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Updated: August 29th, 2021
Is Lake Como worth visiting?? Seriously, what sort of ridiculous question is that?! Haha, I imagine a couple of my readers are picking their collective jaws off the floor at this very second.
As travelers, we’ve all heard of Lake Como.
In case your memory needs refreshing (doubt it), Lake Como is the upscale and glitzy resort area located in the Alps region of northern Italy, specifically Lombardy.
I instantly think of Lake Como whenever I talk to my students about Romantic writers and their grand European tours.
Ultimately, Lake Como is popular for a reason. The area is, undeniably, beautiful. I know from experience. I was lucky enough to travel solo in Como for two days, but I wish I had spent an entire week exploring the lake’s small villages and abundant hiking opportunities.
However, like all major tourist destinations, not everything is perfect at Lake Como.
Therefore, the question “is Lake Como worth visiting?” should be seriously considered while planning your Italian adventures, even though it might initially sound ridiculous.
Is Lake Como Worth Visiting? Mostly Yes.
I think you should visit Lake Como if you’re coming to northern Italy. Once in Milan, the train ride is short, sweet, and simple.
Not to mention, solo travelers in Italy will find a deep sense of peace in the mountainous region that makes coming to Lake Como worthwhile.
However, I have a couple opinions about this region that require taking off the rose-colored glasses. You ought to do some planning ahead of your mountain adventure.
First and foremost, since Lake Como is so popular, do whatever you can to stay mindful of the locals and nature. Respect is key.
For example, practice sustainability on your travels by not littering and limiting your use of plastic. Lake Como is stunning, because the lake is pristine. Let’s keep the water clean so future generations enjoy its beauty.
You’ll also need to plan for crowds. Lake Como covers 60 miles, but people pour into the most popular towns, which aren’t nearly as big as the lake itself.
Furthermore, while you can easily do a day trip to Lake Como from Milan, I personally recommend spending at least one night on the shores of the lake. Why? Staying the night gives you time to relax, eat, and explore Como after the day trippers have returned to their temporary home in Milan.
Now let’s get into the specific pros and cons of visiting Lake Como.
The Pros of Visiting Lake Como
Obviously, Lake Como’s pros outweigh the cons, so I’m going to first write about the good news.
Honestly, I fell in love with certain parts of Lake Como, especially the nature. Oh my god, the nature.
I personally think I took my best travel photos in Como. I visited in April when hundreds upon hundreds of flowers bloomed in front of every villa. Oh, and the views of majestic mountains glistening over the lake melted my heart. Lake Como made me want to be a travel photographer.
Furthermore, Lake Como is used to outsiders visiting the various resorts. English speakers should have zero concerns, although, of course, I recommend learning a couple of Italian phrases on your trip.
All in all, I’d highly agree with visiting Lake Como if your trip to Italy brings you to the northern part of the country.
So, if you’re asking yourself, “is Lake Como worth visiting?,” first consider all the things to love about taking an Italian Lakes vacation.
The Outdoors are Absolutely Spectacular
First and foremost, Lake Como attracts so many visitors, because the region’s natural wonders will literally take your breath away.
The mountains look like they belong in Tolkein’s Middle Earth. As I rode a boat across the lake, I stared up at their imposing height, cliffs soaring toward the puffy white clouds. While the ferry moved, I realized just how tiny I was in the grand scheme of things.
Lake Como is humbling.
Lake Como’s rich natural beauty also draws a variety of wildlife, especially swans. Even if you’re insanely single (like me), you’ll still find something romantic in the white swans peacefully gliding across Lake Como’s crystal waters.
I was lucky to have beautiful weather on my trip to Lake Como. If you’re a hiker, ask for advice at your accommodation about the best trails and go exploring. Bringing a guidebook specifically for Lake Como will help you plan, too. Hiking is also a great way to fill your days in Como without spending a ton of money (more on prices later).
Lake Como Has Legendary Villas
Lake Como’s pastel colored villas add opulence to this part of Italy. By visiting the villas, you’ll feel like George Clooney even if you aren’t exactly loaded with money.
Some villas are privately owned, but others have been repurposed into museums and are open to the public. As for me, I had two favorite villas on my visit to Lake Como:
Villa Olma is within walking distance of the main city of Como. What I loved most about this Villa was the public park in front of the lake. You could lounge in front of this spectacular 18th century villa, feeling like a princess, for the price of zero euros.
Villa Carlotta was my FAVORITE place in all of Lake Como. I was smitten with the botanical gardens. Blues, pinks, violets, everywhere.
Villa Carlotta is located in the town of Tremezzo and easily reached using the ferry. Your admissions ticket includes entrance to the house museum and gardens. You’re permitted to bring your own food if you’d like to picnic in the gardens, which is a fantastic way to save money.
Come to Villa Carlotta. It’s seriously my favorite. All of the photos with bright flowers in the guide were taken at this villa.
A Big City, Small Towns, & Nature in One Spot!
The Lake Como region packs such a punch, because it has everything a traveler would want reachable by foot and public transportation.
Want a bigger city? Go to Como and savor the hustle and bustle. It might not be Milan or Rome, but Como’s busy enough to keep you entertained.
As soon as you want some nature, simply step out on want of the trails and take a beautiful walk.
Lake Como literally has it all.
You’ll Feel Rich & Famous, Haha.
Lake Como is a very classy place. It’s popular with celebrities for a reason. And you’ll feel as though you’re a movie star if you stay in Lake Como long enough.
In particular, set aside time to go to Bellagio if you want a special taste of glamor.
One of the best ways to pretend you’re a movie star is to take pictures or have a few drinks at Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni. Look at the picture of the hotel’s pool set against the lake and mountains. As if that’s not the definition of luxury!
You don’t need to empty out your wallet either to feel special in Como. Simply strolling through the streets and soaking up the energy will make you feel as if you’re refined.
The Cons of Visiting Lake Como
Okay, now that the good news is done, I need to admit that Como isn’t 100% perfect.
Like anywhere else on the planet, there are some downsides in this region of Italy, even though the question “is Lake Como worth visiting?” might sound shocking to you.
A lot of these hassles are small, but you’re better off if you’re prepared ahead of time.
As a reminder, a big con would be hurting yourself on a hike. Don’t forget to purchase travel insurance for Como! Forgetting travel insurance could cost you thousands of dollars, and no one wants to worry about that. Shudder.
The Obnoxious & Pushy Tourist Crowds
I don’t know if I just had bad luck or what, but Lake Como had some of the worst tourists I’ve ever encountered on my travels around Italy and Europe as a whole.
After going to Lake Como, I honestly don’t blame some European destinations for wanting to put a cap on tourists.
Not only are crowds uncomfortable, they can be downright dangerous if enough emotions are whipped up. For example, people were so desperate to board the ferry from Bellagio to Varenna that they nearly trampled others trying to depart the boat. It was absurd, horrible, and disgusting.
Another example would be a woman nearly shoving people – including myself – off the stairs so she could have the front seat on the funicular ride going from Brunate to Como.
Be prepared for the crowds by making dinner reservations ahead of time and visiting your favorite towns early or late. The other tourists are really that terrible.
Confusing & Late Transportation
In addition to the crowds, public transportation in Lake Como is occasionally frustrating.
Reaching Como using the main station isn’t too much of a problem. Trains in Italy are fast, reasonably priced, and generally on time. I have no complaints about Italian trains.
Yet, for me, the ferries caused a lot of stress. I partially blame Easter weekend for the chaos, although I have heard similar complaints from other travelers, so I doubt I’m alone feeling this way.
The ferries are great for navigating Lake Como and “village hopping.” The routes are extensive and frequent enough, mostly in the mornings.
However, once I reached Bellagio later in the day, the ferries were packed with too many people. Boats were also running much later than advertised in the schedule. We’re talking close to forty minutes to an hour late.
It still makes me angry to think how much time I wasted waiting for ferries due to not being able to board (too crowded) or waiting (ferry delayed).
Some announcements from the staff would have been helpful here. I mean, come on, I could have used that precious time exploring Varenna rather than mindlessly hanging out on a crowded port, but whatever, haha.
My advice? Start with the furtherest villages first and then work backwards to your accommodation. It’s a much better idea than stressing out, while you’re waiting for the (2 1/2 hour) ferry ride at night.
Pack your patience on the ferries. You’ll need it.
Lake Como is a resort. Meaning prices are high.
Do your research ahead of time to save money. Expect food costs to be higher than they would be in less touristy areas. You might want to pack a picnic lunch to save on spending too much at lunch and instead splurging on dinner.
Another way for you to save your money is to do “window shopping” instead of real shopping at the high-end boutiques in Como and Bellagio.
Lake Como’s prices rise in spring and summer. Visit in the off season if you’re seriously strapped for cash. However, the weather might not be so lovely depending on the time of year.
Lake Como Might Not Fit Your Itinerary
Italy isn’t a small country. Does it have less land mass than the United States? Yes, but that still doesn’t mean you want to pack in a million regions if you’re only visiting Italy for one week.
Personally, I’d recommend visiting Lake Como for travelers coming to the northern reaches of Italy.
On the other hand, I’d suggest finding natural wonders closer to your “home bases” for those of you visiting Rome, Sorrento, and Florence.
You didn’t come all the way to Italy to stare at the inside of trains, after all.
Use a reliable Italy guidebook to plan your itinerary so the travel times are reasonable. Lake Como isn’t worth trekking from Sicily, for instance.
Lake Como Travel Tips
Now that we’ve talked about the pros and cons of Lake Como, I wanted to wrap with this post with a couple more travel tips for your upcoming visit.
What Should I Bring to Lake Como?
- Black Sleek Walking Shoes: In Italy, I always find black shoes the best shoes since you’re able to match them with any outfit! I personally think these black hiking shoes are perfect for Como. You can “dress them up” or “dress them down.”
- Italian Phrasebook: Most people speak English in Lake Como, especially since it’s a big tourist destination. However, it’s always polite to learn a few phrases of Italian before you go.
- Lonely Planet The Italian Lakes Guidebook: Always stay up to date with a great guidebook. Lonely Planet makes my favorite books, and they have a regional guidebook specifically for the Italian Lakes. Perfect for your trip!
- PacSafe Crossbody Bag: Como is safe, but I still recommend protecting your belongings. This crossbody bag will keep your wallet, passport, and more safe from pickpockets.
- Sun Glasses: Be prepared for bright sun on the water! Don’t forget those stylish and fun sunglasses!
- Travel Insurance: Always buy travel insurance for any international trip. Your own insurance may not cover medical or emergency expenses overseas.
Where Should I Stay in Lake Como?
Lake Como has plenty of options for visitors.
On my own trip, I stayed in Ostello Bello Lake Como, which is a friendly and clean hostel with an extensive outdoor area.
Ostello Bello is part of a bigger hostel chain that always ranks among the best hostels in all of Europe, so you’ll definitely want to consider Ostello Bello if you’re coming to Lake Como alone or if you’re on a strict budget.
Not to mention, you get a welcome drink upon arrival. Who doesn’t like that sort of warm welcome?
Como itself is wonderfully located, given its proximity to the train station, but you’ll want to pick another village if you’re aiming for a small and pretty town rather than a city.
In the future, I think I would stay in one of the more scenic villages located on the lake. In particular, Varenna’s photogenic charm appealed to me.
Not wanting to stay at a hostel? Here are some other ideas for your stay in Lake Como.
- Bed & Breakfast il Bolentino Varenna: Only 800 feet from the ferry dock. This bed and breakfast is in the small town of Varenna, away from the hustle and bustle. See prices on TripAdvisor.com and Booking.com.
- Hotel Centrale Bellagio: Just 200 feet from Lake Como. This hotel is perfect for those who want to splurge on a patio view! See prices on TripAdvisor.com and Booking.com.
- Miralago B&B and Apartments: An adorable bed and breakfast that overlooks the lake. Only a ten minute walk from the Old Town of Como. See prices on TripAdvisor.com and Booking.com.
So, is Lake Como worth visiting? I hope you’re a little closer to the answer that best suits you and your traveling style. As always leave your thoughts in the comments. Thanks so much for continuing to support Blond Wayfarer.