Here are the best 18 towns on Lago di Como – Italy’s most famous lake.
Easy to reach by public transport, they are a great destination for a day trip from Milan or a longer stay in this beautiful corner of Italy.
While Bellagio, Varenna, and Como are the three most popular destinations on Lake Como, its shores are dotted with dozens of picture-perfect towns and villages. In this blog post today I will share with you the very best of them.
This way you can pick the ones to visit based on your own interests, budget, and the season. From major destinations on the lake to veritable hidden gems, you will be spoilt for choice.
All the information in this blog post is based on my personal experiences of visiting and photographing Lake Como over the last five years. I have included lots of photos showing you exactly what I saw there both during the high and the low season. So, you will know what to expect.
This is how we are going to proceed. I will start by showing you a map of Lake Como and then I will introduce you to the best towns along each of its three branches and two provinces. For each town, I will share a short overview and will mention the best sights to visit in and around it.
Once this is done, I will give you five sample itineraries that are perfect for a day trip to Lake Como either from Milan or anywhere else in Lombardy, Northern Italy, and even neighbouring Switzerland. Each itinerary includes either two or three towns – at least one of them is a major lakefront destination and the other ones are more of a hidden gem.
I will finish with an essential travel guide for Lago di Como. It includes all sorts of useful information to help you plan your trip to the lake. How to get to Lake Como? Where to stay on its shores? When is the best time to visit Lake Como? All this is covered and then so much more.
I hope that all this information – detailed, useful, and personally tried and tested by me – will come in very handy when you are making your travel plans for Northern Italy. For even more information about Lake Como, also have a look at the following blog posts:
- Best Things to Do in Lake Como
- Lake Como in Winter – 10 Reasons to Visit
- How to Get to Lake Como
- 3 Best Airports for Lake Como
- The Beauty of Lake Como in Photos
Otherwise, let’s start!
Map of the 18 Best Towns on Lake Como, Italy
Lake Como has the somewhat unusual shape of an upturned letter Y. Surrounded by steep mountains, it looks a lot like a fjord with the important distinction that it’s landlocked.
Lake Como (or Lago di Como – as they call it in Italian) is in Northern Italy. Part of the Northern Italian region of Lombardy, it often is affectionately called Il Uomo – or The Man – by the locals. The lake’s outline does in fact look a bit like a man taking a large step forward. One of his feet rests on the town of Lecco and the other – on the town of Como.
Lecco and Como are the two largest lakefront towns. Lecco has about 50,000 inhabitants, and Como has around 85,000.
Lake Como has three thin branches which meet at Punta Spartivento. This beautiful promontory is next door to the town of Bellagio and opens sprawling views over the lake.
The three branches are named after their main lakefront towns. As such, the upper or northern branch of Lake Como is known as Colico, the eastern as Lecco, and the western one as Como. Administratively, the lake is split between two provinces – the province of Como and the province of Lecco. Each province has the respectively named lake branch and half of the Colico branch.
The mountainous area locked between the Lecco and the Como branches of the lake is called the Triangolo Lariano – the Larian Triangle (from Lake Como’s ancient name – Lario). Punta Spartivento is right at the tip of this natural triangle.
The above map shows the exact location of Lake Como in Italy. You can use it as any other map in Google Maps. For example, you can zoom in and out, calculate directions to Lake Como from anywhere in Italy and abroad, and check distances between the different lakefront towns and sights. To open the map in a new browser tab, click on the last icon in its top right corner.
A click on the first icon in the top left corner of the map will open a list of the best Lake Como towns pinned to it. For ease of use, here they are in the order they are dotted around the lake’s three branches. The major towns and the most popular tourist destinations are in bold:
Best Towns on the Como Branch of Lake Como (Pinned with Red Stars): Bellagio – Nesso – Torno – Como – Brunate – Cernobbio – Moltrasio – Brienno – Argegno – Pigra – Colonno – Sala Comacina – Lenno – Tremezzina – Tremezzo – Cadenabbia – Griante
Best Towns on the Lecco Branch of Lake Como (Pinned with Blue Stars): Mandello del Lario – Lecco – Malgrate – Valmadrera
Best Towns on the Colico Branch of Lake Como (Pinned with Green Stars): Menaggio – Gravedona – Colico – Bellano – Varenna
18 Best Towns to Visit on Lago di Como – Italy’s Most Famous Lake
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Best Towns on the Como Branch of Lake Como, Italy
The Como branch of Lago di Como is the most popular branch of Italy’s most famous lake. Its shores are densely dotted with picturesque towns some of which are famous all over the world. Two of the lake’s main destinations – the towns of Bellagio and Como – are on this branch and attract the most visitors, especially during the high season.
Many of the lesser-known towns on the lake’s Como branch though are also worth a visit. So, take your pick from the list below. It’s geographically organised so that it starts from the town of Bellagio on the upper eastern corner of the Como branch, goes down along the eastern shore to the town of Como, and then goes up the western shore to the town of Griante.
You can easily visit the many different towns on the Como branch of the lake using public transport. The town of Como has a train station with direct links to Milan. Then, bus C30 connects Como to Bellagio and stops at the many small towns, villages and hamlets along the branch’s eastern shore. Bus C10, on the other hand, runs from Como up the western shore of the branch all the way to the northern end of Lake Como.
Even better! Regularly running ferries connect the town of Como to Bellagio all throughout the day. They stop at the different towns both on the eastern and western shores of the Como branch. This way, you can easily reach the one(s) you want to visit or simply enjoy their panoramas as the ferry boat passes by.
For more details about travelling around the lake both by car and by public transport, have a look at this blog post:
Bellagio is easily the most famous town on Lake Como. It stands on the tip of Punta Spartivento – the meeting point of the lake’s three branches. Bellagio is very picturesque and has a number of easy to see in a day sights – from the botanical gardens of Villa Melzi to the cobbled streets of its historic centre populated by silk shops and craft workshops.
Linked by ferries to other major destinations on Lago di Como, Bellagio attracts the main bulk of visitors to the lake. In the high season, this small town is very pretty with its blooming roses and rhododendrons, yet it can get suffocatingly busy.
Nesso is a small town composed of several picturesque hamlets spread along Lake Como’s steep shores. Incredibly quiet in winter, in summer Nesso attracts a hip crowd on account of its waterfall – Orrido di Nesso.
A small Romanesque bridge – Ponte della Civera – provides the most spectacular views of the waterfall and it’s also a favourite spot to jump from and swim in the lake. To reach it, you need to navigate 300 steep steps curving past Nesso’s old tall houses.
For a great experience, once you have seen the waterfall, follow the mulattiera – a centuries-old cobbled mule track – to Borgovecchio (Nesso’s old harbour hamlet). Along the way, you will enjoy stunning views of Lake Como. Borgovecchio stands out with its beautiful church, a quirky beach, and many narrow, curving, stone-covered streets flanked by old houses.
Torno is a tiny town on Lago di Como with a picturesque historic harbour. It’s built on a small promontory that offers beautiful views over the southernmost end of the lake’s Como branch. The town is lovely to see for an hour or two on a sunny day. Don’t miss a visit to the 12th-century Church of San Giovanni Battista. Since 1099, it has been the keeper of a Holy Nail from Christ’s Crucifixion.
Alternatively, you can base yourself in Torno for a few days in order to enjoy the peace and quiet and to hike across the steep green slopes around the town. A curious sight to see in the bosom of nature here is the so-called Pietra Pendula. It looks like an enormous stone mushroom with a huge upper boulder balancing on a small limestone rock underneath.
Nearby stands the 16th-century Church of Santa Elisabetta which offers enjoyable panoramic views of Lake Como from a height of 650 m. Also near Torno, you can visit the so-called Massi Avelli. These are ancient tombs excavated in massive boulders which nowadays look a bit like giant bathtubs strewn around the forest.
Torno’s fantastic natural setting has been described by famous ancient writers such as Pliny the Elder and Pliny the Younger. Both were particularly taken with a local waterfall originating from a karst spring. This was later incorporated into the lavish 16th-century Villa Pliniana which, nowadays, functions as a luxury hotel.
Como is one of the most popular destinations on Lake Como. The town is highly urbanised, yet is full of life and has many unmissable sights. Its historic centre is quite grand and dotted with shops and cafes where you can experience la dolce vita authentically.
Even better, the town of Como offers quick and easy access by train to Milan and by ferry and bus to the lake’s prettiest towns and major landmarks. As such, it can be a great starting point and/or a base to explore Lago di Como.
Come to Como for the imposing Duomo, the Roman ruins, the medieval structures, and the excellent art collections in the Pinacoteca Civica. Don’t miss the sights dedicated to Alessandro Volta – the inventor of the prototype of the electric battery. Then go for a pleasant walk along Como’s lakefront promenade. For a unique experience, contact Aero Club Como – the world’s oldest seaplane operation – and book a flight over the lake for splendid bird’s-eye panoramas.
Brunate stands at around 700 m above sea level and leans against the crest of Tre Croci – the steep mount that looms over the town of Como. While Brunate is not on the lakefront, it affords some of the most spectacular views of Lake Como and the Alps.
If you are spending a day in the town of Como, then make sure that you visit Brunate, too. For this take the over-a-century-old Como-Brunate Funicular. Claim a window seat to enjoy the views as you ascend up the steep hill. Expect long queues during the high season but the experience is worth it.
Once in Brunate, enjoy the short walk past the town’s splendid Art Nouveau villas. It will take you to a small terrace that gives you a bird’s-eye view of the southernmost end of the lake’s Como branch. Alternatively, get the seasonal shuttle or hike to the Faro Voltiano – a lighthouse dedicated to Alessandro Volta – for even more breathtaking views of Lago di Como and the Alps.
Cernobbio is an elegant town on Lake Como with a cute historic centre and a busy social life. Its streets are lined up by swanky boutiques and cute cafes. Its promenade opens lovely views over the Como branch of the lake.
It is here that you can see three of the most splendid villas around Lago di Como. Villa Bernasconi – once owned by a rich silk merchant – is an Art Nouveau symphony of stained glass and elaborate ornamentation.
Villa Erba was once the summer residence of the famous Italian director Luchino Visconti of ‘Rocco and His Brothers’ fame. Nowadays, the villa hosts important local events, including La Citta dei Balocchi – a large-scale Christmas extravaganza with a festive market, performances, and an ice rink.
On the outskirts of Cernobbio stands Villa d’Este – one of the most luxurious hotels in the world. It’s surrounded by a meticulously landscaped 10-hectare private park and has a pool floating in Lake Como.
Moltrasio is a small town with a millennial history. It will appeal equally to lovers of art and nature. Come here to see the quarries from which the famous Comacine Masters used to extract the highly-valued moltrasio stone. It is thought that these early medieval stonemasons preserved some of the secrets of the ancient Roman masonry craft. Using stones and marbles quarried around Lake Como, they erected many important buildings in Italy and beyond which influenced the development of architecture throughout the Middle Ages.
Enjoy hikes to splendid panoramic points dotted around Moltrasio. The area is rich in streams and fast-rushing waters that in the past drove the wheels of numerous watermills. See the Cascata del Cam and the Cascata del Torrente Pizzallo – two beautiful waterfalls. They say that the burble of water here inspired the music of La Sonnambula – an opera by the famous composer Vincenzo Bellini who loved spending time at Lake Como.
Don’t miss the centuries-old frescoes, paintings, and art in the parish Church of St. Martin and St. Agatha. The church also keeps a Holy Thorn – supposedly from the Crown of Thorns placed on Christ’s head before the Crucifixion.
Brienno is picture-perfect with its colourful houses piled up right on the edge of Lake Como. Narrow streets curve through the historic centre and powerful peaks tower over this small town. Here, it’s easy to disconnect from the pressures of daily life and immerse yourself in the beauty of history and nature.
The town’s name testifies to its Celtic roots – Brienno comes from the Celtic word ‘brig’ meaning hill. It was first mentioned in documents in the 10th century AD and looking at its medieval arches, underpasses, and stairways, not much seems to have changed since then in the best possible way.
Brienno has a number of ancient churches and – interestingly – a fortification that was part of the Cadorna Line during the First World War. The Cadorna Line was built between 1916 and 1918 and consisted of forts, trenches, artillery positions, and command structures along the border between Italy and Switzerland.
Known as Galleria Mina, Brienno’s portion of the Cadorna Line consists of a tunnel, underground bunkers, cisterns, and service premises. It’s not usually open for visits but you can see its entrance near the Church of Immacolata (also known as the Church of Madonna del Ronco) which stands at one of the most picturesque spots on Lake Como.
In the hills above Brienno, you can also do the popular local hike along the Sentiero delle Espressioni – a trail populated by wooden sculptures carved by local craftsmen.
9. Argegno and Pigra
Argegno is a small lakefront town split in two by the rushing River Telo. A Romanesque bridge straddles the river and it’s the town’s unofficial symbol. Cute as a button, Argegno is one of Lago di Como’s hidden gems offering a chance to experience authentically Italy’s most famous lake.
Pigra is a village high in the steep hills above Argegno. Small and rustic, it offers unparalleled views over the Como branch of the lake. A cable car – the steepest in Europe – connects Argegno to Pigra. Riding it is one of the most exciting things to do in Lake Como.
If you are planning to spend a few days at the lake and want to see its splendid villas, Argegno could be a good base to start your explorations from. It provides easy access to such major landmarks here as Villa del Balbianello and Villa Carlotta. At the same time, it stays off the beaten track, so expect fewer crowds during the high season and absolute peace and quiet in winter.
10. Towns Along the Greenway del Lago di Como
If you like hiking and want to see some of the best corners of Lake Como, then head to Colonno – a small hamlet just three kilometres up the road from Argegno. Colonno is the starting point of the Greenway del Lago di Como. This 10 km hike passes through a number of small lakefront towns. Here are a few you may be interested in:
- Sala Comacina – just opposite Isola Comacina – Lake Como’s only island.
- Lenno – perfect for visits to the famous Villa del Balbianello where many iconic films have been shot (among them are Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones and Casino Royale).
- Tremezzina (town) and Tremezzo (hamlet) – perfect for visits to the elegant Villa Carlotta;
- Cadenabbia – very convenient for Villa Carlotta. It also has a ferry port with direct connections to Bellagio; and
- Griante – on the Riviera of the Azaleas, this picturesque town has been attracting famous writers and composers for centuries. They say that it was here that Giuseppe Verdi composed one of his most lauded operas – La Traviata.
Best Towns on the Lecco Branch of Lake Como, Italy
The Lecco branch of Lago di Como has a lot to offer – from cute lakefront towns to quick trips to the ski resorts in the mountains around the lake. Access is provided by the regularly running trains from Milan.
Yet, both the main town Lecco and the adjacent villages and hamlets seem to stay off the beaten track that leads to the towns of Como and Bellagio. This makes the Lecco branch a great destination to explore if you seek to escape the tourist crowds while delighting in Lake Como’s beauty and sights.
You can easily visit the towns on the Lecco branch of the lake using public transport. The branch’s eastern shore is served by a railway line. Trains from Milano Centrale (Milan’s main railway station) reach Lecco in about 40 mins. They then continue upwards towards Mandello del Lario and the towns on the Colico branch of Lake Como.
The western shore of the Lecco branch is served by bus D10 which connects Lecco to Bellagio. Bus C40 will take you from Lecco to Malgrate and then all the way to the town of Como. You can also take the train from Milan to the town of Valmadrera but it’s a long tedious journey stopping at many small towns along the way. It’s better to take the train to Lecco and then change there to Valmadrera.
For more details about travelling around the lake both by car and by public transport, have a look at this blog post:
11. Mandello del Lario
Mandello del Lario is one of the true hidden gems on Lake Como. This small town with colourful houses is just a few minutes up the road from Lecco. It has its own railway station making it easy to reach from Milan for a spontaneous day trip in this beautiful corner of Italy.
In Mandello, you can spend time at the nice lido, hire a sailing boat, and explore the pretty historic centre dotted with ancient churches and sanctuaries. Don’t miss the Moto Guzzi Museum! The famous Italian motorcycle brand Moto Guzzi was established in Mandello del Lario in 1921. Nowadays, the museum tells the company’s story and showcases some of Italy’s most iconic motorcycles.
The famous Sentiero del Viandante passes by Mandello. This multi-day hike follows ancient Roman roads and connects the hamlets and towns along the eastern shore of Lake Como.
One of the largest towns on Lake Como, Lecco is lovely to visit. Especially, if you are after an easy-to-navigate on foot historic centre, a nice promenade, and a handful of sights to explore over a couple of hours or so.
The town is famous as the birthplace of Alessandro Manzoni. This 18th/19th-century author wrote one of Italy’s and Europe’s greatest historical novels – I Promessi Sposi (translated in English as The Bethrothed). Nowadays, you can visit Villa Manzoni – the house where the writer spent the first 20 years of his life.
When in Lecco, also don’t miss the Palazzo delle Paure where beautiful art exhibitions are regularly staged. The Basilica of San Nicolo’ is the main church here and has Lombardy’s second-tallest (and Italy’s sixth-tallest) bell tower. Built of bricks and housing nine bells, it is the same height as England’s famous Big Ben clock tower – 96 m.
Near Lecco, you can take the Piani d’Erna Cable Car. Completely renovated in 2008, it travels to the mountain ski and hiking resort Piani d’Erna which stands at a height of 1375 m. Another ski resort nearby is Piani di Bobbio.
13. Malgrate and Valmadrera
Malgrate and Valmadrera stand right next to one another on the western shore of the Lecco branch of Lago di Como. Facing the town of Lecco, they are firmly off the beaten track, as they don’t have large landmarks but instead host a bunch of sights of local importance.
Above all, their beautiful promenades provide stunning panoramic views over the lake and the surrounding hills and mountains. As such, these two towns are great places to go for a walk after a busy day of hiking.
Talking of hiking, Valmadrera is a great starting point for some of the best trails in the area. The Sentiero delle Vasche, for example, gives you a chance to walk along the gorge of the stream Inferno. The trail requires physical strength as at several spots you will need to lift yourself up using the chains and handles attached to the massive boulders along the way.
Near Malgrate, explore the Monte Barro Regional Park where after a nice nature walk you can visit an archaeological museum and an ethnographic museum, too.
Best Towns on the Colico Branch of Lake Como, Italy
The Colico branch of Lago di Como is easily the most overlooked by the mass tourist part of Italy’s most famous lake. Perhaps because it’s the one that is the farthest from Milan. This makes people feel like it will be difficult to get up there, when in fact, the eastern shore of the Colico branch has numerous train stations and then its western shore is served by regular buses.
At the lower ends of the Colico branch – and right opposite one another – you will find two of the prettiest lakefront towns. One is Varenna the popularity of which grows year after year on account of its charming historic nucleus and the stunning Villa Monastero. The other is Menaggio – still somewhat of a hidden gem but loved by people in the know.
Yet, the top end of the Colico branch has so much more to offer. I am particularly taken with a gem of a town called Bellano and also loved visiting a small abbey here which turned out to be the one depicted by Leonardo da Vinci in the background of his famous fresco ‘The Last Supper’ (which you can book to see in nearby Milan).
Having said Milan, yes, there are direct trains linking Northern Italy’s largest city to the towns on the eastern shore of Lake Como’s Colico branch. Travel times vary from an hour from Milan to Varenna to just under an hour and a half from Milan to the town of Colico.
Once in Colico, you can get bus C10 to explore the western shore of Lake Como’s northern branch.
Even better! Pedestrian ferries connect the towns on the Como branch of the lake to the towns on the Colico branch all throughout the day. In addition, pedestrian and vehicular ferries connect the towns of Varenna and Menaggio on the Colico branch to the most popular lakefront town – Bellagio.
I have listed five towns on the Colico branch below but there are several more worth a visit for the peace and quiet they offer and the water sports you can practice here. So, knowing how easy it is to get to them, will help you plan your travels in a more streamlined way.
For more details about travelling around the lake both by car and by public transport, have a look at this blog post:
Menaggio is small and easy to navigate on foot. It has a pretty historic centre and many lovely streets to follow at random while taking in the beauty of the pastel-coloured churches and houses. It’s a great place to spend a couple of hours at. Alternatively, use Menaggio as a base for your explorations of Lake Como and easily travel up and down the shores to several other small lakefront towns.
In the centre, Piazza Garibaldi offers splendid water views. Via Calvi is where you will find boutiques and small shops. Walk up to Menaggio’s oldest part where narrow alleys preserve their medieval outlines. A picturesque bridge arches over the Senagra stream and provides the perfect inspiration for a photo or two.
I loved Menaggio’s promenade. This long lane follows the lakefront. As you walk you can admire the panoramas of the towns of Varenna and Bellagio across the huge expanse of water.
Gravedona is lovely! It’s dotted with centuries-old churches and it’s crowned by a 16th-century palace that in the past was a cardinal residence. A lakefront promenade, colourful houses, and several panoramic points add to the charm of this Lake Como town.
Alessandro Volta – the inventor of the prototype of the electric battery – spent time in Gravedona, including his honeymoon. Nowadays, the town attracts visitors looking to enjoy the beautiful views and the invigorating walks in the surrounding hills and mountains. Plus, the town of Domaso just up the road offers excellent facilities for windsurfing.
No matter how long you spend in Gravedona – a couple of hours or days – make sure that you visit the 12th-century Church of Santa Maria del Tiglio for its Romanesque architecture and the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie for its frescoes. Take in the lake views from Piazza Pra’ Castello and Gravedona will forever stay in your heart.
Colico is the town that has given the northern branch of Lake Como its name. Not popular with the mass tourist, this is a beautiful corner to discover for yourself. Dotted with ancient churches and mills, the town has several historically significant sights.
Among them are two forts. One is the 17th-century Forte Fuentes which was built when this part of Italy was under Spanish rule. The other is Montecchio Nord – one of Europe’s best-preserved fortifications dating back to the First World War.
Less than ten kilometres away from Colico, you can visit the Abbey of St. Mary of Piona. A place of blessed peace and quiet, art historians claim that Leonardo da Vinci painted it in the background of his famous Last Supper.
Colico is not all about history, religion, and art though. The town has many lovely beaches. It’s also a place where you can practice many different water sports – from windsurfing and kitesurfing to flyboarding and stand-up paddleboarding.
Bellano is Lake Como’s hidden gem of a town. Expect the obligatory beautiful promenade, plus there is a cute harbour with the typical for Lake Como lariana boats.
The best bit, however, is that in Bellano you can see the Orrido di Bellano – a dramatic gorge of the river Pioverna. The fast-rushing turquoise waters have cut a deep canyon in the rocky walls producing along the way a series of waterfalls. Long walkways have been suspended above the river giving you a chance to walk through the gorge. It’s a great experience and the entrance is right behind Bellano’s main church.
Rather curiously, by the Orrido di Bellano’s entrance, you will also see a small tower. Centuries-old, it has faded frescoes that seem to depict a large horned figure and flying witches. Known as Ca’ del Diavol – Devil’s House – the tower offers multimedia visits that conclude with a 3D flight over Bellano and Lake Como.
Varenna – the most charming town on Lake Como – is a delight to explore. Tall houses huddle next to one another in its historic centre. Their bright colours are in striking contrast to the velvety green mountains that surround the lake. Everywhere you look, facades, porches, balconies, and walls are decorated with planters and blooms. This makes Varenna look like a beautiful garden.
Come here to walk the Passeggiata degli Innamorati. This long promenade is suspended right above the water. Decorated with plants and shrubs, it opens romantic views over Lake Como. If you can, hike uphill to the ruins of the Vezio Castle. Over a thousand years old, it was built by the Lombard Queen Theodelinda as a defensive military outpost.
Above all, when in Varenna, make sure that you visit Villa Monastero. This lavish villa with a terraced botanical garden is one of the lake’s major landmarks.
5 Itineraries to Visit the Prettiest Towns on Lake Como, Italy
Here are five easy-to-follow sample itineraries for exciting day trips to Lago di Como – Italy’s most famous lake. All are by public transport and include the most popular lakefront towns and some hidden gems. I hope that these itineraries will inspire you to explore Lake Como and get to see beautiful places and do exciting things during your Italian holiday.
By the way, feel free to adjust them based on your own personal interests and travel styles. You can also make your own itineraries for Lake Como based on the information provided in this blog post.
To check train times and book train tickets in advance, I find the following three websites very useful: Omio, ItaloTreno, and TrenItalia.
If you are planning to use the local buses during your time at Lake Como, then you can check the current timetables and ticket prices on the website of ASF Autolinee (in Italian). You can buy a single or a return ticket to a particular destination as well as a one-day or multi-day ticket to travel around the lake. The current prices are published here. This handy map gives you a visual idea of the bus routes you can take.
For more details about travelling to and around the lake, have a look at this blog post:
I. Como – Brunate – Cernobbio
This is an easy day trip to Lake Como taking in its main town, some splendid panoramic views, and a hidden gem of a destination.
Take the train to the town of Como and then spend a few hours exploring the local sights. Take the funicular to the hilltop town of Brunate to enjoy a walk past its Art Nouveau villas and splendid panoramic views of the lake. Return to Como and get the bus for the short ride to the nearby town of Cernobbio for a lovely relaxing afternoon. In the evening, return by bus to Como and then take the train back to where you are staying in Italy.
II. Como – Bellagio – Varenna
See three of Lake Como’s biggest gems in one hectic day.
Take the train to the town of Como and enjoy a quick walk around the historic centre. Get the ferry (ideally the fast service to save time) up to Bellagio and take in the views of the many other lakefront towns the ferry will travel past.
Spend some time in Bellagio, crisscrossing its steep cobbled alleys and enjoying the panoramas from Punta Spartivento. Then get the ferry across to Varenna where you can explore the old town and visit the beautiful Villa Monastero next to it. In the evening, take the train from Varenna back to where you are staying in Italy.
III. Varenna – Bellagio – Menaggio or Cadenabbia
Crisscross Lake Como’s central part and visit three of its most famous destinations in a day!
Get the train to Varenna where you can enjoy a walk around the old town and spend some time in the beautiful Villa Monastero.
Take the ferry for the short crossing over to Bellagio – Lake Como’s most popular town. Once you have seen everything it has to offer – from the old town with its silk shops and artisan workshops to Punta Spartivento and the botanical gardens of Villa Melzi, get the ferry across the lake to Menaggio.
In the evening, you can return by ferry from Menaggio to Varenna and get the train back to where you are staying. Alternatively, you can get bus C10 from Menaggio down to the town of Como and then get the train back from there.
If you prefer, you can visit Cadenabbia instead of Menaggio on this Lake Como day trip. There is a direct ferry from Bellagio to Cadenabbia and this destination is perfect for visits to the famous Villa Carlotta and Villa del Balbianello.
In the evening, you can take the ferry back from Cadenabbia to Varenna. Alternatively, you can get bus C10 from Cadenabbia down to the town of Como and use its train station to return to where you are staying.
No matter which version of this itinerary you will pick, plan for a very busy day. Varenna, Bellagio, and Menaggio/Cadenabbia are among the most popular destinations on Lake Como. They attract large crowds of tourists (especially during the high season).
Sightseeing can feel exhausting on a hot summer day. So, book your villa visits in advance and carry water with you at all times. In winter, check in advance if the villas will be open on the day you want to visit. Also, keep in mind that many of the restaurants and shops in the destinations on this day trip itinerary may be closed during the low season.
IV. Bellano – Varenna – Bellagio
Enjoy a hidden gem and then head to two of Lake Como’s most popular towns!
Take the train to Bellano and then explore everything that this hidden gem of a lakefront town has to offer. Get the train for the one-stop ride down to Varenna and enjoy a visit to Villa Monastero and a walk around the old town. Next, get the ferry for the short crossing to Bellagio – Lake Como’s most famous town.
In the evening, you can return to Varenna by ferry and then get the train back to where you are staying. Alternatively, you can get the bus from Bellagio down to either Como or Lecco and then get the train back from there.
V. Varenna – Mandello del Lario – Lecco
Explore the eastern shore of Lake Como by train!
Get the train up to Varenna and then spend some time enjoying the old town and the splendid Villa Monastero.
Take the train down to Mandello del Lario – a hidden gem of a town where you can see, among other things, the museum of the iconic Italian motorcycle brand Moto Guzzi.
Continue by train to Lecco – one of Lake Como’s largest towns. In the evening, return by train to where you are staying.
Essential Travel Guide for Lake Como, Italy
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How to Reach Lake Como and Travel Around it by Car and Public Transport?
For exhaustive details about reaching Lake Como and travelling around it by car, train, bus, ferry, and even seaplane, have a look at this blog post:
- How to Get to Lake Como and 9 Ways to Travel Around Italy’s Most Famous Lake (With Maps and Practical Tips)
When Is the Best Time to Visit Lake Como in Italy?
Lake Como has a lot to offer in all seasons. Summer is the busiest time of the year here. This is when hundreds of thousands of people flock to the lake to enjoy day trips and longer holidays on its shores. On summer weekends, half of Milan decamps to Lake Como, too as many of the Milanesi have villas here or simply come to hike, relax, and enjoy the stunning natural setting.
If you are planning to visit Lake Como in the summer expect large crowds of both Italians and people from all over the world. On the plus side, however, all sights – from historic villas to quirky museums – are open, lots of fun events take place, and there’s nothing like taking a cooling plunge in the water, ideally in an outdoor swimming pool floating on the lake.
In winter, the lake is very peaceful and offers great opportunities to experience its heritage and nature more authentically. While some of the historic villas and several hotels either close for the low season or operate with greatly reduced facilities, there is still plenty to do around Lake Como during the cold months. Christmas is a particular highlight with festive illuminations, markets, and events. Find out more in this blog post:
To best experience what Lake Como has to offer, try to come here during the shoulder seasons. Late March to May and then late September to October are the best periods of the year to visit. Crowds are just starting to form in spring and already dispersing in autumn. The lakefront towns are full of life. From April onwards, gorgeous rhododendrons, camellias, and roses bloom in their thousands in exquisite botanical gardens and private courtyards.
The temperatures are decidedly pleasant and vary between 15 and 20 degrees Celsius. So, you can comfortably sightsee and hike around without being scorched to a crisp by the sun. The only downside to the shoulder seasons, however, is the bigger chance of rain! April and May can have respectively up to 10 and 12 rainy days while September and October usually have around eight rainy days each.
Where to Stay at Lake Como, Italy?
There is a huge selection of places to stay at Lake Como in any season.
You can choose from lavish historic villas that nowadays function as exclusive hotels. You can opt for a cosy B&B in the centre of a lakefront town. Or you may prefer a self-catering accommodation to enjoy a home-from-home experience.
If you are arriving by car, then make sure that your accommodation also offers parking spaces or can recommend a nearby car park. Especially, if you are planning to stay outside of the larger lakefront towns like Como and Lecco. Parking spaces in the smaller lake towns may be difficult to come across and are usually taken by the locals.
If you are relying on public transport and your accommodation doesn’t provide transfers, then make sure that you have easy access to the nearest bus stop or ferry port. You don’t want to have to walk for miles luggage in hand or depend on taxis every time you want to go to the town centre.
Here are some suggestions for places to stay at Lake Como. All come highly recommended:
Luxury: Grand Hotel Victoria concept & spa by R Collection Hotels, Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni
Mid-Range: Casa sull’Albero, Hotel Lenno
Budget: Locanda Alberti, Valle dei Mulini – Lake Como,
Alternatively, have a look at this map giving you a quick visual idea of the available accommodation options around Lake Como, Italy. You can zoom in and out, type in your specific travel dates, and then click on the different price points for detailed information about the hotel you want to know more about:
In addition, have a look at this blog post which explains the different types of accommodation you can book in Italy. It will give you plenty of ideas to look into for the best and quirkiest places to experience here:
How Long to Spend at Lake Como?
Lake Como has a lot to offer no matter your style of travel. You may be after a peaceful and relaxing holiday with stunning lake views, a pampering experience with spa procedures and some pool lounging, an active nature break with lots of hiking, or an unforgettable day trip. Or you may just want to be able to say that you’ve been to Lake Como and understand what all the fuss is about. Any reason to visit is valid!
So, how long to spend here depends entirely on you and on the amount of time you have at your disposal.
Let’s say that this will be your first visit to the lake and you just want to test the waters. Then you can easily take a self-organised or guided day trip from Milan to Lake Como and see one or a few of the most popular lakefront towns like Como, Varenna, and Bellagio. You can also book a guided day trip around the lake taking you to some of its best sights (this one comes highly recommended).
Alternatively, you can pencil in a weekend break or an even longer stay at Lake Como. It’s a big place that easily caters to all types of travellers.
What to Pack for a Visit to Lake Como?
Lake Como has its own microclimate with moderate temperatures which vacillate around 26 degrees Celsius in summer and drop to around 4 to 8 degrees Celsius in winter. May and June are the wettest months in terms of rainfall and snow days in winter are very rare. Nights can get chilly in any season.
As such, no matter when you choose to visit, make sure that you pack plenty of layers. A light jacket or a cosy jersey may come in very handy during the high season. I am speaking as someone who got caught in a cold downpour in Varenna in July without a jacket because I had wanted to pack light and had assumed that summer is always warm in Italy. At the same time, don’t forget your sun cream, a hat/sunglasses, and a swimming costume.
In winter, you will want to be able to peel off a layer or two on one of those not-rare days when the sun shines bright at lunchtime and it feels like it’s spring already. At the same time, don’t forget your hat, scarf, and gloves as wrapping up warm in the evenings feels so nice.
Bringing my padded hat with ear flaps (similar to this one) was my best packing decision during my last visit to Lake Como over ten days this past Christmas. It kept me really cosy during festive market explorations and hiking around.
Always pack a pair of good walking shoes for Lake Como. Plus, hiking shoes/boots are a must when you go exploring in nature. With many of the towns and villages around the lake having steep cobbled alleys and often flights of steps instead of streets altogether, your ankles need to be well supported at all times.
Unless you are planning to visit just the towns of Como, Lecco, and Cernobbio (the central parts of which are flat), make sure that you bring an appropriate pair of shoes to allow you to safely navigate uneven surfaces and steep slopes.
What Are the Best Things to Do in Lake Como?
There are many amazing and exciting things to do in Lake Como. I have described them in some detail in this blog post:
Have a look at it for a useful overview of the different activities to enjoy around the lake. Otherwise, here is a handy shortlist:
Sightseeing – the shores of the lake are studded with historic villas, centuries-old churches, and excellent museums. The most well-known are the Duomo, the Volta Temple, the Civic Art Gallery, and the Silk Museum in Como, Villa del Balbianello near Lenno, Villa Monastero next door to Varenna, Villa Melzi in Bellagio, the Moto Guzzi Motorcycle Museum in Mandello del Lario, and so many others.
Hiking and Nature Exploring – it is so very easy to get close to nature around Lake Como. Hiking paths (some of which follow ancient Roman roads) crisscross the steep slopes and link the small towns and villages here. Powerful waterfalls rumble through vertiginous gorges and flow into the lake. Don’t miss Orrido di Nesso and Orrido di Bellano. You don’t even need to break a sweat to get out and about in nature here. A number of funiculars and cable cars offer the chance to enjoy sprawling lake views from the comfort of a smoothly ascending cabin.
Shopping – Lake Como is a great place to indulge in some shopping no matter if you are after the latest fashions of the best Italian brands or artisan items by local craftsmen. The area is also famous for its locally designed silk accessories. Silk has been produced around the lake for centuries and nowadays you can get beautiful silk bags, scarves, and ties for yourself and your loved ones. Don’t miss the local brand Acqua del Lario which makes perfumes, candles, and home scents inspired by the towns and vistas of Lake Como.
Are There Any Other Towns on Lake Como Apart from the Ones Listed Above?
Yes, there are many more towns and villages dotted around Lake Como in Italy. For example, Lezzeno, Faggeto Lario, and Blevio.
Above, I have listed the ones I have visited myself and can personally recommend – from the lake’s major towns to local hidden gems. Otherwise, the choice is even bigger. Plus, there are also many towns here that are not strictly on the lakefront but further up in the hills and mountains that surround the lake.
Many of the towns around Lake Como are more like groups of hamlets stretched along the shores. So, as you drive up the lake, you end up passing by a seemingly endless number of town signs. Many of them are actually for small hamlets that administratively function as a single town.
If you have time to spare and want to know Lake Como on a more intimate and authentic level, then do spend a day or more just exploring the many hamlets, villages, and towns here. You are bound to discover many hidden corners and beautiful panoramas off the beaten track.
How to Choose Which Town(s) to Visit on Lake Como in Italy?
This depends entirely on you and your travel style. Ask yourself what you want to focus on – the most popular destinations around Lake Como or places off the beaten track.
The towns that attract the largest crowds (especially, during the high season) are Bellagio, Como, and Varenna. Plus, Lenno in a way on account of the nearby Villa del Balbianello. The towns of Cernobbio, Nesso, Bellano, and Menaggio are gaining popularity and yet have lots of hidden corners to explore.
So, make your choice based on your interests, travel style, and available time. The above sample itineraries and town descriptions will help you narrow down the available options.
Bear in mind that many of the towns around Lake Como are built on steep slopes. They have steep alleys and stairways many of which are covered with irregular cobbles. If you are looking for lakefront towns with flatter historic centres, then Como, Cernobbio, Lecco (and up to a point Bellagio and Bellano) can be good options.
Where to Find More Information About Lake Como and the Region of Lombardy?
If you are considering a trip to Lake Como in particular and the Northern Italian region of Lombardy in general, you may want to also have a look at the following categories and posts on my blog:
- Lake Como – a full list of all my blog posts about Italy’s most famous lake
- Lombardy – a full list of all my blog posts about this must-see region in Italy
- 25 Best Things to Do in Lake Como, Italy
- Lake Como – The Beauty of Italy’s Most Famous Lake in 25 Photos
- Lake Como in Winter – 10 Reasons to Visit Italy’s Most Famous Lake in the Off-Season
- 10 Reasons to Visit the Region of Lombardy in Italy
- 15 Must-See Cities and Towns in Lombardy, Italy
They are based on my first-hand experience of visiting these destinations in Italy and provide lots of practical information to help you plan your travels.
In addition, for the most up-to-date information about events and local sights, keep an eye on the official websites of Milan, the Region of Lombardy, and the major towns on Lake Como, for example, Como, Bellagio, Varenna, Lecco, and so on.
Finally, if you want to invest in a good guidebook, this one covers Lombardy, Milan, and the Italian lakes. This makes it very handy to carry around with you during your travels.
Where to Find More Information About Visiting Italy?
I have been blogging about travelling to and within Italy for nine years now providing detailed and first-hand tried and tested information about the best things to do in this beautiful country. It’s all based on my close to twenty years of visiting Italy solo and with my family. Six of these years, we actually spent living in Vicenza in the north of the country.
If you are after in-depth researched and illustrated with dozens of original photos articles about Italy, have a look at the following categories and blog posts:
- Italy – a full list of all my blog posts about Italy
- 10 Reasons to Visit Northern Italy
- Veneto, Trentino, Emilia Romagna, Umbria – full lists of all my blog posts about these Italian regions
- Venice, Padua, Lake Garda, Milan – full lists of all my blog posts about these must-see destinations in Italy.
In addition, right at the end of this blog post, you will find a list with links to some of my most popular blog posts about many beautiful and exciting cities, towns, and regions to visit in Italy. So, just scroll down and then click on the ones you want to know more about.
Finally, Italy’s official tourism website is a great source of the latest news about travel in Italy. Otherwise, this is one of the best guidebooks about Italy.
Here you have them – the 18 best towns on Lake Como to visit as soon as you can.
The shores of the most famous Italian lake are dotted with numerous pretty towns, villages, and hamlets. Many of them were founded centuries ago. In the bosom of nature, they offer exciting local experiences and the chance to get to know this beautiful corner of Italy authentically.
Based on my own visits to Lake Como over the last five years, in this blog post today I handpicked 18 of the lakefront towns that you simply have to see. For many different reasons, they are the best. For example, they are easy to reach by public transport, have several beautiful sights, and offer stunning panoramic views of the lake. Some of them like Bellagio, Varenna, and Como are famous all over the world. Others like Bellano, Argegno, and Mandello del Lario are pure hidden gems.
I hope that all the travel tips and information I provided will inspire your travel planning for Italy.
Have a great time exploring the best towns on Lake Como for yourself!
Get Ready for Your Trip to Lake Como in Italy
Get a guidebook from Amazon.
Buy plane tickets, train tickets, and bus tickets through Omio.
Rent a car from Europcar.
Research accommodation on Booking.com.
Select local tours and activities on GetYourGuide, Viator, and Tiqets.
More Helpful Italy Info for You
Best of Italy: Italian Piazzas, Italian Markets, Accommodation for Every Budget, Best Times to Visit Italy, Italy in Summer, Italy with Kids
Italian Food: Best Italian Food Gifts, Cheap Italian Food, Rules of Italian Breakfast, Italian Breakfast Foods
Italian Coffee: Italian Coffee Culture, Italian Coffee Drinks, History of Coffee in Italy
Christmas in Italy: Fun Facts, Things to Do, Italian Nativity Scenes, Panettone, Christmas Guide
Northern Italy: Best Cities to Visit, Major Airports, Reasons to Visit
Lake Como: How to Get to Lake Como, Reasons to Visit in Winter, Inspiring Photos, Nesso
Lake Garda Towns and Villages: Best Towns, Desenzano del Garda, Riva del Garda, Malcesine, Torri del Benaco, Punta di San Vigilio, Campo di Brenzone, Borghetto and Valeggio sul Mincio
Visiting Lake Garda: Map of Lake Garda, Getting Around Lake Garda, Lake Garda with Kids, 8 Best Airports, Venice to Lake Garda, Verona to Lake Garda, Milan to Lake Garda, Bologna to Lake Garda
Verona: Things to Do in One Day, Verona Opera Festival, Day Trips from Verona, Romeo and Juliet Itinerary, Verona to Venice, Verona to Milan
Padua: Things to Do in One Day, 101 Facts About Padua, 10 Reasons to Visit Padua, Day Trips from Padua
Vicenza: Things to Do, Day Trips from Vicenza, Best Museums, The Beauty of Vicenza
Veneto: Top Places to Visit, Unique Adventures, Most Colourful Places, Mysterious Places, Most Beautiful Lakes, Reasons to Visit, Main Cities, Prettiest Small Towns, Most Beautiful Villages
Lombardy: Best Cities and Towns, Reasons to Visit, Brescia
Friuli Venezia Giulia: Venzone, Most Beautiful Villages
Emilia Romagna: Bologna, Ravenna, Comacchio, Most Beautiful Villages
Marche: Reasons to Visit, Gradara, Frasassi Caves, Temple of Valadier
Umbria: Reasons to Visit Perugia
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