Lake Como: a beginners guide

by Tanja

Set in the shadow of the snow-capped Italian Alps, Lake Como (aka Lake Lario) is considered by many an unaccessible ‘dream holiday’. Its winding shorelines are dotted with ancient villages, rich decorated villas and € 1,000 a night luxury hotels. But not everything is as it seems, Lake Como has a lot to offer to travellers on a budget too. Trust a local 😉

Truth is, there is no better place in Europe to experience a lifestyle of pleasure and indulgence. Here, time goes by slowly while reading books, tasting good Italian food and sipping sweet wines.

Famous for its glamour and beauty, the Alpine lake of glacial origin is the deepest and the most spectacular of the three major Italian lakes. At over 400 metres deep, it is one of the deepest lakes in Europe.

Shaped like an upside-down Y, the lake offers different faces to its visitors. The western side, with Como as the main city and the eastern arm, led by the city of Lecco.

Glimpse the History of Lake Como

To fully appreciate its beautiful valley and its dark blue waters you must know its long history and its secrets. The first to really appreciate the lake were the Romans, with their first colony Nova Comum – founded by Julius Ceasar on the lake’s banks in 59 B.C – gave the first name to the place. It is no surprise that, in the following centuries, princes, poets, actors and artists fell in love with Como.

Best time to Visit Lake Como

Hot summer days are most certainly perfect for a refreshing swim in the cold waters of the lake as well as outdoor happy hours at sunset. But hot weather means high rates too. The best choice would be spring and autumn when the weather is mild and the rates are lower. 
Watch out for May though, it can be a bit rainy!

How to arrive at Lake Como from Milan

The easiest way to arrive at Lake Como is by flying to Milan or to the near city of Bergamo, where most of the budget airline companies, like Ryanair, land. If you are flying to Milan’s main airport, Malpensa, you are just a 90’ minute drive away from the city of Como.

From Milan to Lake Como by car

Taxis can be really expensive so, if you are planning to move around the lake and surrounding area you can consider renting a car. After all, who does not dream of a road trip around the stunning coast of Lake Como?
But, before you start comparing the rental companies we must warn you:

* Lakeside roads are narrow and winding
* Italian drivers ARE NOT easy to handle
* Finding a carpark can be a real mission
* Traffic, especially during the summer weekends, can be heavy

As an example, one time we got stuck for 1 hour in crazy traffic. Eventually, we realised that the traffic was caused by a big RV that could not fit on the tight roads.

From Milan to Lake Como by train

An easy way to reach Lake Como from Milan is by train, especially if you are planning a day trip.

To reach Como: from Milano N. Cadorna train station, a 1-hour journey takes you directly to the station of Como Nord Lago.

To reach Lecco: check the Milan-Lecco-Tirano line. This railway departs from the stations of Milano Centrale or Milano Porta Garibaldi, and is the perfect solution if you are staying in Lecco, Varenna or Bellagio. The journey from Milan to Lecco lasts less than an hour.

Going from Milan to Lake Como by train is really cheap. You can buy the train tickets on the official website€ 4,80

Getting around Lake Como

Once you are at the lake, the best way to hop around towns is by ferry. The service regularly operates on both sides of the lake and is a relaxing way to visit the most famous spots while enjoying the beautiful scenery.

You can buy a single destination ticket, a one day pass or a six day pass. The cost varies depending on the distance.
An avarage distance, for example, Como – Bellagio costs €10,40 one-way; the daily pass for the same route costs €23,30, but allows you to hop on and off at the intermediate stops.
Download the fares table from the official website. You can buy your tickets at the local boat landings.

A car ferry service ( between Cadenabbia and Bellagio, Bellagio and Varenna, Varenna and Menaggio, Menaggio and Bellagio) also allows you to transport your car to the opposite side of the lake. Perfect for a one-way round road trip.
More info on the official website.

The whole area around Lake Como has a network of bus services to reach the main town along the valley. Check the time table and the interactive map. 

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