Julie Italy 66 Comments

Lake Como is a wishbone-shaped lake nestled in the foothills of the Alps. This is where the rich and famous vacation in luxurious villas and visitors flock to the colorful lakeside towns. It is one of Italy’s most scenic destinations and easily visited from Milan and Lugano, Switzerland. If you are planning a day trip to Lake Como, we have a lot of travel tips to share with you.

Orientation to Lake Como

Lake Como is shaped like an inverted letter Y.

Clustered in the middle of Lake Como are Bellagio, Varenna, and Menaggio, not to mention a handful of stunning villas. Spend the day wandering picturesque streets, cruising past opulent villas, strolling through botanical gardens, shopping, and dining at cafes with beautiful views of the lake. If you plan to day trip to Lake Como, this is the most scenic part of the lake to visit.

The town of Como is located at the southwestern arm of the lake. This is a small city that is growing in popularity with visitors to Italy. It serves as a great transportation hub if you are traveling to Lake Como from Milan.

How to Get to Lake Como

Lake Como is located in northern Italy, not far from the border with Switzerland. From Milan, Italy and Lugano, Switzerland it’s very easy to take a day trip to Lake Como.

When planning your day trip to Lake Como, you first have to decide where you want to go. Lake Como is big and with only one day you will not have enough time to see all of it.

The “golden triangle” of Bellagio, Varenna, and Menaggio, along with the villas that dot the shore here, are the best part of Lake Como to visit on a day trip, in our opinion. It’s the perfect combination of beautiful villas, picturesque towns, and mountain scenery.

The town of Como is growing in popularity. This is a much larger town than Bellagio and Varenna, and it will lack some of the charm, but it’s very easy to get to from Milan and makes a nice option if you don’t have a full day to spend on Lake Como.

Bellagio Buildings


How to Get to Lake Como from Milan

By Train to Bellagio

Bellagio does not have a train station. To get to Bellagio by train, you will have to take a train to Varenna or Como and transfer to Bellagio by ferry.

By Train to Varenna

Trains leave from Milano Centrale and arrive at Varenna-Esino in 1 hour and 3 minutes. This is a direct train with no transfers.

By Train to Como

Trains leave Milano Centrale and arrive at Como San Giovanni in 38 minutes. Some trains have a transfer and a longer travel time.

To check train schedules and prices, and to book your tickets, you can use italiarail.com (easy to use but there is a small booking fee, €5) or Trenitalia.com (the main website for booking train tickets; the website is in English but you will have to input Italian names of the towns, which in this case, are the same as English spellings; no extra booking fee).

If you know your exact dates of travel, you can book your train tickets in advance. For more flexibility, purchase your ticket at the train station before you board the train.

Como to Varenna and Bellagio by Boat

From Como, you can take a slow boat (batallo) or a fast boat (hydrofoil) to get to Varenna and Bellagio.

The hydrofoil takes 45 minutes to one hour to travel from Como to Bellagio and/or Varenna. 

The slow boat takes up to two to three hours to travel from Como to Bellagio and/or Varenna. 

Click here for the official Lake Como ferry website and for updated prices.

Como to Bellagio by Bus

You can also take a bus from Como to Bellagio (1 hour and 10 minutes).

By Car to Lake Como

Milan to Bellagio: 75 km, 1.5 hours. Parking is very limited and traffic congestion is common. If you have a car, get here early or park in Varenna or Como and use the ferry to get around. Click here for information on where to park in Bellagio.

Milan to Varenna: 80 km, 1.5 hours. Park in the parking garage near Villa Monastero (called Parcheggio Multipiano on Google Maps).

Milan to Como: 50 km, 1 hour.

How to Get to Lake Como from Lugano

From Lugano, you will first travel to Menaggio. Once in Menaggio you will take the ferry to Bellagio and Varenna.

By Bus

It takes one hour by bus to travel from Lugano to Menaggio. From Menaggio you will take a ferry to Bellagio.

Click here for the bus schedule.

By Car

If you have a car, it takes 40 minutes to drive between Lugano and Menaggio. In Menaggio, we parked at Parcheggio gratuito via IV Novembre 102, a small, free parking lot located just south of the ferry terminal. Here are the GPS coordinates: 46.014950, 9.237051. There are only a handful of spots so get here early.

There is no parking at the ferry terminal.



How to Get Around Lake Como

The ferry is the best way to get between Menaggio, Bellagio, and Varenna. Ferries are very frequent, arriving in each town at least once an hour, with more ferries at peak times. To get between each town, it is a 15-minute ride.

You can purchase your tickets online in advance or at the ferry terminal. Purchasing your tickets online in advance saves you a wait in the ticket line. Click here for the ferry timetables, pricing, and to purchase your tickets in advance.

Lake Como Ferry day trip to Lake Como

Lake Como ferry at the Bellagio dock | How to day trip to Lake Como

Our Recommendation

From Milan

If you are planning a day trip to Lake Como from Milan, I recommend taking the train to Varenna. From Varenna, use the ferry to travel to Bellagio. To get back to Milan, either take a return train from Varenna or cruise to Como on the hydrofoil and take the train to Milan.

From Lugano

If you do not have a car, take the bus to Menaggio and use the ferry to get to Bellagio and Varenna.

If you have a car, get to Menaggio early (by 8 am) to get a parking space near the ferry terminal. Then, use the ferry to get to Bellagio and Varenna.

Day Trip to Lake Como

The view of Bellagio from the ferry.

One Day on Lake Como

If you only have one day on Lake Como, I recommend spending your time in Varenna and Bellagio. You also have the option to take a scenic boat cruise past the villas or tour one of the villas on the Lake.

I have seen other Lake Como itineraries that include Bellagio, Varenna, and Como, but this makes for an extremely long and busy day. You can do it, but in my opinion, it will be a much better experience to spend your time in Varenna and Bellagio, without also adding on Como to your day.

Here is our recommended Lake Como one day itinerary. You will visit Bellagio, Varenna, and cruise past numerous villas. This is how we spent our time on Lake Como and it was a wonderful day.


Start your day in Bellagio. If you can get here early, before 9 am, you will be able to wander the streets without crowds of people. Go shopping, visit the Basilica of San Giacomo, stroll through Melzi Gardens, and spend some time in the lovely fishing village, Pescallo. Have lunch at an outdoor café.

For more information on Bellagio, don’t miss our article 8 Amazing Things to do in Bellagio.

Bellagio Italy

Melzi Gardens day trip to Lake Como

Melzi Gardens


Pescallo Italy

Pescallo (drone photo)

Cruise Lake Como

One of our favorite experiences of the day was cruising past the villas that line the lakeside. We booked a 1-hour lake tour through Lido de Bellagio. It cost us €140, but it was a private tour and we could customize where we went.

You can also book a private taxi to take you around the lake, but from my research, a one-hour tour started at €200.

Villa del Balbianello

Villa del Balbianello


Lake Como Villa day trip to Lake Como

Villa la Cassinella


From Bellagio, take the ferry to Varenna. Spend the afternoon exploring Varenna.

Varenna is small town, even smaller than Bellagio, so you can walk through it in an hour, if you move fast.

The harbor is very pretty and is lined with outdoor cafes and gelato shops. There are several small but crowded beaches located along Varenna’s waterfront. Walk uphill to Piazza San Giorgio to see Chiesa di San Giorgio, and as you walk back towards the ferry station, you will have very nice views down the narrow hilly streets to the harbor.

Varenna Italy

Varenna | How to day trip to Lake Como


Best things to do in Lake Como

Varenna Lake Como

Varenna Beach day trip to Lake Como

Varenna Piazza day trip to Lake Como

Sitting atop a prominence high over Varenna is Castello de Vezio, an ancient, ruined castle. To get here, it’s a long, uphill walk. There is a small entrance fee and the castle is open from 10 am to 6 pm. We passed on this but I imagine that the views from the castle are stunning.

Our visit to Bellagio, Varenna, and the lake cruise took one full day. If you want to add on Como, you will either have to move very fast through these towns or consider taking out either the boat tour or Varenna.

Italy Travel Guide

When to Visit Lake Como

The peak tourist season starts in June and ends in early September. Expect large crowds, full ferries, and busy restaurants. The weather is warm and generally sunny, so it is a very nice time to visit Lake Como. You just need to be prepared to share the experience with many other travelers.

Spring and fall are the shoulder seasons. Temperatures will be cooler and rain is more likely to make an appearance, but crowds will be a lot lower.

From late fall to early spring, Lake Como is chilly and ferries run less frequently, which can make getting around more difficult.

Guided Tours of Lake Como

If you prefer to day trip to Lake Como on a guided tour, here are several highly rated options to consider.

Powered by GetYourGuide


If you have any questions about planning a day trip to Lake Como, comment below!

More Information about Italy & Switzerland

BELLAGIO: Plan your perfect visit with our article Best Things to Do in Bellagio.

LAKE GARDA: Get started with our article Best Things to Do in Lake Garda. Learn how to plan your time with our Lake Garda Itinerary. We also have information about things to do in Sirmione and Riva del Garda.

ITALY ITINERARIES: If you are just beginning to plan your Italy itinerary, take a look at our 10 Days in Italy Itinerary for five different ways to spend 10 days in Italy. We also have a detailed 10 day itinerary that includes Lake Como, Milan, Verona, the Dolomites, and Venice. For those with more time, check out our 14 day Italy itinerary, which covers the highlights of Italy.

CINQUE TERRE: One of the best experiences in the Cinque Terre is to hike between all five towns. If you are traveling on a budget, get our money saving tips for the Cinque Terre.

PISA: Learn how to visit the Leaning Tower of Pisa while traveling from Florence to the Cinque Terre and how to combine Lucca and Pisa in one day trip from Florence.

LUGANO, SWITZERLAND: For more information about Lugano, read our article about the Best Things to Do in Lugano. We also have a guide to the best day trips from Lugano.

TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY: For more information about the camera gear we carry, check out our Travel Photography Gear Guide.


We have TONS more information about Italy in our Italy Travel Guide, including Rome, Florence, Venice, Tuscany, the Dolomites, the Amalfi Coast, Puglia, and the Cinque Terre.



Lake Como Bellagio Day Trip from Milan


Note: This post contains affiliate links. When you make a purchase using one of these affiliate links, we get paid a small commission at no extra cost to you.

All rights reserved © Earth Trekkers. Republishing this article and/or any of its contents (text, photography, etc.), in whole or in part, is strictly prohibited.

Comments 66

  1. Avatar for Bonnie

    Hi Julie,
    Thanks for your willingness to share advice and recommendations. I am booking a day to Como for my husband and I. Our plan is to take an early 7:30ish train to Varenna and ferry over to Bellagio…then I am stuck with whether we should get to Como and explore some there or take an hour or 2 boat tour and end in Varenna. We like the idea of spending some time on the water because we won’t have any boat time the rest of our trip, but wasn’t sure if booking 2 hours is enough? Too long? We’d like to see some of the villas from the water, possibly jump in the water. I think if we book a private tour, we could start at one place and get dropped off somewhere else…just not sure if we should choose either going down to Como and skipping boat tour of lake and if we are missing out if we don’t actually stop and tour one of the villas…I think we could at least go through the gardens of the villa in Varenna (Monastero). Any help/guidance is greatly appreciated…lastly if we do the private boat…any things to make sure to include? Is it possible to go around most of the lake in 2 hours? Company recommendations? Things to consider?
    Thanks again.

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      Hello Bonnie. It took us the entire day to visit Bellagio and Varenna and take a boat tour of the villas and it was a fantastic experience. We skipped Como and I don’t feel like I missed out on anything by not visiting it. From my research and what I have seen online, Como is nice but Bellagio, Varenna, and even Mennagio are more interesting and are better places to put your time. 2 hours by boat is not enough time to see all of Lake Como since it is a very large lake. With 2 hours from Bellagio on a private boat you will have enough time to visit the central part of the lake and visit a villa if you like. In this post I list the company we used. We had a great experience with them. And touring the inside of a villa is a matter of personal preference and worthwhile if it is important to you. I hope this helps and have a great time on your trip! Cheers, Julie

      1. Avatar for Bonnie
  2. Avatar for Eema Doda
    Eema Doda

    Hi. Hoping you can once again do your magic… We would like to do a day trip by car from Milan and visit either Villa del Balbianello or Villa Carlotta. Where would be the best place to drive to and then how would we continue our route to reach those destinations? Time permitting where else would you recommend we visit that does not involve eating or shopping? Thanks again!

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      From Milan, it looks like you can drive right to these villas, just check their websites to see if they offer parking. It’s worth taking the ferry over to Bellagio. We parked in Menaggio (I have info on where we parked in this post) and took the ferry over but there is a chance you can also do so from Griante, I’m just not sure how parking or the ferry schedules work from this town. I don’t think you will also have time to get to Varenna and get back to Milan, so a villa plus Bellagio would be a very nice day. Cheers, Julie

  3. Avatar for Malak

    Dear Julie ,
    Thank s a lot for your comprehensive article .. However; as I am planning to visit Lake como in 12/11 .. I was looking for the ferrys time table in the website : Navigazione and I couldnt find any related times for both Varenna and Bellagio. Do you think timetable will be updated once we get close to this date ? and I understand the November is a bit cold and there will be a limited depature points from como .. but do you have any information regarding that ?


    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      Since that is the off season, the ferry schedule will probably change from what it is right now, so I think the only thing you can do is wait for the winter ferry schedule to be released. If you already have a hotel booked, you could try reaching out to them for some assistance, as well. Cheers, Julie

  4. Avatar for Kans

    Hi, Thanks for great article. Is it possible to cover Varenna, Bellagio and Mennagio on a day trip from Milan.
    I was thinking train from Milan to Varenna and then ferry to Bellagio as you suggested- then ferry again from Bellagio to Mennagio and return to Varenna for train back to Milan? Would this be too hectic and too much for a day and possible?

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      It’s possible but it would make for a long, busy day. We didn’t see a whole lot to do in Menaggio so you could concentrate on Varenna and Bellagio, which would save you some time. If it were me, I’d train to Varenna, ferry to Bellagio, see Bellagio, ferry to Varenna, spend whatever time you have left in Varenna, and then train to Milan. Cheers, Julie

      1. Avatar for Anna

        Hello! First of all, I found your article very useful, thank you very much! Could you please let me know how did you book the one hour private lake tour mentioned in your article? Thank you!!! Anna

        1. Avatar for Julie Post

          Hello Anna. We booked it right there at their location at Lido de Bellagio and had to wait about 30 minutes for the boat to become available. This was at the end of June in 2019 so I don’t know how much crowds have changed since then. It seems as if Italy has gotten a bump in tourism traffic so you may not be able to book it at the last minute, like we did, if you are in Italy during peak season (end of June through mid-September). But in this article we have a link so you can make a booking in advance (it goes right to their official website). Cheers, Julie

  5. Avatar for Georgeann Lewis
    Georgeann Lewis

    Hi Julie,

    I find your blogs very informative and am exploring Cinque Terre and Florence as we are spending some time there as well. Lake Como begins are adventures. Would you know, during the boat tours are there any that offer the opportunity to fish? We will be doing a day trip option from Milan. Also, any favorite lunch spots.

    Thanks in advance,

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      Hello Georgeann. On the boat tour that we took, it was just one hour, which was just enough time to see the villas, so you wouldn’t also be able to go fishing, not unless you book a longer boat tour and bring your own fishing gear. We had lunch in Varenna, dining in a small seaside cafe that had an open table. I don’t recall its name. You could use TripAdvisor or Google maps for restaurant recommendations, whether you will be in Varenna or Bellagio. Have a great time in Italy! Cheers, Julie

  6. Avatar for Colette Woods
    Colette Woods

    Hi Julie, I’m will be staying by Milan central station and looking to have a day trip to Varenna, Bellagio and Como on 24/8 with my son. We only have the day and wanted to ask you which would be the best route. Is it better to go to Varenna first by train then get the ferry to Bellagio and bus to Como. Would I then need to go back to Varenna to get the train to Milan . Also can I buy the tickets on the day or is it better to pre book. Thanks

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      There are a few ways to do this. You can take a train from Como to Varenna, see Varenna, ferry to Bellagio, see Bellagio, bus to Como, train from Como to Milan (no need to go through Varenna). Another option would be to do that same thing in reverse. And finally, you could train to Varenna, ferry to Bellagio, ferry back to Varenna, train to Milan. I would do the third option. There are direct trains between Varenna and Milan that take an hour, no connections. I think this would be faster than taking the bus, even accounting for the extra ferry ride to Varenna. As far as booking your train tickets in advance, these are regional trains, so you don’t have to. Not booking a train ticket leaves your schedule open but there is a chance that the train could be full. I don’t know how likely that is, and I’m a Type A planner, so I’d probably make my reservation in advance. A one-way train ticket is about $8 USD, so if you had to change your train time at the last minute you wouldn’t lose much money. Cheers, Julie

      1. Avatar for Colette Woods
  7. Avatar for ELaine Dennard
    ELaine Dennard

    We are staying in laveno on lake maggorie. is it possible to get a train to como and boat to Bellagio in a day? Thank you

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      On a quick search, it looks like you can take a train from Laveno to Milan to Como. This takes two and a half hours. If you rented a car, it would take an hour and 10 minutes to drive to Como and 2 hours if you drove directly to Bellagio. Cheers, Julie

  8. Avatar for Simar

    Hey Julie & family – your website has been really helpful for me to plan my trip.
    I am planning to take a train from Milan Central to Vareena and then a ferry to Belagio – explore Belagio and want to explore the view of Villa de Cassinella & Balbianello.
    the link for the lake cruise you provided is above my budget. Will the public ferry between Verenna and Belagio give a view of Villa de Cassinella & Villa del Balbianello – the pictures you shared were amazing and the whole point of doing lake como is to see those villas even if it’s from outside only. or the ferry would just be point-to-point? Is there another way to see the view of those Villas?
    Then I would take a ferry back from Bellagio to Vareena and explore Vareena then a train back to Milan.
    I am flying next week – excited and nervous too. I am going to be travelling with my toddler:)

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      Hello Simar. That’s very exciting that you will be in Italy next week! Unfortunately, you don’t get good views of those villas from the ferry. There is a ferry that runs from Bellagio to Cadenabbia and this gets you close to Villa Carlotta but not Villa de Cassinella & Villa del Balbianello. You could use the link we provide to see if the same company runs some sort of small boat 1 hour cruise…that way you could split the cost with other travelers. I hope it all works out for you! Cheers, Julie

  9. Avatar for Jackie

    Hello and thank you for the valuable information you have shared. I will be going to lake Como for one day in June. I want to visit Varenna , Bellagio and Villa del Balbianello. I’m a little confused as to which order to do it in so that I can avoid some of the crowds. Should I visit Bellagio first then the Villa or vise versa ? How many hours is needed to see Bellagio?
    Thank you for your time

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      I recommend starting with Bellagio. You can walk through the heart of Bellagio in about an hour, plus additional time to visit the Melzi Gardens and Pescallo (so 2 to 3 hours total). You could arrange for your trip to the villa in advance, especially if you want to tour the villa, rather than just see it from a boat. End with Varenna. We were in Varenna when it was crowded and didn’t mind it so much, but it is really nice to walk around Bellagio in the morning before it really gets busy. Cheers, Julie

  10. Avatar for Robbie

    Hi! First off thank you so much for the information. You guys do such a great job making the information easy to understand and help plan a trip. My girlfriend and I are looking to do 2 days in Como/Varenna/Bellagio area and were looking for suggestions of where we should actually stay? We’re looking for an affordable hotel with water views and were curious if you had any suggestions. We’ve seen some hotels are north of $1000 a night… our goal is to be closer to $500. Thanks so much!

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      Hello Robbie. I would imagine that Bellagio would be an expensive place to stay. Varenna is worth checking…there could be some hotels here that fall into your price range. Menaggio would be a good second option. I think Varenna is slightly more picturesque than Menaggio with more things to do, which is why I listed it first. It would be easy to find a cheaper place to stay in Como, but I don’t think it is worth the money savings here to commute back and forth each day. Good luck! Cheers, Julie

Load More Comments

Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *