Lake Como is famously home to many celebs, including George and Amal (who are rumored to be selling as the crush of paparazzi is proving stressful to newlywed life). There’s a reason why the Lake is so popular and not just among the rich and famous.
Lake Como has been a sought after retreat since Roman times and is considered one of the most stunningly beautiful lakes in the world with picturesque villages, sweeping lake and mountain views and a sunny Mediterranean climate to boot. It’s one of Europe’s deepest at 1300 feet (660 feet below sea level).
I don’t remember when I started lusting after Lago di Como but the dream became a reality this year. You know how some destinations don’t quite live up to your (admitted high) expectations? I’m happy to say our Lake Como met and exceeded mine. I’m a lake and water lover. The views, panoramas and romantic architecture filled my soul with joy. Breathtaking!
Lake Como is shaped like an upside down Y.
We’re going to focus our attention on the junction of that Y. Bellagio on one side, Varenna the other with Tremezzo and Menaggio on the far side. All are within sight of each other. These are the best Lake Como villages to visit easily in a day using the local ferry service.
Things to do in Lake Como: Local Ferry Service
Travel between each village is very easy via the local ferries run by the Italian Ministry of Transport. On this map it’s the route in yellow. You can hop on and off all day with a day pass or pick and choose which villages you want to travel to. Pick up a ferry schedule at the ticket “biglietti” offices on the docks and buy your tickets. A family day ticket covers two adults and up to two children (4-11 years). Fast ferries incur an additional supplement. You can hop on either the passenger or car ferry. We’ll assume you’re walking and not driving on this trip.
If the ticket office is closed, buy tickets on board. We traveled in October. Check to see if the mid lake ticket if offered if you’re traveling during the winter or off season.
1. Cadenabbia | Tremezzo
We stayed at the Grand Hotel Cadennabia as part of our Italian Lakes tour so this is where we began our lake tour. There isn’t much to do in Cadenabbia itself, but if you walk south along the lake for five minutes, you’ll find yourself at the Villa Carlotta in Tremezzo.
Villa Carlotta is a 17th century villa famous for it’s beautiful botanical gardens. Tremezzo is a small village dominated by the Grand Hotel Tremezzo, a 5-star hotel with lakeside and rooftop pools. If you want to grab a pastry or coffee, you’ll find cafes and restaurants here.
Ferry: Pick up the passenger ferry opposite Villa Carlotta, OR just north of the Grand Hotel Cadennabia.
Then Take the Ferry to Bellagio:
Called “The Pearl of the Lake” Bellagio is chock full of picturesque cobbled hilly alleys which begged to be explored. Visiting Bellagio by boat is the perfect approach. The ferry docks in the center of town, so you can stroll up into the lanes or along the lake to Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni to the north or Villa Melzi to the south.
There’s a little trolley train, The Trombetta Express you can catch just by the ferry entrance which takes you up and around the hills above Bellagio. For only 5 euro it’s a good way to rest if you’re tired of walking.
Bellagio is a wonderful place to browse at your leisure, find a cafe to stop in for a coffee or pizza. Try the bistrot Antichi Sapori 3/5 Via Centrale for casual patio dining tucked away from the crowds. The pizza was yummy and our first Aperol spritzer went down nicely.
Endless little shops stocking silk, leather, cashmere and hand carved souvenirs are yours for the browsig. I found a a very pretty painted tray to use on my dresser at Luigi Tachi at 22 Via Garibaldi where you’ll also unique locally made wood keepsakes.
Ferry: Pick up the passenger ferry again where you got off in at the edge of the lake.
Then take the Ferry to Menaggio:
We had a delightful lakeside lunch in Menaggio. A short walk from the ferry dock past the Grand Hotel Menaggio to the center of town we discovered Ristorante Del Porto (Hotel Bellavista). Another recommendation is Ristorante Paolo nearby.
Setting was divine, food was excellent if a wee bit pricey. By now we had developed a taste for the fruity Aperol Spritzer, the perfect refreshing drink for a sunny October day. If you have time, stroll along the lake promenade, browse the shops before you hop back on the ferry to travel to Varenna.
Ferry: Pick up the passenger|car ferry at the same dock in Menaggio.
Then Take the Ferry to Varenna:
If Bellagio is the pearl of the lake, Varenna is the jewel. Characterized by it’s colorfully painted villas stacked up from the shore to the hills above, Varenna is a small beautifully charming town with it’s own personality. It is smaller and quieter than Bellagio.
Once you hop off the ferry you’ll find yourself facing the small town square. Turn to the right and walk along the lake. You’ll see a walkway which wraps around the hillside and harbor and leads you to a quaint area of shops and cafes punctuated by the polished Hotel du Lac situated dramatically on the point.
Then Take the Ferry to Your Lake Como Hotel:
Once you’ve browsed Varenna to your heart’s content, you can jump back on the ferry to your hotel. Keep in mind there are fewer ferries to and from Varenna.
In our case, we headed back to the port at Cadennabia, but depending on where you’re staying you may want to return to Menaggio or Bellagio for the night.
Lake Como is a seasonal destination. We were there in early October and it was beautiful, sunny and warm and not over crowded. The last day or two fog did settle in the evening through to the morning but the views were still stunning. If you decide to go during the off season check on ferry options. Many hotels and restaurants close during November to March and transportation options may be limited.
If you’d like to take this tour of Lake Como that includes Lake Maggiore, Lugano, St.Moritz and Bergamo I can highly recommend it. I highly recommend a Lake Como cruise to really experience this gorgeous Italian lake at it’s best.
Take a peek at my travel resources before you go. Buon viaggio!