Are you dreaming of a magical lakeside holiday? Whether it’s culture, botanical gardens, history or cuisine you’re looking for – Lake Como in Northern Italy is your ideal destination.
Offering postcard-perfect scenery and plenty of things to do for all types of travelers, a Lake Como trip should be top on your list when planning a memorable Italian getaway. This in depth article will help guide you through creating the perfect Lake Como itinerary – providing insight into how many days to spend in beautiful Lake Como and all the best places for sightseeing, eating, shopping and relaxing.
Read on to learn about our recommended activities and Lake Como highlights so that make sure most out of your vacation!
Overview of Lake Como, Italy
Lake Como is a breathtakingly beautiful lake located in Italy’s Lombardy region. Known as Lago di Como in Italian, it is the third-largest lake in the country and has been attracting visitors for centuries. Lake Como is a breathtaking destination located in Northern Italy.
This expansive lake stretches over 56 square miles and is also one of the deepest lakes in Europe. Lake Como is surrounded by picturesque towns and villages, including Bellagio, Varenna, and Menaggio. Boasting crystal clear waters nestled among the Alps, Lake Como offers a truly serene atmosphere perfect for relaxation.
The area is also known for its luxurious villas, lush gardens, and excellent cuisine. Its popularity has made it a favorite destination for celebrities and holidaymakers alike.
With its stunning scenery and rich history, the Lake Como area is undoubtedly a must-see destination for anyone visiting Italy. This incredible destination captures the true essence of Italy, and can truly take your breath away.
Suggested Lake Como Itinerary
A visit to Lake Como, nestled in the foothills of the Italian Alps, is a dream for many travelers. Whether you have two, three, or four days to explore this stunning region, there are plenty of things to do and see.
The perfect Lake Como itinerary could include a visit to the historic town of Como, where you can stroll through the charming old town and admire the impressive Gothic-style cathedral. A cruise on the lake is also a must-do, offering breathtaking views of the mountains and picturesque villages.
For an authentic Italian experience, head to the comune of Bellagio, known as the “pearl of the lake,” where you can explore the cobbled streets and sample local wines at a cozy trattoria.
With so much to see and do, Lake Como is a destination that will leave you feeling enchanted. If you are short on time, you could head directly from Milan to Bellagio and Varenna, and do 2 to 3 days there. You could also fit Menaggio, Villa Carlotta and Villa del Balbianello into one day, although it would be a busy one!
Ideally, try to spend 5 or more days in Lake Como. We’d suggest staying for 7 days or more if you want to see the entire lake.
Best things to do in Lake Como
Day 1 – Como Town
On the first day of your visit to Lake Como, make sure to explore the charming town of Como. This historic city is filled with impressive architecture, fascinating museums, and delightful boutiques and cafes.
Take a stroll through the winding cobblestone streets, and admire the stunning views of the lake and the surrounding mountains. Step inside Como Cathedral on Piazza del Duomo to admire the 16th century tapestries and paintings and the Renaissance transept.
Located on the shores of Lake Como, Villa Olmo is a true gem. One of the most impressive villas in the region, it was designed by Simone Cantoni in the neoclassical style.
Villa Olmo was built in the late 18th century for the wealthy Odescalchi family. When planning a Como itinerary, Villa Olmo should definitely be on your list.
While you’re in Como city, consider taking a private boat tour. This is the perfect way to see the lake and the picturesque shoreline of Como from a unique perspective. The boats themselves are beautifully crafted and offer comfortable seating, so you can relax and enjoy the views.
If you have more time, why not take a cable car up to the summit of Brunate for panoramic views of the lake and mountains? With so much to see and do in this magnificent city, you’re sure to have a fantastic first day exploring Lake Como.
Day 2 – Bellagio and Varenna
On day 2 of your trip to Lake Como, we suggest that you explore the breathtaking comunes of Bellagio and Varenna. Bellagio, also known as the “pearl of the lake,” boasts stunning views of the surrounding mountains and crystal-clear waters.
Take a stroll down the narrow cobblestone streets, admire the colorful buildings, and indulge in some delicious Italian cuisine at one of the many lakeshore restaurants. Both Parco di Villa Serbelloni and Villa Melzi gardens are well worth a visit, and within walking distance of the centre.
Parco di Villa Serbelloni is a stunning natural oasis that boasts over 18 hectares of lush gardens, winding paths, and centuries-old trees. Originally built in the late 1800s as a summer retreat for an aristocratic family, the park is now open to the public and offers visitors a tranquil escape from the hustle and bustle of Bellagio.
The lakeside Villa Melzi gardens were designed in the early 19th century for Francesco Melzi d’Eril, a prominent figure in Italian politics at the time. From the moment you enter, you’re greeted by aisles of towering trees and vibrant flowers that seem to radiate a sense of peace and tranquility.
The Basilica di San Giacomo on Piazza della Chiesa is a fine example of Lombard-Romanesque architecture, dating from 1075. Bellagio is also known for its shopping, and you shouldn’t miss Pierangelo Masciadri’s boutique, Arte & Moda, on Via Roma.
Pierangelo creates unique designer handbags, Como silk ties, scarves and other accessories. His ties have been worn by well-known figures such as Barack Obama, Goldie Hawn, H.S.H. Prince Albert II of Monaco, Sandra Day O’Connor and George W. Bush. He and his daughter will advise you how to style your purchases, which are all limited editions.
Dispensa 63, a tiny family run restaurant on Salita Camillo Benso Conte di Cavour, is a great place for lunch. If you’d like a lakeside view, Hotel Florence on Piazza Giuseppe Mazzini has a charming wisteria clad terrace.
Next, head to Varenna, a charming fishing village with a picturesque harbor, narrow streets and quaint houses lining the waterfront. Explore the gorgeous gardens of Villa Cipressi and Villa Monastero, or take a dip in the refreshing waters of Lake Como.
For a light lunch or dinner overlooking the lake, Caffe Varenna on Contrada Scoscesa is a nice option. If you have time, hike up to Castello di Vezio in the comune of Perledo for unparalleled lake views.
Another great excursion from Varenna is to Orrido di Bellano. This 15 million year old gorge and waterfall has a 5€ entry fee.
No matter what you do, these two charming towns that are sure to leave you in awe of their beauty and charm.
Day 3 – Menaggio and Tremezzo
Menaggio and Tremezzo are two charming comunes located on the western shore of Lake Como in Italy, and are perfect for a day of sightseeing. In Menaggio, you can walk through the beautiful Piazza Giuseppe Garibaldi and visit the Church of San Stefano, which boasts stunning frescoes and artwork.
There are some good ice cream shops in Menaggio, such as Il Gabbiano and La Fabrica del Gelato. After enjoying a gelato, take a scenic walk along the picturesque lakeside promenade, where you can admire the crystal-clear waters of Lake Como and the majestic mountains that surround it.
Tremezzo is a small town that is home to the famous Villa Carlotta, a stunning 17th-century villa that houses beautiful artwork, statues, and a magnificent botanical garden. You can also visit the historic Church of Santa Maria and take a leisurely walk along the charming streets of the town.
Enjoy a luxurious lunch at Grand Hotel Tremezzo, or something more casual at Antica Serra Caffetteria within the grounds of Villa Carlotta. Either way, a day spent exploring Menaggio and Tremezzo is sure to be filled with breathtaking views and unforgettable memories.
Day 4 – Lenno
Lenno, a charming village nestled on the shores of Lake Como, is home to some of the most stunning scenery and cultural landmarks in Italy.The top attraction in Lenno is the magnificent Villa del Balbianello, a stunning 18th-century villa situated on a wooded promontory.
This enchanting villa is a must-see for visitors to Lenno and offers a fascinating glimpse into Italian art, history, and culture. Famous for its appearance in Star Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones, it was also the setting for James Bond’s recuperation in Casino Royale.
Explore the villa’s beautiful garden and admire its exquisite interior decor on a guided tour. You’ll be captivated by the sense of grandeur and elegance that permeates every corner of this magnificent structure.
If you’re looking for a memorable cultural experience in Lenno, be sure to add a visit to Villa del Balbianello to your itinerary. There isn’t a cafe at the villa, however you’ll find a couple of lakeside bars within a 25 minute walk.
Day 5 – Lecco
Lecco is a hidden gem in Lake Como that should be on every traveler’s itinerary. This is an untouristy town, meaning you’ll feel like you’re experiencing genuine Italian culture and traditions.
There are plenty of things to do in this charming town, from exploring its historic center to taking a stroll along the promenade. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can even try your hand at windsurfing on the lake.
Don’t miss out on visiting the charming Basilica di San Nicolo, one of the town’s most iconic landmarks. For the more adventurous, there are plenty of hiking trails in the area, including the challenging yet rewarding climb up Monte Resegone.
Have lunch in the pretty courtyard at Trattoria Corte Fiorina on Via Giuseppe Bovara and enjoy fine dining at Lisander within Hotel Promessi Sposi on Viale Italia in the nearby town of Malgrate. Overall, Lecco is the perfect destination for those seeking a more authentic Italian experience away from the crowds.
Day Trips from Lake Como
With additional time in the area, you could add on a day trip from Lake Como to the Italian side of Lake Lugano. Cima and Porlezza are charming comunes on Lake Lugano. They are also within easy reach of the villages of Lake Como and the town of Lugano in Switzerland.
You could also fit in a day trip from Lake Como to Milan. However, many people choose to arrive here by plane or train, and spend time in the city before they visit Lake Como. The capital of Lombardy is famous for its exquisite cathedral, world-renowned fashion, and vibrant nightlife. There are also some great al fresco bars and restaurants in Milan.
For nature lovers, the mountainous region of Valtellina offers breathtaking hikes and stunning views of the Alps.
Where to Stay in Lake Como and Lake Lugano
Lake Como is a stunning destination that attracts visitors from all over the world, but finding the right hotel in high season can be a challenge. Thankfully, there are some great options available to suit every traveler’s needs.
If you’re looking for luxury, Aria Retreat & Spa in Cima is an excellent place to stay on Lake Lugano, with its prime lakeside location and five-star facilities.
For families, Parco San Marco, which is next door and part of the same group, offers a comfortable stay with spectacular views of the lake.
Guests at San Marco Park can relax at the largest private beach on Lake Lugano, at over 3,000 square meters. There are two outdoor pools spacious adults only pool, as well as a family pool with slides and water games and an indoor pool. You will find many dining options on site, such as La Musa Restaurant & Rooftop Terrace.
And there are reasonably priced yet luxurious options such as Hotel Promessi Sposi in Malgrate near Lecco, which has incredible views of the lake shore. The newly renovated building is designed to be energy-efficient building, with no single-use plastic and charging stations for e-bikes and electric cars.
As well as their gastronomic restaurant, Lisander, Hotel Promessi Sposi boasts a casual lake view restaurant, Da Giovannino Bistrot which specializes in woodfired pizza. This luxury hotel has a new rooftop bar opening soon, that will be open to non-residents like the restaurants. There will also be a beautiful spa with panoramic lake views opening soon.
No matter what your budget, there’s a hotel that can make your Lake Como vacation unforgettable.
Transport in Lake Como
Arriving in the city of Como via train is easy, with the Como San Giovanni train station just a short walk from the city center. There’s a direct train from Milano Centrale which takes just 39 minutes. For further convenience, car rental is available near the train station.
Car and passenger ferries are available to take visitors to various points around the lake, giving access to all that Lake Como has to offer. For these, you don’t need to book in advance, and can pay with a bank card at the ticket office. However, check the timetables to make sure that you can get back to your accommodation afterwards.
For a more leisurely option, take a lake cruise on one of the many boats available for passengers to delight in the breathtaking views of the surrounding hills and quaint towns along the lake. For these cruises, it’s best to book in advance, especially during peak seasons.
If driving around Lake Como, make sure to arrive at each destination in the morning, as parking spaces fill up very fast.
Useful Tips for Your Trip to Lake Como
Lake Como is an enchanting destination that has a lot to offer, but ensuring a smooth trip can be challenging. To help you make the most out of your stay, we’ve gathered some tips on transport, cuisine and other essentials.
To start off, opting for a boat tour on the lake is a must for an unparalleled view of the gorgeous mountainscape and beautiful villas that hug the shore.
As for cuisine, Italian delicacies such as risotto, fresh seafood, and pizza are a must-try. Lavarello is a tasty freshwater whitefish from Lake Como, usually enjoyed sautéed in butter.
Also, remember to try the local delicacy called polenta, which is a staple in the region. And don’t miss a delicious tiramisu to finish! Plan ahead by booking popular restaurants in advance, and you’ll have an unforgettable trip to one of Italy’s most beautiful destinations.
In terms of public conveniences, there are a few in each town or village. Some facilities are free to use, but it’s always wise to carry some spare change as some amenities require a small fee. You may find it easier to pay for a coffee in a local bar, which costs a few euros.
When to Visit Lake Como
Lake Como is a stunning destination any time of year, but there are certain seasons that offer distinct advantages for visitors. The summer months of June through August see the lake come to life with activity as temperatures rise to a comfortable 80°F (27°C) and the crowds come out to play on the beaches and in the water. During peak season, accommodation is at a premium.
Spring, from March through May, and Fall, from September through November, offer cooler temperatures, making it the best time to explore with fewer visitors. We timed our visit to coincide with wisteria season – it differs slightly each year but is generally from beginning to mid April.
For winter sports enthusiasts, the months of December through February offer skiing and snowboarding opportunities in the nearby mountains. No matter when you choose to visit, Lake Como promises a spectacular experience.
In Conclusion: Lake Como Itinerary
With its glistening lakefront, luxurious hotels, impressive villas and exceptional Italian cuisine, Lake Como is an excellent destination for your next vacation. Whether you go for 2 days or 4 days, make sure to plan in advance when visiting Lake Como, so that you can experience all that this magnificent place has to offer.
From chic Bellagio to tiny Varenna, there is something for every traveler. To get around, take a Lake Como ferry, hire a rental car or book a private boat. Don’t miss out on hikes such as the Greenway del Lago di Como, a 10.5 km course with amazing views.
Finally, make sure to allocate enough budget for accommodation – luxury or budget-oriented – and experience Lake Como in all its glory. From picturesque streets in charming lakeside towns, to rich culture, the atmosphere here is unmatched.