Never did I ever imagine that I would be celebrating my birthday cruising from Milan to Lake Como for a day of pizza, champagne and George Clooney-spotting. It turns out Milan is the perfect place to plan a European city break if you like exploring beyond just a city. With the beautiful Lake Como just a few hours away, it makes a perfect day-trip. Or you could choose to spend time in Venice, Saint Moritz, Bergamo, Lugarno or Genoa. With so much sitting right on your doorstep, it seems almost a crime to stick to exploring the city! It's one thing I've always loved about Europe – having so much so close, just makes it such a pleasure to travel.
The best thing about visiting Lake Como from Milan, is that it's a super easy trip to navigate. No stress, no confusion over trains or ferries. No waiting around or long travel times. It couldn't be easier, which means it leaves you with more time to enjoy yourself and eat pizza. Because we all know that's really why we want to explore Italy. So grab yourself an Aperol Spritz, sit comfortably and let me tell you exactly how to plan a day-trip from Milan to Lake Como...
How to get from Milan to Lake Como
It couldn't be easier to get to Lake Como which makes it perfect for a day trip. Starting from Milano Centrale Railway Station – the train takes around 40 minutes and is direct to Como. There are nearly 40 trains per day and each one varies in the time it takes to arrive – some take over an hour – so check before you go. Tickets start fro €4.80 one-way for a standard class ticket, but if you book on the day the average price is €7.30 each way.
Watch out in the central station for people who claim to work there. They stand by the ticket machines, insist on helping you then try to force you to tip them for using the ticket machine. We nearly got caught out by a very rude woman who was targeting any tourists who passed through. If in doubt about which train to catch, ask at the proper ticket office or book online. Make sure to get snacks before you arrive at the station – the cafes don't have a great selection.
Exploring Como – everything you need to know:
What to see and do?
Como is such a beautiful city, nestled at the base of the pre-alpine mountains and on the very southern tip of Lake Como. The train from Milan will bring you to the city and after a short walk into the heart of the city, you'll find all the classic Italian charm you've been looking for. Think gorgeous architecture, cute little piazzas, boutiques, winding streets and lots of cafes and bars by the water. Here are my top 5 things to do in Como:
- Take a boat ride or catch the ferry across Lake Como.
- Visit Como Cathedral for lavish Gothic 14th-18th century architecture.
- Take the Funicular up to Brunate – a cute train that scales the mountain for epic views.
- Visit the other towns around the lake including Bellagio, Cernobbio or Menaggio.
- Get active – there are lots of places to go canyoning or rock climbing around Lake Como.
Where to eat and drink
There are no end of gorgeous little cafes around the city of Como, hidden in the winding streets. If you arrive by train, I recommend wandering towards the lake which will take you to a series of piazzas with bars and restaurants. We stopped at the Piazza Alessandro Volta, where we found a little bar called Krudo with a few tables outside. A perfect spot for a pizza and an Aperol Spritz – delicious food and drink with a lovely view of the square.
Bellagio – getting there and exploring
What to see and do
If you take a day trip to Lake Como, you simply can't leave without visiting the famous town of Bellagio. It's one of the most idyllic towns in the area and a perfect way to spend an afternoon by the lake. Getting to the Pearl of Lake Como couldn't be easier, although it is quite expensive. It €29.75 one way for the Como-Bellagio ferry, which starts the route just at the tip of Como where the city meets the water. It is pricey for the 20-30 minute boat ride, but it is a lovely trip and you get to see all around the lake as you cruise across, also passing George Clooney's mansion.
Top things to do in Bellagio:
- Drink champagne overlooking Lake Como at Hotel Metrapole Bellagio
- Wander the streets and visit the gorgeous boutique shops
- Indulge your sweet tooth with gelato or visit the chocolate shops
- Discover the gardens of Villa Serbelloni & Villa Melzi
- Stroll along the promenades and explore Punta Spartivento & Pescallo
Where to eat and drink
As we ate in Como, we didn't stop for food in Bellagio but I really recommend Hotel Metrapole Bellagio for drinks overlooking the water. We were really lucky and ended up with the best table in the house with panoramic views of Lake Como. It was also fairly reasonably priced for a bottle of bubbles as we were celebrating. There were also several rooftop bars overlooking the water directly in the area where the ferry docks. Plus don't forget to explore the winding streets of the town centre where you'll find fab little gelato bars.
Spotting George Clooney's house on way home
If you fancy some celeb spotting on the cruise across the water to Bellagio – check out George Clooney's villa. You can spot it on the journey back from Bellagio to Como, this route brings you close to the shore on the correct side of the lake.
Google Maps search for Villa Oleandra (which you will find at Via Vecchia Regina, 20, 22010 Laglio CO, Italy) or even just search for George Clooney's house Lake Como and you will find it.
If you look at the images on Google you can easily spot it from the boat. Check out my Insta story left for the details. We gave him a wave just in case he was at the windows!
Where else to visit at Lake Como?
- Tremezzo – the home of Villa Carlotta, famous for it's spectacular gardens, and Grand Hotel Tremezzo, one of Lake Como's top properties.
- Varenno – traditionally a fishing village, this town is full of colourful homes and is accessible by train from Milan, perfect for those not driving.
- Cernobbio – this town is home to the world-famous Villa d’Este, plus Villa Erba and Villa Bernasconi. You will also find the start of 80mile hiking trail, start of the Monti Lariani Trail.
- Lecco – the perfect place to live like a local and finish off exploring Lake Como at the south-east corner.
- Bellano – a great place to escape the crowds. Also the home of Orrido di Torrente Pioverna, a plunging, 15-million-year-old gorge with viewing bridges.
- Gravedona – enjoy the waterfront promenades, with bike paths, sandy beaches, and public tennis courts. Plus churches with parts dating back to the 5th century!
- Argegno – a hidden gem backed by a towering mountain. Featuring lots of historic churches back to the 15th and 17th century.
- Menaggio – a great base for exploring Lake Como with a lakeside promenade and the old town. Also nearby Breglia offers hiking trails for all abilities.
There are several other beautiful towns to visit. But these are the most popular and those with key attractions you might want to visit. Be aware that if you are travelling from Milan, you probably will have time to visit only one town other than Como, or two if you rush and get there super early. The ferries take around 30 minutes from one side of the lake to another, and stick to a timetable. Don't plan too much for one day, focus on enjoying less places but spending more time exploring them. For more information on the other towns – read: 15 towns to visit on Lake Como.
Have you been to Lake Como – would you like to take a day trip from Milan to Lake Como? What would you choose - pizza and Aperol Spritz? Or Champagne overlooking the water?