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How to Take a Self-Guided Day Trip to Lake Como from Milan

How to Take a Self-Guided Day Trip to Lake Como from Milan

So you’re visiting Milan, but want to flee the busy city streets, at least for a day. The mountains and fresh air are calling your name, and you just can’t resist. And we don’t blame you! If you leave Italy without taking a day trip to Lake Como from Milan, you’ll surely regret it.

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How to Take a Self-Guided Day Trip to Lake Como from Milan

A Day Trip to Lake Como from Milan

While organized day trips are available to take you to Lake Como and back to Milan in a day, taking a self-guided day trip will be much more rewarding! And it’s easy to do, too.

On a day trip to Lake Como from Milan, you’ll have time to explore a few of Lake Como’s villages. We recommend visiting Como, Bellagio, and Varenna. Each town is special and beautiful in its own way, and with only one day, they’re close enough to each other to visit all three.

How to Take a Self-Guided Day Trip to Lake Como from Milan

The Route

Here’s the route you should take between Milan, Como, Bellagio, and Varenna:

Milano Centrale train station → Como San Giovanni station → Ferry to Bellagio → Ferry to Varenna → Varenna-Esino train station → Milano Centrale train station

Keep in mind, if this route seems too complicated, you can always book this guided Lake Como Day Trip from Milan, which has amazing reviews!

How to Take a Self-Guided Day Trip to Lake Como from Milan

Purchasing Tickets

Train tickets

You’ll need to purchase two sets of train tickets for your day trip to Lake Como from Milan.

  • Firstly, Milano Centrale train station → Como San Giovanni station.
  • Secondly, Varenna-Esino train station → Milano Centrale train station.

You should purchase your tickets online from TrenItalia. You can simply keep your tickets on your smartphone; no need to print them out. We recommend purchasing your tickets a few days ahead of your trip, just in case.

If possible, take one of the earliest trains into Como, and one of the last trains back to Milan. If you do that, you can easily spend three or more hours in each town!

For both train tickets, we paid a total of €11.50 per person.

However, if navigating the trains by yourself seems like too much stress, you can simply book this guided Lake Como Day Trip from Milan, which has amazing reviews!

How to Take a Self-Guided Day Trip to Lake Como from Milan

Ferry tickets

You’ll also need to purchase two sets of ferry tickets.

  • Firstly, a ferry to Bellagio, from Como.
  • Secondly, a ferry to Varenna, from Bellagio.

You cannot purchase ferry tickets online. However, check the ferry time tables before you arrive, so you have a plan. Once you arrive in Como, head for the water and buy your ticket to Bellagio. As soon as you step off the ferry in Bellagio, purchase your ticket to Varenna.

For both ferry tickets, we paid a total of €12 per person.

However, if navigating the ferries by yourself seems too much complicated, you can simply book this guided Lake Como Day Trip from Milan, which has amazing reviews!

Now, let’s talk about Como, Bellagio, and Varenna…

How to Take a Self-Guided Day Trip to Lake Como from Milan

Como

Como is the largest of the three towns you’ll visit during your day trip.

Here, you should spend a few hours roaming the quaint streets, browsing the many shops, and possibly taking a dip in the lake. Also consider riding the 7-minute funicular up to the peaceful town of Brunate, for incredible views over all of Lake Como, and the chance to see another adorable town.

For lunch, we highly recommend La Cucina di Elsa. There, we sat outside and enjoyed incredible seafood dishes, such as paccheri with octopus, pistachio, and pesto, along with refreshing white wine!

How to Take a Self-Guided Day Trip to Lake Como from Milan

Bellagio

Tall mountains, cypress trees, grand villas, and adorable cafés make up the lakeside town of Bellagio; and it goes without saying, but Bellagio is absolutely stunning.

While in Bellagio, roam the streets and pay attention to the details: the pretty pink flowers, cobblestone alleyways, beautiful lanterns, bright shutters, and quaint little balconies. Visit a wine shop to taste and learn about some tasty local wines. And also consider renting a kayak or canoe to explore the lake on your own!

Lastly, don’t forget to savor some fruity gelato next to the lake, before catching the ferry to Varenna!

How to Take a Self-Guided Day Trip to Lake Como from Milan

Varenna

Varenna absolutely stole our hearts. While Bellagio seems to be everyone’s favorite town on Lake Como, we have to disagree! When your ferry approaches Varenna, you’ll know why we feel this way; in that moment, you’ll believe that you’ve never seen anything so pretty in your life.

In Varenna, grab dinner along the lake somewhere and just enjoy the views. After, walk up and down the steep cobblestone alleyways and simply explore.

Before you leave, make sure to watch the sun dip behind the mountains as the sky turns pink. There’s no better way to wrap up your day trip to Lake Como — especially with a glass of wine in hand!

day trip to Lake Como from Milan

A Day Trip to Lake Como from Milan

Go for it, guys! Why not take a self-guided day trip to Lake Como?

We absolutely loved Lake Como, and we know you will, too.

Obviously, more time on Lake Como is always ideal. But if you only have one day, it’s surely better than nothing. Like we said before, if you leave Italy without seeing the tranquil shores of Lake Como, you’ll probably regret it for the rest of your life.

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Do you want to take a day trip to Lake Como, Italy from Milan? From Milan, you can easily take the train to Lake Como, and explore the towns of Como, Bellagio, and Varenna in one day. This guide outlines how to get there, what to do while you're there, how get from one town to the next. Here's everything you'll need to know to take a self-guided day trip to Lago di Como, Italia. Enjoy!

Have you been to Lake Como before? Which town is your favorite? Did you stay over night, or take a day trip from Milan?

*This post contains affiliate links. When you make a purchase through the links on our website, we will receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you. We never recommend any products/services that we don’t absolutely love. These commissions help keep Travel Alphas up and running, and we thank you for your support!


Maddy Cornelius

Maddy is the co-founder and editor of Travel Alphas. Mint tea, handmade pasta, gelato, and red wine are among her favorite treats. New York City, Budapest, Bali, and Florence are a few of her most-loved destinations.

  • Paige Duddy

    So awesome!

    August 21, 2016 at 11:11 pm Reply
  • LRN

    This post is so comprehensive and love the pics. Thank you for sharing it!

    January 8, 2017 at 10:31 am Reply
    • Maddy & Mauricio

      We are glad you found this post helpful! Thanks for stopping by.

      January 9, 2017 at 4:42 pm Reply
  • Amy C

    This sounds fantastic! I’ll be in Italy in August and I’d love to stay in Lake Como but just don’t have enough time or budget. This sounds like a wonderful option so we don’t miss out entirely. Thank you very much for sharing :)

    January 28, 2017 at 9:13 pm Reply
    • Maddy & Mauricio

      We didn’t have enough time to stay more than a day either, but figured we couldn’t miss out! Enjoy! :)

      January 29, 2017 at 1:25 pm Reply
  • MW

    Really helpful post! I wasn’t sure whether to stay the night in Como or not, but looks like a day trip works great.

    February 10, 2017 at 6:16 pm Reply
    • Maddy & Mauricio

      Of course, it’s ideal to stay the night because Como is so amazing! But if you have limited time like we did, you won’t regret doing a day trip! :)

      February 12, 2017 at 2:16 pm Reply
  • Zoe Rodriguez

    Wow! sounds like an awesome day trip…we will be in Milan in April, I am definitely adding this to our itinerary .Hopefully, it’ll go as smoothly for us. I will be printing this article out and referencing back to it. Thank you bunches!!

    February 19, 2017 at 1:33 pm Reply
    • Maddy & Mauricio

      It is pretty awesome, and it’s well worth all of the trouble of planning and navigating the public transportation! This post details everything we can think of to make sure your trip goes smoothly, so we hope it does too! ;)

      February 23, 2017 at 9:56 am Reply
  • Zaynah

    Hi thank you for the article!
    We are planning on doing a day trip, what would be the total cost for a day trip for transportation like?

    Thank you!

    April 12, 2017 at 10:27 am Reply
  • Bellis C

    Warning – if you do this day trip during peak season, you can expect massive queues and crowds everywhere. I went to Como on Easter Sunday, and ended up queueing for over an hour to buy my ferry ticket. Once I got to Bellagio, I joined the throngs of tourists trudging round the town, and ended up getting a slice of pizza from a takeaway shop for my lunch because I couldn’t find a restaurant that didn’t have a minimum 20 minute wait for a table. Go off-peak, or be prepared for a hellish experience that doesn’t show what is actually a very beautiful part of the world in its best light.

    April 19, 2017 at 9:57 am Reply
    • Maddy & Mauricio

      Hmmm, we’re wondering if that’s because it was Easter… We did this day trip during peak season (in late June), and we had no long queues, no issues with crowds, and no problems finding great restaurants to eat at.

      April 19, 2017 at 10:44 am Reply
  • Catherine

    This is a lovely guide, thank you for sharing.
    My husband and I are planning to visit Lake Como in November and I just discovered that a lot of the accommodation closes during this period. I was wondering, do you think it’s worth visiting at that time of year or is it better to save it for when the weather is warmer?

    April 30, 2017 at 5:42 am Reply
    • Maddy & Mauricio

      We haven’t visited Como in November. However, our assumption would be that, providing you can find accommodation, you will have an incredible time. Lake Como is absolutely beautiful, and personally, we’d jump at the chance to visit in the off season to enjoy less crowds!

      May 1, 2017 at 4:09 pm Reply
  • Lauren Mogelnicki

    Hi! Thanks for this post. We are currently on a trip to Venice and Milan and have been using your blog posts for ideas! We are going to Como tomorrow, hopefully it goes as seemlessly as Venice went!

    May 4, 2017 at 9:51 am Reply
    • Maddy & Mauricio

      That’s awesome! We’re so happy to hear our blog posts have been helping you along on your Italy trip. If you get us a chance, let us know how Como went.

      May 8, 2017 at 12:18 pm Reply
  • Will Carino

    I found your site by Googling searches for day trips to Como. I didn’t quite know about Bellagio and Varenna. I mean, wow! I was about to book an organized day trip tour to Como, but after reading your blog – your self-guided tour is easily understood. I’ll use your guide when I visit Milan in September 2017. Thank you!

    May 7, 2017 at 2:39 pm Reply
    • Maddy & Mauricio

      That’s awesome! Thanks for letting us know that you found our post helpful. We wish you safe travels and a great time on Lake Como!

      May 8, 2017 at 12:14 pm Reply
  • Lori-Louise Boyton

    Hi there, my mum and i are going to Milan in August and this seems like a great way to visit Como and the surrounding villages in a day so thank you! Do you feel you see enough on the ferry as we were thinking of doing a boat tour but if the ferry covers it then this is great.

    May 10, 2017 at 2:32 am Reply
    • Maddy & Mauricio

      I’m not sure about a boat tour. Does that allow you to actually get off the boat and check out the towns? The ferry option, in my opinion, was perfect and if I had to do a day tour again, I wouldn’t do it any differently. I would say it’s not feasible to try to see more than Como, Bellagio, and Varenna in a day because you won’t have enough time to enjoy each place.

      May 10, 2017 at 1:00 pm Reply
  • Xiao chan

    Great advice~! I am so exciting to follow this plan.
    Can you tell me what would be the time-table able for your ferry time? I would like to follow similar timing too as I have no idea how long should I spend to each cities

    May 17, 2017 at 5:48 am Reply
    • Maddy & Mauricio

      It will depend on the train tickets you purchase, and what times are available on your dates. So here’s what we can tell you. We recommend getting on one of the earliest trains to Como, hopefully arriving by 10 or 11 am. Then we would recommend spending two or three hours in each town, and taking one of the last trains back to Milan.

      May 19, 2017 at 1:45 pm Reply
  • Preet Shah

    this is an amazing and detailed way to for a day trip to lake como. thank you for sharing the information. i wanted to know that do we need to prebook the kayak in bellagio or is it possible to rent one on the spot and what are the approximate rates for the kayak.

    May 30, 2017 at 4:19 am Reply
  • Jennifer

    I see a lot of people that say you should just take the train from Milan directly to Varenna instead of Como. Thoughts?

    May 30, 2017 at 6:41 am Reply
    • Maddy & Mauricio

      Hi Jennifer,

      If you can find that route available on your travel date, and if you’re not interested in visiting Como, then I don’t see why not!

      May 30, 2017 at 11:01 am Reply
      • Jenifer

        But Como itself is definitely worth visiting it sounds. Some have said Como might be a bit too busy? We are going the 2nd week of Septmber.

        May 30, 2017 at 12:31 pm Reply
        • Maddy & Mauricio

          You’re right, Como is a lot bigger and busier than Varenna and Bellagio. However, we thought it was beautiful and very much enjoyed it. It just depends on what you’re looking for on your day trip. Good luck!

          May 30, 2017 at 12:44 pm Reply
  • Carolina

    Hi Maddy and Mauricio,
    Me and my boyfriend are going do Lake Como in late June and we’re going to do the same thing that you did! We are going to catch one of the first trains in Milan to Como and be back in Milan in one of the last ones from Varenna.
    So we wanted to know how many hours we should spend in each place and if it’s better to catch de ferry or the speed service?

    Thank you!

    June 6, 2017 at 6:59 am Reply
    • Maddy & Mauricio

      Hi Carolina!

      Sounds like a great plan. If you can spend about three hours in each town, that would be perfect. When it comes to transportation, choose whatever available ferries fit into your schedule, while also getting you to the next place as quickly as possible. If that means taking the speed service, then do that.

      – Maddy

      June 6, 2017 at 9:41 am Reply
  • Alanna Zapp

    My best friend and I followed this to a T during our visit to Lake Como last month. This guide was perfect! Elsa’s was one of the best meals we had while in Italy. Being recent grads, it helped to know all the expenses we could expect beforehand as well. Thanks so much for writing this, it was SUPER helpful!

    June 8, 2017 at 8:15 am Reply
    • Maddy & Mauricio

      Yay! Thank you for stopping by and letting us know that this guide helped you and your friend! We’re also happy to hear that you loved Elsa’s. We can’t wait to go there some day. :)

      June 8, 2017 at 9:43 am Reply
  • Daniel Granditer

    Hi Maddy and Mauricio,

    Thank you for the great advice.

    Am i correct in saying that that it takes 2 hours to get from Como to Bellagio by Ferry? If that is the case, is there a quicker way?

    Thanks,

    Daniel

    June 20, 2017 at 11:19 am Reply
    • Maddy & Mauricio

      Hi Daniel,

      When you’re searching for your ferry times on this website http://www.navigazionelaghi.it/eng/c_orari.asp make sure that you check the box that says “include fast service” before clicking “search.” You should find ferry trips that are 42 minutes instead of 2 hours.

      Good luck!

      Maddy

      June 20, 2017 at 11:52 am Reply
      • Daniel Granditer

        Thanks a lot for the quick response!

        Do you need to book tickets to Como/ Varenna prior to travel or can you book them when arriving at the station in Milan?

        Thanks once again,

        Daniel

        June 20, 2017 at 12:06 pm Reply
        • Maddy & Mauricio

          You can do either one. I prefer to do it online before and have the tickets on my phone, just in case.

          -Maddy

          June 20, 2017 at 12:23 pm Reply

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