northern Italy.
  3. There are lots of things to do, from hiking and boating, to shopping and exploring villas and gardens.
  4. The lake has a long and rich history dating back to the last Ice Age (around 10,000 years ago). Go to Spina Verde Park to see the ruins of a proto-historic settlement, then continue with Porta Torre and the tower of Castello Baradello in the town of Como.
  5. Try to get a peek at the beautiful villas that famous people bought here, e.g., George Clooney, Madonna, Donatella Versace, and Richard Branson. It is the intriguing part of the trip – trying to guess whose villa it is.
  1. It is not that expensive to visit Lake Como. Expect to pay $6-$9 for the train ride from Milan and $10 for the ferry (or $23 for a 1-day circulation ticket). There are many affordable Airbnb apartments as well (at least in Varenna).
  2. Walk down the streets of Bellagio, Menaggio, or any other town on the lake early in the morning.
  3. Italian cuisine is so good: Pasta, pizza, and anything else that comes along. The restaurants in the Lake Como area are no exception.
  4. It is perfect for group travel as well.
  5. The Bellini cocktail at Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni terrace is delightful. It is worth going out of your way to try it there! Otherwise, you might be disappointed with the dull taste of this cocktail in any other establishment.
  6. The Balcony of Italy (Balcone D’Italia). This is not an actual balcony; it is a mountain where you can take in amazing views, very close to Switzerland. This is so wonderful! If you can make this part of your itinerary while in Lake Como, do it!
  7. Boat trips. Rent a boat when you are in Lake Como! Ultimately, it may be the most memorable thing while you are there.
  8. Once again, I urge you to come and enjoy the serene beauty of Lake Como.

Helpful tip I would not recommend going to Lake Como in July and August (which also applies to all of southern Europe). The best time to visit is April-May, September, or the first half of October. 

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What to do

I picked up these activities to enjoy your travel while you are in Lake Como area:

  1. Walk to one of the many pebble beaches, sit down and enjoy the views.
  2. Take a moment to walk down the streets of Varenna. It is everything that is good about Lake Como; check it out.
  3. If you decide to stay in Varenna overnight, have breakfast at Bar Nilus. I fell in love with Italian breakfasts there – ham, cheese, bread, pastry, and coffee.
  4. Take a ferry boat ride. The ferries are the best way to get around Lake Como; they are affordable and an activity unto themselves. Here is the official website for booking ferries.
  5. Go to Menaggio village and grab some gelato (Italian ice cream).
  6. Walk a beautiful hiking trail to San Martino church – a lovely spot off the beaten paths. You may want to spend a couple of hours absorbing the beauty of the view and the surroundings.
  1. Hop on a ferry to Bellagio, a tourism center of the area. You will definitely enjoy its streets, villas, and restaurants as long as it is not the peak season.
  2. Rent a small boat and take a spin around the area. This adventure could be the most memorable experience you have!
  3. Walk through the streets of any village or town. Early in the morning is the best time for this kind of stroll.
  4. See Varenna, Menaggio, and Bellagio and decide which village you liked the most.
  5. Explore the many little shops in Bellagio.
  6. See the Cemetery of the Borgo, Villa Melzi, and the Castle in Bellagio.
  7. In Menaggio, hike up to the old World War II trenches, see the churches, and wander around the city.
  8. Visit Spina Verde for aesthetically-pleasing views of the town of Como in an invigorating environmental setting.
  9. Rent a house or apartment with a view.
  10. See Orrido di Bellano, a 15 million-year-old gorge with a waterfall and turquoise water. You will find it in Bellano, a small town on the eastern shore.
  11. Hike up to the Castello di Vezio, near Varenna.
  12. See an 18th-century Villa Carlotta in Tremezzo.
  13. There are several good restaurants in Lake Como, such as Ristorante La Baita (Menaggio), Ristorante Mistral or Trattoria San Giacomo (Bellagio), and La Veranda dei Pescatori (Varenna).
  14. Visit some hidden gems in Lake Como: Consonno (a ghost town), Corenno Plinio (a small, paid-entry hamlet at Lake Como’s northern peak, known for its medieval reenactments), Resinelli (a popular mountain destination for locals offering stunning lake panoramas).

Did you know? In 49 BC Julius Caesar discovered Como and populated it with several thousand colonists, naming it lake Larius.

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Where to stay in Lake Como

There are many beautiful towns scattered around Lake Como, and the good news is that you can easily visit them by boat or water taxi. The bad news is that you still have to decide where to stay 😀

Here are my suggestions:

  • Bellagio (beautiful town, good food and shops, but more expensive than other towns)
  • Menaggio (cheaper)
  • Varenna (has the castle with a beautiful view)
  • Lecco
  • Orrido di Bellano

As for hotels, I recommend the following stays:


Generally, the weather in Lake Como is mild, with colder temperatures during the Winter. It also can be pretty unpredictable in the Summer, so remember to pack clothes for every situation just in case.

If you want to enjoy the peace and quiet of the surroundings, Spring or Autumn are ideal for the trip. Even if it gets gloomy and rainy, Lake Como is still fantastic.

If you want to enjoy the beaches and lakeside towns, Summer is the best time to go.

Weather averages: Spring 54°–68°F (12°–20°C), Summer 73°–77°F (23°-25°C), Autumn 52°–68°F (11°-20°C), Winter 37°-48°F (3°-9°C).

Some negatives to expect at Lake Como

No place on Earth is perfect, so Lake Como has a few negatives to expect while there.

  • The weather can be quite unpredictable, so be prepared for rain or colder temperatures, even in the Summer.
  • The roads leading to the lake can be quite busy during the Summer, and parking can also be complicated.
  • Bellagio is very busy in the Summer.
  • Renting a large and nice boat is extremely expensive; go by ferry or rent a small one if you are on a budget.
  • Everything is a bit expensive. Think of it as a “luxury tax.”
  • It is almost impossible to reserve a table in any restaurant. That just is not the custom in Lake Como.

What people say on Reddit

Como is very busy. It’s beautiful, but I recommend seeing the other lakes in the area, especially Iseo, which we like even more. They have a ferry to a beautiful inhabited island that has an amazing hike up to an old monastery on a mountain with panoramic views of the lakes.


I’ve been in Lake Como last weekend and in my humble opinion Bellagio is skippable. No doubt it’s very beautiful but it’s also insanely crowded, expensive and the line to the ferry from Bellagio is super long. On the other hand, cannot recommend the town we’ve been staying in — Argegno — enough. Such a cute town but not crowded at all, very affordable restaurants and convenient connections both by road and ferry to other places around the lake.


These are all small towns which cater to tourists and you can expect to pay a lot and not see much. I love Como, nice shops, a pretty town and there are nice restaurants. However Lake Garda caters more to low budget and the towns are equally nice.


I live by Lake Como – October is a great month to visit. You will avoid the tourist frenzy and the summer heat and get a more authentic taste of those cities. Also, foliage! If you plan on sightseeing, hiking or visiting villas, you’ll get quite the spectacle. The mountains are absolutely stunning in autumn. I absolutely recommend it, though night life could be quite plain.



How many days do you need in Lake Como?

You will need 2-4 days to enjoy Lake Como and its surroundings. Regardless of the length of your stay, you are likely to leave a few places to visit for next time. Remember, every town around Lake Como is tiny, so it is better not to plan on staying in one specific spot on the coast.

What is the best month to visit Lake Como?

The best months to visit Lake Como are May and September. April and October are also quite good. The Summer months, on the other hand, tend to be crowded.

Which is better to visit, Lake Como or Lake Garda?

I recommend visiting both. They are absolutely amazing lakes. However, Lake Como is more popular, well-known, and therefore crowded. Here is my guide on Lake Garda.

Lake Como vs Amalfi coast? I cannot decide

I cannot decide either, sorry. Italy is awash in beauty. But now I know what my next post will be about. I will let you decide between Lake Como and the Amalfi coast.

Is Lake Como expensive?

No, visiting Lake Como doesn’t necessarily have to break the bank. It always surprises me to see so many people willing to shell out just for a stay by the lake, while the locals are often erroneously assumed to be wealthy. Despite the presence of luxurious villas, many lakeside areas are inhabited by families with moderate to low income. So, don’t let financial constraints discourage you from visiting, just be wary of tourist traps that could inflate costs.

Final thoughts

Once you are in Lake Como, it is easy to feel like a character in a romantic movie, or a wealthy and successful person. Or just happy that you are privileged to see this beauty and breathe this heavenly air. Choose whichever option you like as your inspiration, and leave your comments below. What do you think of Lake Como? Is it worth the trip?

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12 replies on “Lake Como: to Visit or Not? My In-Depth Guide”

We are having a hard time deciding between Lake Como and Belligio? Out TA is recommending us to stay in Lake Como, more to do easier access. But we are not sure we want to stay in a city? We love the look and feel of Belligio? Suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Hi Natalie. I would say, the choice between Lake Como and Bellagio depends on what you’re looking for in your trip. If you prefer a smaller, more romantic and peaceful setting, Bellagio might be your choice. If you want a broader range of activities and the opportunity to explore multiple towns and attractions, then Lake Como as a whole might be a better fit. Many visitors to the region choose to do both, spending time in Bellagio and then exploring other parts of Lake Como. Hope that helps. 🙂

Thank you Nadia that is super helpful. I want to try and have a swim whilst we are there for the day so may do one of your suggestions of the waterfall (Orrido di Bellano) or just park up in a lovely restaurant by the lake and have a dip that way. And I’m definitely making time for a Bellini cocktail!!
I’ll let you know how I get on lol!!

Hi Nadia
Great information thank you it was very useful. We are visiting Milan, Florence then onto Naples in July where we will finally stop for a week in Sorrento to do the Amalfi coast and Capri.
I have planned a day trip to Lake Como or Lake Garda from Milan. Do you think that will be enough as we have 4 days in Milan. Should I drive or find another way because if we drive we can move around a bit more and maybe have a couple of hours at the beach there. Apart from a ferry ride to see the amazing landscapes and a dip in the lake I hadn’t planned anything else. So my question is really 1) what do you think is my best form of transport and 2) what should I do for my one day? Thanks 😊 Mickey

Hi Mickey,

Glad to hear that you found the information on the blog useful, and your trip sounds fantastic!

As for your day trip from Milan, both Lake Como and Lake Garda are truly enchanting. If you prefer a more intimate atmosphere, go for Lake Como. If you want to see larger towns, then Lake Garda could be the better choice.

If you have a comfortable vehicle and don’t mind driving in Italy, that could give you the most flexibility to explore and move around. However, Italian roads around the lakes can be narrow and winding. Also, parking can sometimes be challenging.

As for public transportation… trains from Milan to Lake Como (to Varenna) take around 40 minutes, and from there you can catch a ferry to other towns on the lake. Trains to Desenzano del Garda (Lake Garda) take about 1.5 hours. The ferry systems on both lakes are reliable and provide a beautiful way to see the sights.

For your one-day itinerary, I’d recommend taking a leisurely ferry ride. You could also visit a charming lakeside village. On Lake Como, consider Bellagio. If you decide on Lake Garda, Sirmione is a popular choice, with its beautiful castle and thermal baths.

I hope this helps! Safe travels!


Hi, Angela!

You can stay any town in Bellagio (more expensive), Menaggio (cheaper), Varenna, Tremezzo, Lecco, or Orrido di Bellano (smaller town).

Anyways, visiting these towns by boat or water taxi is easy so in 5 days you will definitely see all of them (if you like)

Also, since you are going to spend almost a week on Lake Como, you might want to think about renting a car. Public transportation doesn’t provide access to all areas around the lake.

Hi! What was the villa you stayed at in Bellagio? It looks stunning! Do you recommend staying in Bellagio or Varenna?

Hi, Whitney. I stayed at Il Poggio de Bellagio. Bellagio has more choices of beautiful villas and hotels, with incredible views…so I would stay there, definitely

Hi Nadia,
Where would you recommend staying in the Lake Como area?

We are coming for 2 weeks and are planning for Milan, Florence, Rome and The amalfi coast. Any suggestions

What a great trip awaits you!

If you plan a trip soon, please note that the ferries on Lake Como operate in winter with limitations. So, to move around the lake between towns, you can only use the ferries (if you are not by car). The same goes for visiting villas. And the villas are also closed for the winter. If you have plans to see them, be sure to check the operating hours.

Stay in Bellagio, you have probably heard about it, it’s a small town, but very cozy, you can see it in half a day.

In Bellagio there is a boat station, from there you can take a ride on the most picturesque riverbed, and visit the most beautiful villas in the city.

You can also stay in the town of Menaggio, less popular than Bellagio but still lovely. There is a ferry station for the convenience of traveling along the river.

If you come from Milan, you can take the train to Varena and take the ferry to other towns.

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