a guide to the best things to see

Lake Como is a spectacular destination that combines natural beauty, historical and cultural richness, as well as a mild climate almost year-round.

If it were up to me, I would recommend visiting the lake for at least 3 or 4 days, choosing from the many activities in the area such as a visit to the most beautiful historic villas, guided nature tours or simply discovering the most picturesque villages on Lake Como.

But if you are short on time, perhaps because you are taking a larger Italian trip, here is a one-day itinerary that will have you discover the wonders of the lake starting with the city of Como, with suggestions for the most famous attractions and must-see stops!

A couple of notes:

❗ it is ideal to take this tour in spring, just at the beginning of the peak season, when it is not yet full of tourists but services are more operational than in the winter season

❗ this tour requires a good pace; if you have mobility problems, or just want to enjoy things very slowly, you may not appreciate the tour fully

❗ the time slots are for reference only: check the transportation schedule the night before you take the tour!

Riva Grande, Varenna, Lake Como

1. Visit Como's most beautiful squares and its lakefront

08:00 – 09:45

Start your tour from the city where I was born, Como.

Leave your home early, say around 8 a.m., and have breakfast in one of the little streets in the center. After that, you will have an hour or so to visit the city’s most characteristic squares, such as Piazza Duomo with its imposing Cathedral, or Piazza San Fedele with its Romanesque basilica and Saturday market.

Head for the lake and admire Piazza Volta, with its monument dedicated to the celebrated local scientist and inventor of the electric battery.

09:45 – 10:30

From Piazza Volta (or nearby Piazza Cavour), walk along the lakefront (on the left side from the harbor and public boat ticket office) and take a few photos of the neoclassical Volta Museum and Life Electric (two other beautiful monuments dedicated to the scientist) and the imposing War Memorial.

At this point, after relaxing a bit in the lakeside gardens, head back toward the Piazza Cavour ticket office to catch the boat to your next destination: Bellagio.

About the public boat tour:

❗ remember that you can choose regular or express ferry service (more info here); if you want to make the most of the lake trip, the regular one is the best choice but remember that it takes about 2 hours to get to Bellagio

❗if you prefer to spend more time visiting the villages, then the express service is the best choice; however, it is currently not possible to purchase this ticket online, so you will have to head to the ticket office in advance of departure (at least 25 minutes before departure, in peak season)

❗in either case, purchase the round-trip free circulation ticket to Varenna; this gives you the opportunity to make several stops in the area between the starting point and the farthest point (which, in the case of this tour, is Varenna).

2. Enjoy the boat ride and visit Bellagio with its Villa Melzi

Cruise on Lake Como

10:30 – 12:00

During the boat trip, relax and have fun recognizing popular must-sees: you will have no trouble spotting all the major towns on the southwestern branch of the lake (Cernobbio, Argegno, Nesso, etc.) and popular historic villas such as Villa OlmoΒ or Villa Balbianello.

12:00 – 15:00/03:00 pm

Once you get to Bellagio (make sure to arrive around noon), get lost in the little streets of the historic center such as Salita Mella or Salita Serbelloni, where you will find numerous leather stores, perfumeries, small restaurants and much more!

After some shopping you will be hungry! Around 1 p.m. sit down for lunch at a restaurant in the village, making sure to make reservations well in advance if you are in high season.

After lunch, you can choose whether to head to Punta Spartivento, Bellagio’s promontory from which you can admire the three branches of Lake Como, or head to the beautiful Villa Melzi Gardens (where you should devote at least an hour or so to admiring the complex’s manicured gardens). Remember that the gardens are usually open from March to October!

3. Spend your afternoon in Varenna

15:00 – 15:30 (03:00 – 03:30 pm)

Getting from Bellagio toΒ Varenna takes only 10-15 minutes by ferry.

❗If you will have already purchased the free-circulation ticket, then you simply need to go to the pier and board. Since there are two piers in Bellagio (both very close to the old town), ask the shore staff for confirmation on where to take the boat to Varenna.

15:30 – 17:00 (03:30 – 05:00 pm)

When you arrive in Varenna, walk to the town center along the super-romantic Passeggiata degli Innamorati (Lovers’ Promenade) and have a coffee or ice cream at Riva Grande, the town’s picturesque bay where there are numerous cafes, restaurants, local craft stores, ice cream parlors and more.

Spend some time strolling through the alleys of this little pearl of Lake Como. Here too, as in Bellagio, there are many little streets full of stairs that crisscross the historic center but, if these are not a problem for you, I assure you that it is worth it.

4. Get back to Como city (maybe you have time for another stop?)

Como City, Italy, Lake Como
Como by night

17:00 – 19:00 (05:00 – 7:00 pm)

After that, take the fast ferry in the direction of Como (if you want to use the fast ferry, you have to pay an additional fee of €4.40 at the ticket office near the pier).

❗ If it is not too late, and if you have purchased the free circulation ticket, you may consider stopping in a town along the return route to take a short break, such as stopping in Argegno or Cernobbio for an aperitif. Always check the Navigazione Laghi website for available times and stopovers based on the period you are taking the tour.

19:00 – 20:00 (07:00 – 08:00 pm)

Okay, the time has come to return to the starting point! Now you can return to Como by boat and look for a nice place to eat in the historic city center or on the right side of the lakefront (Viale Geno)… you will really be spoiled for choice!

Remember that the boat service does not run late at night, even in peak season, so I again stress to plan your tour carefully by using the most up-to-date timetables and information you can find online.Β If you take this tour, I look forward to your feedback and hearing how you found it and what you preferred.

Have a wonderful day trip on Lake Como!

Experiences & tours

Make your trip a unique experience!​

Como, Bellagio & 1 hour boat tour from Milan
Tailored boat tour with Venetian Limousine
Tailored boat tour
with Venetian Limousine
Venetian Limousine
2 hour boat tour with
Venetian Limousine
4h tour on a Venetian Limo with visit to Villa Balbianello
4h tour on a Venetian Limo & visit to Villa Balbianello
Venetian Limousine
4 hour boat tour with stop
at a location of your choice
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