lake como day trip

How to Make the Most of a Day Trip to Lake Como

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Planning on taking a day trip to Lake Como? Great idea! Lake Como is, without a doubt, one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited in my life. If I had the power to teleport anywhere in the world, it would be here, especially on a sunny spring day with flowers in full vibrant bloom.

The utter sense of peace I felt at Lake Como is impossible to put into words. My troubles melted away as I explored the villas and small towns.

Additionally, the photos in this post don’t do Lake Como justice. You really need to see the crystal clear water, emerald mountains, and colorful paint-splashed villages in person to truly appreciate this popular destination in Italy. Lake Como is incredible. Enough said.

Anyway, all travelers should visit Lake Como at least once in their lives. However, let’s say you have itinerary restrictions and can’t dedicate a lot of time to each destination on your wish list. What if you – gulp – only have one day to spare for Lake Como?

Well. 24 hours is much better than nothing. Let’s get on it.

lake como one day trip: take a gorgeous boat ride

One Day in Como is Tricky.

First I need to tell you the bad news. Honestly, I don’t think one day in Como is enough time. I know, I know. It stinks. But I’m speaking from personal experience here. For example, I spent two days in Lake Como, but still wish I had an entire week to take my time and simply soak up the atmosphere in each village, as well as hike through natural wonders packed into this region. I can’t imagine only having one day to experience Como. Eeek.

However, I don’t want to discourage you either. Like I said, even with only 24 hours in Como, you still ought to make the trip happen.

So the best advice that I can give you is to prioritize your sightseeing activities in Lake Como. Do you want to explore one small area in detail? Do you want to enjoy your time on a boat? Do you want to see flower-covered villas or lush rugged mountainsides? What villages is your heart set on? Realize you won’t “see it all” and accept it. Come back again in the future.

Finally, while planning your visit, I want you think about the above questions and then write a list. A written plan will make your day trip to Lake Como a roaring success. You don’t want to regret not seeing your personal highlights. I mean, of course it’s always possible to visit again, but planning ahead is still crucial for one day in Como.

Let’s get into the practicalities.

grinning with one day in como
A day trip to Lake Como will make you one happy traveler!

How to Take a Como Day Trip from Milan.

Transportation is another concern for visiting Como. One of the reasons why Milan is worth visiting is because of the abundant day trips. Actually, most day trippers to Como come from Milan due to its proximity and easy connections to the region. Milan is home to a big international airport. On the plane ride, I overheard a lot of people discussing their plans for Lake Como in particular.

Upon arriving, two of the easiest ways to reach Como from Milan are train and fully guided tours. I’ll talk about each of these options. Figure out which one is right for you and do it.

take a como day trip from milan and see gorgeous flowers everywhere

1. The Train from Milan to Como

Train connections are abundant from Milan. You can leave from either Milan Centrale Station or Milano Porta Garibaldi, but make sure you know the exact departure station. You don’t want to have to take the subway from Centrale to Garibaldi, because you messed up.

The quickest train route from Milan to Como only takes about 40 minutes. For travelers who want to take on a day trip to Lake Como from Milan, I highly recommend to avoid tickets that require switching at other stations, because adding transit time isn’t worth saving money. You want as much time in Como as possible. Make sure to reserve tickets in advance. The “quick” tickets can and do sell out, especially during peak season. You’re able to book your train tickets online at Italia Rail.

One benefit of taking the train is flexibility. You determine what time you leave Lake Como. You’re not part of a prepackaged tour and therefore are free to visit the sites that appeal to your personal interests. Freedom is always a good thing.

don't forget shopping in bellagio with a day in lake como

2. A Guided Group Tour to Go to Como

But what if the freedom is too much for you? What if you think you’d get lost? What if you’re not really an independent traveler?

Then, honestly, I’d recommend taking a guided tour to Lake Como to maximize your time. With only a day in Lake Como, you can’t afford to waste time getting lost or missing boats. And yes, the ferry schedule can throw off your entire itinerary. More on that later.

Companies, such as Viator, offer a variety of tours to Lake Como. Again, reserve your tickets in advance so your favorite tour doesn’t sell out. What’s nice about a guided tour is someone else does all the hard work for you. You can shut your brain off and enjoy everything with the stress of transportation logistics and other nonsense.

Read More: An Honest Guide to Lake Como

take day trip to lake como and see the botany

How to Get Around with One Day in Como

Lake Como is narrow and long, but luckily, this part of Italy has excellent infrastructure in place. Buses and ferries do their best to accommodate all of the tourists that flock to the villages.

If you’re traveling independently, research ferry and bus schedules ahead of time, and fill in your attractions in between transport times.

Honestly, though, since you only one day to spare in Como, my advice is to focus on the area around the city of Como or do a Bellagio/Varenna trip with perhaps a quick stop at Villa Carlotta. Of course, if you choose to take a guided tour, your stops are predetermined ahead of time.

Ultimately, your itinerary will determine the type of transport required for your visit.

don't miss villa charlotta on a day trip to lake como from milan

1. Walking, Walking, and Walking.

Walking is the best mode of transportation for day trippers staying in the immediate area around the city of Como. The city itself is very walkable and all the attractions are close to one another. Not to mention, the lake side walk to the nearby villas and hotels is gorgeous. Buy some gelato and take pictures of the shore. You’ll love every second.

However, if you’re “village hopping,” you’ll need more than your own two feet to get around.

Which leads me to…

day trip lake como from milan requires taking ferries

2. Take the Ferries Around Lake Como.

Ahem. I have good and bad things to say about the ferries that shuttle everyone around Lake Como.

Let’s start with the positive. Ferries are spacious. I loved sitting on the decks and ogling at the sweeping views of the lake.

However, I want to be honest with you. Frustrations might happen with the ferries. Sometimes they’re late. Like, really late. For instance, I had to wait over forty-five minutes extra in Varenna for my ferry back to the city of Como. And I was pissed, because that time could’ve been used to explore more of the village instead of hanging out on the dock with a bunch of angry and sweaty tourists. Now I get it. Italy has a more relaxed sense of time. Whatever. But at least make an announcement for ferries arriving close to an hour late, sheesh. /rant done.

Another issue is overcrowding. Italy deals with a tragic amount of overtourism, and the consequences are uncomfortable. Crowds have the ability to turn even the nicest people into monsters. Guys, I saw an unfortunate amount of pushing and shoving when boarding the ferries. I’m actually surprised full blown fist fights didn’t break out. Bring your patience.

a day trip lake como from milan will take you to some delightful villages

Lake Como Day Trips: Where to Go & What to See?

You have so many options for what to see in Lake Como. Like I said, I wish had spent waaaaaay more time in this magnificent place. Sigh, next time.

Below, I’ve written a list of a couple of great spots for you to visit, but keep in mind that it’d be very challenging to see all of them in a single day. Either limit yourself to the Como City area or “village hop,” but you’ll only run out of time and feel overwhelmed trying to hit every site in 24 hours.

day trips to lake como begin in the city of como

1. Como

Como is the main city in the this region of northern Italy. Sure, it’s not as picturesque as Bellagio or Varenna, but still very pleasant to walk around and explore. I also felt very safe in the city of Como. Not a single person bothered me or tried to scam me.

In Como, don’t miss the gorgeous Como Cathedral. The nearby plaza has some cafes making it a great spot to chill with a coffee while listening to the cathedral’s bells.

Como also has some great shopping. I bought my mom the cutest silver leather bag at one of the local shops. Bring lots of money with you.

lake como one day trip if you have time take the funicular

2. Funicular to Brunate

Who doesn’t love a funicular ride? Do this one if you’re not scared of heights and if you plan on mostly spending time in Como.

I highly recommend for you to take the funicular because you’ll be able to explore the small village of Brunate, which is an excellent contrast to the city of Como. The funicular is located right in Como’s Old Town. You can’t miss it.

Brunate’s views will make you feel small in the best possible way.

My other tip is to be patient at the funicular. Only a select number of people may board at one time. Wait your turn.

And, please, be respectful about the seating. Let older people and pregnant women sit down. Standing isn’t the end of the world. Rudeness isn’t cute either. On my own trip back to Como, a very, uhhhh, persistent woman crashed into me and multiple others to run down the stairs so she could snag the front seat in the funicular. Don’t act like her. Splendid views aren’t worth your humanity.

… whoa, I complain a lot about fellow tourists, huh?

one day in como means seeing the villas

3. Villa Olmo

Como is known for its spectacular Baroque mansions reminding us of aristocrats and commissioned artists. Romantic, huh?

Villa Olmo is a stunning neoclassical mansion, located a convenient walking distance from the city of Como. This beautiful building was designed in 1797 by Swiss architect Simone Cantoni. In my opinion, Villa Olmo’s biggest draw is its free public park – which, of course, includes jaw dropping panoramic views of Lake Como. Bring a picnic lunch and enjoy.

Oh, and the walk from Como to Villa Olmo is absolutely splendid. Strolling alone the shore of Como is a perfect chance to reflect on life and smell the hanging wisteria at the same time.

villa charlotta: the highlight of lake como day trips

4. Villa Carlotta

Oh man. Where do I begin with describing Villa Carlotta? It was my favorite place in all of Lake Como. This villa, which includes the botanical gardens, is located close to the town of Tremezzo. You can disembark at Tremezzo, but some ferries stop right at Villa Carlotta, which is wonderful for beating your time restrictions.

Unlike Villa Olmo, you need to pay admissions for Villa Carlotta. However, I honestly think the cost of a ticket is worth it. The nine euros gives you access to the villa’s interior as well as the gardens.

In spring, the palms, rhododendros, azaleas, and more are all in bloom. You can take two routes in the botanical gardens, but I’d recommend the shorter route for a day trip in Como.

bellagio is a must see on a day trip lake como from milan

5. Bellagio

Haha, I loved Bellagio. I totally felt like the female version of James Bond in this wealthy and glitzy town. Hey, I can dream, right?

Bellagio has plenty of high end shopping opportunities. You’ll also want to take photos of the cobbled lanes, elegant buildings and Villa Serbelloni Park.

Lastly, regardless of your travel budget, make sure to stop by famous 5 star Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni. You might not be able to go into the hotel (at least I don’t think you can), but still snap some pictures of the pool, haha.

on a day trip to lake como from milan don't skip varenna

6. Varenna

Finally Varenna is another adorable village to visit on a day trip to Lake Como. It’s more rugged than Bellagio, which I liked a lot.

Honestly, Varenna is a photographer’s dream come true. Castello di Vezio and Villa Monastero both provide great views of the lake. I wish I had more time to spend in Varenna. It’s all the way at the top of Lake Como so plan ahead of time. You don’t want to get stranded if you miss your last ferry!

day trip to lake como from milan is worth it for these lovely views

I hope you enjoyed reading my guide! So what about you? Have you ever taken a day trip to Lake Como? What activities would you recommend around Lake Como? Share all your thoughts about this gorgeous corner of Italy in the comments! 

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