HOW TO TRAVEL AROUND LAKE COMO, ITALY
Information and Tips for Your Visit, Especially for the First Time Visitor
Visiting the A-lister’s paradise, and a beloved destination for tourists but not sure how to travel around Lake Como, Italy?
Travelling to this upscale resort famed for its dramatic scenery might be a little overwhelming especially if this is your first visit to Lake Como.
Where to stay? Do you need a car? Can you explore Lake Como without a car? How to get around Lake Como without a car? What public transport is available in Como. Are taxis or Uber available?
This article about how to travel around Lake Como is aimed at answering all of the above questions.
WHAT TO EXPECT IN THIS ARTICLE
During my trip to Lake Como, we experienced all forms of transportation that northern Italy is famous for: the speedy hydrofoils, car and passenger ferries, trains, buses and taxis.
To help you plan your first trip to Lake Como, I share my best Lake Como travel tips in getting around Lake Como. This article includes considerations for exploring the region with or without a car. This practical guide will help you plan your trip by showing you the various public transportation options available on how to get around Lake Como without a car. I have included my best tips about the best things to do in this region as well to help you to plan ahead.
I invite you to read along.
AN OVERVIEW OF WHAT IS COVERED IN THIS ARTICLE
- About Lake Como, Italy;
- How to travel around Lake Como and make the most of your time;
- Where to stay in Lake Como: Western Shores or Eastern Shores?
- How to get to Lake Como from Milan Airport;
- Do you need a car to travel around Lake Como, Italy;
- Lake Como with a car;
- Lake Como without a car;
- How to get around Lake Como without a car;
- Public transportation in Lake Como;
- What to do in Lake Como: Best Things to do around Lake Como;
- What we did about transport;
ABOUT LAKE COMO, ITALY
Sitting at the base of the Alps, Lake Como is an A-lister’s paradise and a beloved destination for tourists. The upscale resort is famed for its dramatic scenery of snow-peaked Alps against the shimmering aqua waters of the lake. This corner of the world in the Lombardy region of Italy portrays an undeniable sense of calm and elegance with neoclassical villas at a whole new level of opulence, surrounded by lush gardens.
Inviting lakeside towns, old fishermen villages, narrow winding cobbled lanes and the colourful houses add to the warmth of the fusion of harmony and fabulousness this region is known for.
Lake Como is a must-visit for anyone seeking the best in scenic beauty in Italy and this article will guide you on how to travel around Lake Como, one of the most beautiful places in Italy.
HOW TO TRAVEL AROUND LAKE COMO AND MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR TIME
Depending on how long your trip is for, and if it is for a few days, you may want to make the most of your time.
A boat trip
One of the best ways to get around in Lake Como if you want to use the most of your time when visiting this region is to go on a boat trip. A private boat hire might be best for you so you could experience several places in a short time and still have plenty of time left in the day to do other things. You can view some of the villas and attractions which can only be viewed from the waters and learn about the history of the lake. If this is the kind of thing you’d like to do, take a look at this private boat trip I found at a good price and can accommodate up to 5 people.
A bus trip + cruise
Another best way to make the most of your time is to go on a bus trip and a cruise. One of my personal favourite is to go on a group tour. A group tour by bus takes you to several places, usually the best of the beaten paths and they also include some hidden gems as well along with some local tales not commonly found in guide books. If you would like to see more of Lake Como and the northern lakes in a day, I found this particular day trip that you will like. With this trip, you can relax and enjoy the scenery while someone else does the driving for you.
In this combined experience, which is a great value for money excursion, you will discover two breathtakingly scenic lakes in two countries, a cruise experience, two glamorous shopping districts and a visit to a traditional lakeside town in Lake Como. This really nice trip departs from Como city and it is for most of a day, leaving you with plenty of time to enjoy your evening. If you would like to make the most of your time in this way, here is the link where you can find out more about this top day trip from Como.
Adventure, Culture & A Cruise
This is an experience where you feel like a local. This activity involves walking through the woods on an ancient Roman trail, visiting a traditional commune and enjoying lunch at a classic wooden dwelling. It includes a cruise on Lake Como or a funicular ride to the hillside village of Brunate (summer). This experience is one way to move around the Lake Como area. You explore the various villages, experience the local culture and enjoy the breathtaking views both from the hills and aboard a boat. This activity is suitable for all abilities and does not take the entire day. If this wondrous experience stokes your curiosity, go to this activity about the mountain trek in Lake Como to learn in greater detail.
WHERE TO STAY IN LAKE COMO: WESTERN SHORES OR EASTERN SHORES
The western shores are more popular than the eastern shores and regarded as the best part of Lake Como. This beautiful area faces the sunrise and is home to several charming small towns such as Cernobbio, Argegno, Lenno, Tremezzo and Menaggio. Several splendid historic and expensive villas are also located here: Villa Balbianello in Lenno, and Villa Carlotta in Tremezzo. Celebrities including George Clooney own a villa in Laglio, situated on the western shore.
The eastern shore has its own charm too. Varenna, renowned as the most colourful and an authentic medieval town is situated here. Varenna is home to the famous Villa Serbelloni, a prestigious grand hotel and Villa Monastero, a beautiful villa with an impressive botanical garden.
Lake Como Towns
I created the below map as an easy guide to give you an idea of where the main towns in Lake Como are. Each and every town on this map is mentioned in this article. The three towns, Bellagio, Varenna and Menaggio are highly popular with visitors and are also known as the “Golden Triangle” of Lake Como.
Whichever side of Lake Como you choose to stay at, there are plenty of transportation options that will take you wherever you wish to go.
Recommended read: Where to Stay in Lake Como: Best Towns and Top Hotels + Apartments
HOW TO GET TO LAKE COMO FROM MILAN AIRPORT
The best way to get to Lake Como from Milan Malpensa Airport is to take Malpensa Express to Milan Centrale Station. From Milan Central Station, take the Trenord train to Como S. Giovanni Station. This is the quickest and convenient route.
Most will suggest taking the Malpensa Express to Saronno, and take the regional train to Como city because it is meant to be a shorter journey. We did this on our visit and found that the connecting trains were not regular. We waited for well over an hour at a station which only had one cafe and one amenity. There was no waiting room either. For this reason, I would highly recommend that you take the Malpensa Express to Milan Centrale and then take the speedy Trenord train to Como city. The journey from Milan Centrale to Como S. Giovanni is 40 minutes.
You may like to read about my experience, tips and recommendations about taking the train from Milan Malpensa Airport to Como City.
DO YOU NEED A CAR TO TRAVEL AROUND LAKE COMO?
The answer to this question depends very much on what you want to see. There are some things to consider about Lake Como with a car or without a car.
Lake Como with a car is an opportunity to explore the non-touristy villages and towns away from the central region of the lake. It gives you the flexibility to explore in your own time and schedule. However, you may have to deal with limited parking, and sometimes none at the small towns and villages.
Lake Como without a car is also possible. In fact I recommend it.
The Lake Como region has an efficient public transportation network and can easily be explored without a car. You avoid the hassle of dealing with congested roads and the lack of parking spaces.
That being said, below are my tips about exploring the lake region with or without a car and points to consider.
LAKE COMO WITH A CAR
Lake Como has good road connections to the major cities such as Milan. However, the immediate roads around the lake connecting the towns are rather narrow and congested. You need to share them with the buses, taxis, delivery drivers and pedestrians. Italian drivers seem rather expressive too — lots of horn-honking or sometimes none. Not many use their navigation signals in the town. Then they are there, just a few steps away from your foot!
This is not to say Italians are bad drivers! Far from it. They know what they are doing. They are careful drivers. I guess as a visitor to Italy, the unfamiliarity to local drivers, for instance driving on the left (compared to the right in the UK), and their easy-going attitudes are the differences. In addition the locals are familiar with the meandering roads up the mountains whereas it is all new to a foreign driver. Our bus trip up to a mountain village through several challenging curves and oncoming traffic on a narrow lane fit for one was skillfully managed by our driver.
What to consider when driving around Lake Como
If you consider driving, just know that driving around Lake Como can be ardous and long. The lakeside towns are small, with steep, plenty of bends and curvy roads connecting to the hillsides destinations. These roads are full of surprises which absolutely requires 110% of attention all the time.
Additionally, parking is limited in Lake Como towns. You may be spending more time looking for parking spaces than actually sightseeing.
When booking your accommodation, you may want to ensure that the place you are booked to stay at offers parking facilities to their guests.
Read this comprehensive guide to the best towns and top hotels to stay at in Lake Como. I have included hotels and apartments that offer parking to their guests. This article will also help you decide which area is the best part of Lake Como to visit.
If you decide on driving, there are car ferries that make it easy to get from one town in the lake to another lakeside town. You can check the ferry timetable from their official website of Lake Como Navigation.
LAKE COMO WITHOUT A CAR
I honestly think that if you are visiting just the Lake Como region, you do not need a car to get around.
You can take advantage of the many options in public transportation. The buses are timely, if you wish to explore the towns by road. The ferry and hydrofoil services make it easy to explore the entire Lake Como area without a car. Some towns such as Bellagio, Varenna and Como (due to its strategic location on the lake) have better public transport connections than others.
HOW TO GET AROUND LAKE COMO WITHOUT A CAR
Lake Como is easily accessible without a car. There are several ways to get around the region without a car. Public transportation can take you wherever you want to go around the lake. Private transportation is also available.
PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION IN LAKE COMO AREA
You could get around Lake Como by train, boat or ferry, seaplane, bus and taxi.
How to travel around Lake Como by Train
There are two towns in Lake Como with railway connections: Como city on the southwestern shores and Varenna on the eastern shores. Here are some things you need to know as a first time visitor to this area.
The Western Branch of Lake Como
One thing to remember when travelling to Lake Como is that there are no trains on the western branch of the lake. The only main town on the west of the lake with good railway connections is Como City, located on the southwest end of Lake Como.
Como City is served by four railway stations, connecting regional, national and international services. Depending on where you want to travel to, you can access Como San Giovanni, Como Nord Lago, Como Borghi and Como Camerlata.
Como S. Giovanni and Como Nord Lago are the more prominent railway stations in Como. From these two stations, you can take the bus to some of the popular and best Lake Como towns.
You can get to Como by train, and take the boat or the bus to travel around Lake Como.
The Eastern Branch of Lake Como
If you plan to visit or stay at a town on the eastern shores such as Varenna, or Lecco, the train service is possibly the better choice. These two towns on the shores of Lake Como are connected by railways and there is good public transportation by boat in Varenna.
From Varenna, you can get to Bellagio in 20 minutes by hydrofoil. From Lecco to Bellagio is a little tricky as the ferry schedules are limited. Also the journey from Lecco to Bellagio is over an hour.
If you want to visit Bellagio from the eastern shores, the best way is to get to Varenna by train and take the hydrofoil from there. This route is convenient, and saves time.
Trenitalia is the train company that manages the train services in Italy. Check the official website of Trenitalia for the latest on routes, schedule and prices. Download the Trenitalia Ticketing App as well if you like.
How to Travel around Lake Como by Boat or Ferry
The best way to get around Lake Como is by boat or ferry. The public boat and ferry service in Lake Como connects all the major towns along its shores with scheduled timetables, allowing for connections as well.
The water transportation in Lake Como works very well.
The ferry service in the central part of Lake Como connects the towns of Bellagio, Varenna, Menaggio and Cadenabbia.
Types of boat and ferry in Lake Como
There are three options:
- the slow boat which stops at the important towns. This option is great for those who have time on their hands. The leisurely ride allows travellers to capture scenic towns and landscapes from the outside deck. These slow boats only run in the summer months;
- The hydrofoil or aliscafo is the speedy passenger ferry which stops at the major towns along the lake. This service runs throughout the year. There is a reduced service in the winter months;
- The car and passenger ferry which operates in the central region of the lake. This is not as fast as the hydrofoil but it is a fun ride. You can sit at the top deck and enjoy the splendid scenic views;
The fare for a journey depends on the type of boat you take and the destination. Boat or ferry tickets can be purchased at the ticket offices near the pier. If the ticket office is closed, you can purchase the tickets on board.
Use the search form on the official website of Navigazione Laghi to search for your schedule of boat/ferry departures and prices.
How to travel around Lake Como by Bus
The Lake Como region has an efficient local bus service that connects most of the towns around the lake.
Using the bus as a mode of transport is a great way to travel around Lake Como and save money.
If you are getting to Como city by train, you will see a bus-stop outside the train station at Como S. Giovanni and Como Nord Lago. The buses here will take you to your destination.
ASF Autoline is the bus transport network that provides urban and suburban services in Como City and its provinces. The network connects Como to each of the towns on the western and northwestern branch of Lake Como.
Popular bus routes around Lake Como
C10 >> Como-Menaggio-Colico
This route begins in Como, outside the Como Nord Lago railway station and Como S. Giovanni and heads to Colico, on the northern tip of Lake Como.
The C10 bus service stops at each town on the left side of the western branch of Lake Como.
The most common destinations and journey times for the C10 service are:
Como to Cernobbio and this takes 15 minutes;
From Como to Argegno, the travel time is 40 minutes;
Como to Tremezzo is 60 minutes;
From Como to Menaggio is 70 minutes;
A longer journey from Como to Colico which takes about 2 hours.
C30 >> Como-Nesso-Bellagio
This popular route begins at Como, from the bus stop outside the Como Nord Lago and Como S. Giovanni railway stations. The entire route is scheduled for 1 hour 10 minutes.
The bus stops at each town on the right side of the western branch of Lake Como.
The most common destinations and journey times for the C30 service are:
From Como to Torno, the journey is 20 minutes;
Como to Faggeto is 25 minutes;
Como to Nesso is scheduled for 40 minutes;
The entire journey from Como to Bellagio is estimated for 1 hour 10 minutes.
Go to this official website of ASF Autoline for the latest bus schedule to plan your journey.
D10 >> Lecco-Bellagio
This route is on the eastern branch of Lake Como. The service is operated by two companies: Linee Lecco and Arriva.
The D10 bus route starts in Lecco and the bus departs from the bus stop outside Lecco railway station. It arrives in Bellagio in 50 minutes. The service stops at most towns on the left side of the eastern branch of Lake Como.
Go to this official website of Linee Lecco to check for the latest in their bus schedule. It’s worth knowing that the bus service on the eastern branch of the lake is less frequent.
Private Transportation in Lake Como: Taxi
Taxis are the quickest way to get around Lake Como. It is also the most expensive way to do so.
Taxis are operated by several companies. You can find them located at the main transportation hubs in Como or the main towns.
Rates for taxi services in the Lake Como region usually have a fixed price of approximately 45 Euros and an additional payment of 1 Euro for each additional kilometre. However, prices may be subject to change during high season and holidays.
Uber does not really exist in Como.
Most of the taxi companies operating in the Lake Como region provide private transfer services to Milan and Bergamo airports.
WHAT TO DO IN LAKE COMO: BEST THINGS TO DO AROUND LAKE COMO
Lake Como is, without a doubt, one of the most beautiful places in Italy. The area offers many things to do: hiking, cycling, swimming, shopping, exploring architectural marvels and medieval towns.
A historic city defined by enchantment and elegance framed by natural scenery around every corner is a joy to explore. The city is famous for its silk industry and is home to some of the famous landmarks in the region. The must-visits in the city are the Como Cathedral, and Tempio Voltiano. The must experience are the funicular ride or the hike up to Brunate and a private boat tour around Lake Como. You will find more special things to do in this beautiful city in my article about Como city.
Recommended read: Complete Guide to 17+ Best Things to do in Como City, Italy.
Known as the jewel of Lake Como, Bellagio is the most famous town here. Ideally located for easy water-transport connections, this picturesque town boasts exceptional shorelines, Alpine views, stone streets and wonderful shops and restaurants.
Read my complete guide to Bellagio and the best things to do here along with experienced tips and how much time you may need to spend here.
Recommended read: 18 Best Things to do and See in Bellagio
The colouful town of Varenna is a real gem to explore when visiting Lake Como. Known as one of the best medieval towns in the Como region, this is where visitors walk along a picturesque promenade, extensive gardens and hike up to Castello di Vezio, a hilltop medieval castle with a legend. For more best things to do in Varenna, read my article for ideas to plan your visit to this town.
Recommended read: 10 Best Things to do in Varenna, Italy
Prettiest Towns to Visit
In addition to the above three popular towns, there are other prettiest towns in Lake Como which you must visit: Argegno, Menaggio, Tremezzo and Lecco.
These towns are all worth visiting because of the spectacular vistas over Lake Como, the quintessential fishermen village feel and the beautiful villas.
Can you walk around Lake Como?
Surrounded by mountains, Lake Como is a haven for many short and long-distance trails on either side of the lake. There are easy hiking trails around Como city such as one that begins in Brunate where you could explore by yourself or take an experienced guide with you. You could also explore the hillside town of Pigra in Argegno and embark on hiking trails from there.
Read my guide to Argegno which includes suggestions for a couple of hiking trails that begin from the town and my guide to Como city, which includes suggestions on hiking trails as well. For more and a complete list of hiking trails in Italy, go to this official website of Italy’s most beautiful hiking trails.
Can you cycle around Lake Como?
Cycling is not an activity I do, so I researched this for you. Lake Como is reputed to be a true cycling destination. There are several cycling routes, mountain-biking routes and family rides. A classic ride is one around the perimeter of Lake Como. The ride covers a distance of 160 km with spectacular views and takes you through all of Lake Como’s lake side villages and towns. For more on the cycling routes, take a look at this official website about cycle routes around the lakes, canals and crossing the Alps.
WHAT WE DID ABOUT TRANSPORT
We experienced all forms of transportation that northern Italy is famous for during our trip.
For our trip, we did not drive around Lake Como. We walked. A lot. During our walkabouts, we noticed how congested the roads were, with cars driven very carefully within inches of us! There were very few dedicated areas with parking bays but these were always full.
We took the bus a couple of times, hence we experienced the twists and turns on hilly roads. At all other times, we used the hydrofoil and the car ferry to get around the lakeside towns.
We used the trains, both the fast trains and the regional trains. We loved travelling on the seamless fast-trains to Milan and I would highly encourage you to experience it, if you have the opportunity to do so.
Finally we opted for a private transfer to the airport from Como city. It was a short 40-minute relaxing journey to Milan Malpensa Airport via the A36.
My sincere wish is that this article about how to travel around Lake Como has given you a better idea of travelling without a car and by public transportation. With this guide, you could choose where to stay and move around the towns while planning your journeys around the lake by boat, ferry or bus.
If you are considering staying somewhere else, in a nearby city such as Milan, you could still visit this popular region on a day trip.
You may want to check our guide for travel information and tips to this region and other places in Italy:
- 17+ Best Things to do in Como City, Italy
- 18 Best Things to Do See in Bellagio, Italy
- 10 Best Things to do in Vareena, Italy
- Argegno: The Perfect Off-beat Charm in Lake Como
- The Best Lake Como Towns, Italy
- Lake Como Itinerary for 5 Days
- Where to Stay in Milan
- 12 Very Best Day Trips from Milan
- An Overview of Milan Centrale Station
- Milan Bucket List: 19 Ideas
- The Best of Milan Cathedral
- The Best of Milan: Sunset from the Rooftop of Milan Cathedral
- Arco della Pace
- Parco Sempione Milan
- Sforza Castle and Museums
- Quotes about Milan that makes the City Irressistible
- About the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
- Getting around Milan like a Local: Best Guide to Public Transportation in Milan
- Best of Milan in One Day
- 7 Beautiful Places to Stay in Verona
- The Best 16 Traditional Food in Verona to Try or to Know About
- Verona Wine: 11 Best Garda Wines
- 31 Best Things to do in Verona
- 3 Best Food Tours in Verona
- 9 Charming Walking Tours in Verona
- Romeo & Juliet in Fair Verona
- Verona by Bike
- Piazza delle Erbe, Verona
- About Piazza Bra, Verona
- The Lamberti Tower, Verona
- Mazzanti House, Verona
- Palazzo Maffei, Verona
- Getting around Verona: Public Transport and best Ways to Explore
- Verona at a Glance
Have a great time exploring Lake Como, Italy.
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For a timeless experience
Would you like to experience the best of Lake Como as well as the best off-beat places including taking a dip in the clear waters of this famous lake?
One of the best things to do in Lake Como if you want to use the most of your time when visiting this region is to go on a boat trip. A private boat hire might be best for you so you could experience several places in a short time. If this is the kind of thing you’d like to do, take a look at this private boat trip I found:
This particular private boat trip is flexible where you can curate your own itinerary of places to visit and admire from the waters. You could also hire these guys for a special celebration like a birthday, anniversary or a special couples outing with champagne. They will even do drone photography , if you want them to. However, if you do not want to curate your own itinerary, this private boat trip takes you to see the popular villas from the waters. It includes a trip to the beautiful Comacina Island where you can swim in the clear waters of Lake Como.
You can learn in more detail about this exceptional private boat trip from Viator.