Located at the foot of the Alps, Lake Como boasts one of the most picturesque sceneries in the world. Lake Como is the third largest lake in Italy after Lake Garda and Lake Maggiore. With a maximum depth of approximately 410 meters (448 yards), Lake Como is one of the deepest lakes in Europe. A boat trip on Lake Como is one of the best travel experiences you can have. Here is how to visit it as a day trip from Milan. To save time, I recommend going on a one-way boat trip. In order to do so, take the train from Milan to Como and return to Milan from Varenna. Even if you do not visit all the picturesque towns during your trip, you can admire them from a boat. Visit the following places on the lake or at least pay attention to them during your boat trip. Places are listed starting from the closest to Como town.
The town of Torno is situated upon a headland, from where it looks down over the south-western end of Lake Como. The church of Santa Tecla is located near the port which makes the skyline more appealing. Climbers will be well rewarded for the ascent of Monte Piatto, where they will find the ‘Pietra Pendula’, a famous hanging stone balanced on a rock.
Literally split in half by its famous gorge, Nesso is smaller than the more popular Bellagio, but it is a real heaven for those who seek peace and tranquillity. The famous Nesso Gorge is probably one of the best natural wonders that you can find around the lake. Enjoy a stunning view of the waterfall from Ponte Della Civera, a Romanesque bridge. If you are lucky, like me, take a photo from your boat. I managed to capture a bridge, a yacht, and a waterfall in one photo.
Villa del Balbianello
Villa del Balbianello is an elegant, romantic 18th century mansion. Located on the tip of the Lavedo headland, the villa provides a stunning view of Isola Comacina and the western shore of Lake Como. The villa is now home to private events such as weddings, ceremonies and is also used as a filming location. You can visit gardens on your own, but if you want to see the interiors you have to join a group tour. You can reach the villa on foot going on an uphill road from the Lenno boat stop. The walk will take you 25 minutes. Most likely you will not have enough time to visit Villa del Balbianello during a day trip, so admire it from a boat.
Located next to the Tremezzo boat station, Villa Carlotta is a fabulous residence that offers a panoramic view of Lake Como. The villa welcomes visitors with its beautiful flowers and magnificent art masterpieces in over 70,000 square metres of gardens and museum. In spring, Villa Carlotta gardens offer an unequalled setting with the blooms of azaleas and rhododendrons that make it famous all over the world. Nevertheless, the other seasons of the year are a source of true wonder as the alternation of colours and scents takes place.
The town of Bellagio is a must see for Instagram lovers as it is full of steps, colourful buildings, and smiling locals. The promenade along Lake Como shore is amazing, especially in spring when the colours of flowers make the Pearl of Lake Como look picturesque. Be aware of crowds and avoid visiting on weekends and national holidays. While visiting Bellagio, do not forget to visit the gardens of nearby Villa Melzi.
Francesco Melzi d’Eril, the Vice President of the First Italian Republic at the time of Napoleon, decided to build a summer residence in Bellagio at the beginning of the 19th century. Villa Melzi interiors are not open to the public, but you can visit its gardens. Experience a fascinating walk while enjoying the perfect balance between architecture and nature’s beauty!Egyptian sculptures and Roman statues add to the romantic atmosphere of the gardens. Fascinating is the Japanese pond with water lilies, surrounded by the Japanese maple and cedar trees. You can get to Villa Melzi on foot from the pier of Bellagio boat station. The walk will take you 15 minutes.
Menaggio is a picturesque town of ancient origins overlooking Lake Como. Situated on the western side of the lake, Menaggio is one of the most visited towns on the shores of Lake Como. The town is popular because of a pretty promenade and the town itself. Its location is excellent for hiking and cycling in the surrounding hills and as a base for reaching other towns and villages on Lake Como. Several trails are easily accessible that lead into the mountains. If you stay longer, the scenic road towards Lake Lugano through the hills is well worth seeing. Also, walk around the small Lago di Piano is highly recommended.
Varenna is an essential stop for anyone wishing to visit one of the most typical towns of the lake. It was initially a fishing village, but after the construction of several villas, it is now one of the most elegant destinations of Lake Como. The magnificent medieval Castle of Vezio is located in the town, but the jewel of Varenna is Villa Monastero that hosts a museum, an exhibition centre, and a pleasant garden full of rare flowers and plants.
So many places, so little time! If you have just one day, have three stops on your boat trip and take a fast hydrofoil boat to save time. Wrapping it all up, my recommended day trip itinerary to Lake Como from Milan is as follows: take a 40 minute train ride to Como town and board a boat to Varenna with stops in Nesso and Tremezzo. Afterwards, visit Villa Carlotta along with Bellagio and Villa Melzi, and finally stroll through Varenna. In the evening take the train back to Milan from Varenna Esino Station. Another option is to continue your trip to Bergamo instead, just in this case you have to change trains in Lecco. It will take you to Milan in a little more than an hour. In any case, check the boat timetable before your trip to make sure you will be able to catch your train back to Milan.
Menaggio is great to add if you spend more time on the lake hiking and taking a day trip to Lugano in Switzerland. Villa del Balbianello is also a great addition to your trip if you have more than a day for your visit.
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Author: Anita Sāne
About the author
Anita is a part-time traveller, passionate photographer and a retired career woman from Latvia, travelling mostly solo for more than 15 years. She is a skilled travel planner who plans and executes her travels by herself. Anita wants to show you how to travel the world and open your mind to new experiences. Follow her on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter and Bloglovin.