How To: Day Trip To Lake Como from Milan

Lake Como is one of the most picturesque destinations in Italy, and easily accessible from the city of Milan. I would recommend staying in Lake Como for a few nights to fully appreciate its beauty, but if you’re short on time and see want to see the iconic views, here’s how to enjoy a Lake Como day trip. 

Where to visit in Lake Como?

You might be tempted to book your train directly into the town of Como itself, however, if you’re looking for those idyllic views, picturesque streets and luscious botanical gardens, you’ll reconsider. Lake Como is shaped like an upside-down Y and right in the middle is what’s called Lake Como’s Golden Triangle. Situated here are Varenna, Bellagio and Menaggio. 

My recommendation is to take the train to Varenna Esino station and use the ferry to explore the other towns – such as Bellagio. This is the most scenic part of the lake and you’ll find yourself with plenty to see and do.

How to get to Lake Como from Milan

The train system across Italy is unbeatable. It’s so easy and affordable to use. Lake Como is perfectly accessible by train, if not, the best mode of transport. It can be very busy during the peak seasons and finding parking becomes quite difficult. Take advantage of the trains and ferries so you have more time to explore this beautiful region. It will take you approximately one hour to reach Lake Como from Milan. 

Milan to Varenna by train

The fastest train from Milan Centrale station takes 1 hour to Varenna, though I took one that took 1 hour 30 minutes as I travelled from Milan Bergamo station. I travelled in August and simply turned up at the station and booked a train on the same day – there was plenty of availability and cost me €11 one way, though some tickets start from €6.80. You can opt to buy your tickets on the day or book ahead online using Trainline, which is incredibly useful and you can keep your tickets all in one place.

Milan to Como by train

From Milano Centrale to Como San Giovanni takes 38 minutes. Some trains have a transfer and a longer travel time and the direct train starts at €4.80.

Milan to Bellagio by train

There is no train station in Bellagio, so your best option is to take the train to Varenna and get the ferry over to Bellagio.

Top tip: don’t forget to validate your ticket before boarding your train. Conductors do come through the carriages to double-check. These machines are dotted around stations and you just need to hold your ticket in them until it’s validated.

How to get around Lake Como

Once you’ve arrived, the ferry system is the best way to see other islands and towns. The ferries are frequent and journeys between the Golden Triangle are around 15 minutes. A single ferry ticket can cost €4.60 or you can buy an unlimited travel pass valid for one day for €15. Simply purchase your ticket at the ferry terminal – I haven’t come across a way to do this in advance online.

Top tip: if you’re on a tight schedule, book the ferry schedules you need as soon as possible in the day to ensure availability. We arrived in Bellagio at 5pm only to discover the final ferry down to Como was fully booked so we had to go back to Varenna on a car ferry.


Lake Como from Milan Day Trip Itinerary

If you only have one day, I would simply focus on Varenna and Bellagio to take in the best scenic views, delicious food and charming cobblestone streets. This itinerary will allow you to see the best sights and lake views without being too busy. 

Start your day bright and early. Aim to arrive in Varenna before 9am (there is a train that arrives at 8:30 and this would be my choice). Make sure to pack light, as you’re going to head uphill towards Castello di Vezio. The hike is fairly steep and becomes rugged cobblestones towards the top so make sure to wear comfortable shoes if you’re going to take this trip. It should take less than 30 minutes depending on your speed. The entry ticket is around €4 but worth it – the scenery from the top is beautiful as the 13th-century castle ruins provide sweeping views of the lake. I recommend spending no more than an hour here.

Once you’ve admired the views from up here, begin your descent towards the lake, which should take around 20 minutes. Pop into your maps ‘Bar il Molo’ which will take you to one of my favourite spots to grab a bite on Varenna. It’ll be quite early so you can opt for a bruschetta or a lighter dish but make sure to try the Molo Spritz! Perfectly refreshing after your hike. It’s situated right on the lakefront so you can enjoy nibbles and drinks with the best view. I recommend spending an hour here.


After you’ve recharged, make your way towards Villa Monastero. It’s only a five-minute walk but the route winds through picturesque cobblestone streets. Take your time and soak in all of the beauty. Entrance to the Botanical Gardens is €11 (or €13 if you want to also visit the Museum House). Strolling through the beautiful gardens is breathtaking. Snap photos and soak in incredible views of the glittering lake under the midday sun. Beware – in the summer it is SO hot, so make sure to wear a hat and sunscreen! There is a cafe onsite, so you can stop for a coffee here with gorgeous views of Lake Como. 

From here, take your time strolling through the town winding down back to the lakefront and get ready to catch your ferry over to Bellagio. It should be around 1pm at this point so just make sure to check ferry schedules beforehand to ensure it aligns with your plans. 



The ferry from Varenna to Bellagio will take around 15 minutes. The vibe here is a complete change from Varenna. Though the architecture is charming and there are beautiful lake views, it feels slightly more commercial here. There are shops and boutiques as soon as you disembark the ferry, however, head straight past this in seek of the pretty side streets. There is the iconic view of Bellagio, which you can find from the top of Via Guiseppe Garibaldi. From here, you can visit the Basilica of San Giacomo, a Romanesque church in the centre of Bellagio. 



Finally, you have two options – whilst I would love to say both, time is of the essence and the last slow ferry from Bellagio down to Como departs around 5pm (don’t forget to double-check when you arrive and book your ticket as soon as possible). 

Option one: visit the Villa Melzi Botanical Gardens for €8. The perfectly manicured gardens are luscious and vibrant with dramatic landscapes around every corner. On the way, you’ll stroll down the promenade with cafes lining the lakefront. You might want to take it easy and enjoy some aperitivo (happy hour drinks and snacks) in the afternoon sun before your boat. 

Option two: Head towards Spiageta, a peaceful rocky beach where boats are docked in the tiny harbour. There’s not much to see or do here but take in the quaint scenery and takes around 10 minutes from Bellagio centre and provides a completely different vibe from the main centre. Follow Scalotta per Pescallo to find a picturesque route down to the dozy fishing village.


Of course, the last two options come down to your personal preference and what sights you would prefer to see. Whatever you choose, don’t forget to find gelato on your way back to the ferry! I tried a pistachio flavour and it was so creamy and delicious! 

To end your day, take the slow boat (battello) from Bellagio all the way down to Como. This takes around two hours but takes you through the incredible scenery that you dream of seeing when visiting Lake Como. Pass by idyllic villas and luscious hilltops as you cruise down. It costs around €10 per person and means you don’t have to splurge on a boat tour during the day! From Como, you can board a train back to Milan with ease.


I hope these top tips for visiting Lake Como have been useful and let me know if you visit! 


Leave a Reply

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

Looking for Something?