Spending some time in Milan and looking for a fun little getaway? Why not escape to the lakeside by planning a Lake Como Day Trip from Milan?
Lake Como is just an hour from Milan by train, yet feels like a thousand miles away. Encased at the foot of the Alps, Lake Como’s shorelines are scattered with picture-perfect towns, secret beaches, Neoclassical villas, and luxurious gardens. Visiting these villages of Northern Italy truly feels like stepping onto a fabulous movie set, one where everything radiates the opulence, lavishness, and elegance of a bygone era. For all these reasons and more, Lake Como has slowly become one of the most popular destinations in Italy and is nowadays very well equipped for visitors. It’s very easy to take in the sights of Varenna, Bellagio, or Menaggio and get back to Milan for bedtime.
So, if you’re planning a Lake Como Day Trip from Milan, here’s a practical guide to making the most of your visit. Let’s start with the basics, and then move on to some itineraries suggestions.
How to get from Milan to Lake Como on a day trip?
There are a number of ways to get from Milan to Lake Como, including driving yourself or taking public transport. The best option, however, is to take a direct train from Milan Central Station to Varenna, the most beautiful and visited town in Lake Como. There are about 2 trains per hour departing from Milan Central Station, all taking around 70 minutes each way to get you to your destination. You can check time schedules and book ahead your train tickets online on Trenitalia’s official website.
Another option is to take a direct train from Milan Central Station to Como Lago Station. However, despite being a lovely town, Como is a bit far from other villages, especially the ones that are really worth a visit on your day trip.
How to get around in Lake Como?
To get you from one town to the next in Lake Como, your best option is to use the ferry system. Each town has its own ferry port and a ticket office. Popular routes have multiple ferries running every hour.
You can check time schedules and ticket prices on ‘Navigazione Laghi’ official website. You can also buy a 15€ one-day pass that gives you unlimited travel back and forth to the most popular towns. Although a bit pricey, we’d suggest buying one to skip the ticket office lines which can occur during summer months.
Can you see Lake Como on a day trip?
Yes, absolutely. If well planned, a Lake Como Day Trip gives you more than enough time to visit at least two different towns, if not three, including a stop in one of the most famous lakeside Villas. Bellagio, Varenna, and Menaggio are some of the most famous locations, but there are obviously many other places to discover. In the 3 itineraries below, we’ll give you some suggestions on how to organize your Lake Como Day Trip from Milan, step-by-step.
Lake Como Day Trip from Milan: 3 Itinerary Ideas
1. Varenna, Villa Monastero, Villa Balbianello
Besides being one of the prettiest towns in Lake Como, Varenna is also the most convenient one to reach by train, which is why all your itineraries should start out there. Taking the train that leaves Milano Centrale station at 09:20, you should arrive in Varenna at 10:24 sharp. Then, it’s a 5-minute walk from Varenna train station down to the lakeside. From Varenna’s pier, follow the path leading to the scenic Passeggiata degli Innamorati (Lovers’ Walk) which leads right to the heart of the historic center. The lakeside main piazza is lined with beautiful restaurants, bars, ice cream parlors, and local artisan shops.
A 10-minute walk up the main pedestrian path will lead you to the town main square, and then to the famous Villa Monastero. Built in the 11th century using a combination of Baroque, Moresque, and Classical styles, Villa Monastero once served as a Cistercian convent. Today, it houses a museum and a lush botanical garden that extends for almost 2 kilometers. After visiting Villa Monastero, stop for a quick lunch on the lakeside, then head back to the ferry port and take a 15-minute ferry to Lenno.
A quiet and delightful town, Lenno houses what is consistently voted as the more beautiful Villa in all of Lake Como: Villa Balbianello. Built in the 18th century by Cardinal During around an existing Franciscan monastery, Villa Balbianello is nowadays used as a setting for spectacular weddings, and exclusive parties as well as Hollywood films – James Bond Casino Royal and Star Wars II, just to name a few. There are two ways to get to Villa Balbianello. One is through the forest, on foot. The 15-minute walk up it’s fairly steep uphill, although very pleasant. The second is by getting a 10-minute (and 8€) water taxi that you can hop on right before the forest path entrance, and which gets you into the Villa through a very scenic gate. Whatever your choice, the views from this Villa will take your breath away.
After visiting Villa Balbianello, take the ferry back to Varenna. Your perfect Lake Como Day Trip from Milan should end with an aperitif in one of the many lakeside restaurants back in Varenna, leaving you with plenty of time to take the 8:22 PM or the 9:22 PM train that can take you back to Milan.
From left to right: a) Varenna; b) Villa Monastero in Varenna; c) Villa Balbianello in Lenno d) Villa Balbianello in Lenno
2. Varenna, Villa Monastero, Bellagio, Villa Melzi
After wandering through Varenna and Villa Monastero, following the previously described itinerary, head back to the ferry port and take a 15-minute ferry across the lake to the neighboring town of Bellagio. One of the biggest (and more touristy) towns on Lake Como, Bellagio feels even richer and more glamorous than its neighboring sisters.
Here, wine bars spill onto the streets, and are always filled with sun-kissed holidaying Italians sitting and chitchatting with their friends (and cute little dogs). From the waterfront, cobblestoned paths lead uphill through the town, with luxury shops and restaurants filling both sides of the streets.
From Bellagio main square, it’s a 10-minute walk to Villa Melzi. Villa Melzi was built in 1810 as the summer residence of Duke Francesco Melzi d’Eril. The Neoclassical villa was then decorated, furnished, and also visited by the most famous European artists of the time. Stendhal particularly loved this place as he attended as a guest several times.
The villa’s English-style gardens are absolutely incredible. Several venerable trees and exotic plants can be found here, including copper beeches, camphor trees, cedar trees from Lebanon, and Ginkgo balboa. Other gems of the gardens include a private chapel, various Egyptian statues from Napoleon’s campaign, and an aedicule in Moorish style. A greenhouse, called the orangery, showcases a collection of memorabilia from the Napoleonic era and other rare archaeological artifacts.
After visiting Villa Melzi, take the ferry back to Varenna, where your fabulous Lake Como Day Trip from Milan can end with an even more fabulous aperitif.
From left to right: a) Varenna; b) Villa Monastero in Varenna; c) Bellagio d) Villa Melzi in Bellagio
3. Varenna, Villa Monastero, Menaggio, Villa Carlotta
As you can now guess, this itinerary starts out in Varenna, too, following the same path described in the first itinerary sample. Then, with just a 15-minute ferry ride, you’ll reach the lovely town of Menaggio.
Menaggio lies just straight across the lake from Varenna, acting as the cooler, less touristy sister village to Bellagio. Nevertheless, you’ll find the lakefront promenade still filled with lovely hotels, cafes, and boutiques. Once a fenced town in medieval times, Menaggio serves now as a charming refuge from the Lake Como crowds. Climbing up the stairs leading to the older area of the town, you can still see the remnants of the fortifications that once enclosed the ancient castle.
From Menaggio, it’s a 20-minute walk to Tremezzo, a wonderful treat for lovers of nature and glamorous villas. The most perfect of them all is Villa Carlotta. Originally built for the Milanese marquis Giorgio Clerici in 1690, Villa Carlotta extends over 17 acres. The incredibly lush gardens feature azaleas, orchids, bamboo, Japanese maples, palm trees, and other 500 rare species. The inside of the 17th-century Neoclassical villa is worth a visit too, as it showcases a fascinating collection of paintings, sculptures, and embroideries.
After visiting Villa Carlotta, hop back on a ferry to go back to Varenna. Here you can end your incredible Lake Como Day Trip from Milan with an Aperol Spritz right before hopping on your train.
From left to right: a) Varenna; b) Villa Monastero in Varenna; c) Menaggio d) Villa Carlotta in Tremezzo
Tags: Milan to Lake Como Day Trip; Lake Como Day Trip from Milan