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A 5 day itinerary for Lake Como, Italy

Within just an hour of arriving on the banks of Lake Como, I was already feeling relaxed and our Lake Como itinerary remained that way.

Gone were the stresses of driving 3 hours from Bergamo airport on windy, narrow roads whilst dodging cars driving across both lanes, and dealing with an incompetent sat-nav, and in stress’ place was a sense of calm.

Perhaps it was the sound of the lake lapping gently at the rocks just outside our bedroom window, the sound of the birds tweeting away, or the lovely scent of wild jasmine floating into our room from outside.

Whatever it was, I knew I didn’t want to leave.

I spent five days in Lake Como, Italy and they were pretty lazy, not much adventure here, sorry! But sometimes even those of us who like to be constantly doing something need a good break and a chance to do nothing much.

If you’d like ideas for a relaxing one-week Lake Como itinerary then carry on reading – you’ll definitely be adding Lake Como to your Italy bucket list!

Travelling to Lake Como Italy? Here are the best things to do in Lake Como including visiting Bellagio, Como, Varenna, Menaggio and Tremezzo, & eating brilliant Italian food. All this and more in this guide and Lake Como travel itinerary! #lakecomo #europetravel #italytravel

About Lake Como

Lake Como (Lago di Como) is one of the best lakes in Italy. Because this is generally accepted, it’s also one of the most popular lakes in the Italian Lake region.

The lake is shaped like an upside-down ‘Y’ and has three branches that meet at the picturesque town of Bellagio. Along the banks of the lake are stunning villas, mountains, celebrities and some great Italian food to be found!

It’s believed that Ancient Roman couples used to come here to escape the cities and feel rejuvenated in the fresh mountain air.

Not much has changed then since you’ll undoubtedly see couples strolling through the cobbled streets, eating fresh pasta, and cruising on small boats up and down the lake.

It’s often referred to as “a playground of the rich” and the likes of George Clooney, Richard Branson and Sylvester Stallone have all owned properties on the banks of the lake.

But that doesn’t mean it’s unaffordable. We found cheap accommodation and found the food and drinks to be half the price of what you’d expect to pay in other Italian tourist destinations such as Rome and Florence.

Lake Como is the deepest Lake in Italy’s Lombardy region at about 410m deep. That also makes it one of the deepest in Europe!

Get the Lonely Planet guide to Lake Como 

Where is Lake Como located?

map of lake como in italy
source: discovercomo.com

Wondering ‘where is Lake Como in Italy?’ Lake Como is in northern Italy in the Lombardy region. It’s Italy’s third-largest lake coming in behind Lake Garda and Lake Maggiore.

Together, these Italian Lakes make up their own version of the Lake District; just with much better weather, arguably prettier scenery, and better food.

This area, and Lake Como, in particular, is known for its dramatic scenery what with it being situated at the foot of the Italian Alps.

Lake Como is just 40km north of Milan which makes a Milan to Lake Como day trip a popular activity for visitors to the area.

When is the best time to visit Lake Como?

Lake Como is busiest during the summer season when water taxis and ferries can be seen zipping across the lake to take visitors from one lake town to another. Como is also a popular weekend getaway for Milan locals so for that reason, it’s best to plan your Lake Como vacation over the weekdays.

Lake Como in October and March make up the shoulder season here so spring and fall are great times to visit Lake Como for cheaper prices and smaller crowds.

Lake Como from November to February is even quieter, almost eerily quiet!

How to get to Lake Como

lake como itinerary

Flying to Lake Como

If you’re getting to Lake Como by flying then the nearest airports to Lake Como are in Milan. There are three airports in Milan: Milan Bergamo, Milan Malpensa, and Milan Linate.

We flew into Milan Bergamo which is about 1.5 hour’s drive away from Lake Como.

If you’re flying with budget European airlines such as RyanAir this is probably the airport you’ll fly into.

Skyscanner is what I use to find cheap flights.

Milan to Lake Como

By car

Once you’ve touched down in Milan you’ll need to make your way to Lake Como. If you’re spending most of your holiday in Lake Como and the surrounding area I’d highly recommend hiring a car.

Whilst you can get around the towns on the banks of Como and there’s a good train from Lake Como to Milan, it’s nice to have a bit more freedom should you desire and it’s handy for getting to and from restaurants at night if you’re staying a little outside of the towns by the lake like my Mum and I did.

I use comparison sites like DiscoverCars and RentalCars to book my car rentals as it’s easy to check prices and compare the best deals!

Driving between Milan and Lake Como is pretty easy in terms of directions but you’ll want to pay attention to the roads. Italians haven’t exactly got the best reputation when it comes to safe driving. And, if you read my opening paragraph, you’ll see it wasn’t exactly the calmest journey.

I’m used to narrow roads coming from the UK countryside, but roads flanked by water and drivings driving super fast in the middle of the road is something you’ll have to get used to if driving between Milan and Lake Como.

You’ll take the A9/E35 and SS340 roads between these two places but I’d recommend getting some data on your phone to access Google Maps or hiring a Satnav from your car rental.

Train from Milan to Lake Como

Getting the train to Lake Como from Milan is pretty easy and the leave regularly. You can get the train from Milano Centrale to Varenna, Italy the easiest Lake Como train station to access.

The trains that go through Varenna will be headed to Sondrio or Tirano and they usually leave at 20 minutes past the hour, every hour.

Omio is a great platform for booking European and UK travel on. You can check train and bus prices and schedules and book super easily!

Top tips for travelling from Milan to Lake Como by train

You’ll need to validate your train ticket before getting on the train. This is usually done by stamping it in a little machine by the platforms.

Also, make sure to get off at Varenna quickly as otherwise, you’ll find yourself on the way to Switzerland!

Looking for Lake Como tours from Milan?

Are you looking for an organised day trip to Lake Como from Milan? Check out this day trip that departs from and returns to Milan and takes you to Lake Como, Bellagio, and Varenna. You’ll also get to enjoy a lake cruise on a private boat.

With these Como tours, you get your own Lake Como travel guide too.

How to get around Lake Como

Getting around the various towns at Lake Como is easy.

The most common way is to take the Lake Como ferry between places like Varenna and Bellagio, Italy. There are slow boats and fast boats to get you across the lake, funiculars which take you up into the hills, and also a bus system that goes along the banks of the lake.

The bus is a much slower method of transport but it’s still useful if you’re visiting Lake Como without a car.

Lake Como ferry

Lake Como ferry prices are reasonable and you can buy passes for the ferries which I’d recommend if you plan on visiting a few towns.

The ‘Free-Circulation’ ticket is available for zones 1-8 and as a 1-day or 6-day pass.

The hop-on-hop-off ferry tickets cost 4.60 EUR for a single, or 15 EUR for a full day.

Taking these ferries is not only the easiest way to get around, but it’s one of the best Lake Como activities since you’ll get scenic views too!

Lake Como, Italy map

map of lake como cities

This map shows the towns around Lake Como some of which you’ll see mentioned below in the list of things to do in Lake Como. The towns I’ve gone into more detail about below are those I consider to be the best towns on Lake Como.

In case you’re wondering, the George Clooney Lake Como getaway is just north of Urio in Laglio!

This map shows the towns around Lake Como some of which you’ll see mentioned below in the list of things to do in Lake Como. The towns I’ve gone into more detail about below are those I consider to be the best towns on Lake Como.

In case you’re wondering, the George Clooney Lake Como getaway is just north of Urio in Laglio!

Best things to do in Lake Como

All the Lake Como cities are extraordinarily beautiful. The buildings are coloured in pink and yellow hues, the streets cobbled, and the piazzas filled with aromas of coffee.

Want more cute Italian towns? Check out these hilltop towns in Tuscany, Italy!

Everywhere, including Bellagio, the larger of the lakeside towns, had a relaxed vibe and certain sleepiness to it. Nobody, it seems, is in a rush to do anything; a complete contrast from London.

Whilst our Lake Como holidays were nice and relaxed with plenty of good food, a spa trip, and book reading, that doesn’t mean we didn’t get up to much.

We did plenty of sightseeing around Lake Como and I’ve picked out some of my favourite things to do in Lake Como, Italy for you to plan your own trip there.

So, if you were wondering what to do in Lake Como and where to go in Lake Como, then wonder no longer!

Como town

como lake como

Lake Como’s main town is right at the base of the lake. It’s pretty small and is often skipped by visitors to the area as it’s really just a gateway to the other towns. 

I’d recommend visiting as you’ll find classic Italian restaurants, shops, and delis, a beautiful 15th Century cathedral, and a gorgeous promenade along the lake.

Make time to explore the historical centre of Como and gaze at the beautiful old buildings here. I’d also recommend taking the funicular up to Brunate for an amazing view of Lake Como.

The best way to discover the town of Como on Lake Como is to take a guided tour. On a guided tour you’ll discover the enchanting historical centre of Como and see the city’s most significant monuments.

The tour starts in Cavour Square, the heart of the city, passing through Duomo Square and the walls of Porta Torre. You’ll also head out on a roundtrip cruise to Cernobbio, Torno, and Moltrasio and admire the lake from the water.

If you’re looking for unique things to do in Como then check out this private tour to Baradello Castle. The castle is a symbol of Como and one of the most important historical monuments in the Lake Como area.

Enjoy a private tour at your favourite time of day – morning, sunset or close to midnight – and take an easy, scenic walk to reach the castle nestled in the greenery of a protected natural park.

Malgrate

Malgrate is a beautiful town located on the shores of Lake Como, just a short distance across the water from the city of Lecco.

This charming town is a must-visit on any trip to the area, with its picturesque narrow streets, colourful houses, and breathtaking lake views.

Some of the best things to do in Malgrate are to take a leisurely stroll along the promenade, relax in the town square, or enjoy a coffee in one of the many cafés while taking in the stunning scenery.

Malgrate is also an excellent base for exploring the surrounding area, with many hiking trails, bike paths, and water sports activities available.

Don’t miss the chance to head out on a sailing trip on the eastern side of Lake Como. Choose from a day tour or sunset tour, which includes a light dinner onboard in addition to a glass of Prosecco.

Admire the breathtaking views of Baia di Parè, Malgrate, Lecco, Abbadia, and the high mountains surrounding the lake or take a swim in the clear waters or try your hand at being captain.

Menaggio

Tremezzina Lake Como

Of all the towns we visited, Menaggio was my absolute favourite. It was big enough to wander around for an afternoon and small enough to not be packed with other tourists. I could quite happily jump ship and move to Menaggio for a whole new life.

There are plenty of shops here and cafes or you can climb the stairs to discover the remains of the original old city. Plus there’s plenty of hiking and cycling to do in the hills nearby.

Or, if you’re after something more chilled out check out the Menaggio Lido.

Lecco Lake Como

Lecco is a beautiful town located on the eastern shore of Lake Como, and it’s a must-visit for anyone travelling to Lake Como. The town is surrounded by stunning mountains and offers breathtaking views of the lake.

Some of the best things to do in Lecco are to walk along the waterfront while admiring the beautiful scenery and to wander through the historic town centre.

Another fun thing to do in Lecco is to take a food and wine tour. On the tour you’ll be treated to a four-course Italian lunch at a restaurant located in Alto Lario, followed by a visit to a local farm to taste a selection of cheeses produced on-site.

Lastly, you’ll head to a winery surrounded by nature, where you’ll enjoy a tasting of cured meats and a selection of local wines produced among the vineyards of the Lario.

Best things to do in Tremezzo, Lake Como

villa carlotta lake como

Tremezzo is across the lake from the town of Bellagio and is famous for Villa Carlotta. This massive villa and its garden are open to the public.

The garden is over 14 acres in size and has over 500 plant species. Inside the villa, you’ll find art exhibitions, sculptures and tapestries.

The other main site in Tremezzo is Grand Hotel Tremezzo. This hotel is the epitome of luxury. Guests here get a private beach, a heated pool on the lake and amazing rooftop rooms.

This private Cadenazzi wooden speed-boat tour is a great way to explore the stunning Lake Como.

You’ll enjoy an amazing trip to the most fascinating parts of the lake and see the famous Villa Balbianello, where James Bond movies and Star Wars films have been filmed. You’ll also pass by Comacina Island, where you can even stop for a refreshing swim in its clean and pure waters.

A tour of Villa del Balbianello is another must do for anyone visiting Lake Como. Perched on the edge of the wooded peninsula of Lavedo, the Villa offers stunning views of the lake and magnificent gardens.

Originally commissioned by Cardinal Durini in the 18th century, it was later restored by Guido Monzino, an entrepreneur and passionate traveller. This is an unforgettable experience thanks to the villa’s rich history and stunning views.

Bellagio

bellagio lake como italy

Bellagio, Lake Como, is located on the triangular section that divides Lake Como into the upside-down ‘Y’. Here you’ll find luxury shops, boutiques and fancy restaurants. It’s a far cry from the over-the-top Bellagio in Las Vegas.

As the most famous town in Lake Como, Bellagio is also one of the busiest but it’s still great to wander around for a day.

Top things to do in Bellagio, Italy include the gardens at Villas Melzi and Serbelloni as well as grabbing an afternoon cocktail by the water.

Another of the best things to do in Bellagio is to go kayaking! When you book a kayaking tour, you’ll explore the stunning Lake Como from a unique perspective.

You’ll experience the fantastic views of the surrounding countryside and navigate around the Bellagio peninsula, with Villa Serbelloni and Rockefeller Foundation Park on your left. Your tour guide will give you information about the history and architecture as you kayak too.

You should also make time to discover the hidden gem of Lezzeno on this tour, located close to Bellagio but little known and visited by tourists. Legend has it that witches and the devil used to feel at home in this mysterious village. It’s a highlight of any Lake Como trips.

Follow a trail from the Devil’s Bridge that reveals breathtaking views of the opposite shore where Villa Balbianello stands. Enjoy rarely-seen views of Lake Como and end the walk in the heart of this unmissable village to uncover the hidden soul of this territory.

Varenna, Lake Como

Varenna is one of the sleepier towns around Lake Como. Since it’s where the train from Milan arrives it’s a good place to base yourself.

An afternoon or morning spent hiking up to Vezio Castle is a great way to pass the time in Varenna, as is exploring Villa Monastero.

Santa Maria-Rezzonico

Santa Maria Rezzonico Lake Como

Santa Maria-Rezzonico is the name of the tiny village we stayed in. It made me want to move to Lake Como and set up a shop or restaurant. I imagined a life where I’d make friends with the locals, learn Italian and live under the Italian sun.

The village is home to a pizzeria with a fantastic view out over the lake. A gorgeous castle that appears to be privately owned and a small shop.

Each morning we headed up the hill from our apartment to buy fresh croissants and bread before making a pot of coffee on the stove and eating breakfast with a view of the lake.

There’s also a narrow path in Santa Maria-Rezzonico which leads down towards Lake Como. It seemed to be the locals’ secret lakeside beach from which to jump into the water to cool down or take their paddle board out.

I also saw a boat house which caught my attention. I dreamt up scenarios which involved me living in the cliff-side house where I’d take my boat out for a trip to a nearby town.

Where to stay in Lake Como

Santa Maria Rezzonico Airbnb

If you’re feeling flush there are plenty of 5* hotels around Lake Como although only the most expensive rooms offer a lake view.

And, whilst I’m sure the hotels are lovely inside I was a huge fan of our lake view. I think our view beat the view of all the hotels we went past. I’d say it’s got to be one of the best places to stay in Lake Como.

We stayed in Santa Maria-Rezzonico, a beautiful little village just 6km north of the larger town of Menaggio.

My love for Airbnb stays strong after our stay at Lucia’s beautiful apartment (Sadly no longer offered, but some great options here) with a huge window in the bedroom that looks out onto the lake.

The apartment is one of two in Lucia’s house. It’s completely private and has everything you’ll need for a self-catering holiday.

It’s exceptionally peaceful, and access to the terrace around the back of the house offers a great outdoor space to sit with an Aperol Spritz and a good book in the evening.

Just remember the mosquito spray – I got bitten badly on the first night!

The best Lake Como hotels

Here are a few of the top hotels in the following towns of Lake Como. I’ve picked these towns as I believe they make the best towns to stay in Lake Como.

Hotels in Tremezzo

Grand hotel Tremezzo

grand hotel tremezzo

Grand Hotel Tremezzo is considered one of the best hotels in Lake Como due to its location and luxurious facilities.

The hotel has amazing views of Lake Como and Bellagio and is just a short walk away from Villa Carlotta and its gorgeous gardens.

The hotel has three swimming pools including one of the lake and guests can use the hotel’s own boats to get around Lake Como.

Hotel La Perla

Hotel La Perla is a peaceful and charming hotel located on the hills above Tremezzo in Lake Como. The hotel’s picturesque location offers panoramic views of Lake Como and is surrounded by olive trees, making it a perfect destination for those seeking tranquillity and natural beauty.

You’ll find an outdoor pool as well as many rooms with private balconies looking over the lake.

Best hotels in Varena

hotel olivedo
Hotel Olivedo

Hotel Olivedo

Hotel Olivedo is one of the best hotels in Lake Como, appreciated by guests for its prime lakefront location in Varenna, exceptional service, and stunning views of the lake.

The historic 19th-century building features a terrace with panoramic views of Lake Como, providing guests with breathtaking views of the lake.

There’s also a lake-view restaurant that serves traditional dishes from the Lombardy region.

Hotel du Lac Varenna

For an unforgettable stay on the shores of Lake Como, choose Hotel du Lac Varenna.

Overlooking the lake, the hotel offers free WiFi, air conditioning, a TV, and a refrigerator in each room, as well as private bathrooms with free toiletries.

Enjoy delicious meals at the on-site restaurant or a drink at the bar while taking in the stunning views.

Best Como hotels

hilton lake como
Hilton Lake Como

Hilton Lake Como

Hilton Lake Como is an exceptional hotel that provides the perfect base for exploring the beautiful Lake Como region.

The hotel boasts a stunning rooftop infinity pool, the Terrazza 241 rooftop restaurant and bar, the Satin restaurant and the Taffeta lobby bar.

Some rooms provide you with a lake-view terrace or spa bath and you also have access to the Eforea spa & health club, which includes an indoor pool, Finnish sauna, hot tub, and Turkish bath. In addition, you’ll find a fitness centre and a solarium.

Como town centre is only a 15-minute walk away from the hotel so you’re well located for exploring the nearby areas.

Residence SANTABBONDIO

Residence Santabbonio is an ideal choice for those seeking a luxurious yet cosy stay in Como.

The hotel is housed in a 14th-century building just a few steps from Como Cathedral and offers air-conditioned apartments with free WiFi throughout.

Each unit features an equipped kitchenette and a living area with a sofa bed, with some rooms featuring a balcony.

You’ll also get free tea, coffee, and chamomile provided by the hotel.

Ostello Bello Lake Como

Ostello Bello is the perfect choice for travellers who want to experience Lake Como on a budget.

This Lake Como hostel offers a range of clean and comfortable rooms, each with a private bathroom and free toiletries.

There’s an on-site bar, luggage storage space and a children’s playground.

The staff are friendly and helpful and always ready to provide guests with useful tips about sightseeing in the area. The hostel also offers various nightly programs, making it a great place to meet new people and make new friends.

Best Menaggio hotels

suites menaggio hotel lake como
Suites Menaggio

Suites Menaggio

If you are looking for an unforgettable experience in Menaggio, Suites Menaggio is the perfect choice for you. This air-conditioned accommodation offers free WiFi and a terrace with stunning views.

The units come with a flat-screen TV, satellite channels, and a private bathroom with free toiletries. You can enjoy your coffee in the morning with a fridge, coffee machine, and kettle.

Hotel Garni Corona

Hotel Garni Corona is a beautiful hotel situated just 30 yards from Lake Como in Menaggio.

The hotel provides easy access to public transport, restaurants, and shops, making it an ideal starting point for all kinds of excursions around Lake Como.

The air-conditioned rooms are equipped with satellite TV, safe, work desk, and minibar. Plus, you can enjoy a continental breakfast buffet and a private bathroom with a shower and hairdryer.

Best hotels & apartments in Bellagio

charming bellagio hotel lake como
Charming Bellagio

Domus Bellagio

Domus Bellagio is a charming 3-star hotel in Bellagio, where guests can enjoy an Italian breakfast daily in the comfort of their room with pre-packaged products or enjoy it at a nearby café just 100 yards from the property.

The hotel also features a shared lounge and terrace with stunning views of the lake.

The location and view are amazing, and the rooftop bar is a great place to unwind and take in the stunning views.

Charming Bellagio

Charming Bellagio is the perfect destination for those looking for a comfortable stay in the historic centre of Bellagio.

The apartments are surrounded by Lake Como and within a 10-minute walk of the Lido beach club and the Sporting Club.

Each apartment features a seating and dining area, a kitchen or kitchenette, and a flat-screen TV, as well as a bathroom with a hairdryer.

The best restaurant in Lake Como

La Faguirda Lake Como

You can’t really go wrong when it comes to food in Italy’s Lake Como. However, it’s not all pizza and pasta in the Lombardy region of Italy which is where Lake Como is.

Lombardy is home to a more hearty type of cuisine. Rice, in particular, is very popular here and is often found in soups as well as risotto. Polenta is another staple and it appeared a lot on menus around Lake Como.

Cheese fans will be impressed with Lombardy’s offerings. The region is home to Gorgonzola, Tallegio, and Ribiola to name a few.

Our favourite place was Restaurante La Faguirda, a little restaurant in the hills above Tremezzina. It gets very busy so book in advance or go early and enjoy a home-cooked meal with an incredible view!

I wrote a post about our experience dining here if you’d like to know more.

Want more Italy travel guides? – Check out this 7 day Tuscany itinerary!

lake como itinerary

Final thoughts about Lake Como Italy

Overall, Lake Como in Italy is a breathtakingly beautiful destination that attracts millions of visitors every year and it’s easy to see why.

The lake, which is surrounded by stunning mountains, offers a variety of activities, including hiking, boating, swimming, and sightseeing through the historical towns and villages. Each of the charming towns and villages that dot the lake’s shoreline offers its own unique attractions and experiences and are some of the top Lake Como things to do.

The lake is also home to some of the most luxurious and beautiful hotels in the world, offering guests a chance to experience the beauty and charm of Lake Como in style and comfort. From the historic Grand Hotel Tremezzo to the contemporary Suite Menaggio, there is a hotel for every taste and budget.

Whether you’re a nature lover, a history buff, or simply looking for a relaxing getaway, Lake Como is the perfect destination and this guide should’ve helped you plan a Lake Como itinerary 5 days.

Looking to see more of Italy, check out my 7 day Tuscany road trip itinerary!

FAQs about planning a Lake Como itinerary

How many days in Lake Como?

3-4 days is a good starting point to visit Lake Como if you want to really experience the small towns and villages around the Lake. However, you can visit Lake Como as a day trip from Milan if you’re short on time.

What to do in Lake Como?

Explore the towns and villages around the lake, visit the historical villas and gardens including Villa Carlotta and relax by the lake.

What to do in Italy Lake Como for 3 days?

Spend one day getting a ferry pass to explore the towns across the lake from where you’re staying, another visiting historic buildings like Villa Carlotta and leave one day to relax and explore the lakeside.

When is the best time to visit the Italian lakes?

Any time between mid-May and the end of September is a great time to visit as the weather is usually pleasant.

Last Updated on May 22, 2023 by Hannah

Leave a comment

  1. lifestyletalks.wordpress.com says:

    Last year I drove along Lake Como but didn’t stop. Should have though reading your post!

  2. Fiona (@fbarrows) says:

    What a view!!!! That apartment looks lovely. I’ve never been to Lake Como but these photos have bumped it a few more places up my list! x

    • Hannah says:

      The apartment was so cheap compared to everything else on offer too! (£40 a night) I’d definitely go back to the Lake when I need another relaxing holiday! x

  3. Lolo says:

    Looks stunning! I cant wait to go one day! This summer we’ll be headed to Verona and Lake Garda so I am hoping its just as beautiful!

  4. GIGI says:

    I am leaving to Lake Como in two weeks and I am so happy to have found your recommendations. should I book restaurants now for Sept 8-12th ??
    Do you recommend booking both lunches and dinners in the same town or is it feasible to visit one town in the morning and another in the afternoon and do lunch in one and dinner in the other?

    • It’s quite a small area so you should be able to visit multiple towns in one day. I’ve seen Italy is super busy this summer so if there is a restaurant you really want to go to it’s probably worth putting in a reservation! However, if you can’t get in to one, I’m sure there’s a another great restaurant just around the corner. Have a great trip!

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