Tips for Visiting in Lake Como, Italy
Posted: May 07, 2018
There’s no doubt that Italy’s Lake Como area is one of the most picturesque places on earth. This Y-shaped lake in Northern Italy’s Lombardy Region is dotted with little quaint villages along its shores. It has long been a favorite spot of the rich and famous. In recent years Hollywood greats, rock stars, and business moguls either have or have had villas in the area; George Clooney, Madonna, Julian Lennon, Sir Richard Branson, and Gianni Versace just to name a few.
Lake Como has even made an appearance in Las Vegas! The creative entrepreneurs of Sin City recreated the delightful town of Bellagio in their 5 star luxury hotel of the same name. The dancing fountain that fronts the hotel is supposed to be Lake Como. The Bellagio is my hotel of choice whenever I’m in Vegas!
Lake Como has always been on my travel bucket list. I’ve wanted to visit for years, but given its famous tourists I hesitated, thinking it would be too expensive. This year when we found ourselves flying in and out of Milan I decided that a quick trip to Lake Como was doable; after all we’d be in the area anyway.
The easiest way to get anywhere in the area is to hire a private car and driver or rent a car and drive there yourself. The cost of a private car is around 120 Euro each way. The cheapest way is to go by train. There is service to several lake towns from Milan’s train stations. If you want to go to a town that isn’t serviced by rail, like Bellagio, you have to get off at the nearest train station then catch a ferry or bus to your final destination. Train tickets start at 4.80 Euro for a 2nd. class one-way ticket from Milano Centrale or Cardona Station; bus tickets start at 3.20 Euro each way; ferry tickets start at 10.40 Euro each way or you can buy a one day unlimited use pass starting at 23.30 Euro.
I didn’t want to spend over 200 Euro getting to and from Lake Como so of course I decided we’d take the train, we’ve travel all over Italy by train and we love it. I knew I wanted to take the train from Milano Centrale as we would be arriving to that station after disembarking the cruise in Rome, I just didn’t know where I would catch the train to! I wanted the easiest route as we’d be carting luggage on this train, so any route that involved a transfer was out of the question. It seemed reasonable to base myself in a town with easy access to a train station, I didn’t want to catch a bus or a hydrofoil to get to and from my hotel, staying in Bellagio or any of the smaller towns was out of the question for us this trip.
After much research and a whole lot of confusion we decided that Como, the administrative capital of the Province of Como, was where we should stay. It was easy to get to with direct trains from Milano Centrale, it had ferry stations nearby so we could explore the region, and it had lots of shops and restaurants that were open late.
The hotel is conveniently located. We were able to walk to Como our first day, it was a pleasant stroll along the lakeside and took a bit over an hour. It’s a 3 minute walk to the Tavernola ferry station and about a 15 minute walk to the town of Cernobbio where there are nice restaurants. The ferry ride from the Como station to Tavernola is 8 minutes.
We had a wonderful time in Lake Como. We spent a day sailing around the lake and stopped at Bellagio. We also took the funicular up to the village of Brunate and enjoyed magnificent views of the lake and saw plenty of beautiful villas along its winding lanes. We spent an evening wandering around Cernobbio and had a lovely dinner at Harry’s Bar.
Most importantly I didn’t find the area ridiculously expensive. Our standard room at the Sheraton Lake Como cost us 176 Euro a night and included breakfast; getting around town was fairly inexpensive with taxis to and from the Como San Giovanni train station costing 15 Euro each way, and the unlimited ferry day pass cost 23.30 Euro per person; admissions to nearby villas and museums are about 9 Euro per person and the Como-Brunate funicular tickets cost 5 Euro per person round trip. Eating of course varied depending on what and where you dined, but cafes and restaurants around Piazza Cavor were quite reasonably priced with pizzas and pasta dishes starting at about 8 Euro and cappucinos were 2.50 Euro and house wine 4.50 Euro a glass, but if you’re feeling homesick for some burgers and fries there’s a McDonald’s down the street that even has outdoor seating.
I don’t claim to be an expert on the area but here are a few tips about visiting Lake Como to make planning your trip a bit easier. Hopefully you won’t have to go thru all the confusion we went thru while we planned our trip when at times I found the internet more confusing than helpful!
The lake is basically an inverted "Y" shape that lies completely in Italy unlike it’s neighbor Lake Lugano and nearby Lake Maggiore which are partly in Switzerland. (So if you book a hotel in Lugano you will actually be staying in Switzerland)Before you go it is important to understand the area’s layout so you can plan wisely to suit your needs and budget.
The town of Como, the administrative capital of the Province of Como, is located at the tip of the western leg of the lake. Lecco located along the eastern leg is the administrative capital of the Province of Lecco.
Both branches of the lake join in Bellagio. The towns around the lake are linked by bus and ferries. The towns on the eastern shore are also linked by train where there is fairly regular service running along the shore from Lecco to Varenna and Calico. Como and Lecco are linked by train on the Como-Molteno-Lecco line.
The main ways into the area is from Milan and Bergamo. You can also reach it from Lugano, Switzerland where you will arrive in Menaggio.
The easiest way, but the most costly, to get to the Lake Como area is by hiring a private car and driver, the cost each way from Milan to Como is 120 Euro. Alternatively you can rent a car and drive there yourself.
The least expensive way is to use the trains. Trains run regularly from Milan’s stations to Como (there are 3 stations in Como, the main one is Como San Giovanni). Trains from Milan and Bergamo run up the eastern shore to Lecco, Varenna, and Colico.
The Intercity Regional train run by the state agency Trenitalia. You can buy tickets from italiarail.com or trenititalia.com (I find italiarail.com to be more user friendly). These trains have assigned seating and one-way tickets cost $16 for 2nd. class and $19 for 1st. class. They run less frequently than the regional trains below but make fewer stops if any so you can get to Como in about 35 minutes.
Or you can take the regional train run by Trenord the company that is responsible for train service in the Lombardy area of Italy. These trains run more frequently (every half hour or so during peak times) and do not have seat assignments. A second class ticket which can be purchased online from the Trenord E-store or app or from a ticket booth at the train station cost 4.80 Euro each way. Be aware that some trains will require a transfer. The direct trains take 35 minutes to get to Como, the ones with transfers take about an hour or more.
If you purchased tickets online you must either print out your E-ticket or save it on you phone, you will need to show it to the conductor on the train.
If you have a paper ticket that you bought from the ticket office or at a self-serve kiosk at the station you must VALIDATE your ticket or you may be charged a hefty fee when the conductor sees your unvalidated ticket.
It’s important to note that Italy has recently installed security gates at their main train stations, Milano Centrale included. Only ticketed passengers are allowed on the platforms. If you are purchasing your tickets from the station’s ticket offices or want to grab a bite or shop you must exit the platform area. Be prepared to show the guard your ticket when you’re ready to go to your platform.
The Barchetta Excelsior on Piazza Cavor is located in the heart of Como’s lake front tourist area, it was one of the hotels we considered. Rooms are less expensive starting at about $120 a night during off peak for non-lake view rooms and more for lake view rooms with balcony. The pictures online don’t do this hotel justice. It looks much nicer in person!
The Como-Colico line services the western leg and beyond with both Speed and Slow Services. Some of these ferries have bars and restaurants on board. The Lecco-Bellagio line services only the eastern leg with slow service to Bellagio. If you want to go beyond Bellagio or to the towns on the western shore you must transfer to the Como-Colico line at the Bellagio ferry station. To catch the third line you must transfer from the Como-Colico line at one of the towns listed above.
The main attraction in the Lake District is the lake itself and the villages along its shores. One of the best things to do is to spend part of the day on a ferry and enjoy the ride! You will pass the quaint towns on the lake shore and Isola Comacina in the middle of the lake. You can of course hop of at any village for a bit of exploration.
Visit the quaint town of Tremezzo. Walk along the waterfront and enjoy the views of Bellagio right across the lake. You can take a tour of the Villa Carlotta and see some lovely furnishings and artwork. The Villa also has an impressive botanical garden.
Take the funicular up to the mountain top town of Brunate. You can stroll along Via Pissarotino to the view point at the end of the road. From the funicular station turn left and walk along Via Roma, you can stop at the Chiesa di Sant’ Andrea, a pretty little church along the way. When you reach a fork in the road take the right path, that’s Via Pissarotino.
The Como Cathedral is a beautiful structure with wonderful reliefs on its facade. It’s located minutes away from the waterfront and has a piazza in front that has some restaurants and shops around it.
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Hi! I’m Carmina, also known as Nana. I love DIY projects, parties, crocheting, and traveling. I hope that you enjoy my posts and find them useful! If you have any ideas or suggestions I’d love to hear from you!