Planning a trip to Lake Como in Northern Italy but unsure what to do? This 2-day itinerary will highlight the best things to do in Lake Como on a short break.
The stunning setting of Lake Como in Northern Italy was the next stop on our 2-week self-drive European road trip. Having had a fantastic time exploring Interlaken in Switzerland, we were ready to experience what Italy had to show us.
We knew there were so many great things to do in Lake Como; however, we decided to travel slowly for this part of our itinerary. We wanted to enjoy the sensational views of one of Italy’s most beautiful lakes and take just two side trips – one to Bellagio, one of the most picturesque places in Northern Italy, and the other to the main town of Como.
As we only had two days in Lake Como, we wanted to immerse ourselves fully in the two Italian towns we had chosen to visit and have time to enjoy relaxing in our beautiful hotel.
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Helpful Information About Lake Como
Getting to Lake Como from Milan
Lake Como is 25 miles from Milan in Lombardy, Northern Italy. It is Italy’s most glamorous lake, and George Clooney owns the most famous lake villa. Many well-known personalities spend their holidays here, so don’t be surprised to see someone famous living La Dolce Vita in your restaurant!
The nearest airport to Lake Como is in Milan; there is a train you can catch from the airport to Como San Giovanni station. It is a 90-minute journey.
There are also trains from the centre of Milan to Lake Como:
The journey from Milano Centrale to Como San Giovanni station is quick as it only stops at a few stations. It only takes 45 minutes; however, it has fewer departure times.
The one-hour train journey from Milano Porta Garibaldi to Como San Giovanni is slightly slower. It has more departure times but stops at each station, making the journey longer.
Make sure you buy the correct train ticket for the Lake Como station you need, as there are two: Como San Giovanni and Como Lago.
If you prefer being part of a guided tour, there are many day trips from Milan to Lake Como.
Travelling around Lake Como
Lake Como is the third largest Italian lake after Lake Garda and Lake Maggiore, so getting around it takes some planning.
We arrived in Menaggio on the opposite shore of Lake Como that we needed, so we had to use the car ferry crossing to take us across Lake Como to Bellagio. Ferries from Menaggio also sail to Varenna.
It’s a quick crossing, and tickets can be bought on arrival, but ensure you arrive at least 15 minutes before sailing as cars start to queue, and it’s first come, first served.
Once across the water and at the ferry port in Bellagio, we drove up the coast to the sleepy town of Lezzano, where we had booked to stay for two nights. We planned to go sightseeing in Bellagio the following day.
There are two types of passenger ferries, a fast ferry and a slow ferry. The slow passenger ferry is a great way to get from A to B and take terrific photographs. It is also slightly cheaper than the fast ferry.
The fast passenger ferry does precisely as its name says; it gets you from A to B quickly; however, it doesn’t stop at all the towns around the lake. It also costs slightly more than the slow ferry.
Where to Stay on Lake Como
We chose Hotel Filario because we wanted something modern and with a pool. Many of the Lake Como hotels are too chintzy for us, so we were glad we found what we were looking for in Lezzano.
The hotel has underground parking ( a big plus on a road trip), beautiful lake-view rooms, a fabulous swimming pool and a fine dining restaurant. It’s a bit pricey, but it shouldn’t break the bank for only two nights.
It is set in the sleepy village of Lezzano, where not much happens. We walked around the village but saw no sign of life apart from a few cats. There is a local bar and restaurant if you fancy a meal away from the hotel, but who wants to leave the luxury of Hotel Filario!!
Two-Day Lake Como Itinerary
Day One – Bellagio
If you had to describe a beautiful Italian town, Bellagio would hit the mark, which is probably why it is known in Italy as the ‘Pearl of Lake Como’.
With its tree-lined promenade, winding streets, and beautiful gardens, this picturesque town on the banks of Lake Como needs to be seen.
Bus Service in Bellagio
A bus service operates around Lake Como and is much easier than taking your car into Bellagio because finding a parking space is nearly impossible.
Make sure to buy your bus ticket before boarding from one of the ticket kiosks in Bellagio or a local village store near your stop. We hopped on the bus to return to our hotel from Bellagio, thinking we could pay onboard, but we were mistaken.
We were allowed on by a very disgruntled driver who didn’t have a word of English (and my Italian is not great), but thanks to a bilingual passenger, we were told we would need to jump off and get a bus ticket during the journey.
Almost at our hotel, the bus driver had still not stopped the bus for us to get a ticket, and I thought he had forgotten. Then suddenly, with no warning, the bus stopped, and the driver pointed to me to get off the bus and indicated a tiny shop where I could buy a ticket.
I dutifully disembarked, entered the shop and was greeted by an elderly lady who, after a few hand gestures and glances towards the bus, sold me my bus ticket.
Back on board, it was one more stop, and I was at my hotel. It had been an interesting lesson into the workings of the Italian bus company but not as relaxing as I had hoped!
The moral of this story is when you want to use the bus around Lake Como, buy your bus ticket before you embark.
Easier still to jump in a taxi (which is how we had gone to Bellagio in the morning); it’s so much easier than searching for a place to buy bus tickets!
Best things to do in Bellagio
Wander Bellagio’s cobbled streets.
You can explore Bellagio on foot in a few hours as it is a small and compact town. Cobbled streets and stairways lead you uphill from the waterfront, passing pastel-coloured buildings and artisan shops.
The walk uphill can be pretty strenuous, especially in the hot Italian sunshine. However, the stunning views across Lake Como are a fitting reward.
Shop on Salita Serbelloni, Bellagio’s most-photographed street.
Salita Serbelloni is the most famous street in Bellagio and leads up a steep hill to the top of town.
This cobblestone street has quaint stores and boutiques selling everything from designer fashion to local delicacies.
There are also plenty of cafes, restaurants and ice cream shops where you can relax and enjoy some delicious Italian food while taking in the stunning views of Lake Como. Our reward for making it to the top of Salita Serbelloni was a large helping of gelato (3 scoops!)
Take a photograph from the top of Salita Serbelloni and capture a memorable image of the colourful buildings with the backdrop of Lake Como and the mountains.
Stroll along Bellagio’s promenade.
Do as the Italians do and stroll along Bellagio’s waterfront promenade.
Lined by flowering trees in the summer and with picture-perfect views of Lake Como, this is a gorgeous spot in Bellagio to relax and take in your surroundings.
We sat here for a while and watched groups of teenagers chatting, old folks walking hand-in-hand, and ladies-who-lunch dressed in their finery heading off to Bellagio’s restaurants. It all felt so Italian!
Visit the beautiful Parco di Villa Serbelloni.
Parco di Villa Serbelloni is a stunning park close to the town centre, covering 50 acres. It has breathtaking views and plenty to explore, including the English Garden. Perfect!
This garden features winding pathways, blooming flowers, and stunning sculptures that captivate your senses. Visitors can also find several monuments dedicated to past celebrities who stayed at the villa throughout its history.
You can buy tickets to the park from the tourist office in the main square near the St. Giacomo church.
If you fancy staying in Bellagio, the exclusive Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni is near the park, offering luxury, decadence and five-star service.
Rent a boat and discover the beauty of Lake Como from the water.
Exploring Lake Como by boat is an unforgettable experience and a must-do activity.
With its stunning scenery, crystal-clear waters and picturesque towns and villages, it’s no wonder this Italian lake has inspired visitors for centuries.
Whether you’re looking to relax or get active on the water, renting a boat in Lake Como for a few hours is the perfect way to experience all it offers.
And sightseeing cruises are available for those who prefer a captain to skipper the vessel. You will see some of the most popular Lake Como sights from the water, including Villa Balbianello, known for its beautiful architecture and picturesque gardens and for being the filming spot for the James Bond movie Casino Royal.
Enjoy lunch at Trattoria Baita Belvedere at admire the view.
If you’re looking for a unique dining experience in one of Italy’s most beautiful lake towns, look no further than Trattoria Baita Belvedere in Bellagio.
This charming trattoria is perched atop the hills overlooking Lake Como and offers stunning views of the lake and surrounding mountains. The restaurant is nestled within an old stone farmhouse, adding to its rustic charm.
The menu at Trattoria Baita Belvedere focuses on classic Italian dishes made with locally-sourced ingredients from the surrounding area.
Stroll around the grand surroundings at Villa Melzi or Villa Carlotta.
Villa Melzi is a stunning example of 19th-century Italian architecture, built in 1808 by Duke Giulio Melzi d’Eril.
With its beautiful lush gardens, lakeside setting and amazing views, Villa Melzi has become one of the most iconic sights on Lake Como and is a must-see when visiting this part of Italy.
Villa Carlotta is another stunning villa on the shore of Lake Como. The 18th-century villa and its large gardens are open to visitors all year round, offering an unforgettable experience of Italian culture and history.
When you visit Villa Carlotta, you can see several beautiful sights preserved from centuries past. One of the most impressive is the grand entrance gate with its central archway, flanked by two classical statues.
Visit Enoteca Cava Turacciolo – Bellagio’s famous wine bar.
Enoteca Cava Turacciolo is a charming little wine shop and restaurant that offers a unique experience perfect for anyone looking to unwind and enjoy fantastic Italian food and drinks in Bellagio.
At Enoteca Cava Turacciolo, you can find an extensive selection of wines. From crisp white wines like Pinot Grigio to robust reds like Sangiovese, there is something here for everyone’s taste. And don’t forget to accompany a glass with one of the popular charcuterie boards – Delicioza!
Stay in Bellagio and enjoy the town’s vibe.
If you want to stay in town, there are many choices of high-end or budget accommodations in Bellagio. One thing to remember is that they get booked quickly, as Bellagio is an extremely popular destination. Make sure you book in advance to get your favourite choice of hotel.
The one featured in this photograph is Hotel Florence. It is a 3-star hotel with excellent reviews and, best of all, the most beautiful lake and mountain views.
You can check here for the availability and pricing of Bellagio accommodations.
Day Two – Exploring the town of Como
Up bright and early on day two, we visited the town of Como at the north end of Lake Como. Driving time between Bellagio and Como is approximately 45 minutes if you don’t get stuck in a traffic jam!
This time we took the car as trying to find somewhere to buy bus tickets is tricky if you don’t speak Italian. Luckily as Como is a large town, we found plenty of parking spaces.
Como Cathedral dominates the town, and its green domes are visible from a distance. We chose to walk around the lake rather than head into the main town centre as it was a hot day, and truthfully we couldn’t drag ourselves away from the stunning lakeside views.
Best things to do in Como
Fall in love with the lakeside views of Lake Como.
One of the best free things to do in Como is to walk along the promenade that leads around Lake Como. It’s lined with historic buildings, a park, a cafe, and benches to rest your legs and watch the world go by.
Take a moment to enjoy your surroundings, feel the sun on your face and breathe in the clean air, and hey presto, a smile will come to your face. It did on mine!
This promenade was one of my favourite places to visit in Lake Como, and I recommend you put it on your Lake Como itinerary.
Watch events unfold on the lake, from seaplanes taking off to sightseeing boats cruising along the waterway. You’ll be surprised how busy life on the lake is!
Watch Lake Como’s seaplanes take off and land.
Lake Como is one of the few places in Italy that offers the opportunity to experience a flight aboard a seaplane, so you will see them take off from your vantage point on the foreshore.
We were fascinated to watch the Como seaplanes take off and land. People turned up, got on, and off they went on Lake Como sightseeing flights.
Tour the impressive Gothic Como Cathedral.
Take a tour of the beautiful gothic-style Roman Catholic cathedral, while in Como. It was built in 1396 and is one of northern Italy’s most impressive architectural monuments.
The main façade of Cathedral Maria Assunta is decorated with sculptures representing historical religious figures. Inside, you can see the stunning marble floor with intricate geometric patterns and a grand altar surrounded by elaborately carved wooden choir stalls.
It is one of the most impressive examples of Lombard-Gothic architecture in Europe and a must-see attraction in Como.
Opening hours for visitors: Monday – Friday from 10:30 am to 5:30 pm.
Explore Villa Olmo.
Wander along Lake Como’s promenade, and you’ll see some impressive sights. One is the beautiful Villa Olmo.
This 18th-century villa is home to majestic gardens, a stunning collection of art and artefacts and an impressive neoclassical façade that provides spectacular views over Lake Como.
The villa has been home to many wealthy families and is now a popular tourist attraction. We didn’t go inside but sat in the shaded area in front of the villa to enjoy an ice cream!
The most iconic feature of Villa Olmo is its extensive park-like grounds which are full of lush greenery and stunning flowers that bloom throughout the year.
Opening hours for visitors: Tuesday – Sunday from 10 am to 6 pm. The gardens can be visited daily from 7 am to 7 pm.
Admission is free except for temporary exhibitions and events.
Go shopping at Mercato San Fedele.
Explore this traditional market selling local produce, souvenirs and handmade items from talented artisans from all over Italy.
Take the funicular to the village of Brunate.
For the most far-reaching views over the town, lake and mountains, jump aboard the Como funicular to reach the village of Brunate.
Once up there, take some time to stroll around the village and visit the beautiful church of Sant’Andrea Apostolo. Afterwards, enjoy a bite at one of Brunate’s restaurants.
Opening hours and prices can be found on the Como-Brunate funicular website.
See Lake Como by electric bike.
If you’ve done a boat ride, strolled the promenade and taken to the hills on the funicular, maybe a bike ride might interest you.
Take to two wheels for a ride on an eco-friendly electric bike and let the bike take the strain as you easily navigate the scenic streets.
The bike pick-up is by Como Nord station and the funicular.
Try some delicious Italian cuisine in Como.
From traditional Italian cuisine to modern gastronomic experiences, Como offers a variety of culinary options for every type of foodie.
Whether you’re looking for a quick lunch or an intimate dinner, Como has something for everyone.
Piazza Roma Ristorante Como is a favourite in the centre of town, serving traditional Italian dishes in a cosy setting.
Tour Teatro Sociale.
If time permits, be sure to check out this historic theatre erected in 1786, It features grand interiors filled with marble busts, columns and painted ceilings depicting scenes from Greek mythology!
Is Lake Como worth visiting for two days?
I must admit that, in reality, you will need to stay longer than two days if you want to see all of Lake Como’s highlights; however, if you are planning a stay for two nights in Lake Como, you will still get a chance to experience many of its highlights.
I feel that I could enjoy some Lake Como sightseeing and tick-off activities on my itinerary in two days, and I now know that I will be returning later to see some more.
However long you have to spare, even a day trip to Lake Como from Milan, you need to see one of the most beautiful lakes in the world!
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