Lago di Como is a lake situated north of Milan in Northern Italy’s Lombardy region. It’s full of little towns, beautiful waters with the Alps as the most stunning backdrop. There are plenty of fantastic restaurants and places to see with picturesque Victorian villas and gardens to explore. Also, in my opinion, you haven’t truly visited the lake if you haven’t taken a swim in the water.
I have been to Lake Como twice and it’s certainly a contender for my favourite place (so far) in the world. If you’re planning to take a visit, read on for a guide and some tips for your Italian adventure.
Getting to Lake Como
I am from the South West of England and have always flown from Bristol (BRS) into Milan Bergamo Airport (BGY). Currently, RyanAir flies into BGY from the UK at the following airports in addition to Bristol: Birmingham, Glasgow Prestwick, Leeds, Manchester, Nottingham and London Stansted.
From there, we’ve always rented a car and driven the 1 hour 45 minutes to Lake Como. The drive is pretty straight forward and having a car is great for being around the lake, however, it may not be the best option for everyone. Between the airport and the Lake, there are a few motorway tolls that are all privately owned. You have to pay in cash to get through, and the queues can be long if you don’t have a prepaid toll card. I recommend that you make sure you have about 20€ euros in change each way for this.
Alternatively, you can get a bus or the ORIOSHUTTLE from Bergamo airport to Milan Centrale, and from there get a train to Como. This journey takes about 2 hours but only costs around 4€ – 8€, which is less than the toll fees. This is certainly a cheaper option and from checking Google, appears to run at least hourly.*
*Was checked during COVID-19. This may be more frequent again if you are reading and normality has somehow managed to resume itself.
Where to stay
I have stayed in two small towns at Lake Como, both on the west side of the lake. Sala Comacina is a great little town with plenty of Airbnb’s amongst the traditional rustic Italian homes, yet not full of tourists and the locals are lovely. As it’s all on a slope, I found no matter where you were you always had a gorgeous view of the surrounding mountains or the lake. This means I recommend you don’t mind stumbling up a hill after a glass of wine or two to get to bed. If you’re a light weight like me, this makes good entertainment for those around you. The little town is also on the gorgeous greenway and opposite Isola Comacina, the only island on the Lake.
On my second trip, I stayed in Argegno which is home to my favourite gelato shop and pizza restaurant. It is also one of the main stops for the ferry service. This is super handy as you can’t go to Lake Como without visiting the beautiful Bellagio, but you need the ferry unless you want a very long drive. There are a couple of bars too which stay open late across the week and have a great atmosphere. I would personally move to Argegno, yesterday.
Although there is a ferry and bus service, you will probably find your dinner and evening entertainment options easier staying in the City of Como if you aren’t renting a car. I personally didn’t find the restaurant prices that different in Como to around the rest of the lake, but don’t let that put you off. Being honest, Lake Como in general is rather expensive. If you are able to self-cater a night or two to save money, Como has a couple Carrefour supermarkets.
I have explored the Lake using both a rented car and the ferry service. I haven’t used the bus but I know people who have and say that it is frequent and very handy. They have a Winter and Summer timetable. Maybe an option to consider if you don’t want to worry about those few Negroni’s and Aperol Spritz at dinner.
There are car parks located in each town around the lake which makes getting around quick and easy. However, they aren’t always the closest walk to the lakefront and some will mean you need the odd spare euro or two. If you are using a car, I have to bring up the driving in Italy. The roads around the lake are windy and at times very narrow. This doesn’t stop locals from speeding and positioning themselves centrally in the road. They really do not care. It appears to be what they are used to as they all move out of the way quickly, and only ever have near misses. This is something you will notice the moment you leave the airport when the motorway signs declare to have 3 lanes but those on the road decide that today they will have 5 or 6.
Alternatively, getting around by ferry is a lovely scenic way to experience the lake. There are 3 types of ferries: Slowboat, Hydrofoil and the car ferry. If you want to take gorgeous photos of your surroundings then the slowboat is perfect for you. If you don’t fancy spending an hour or so on a boat each day, the hydrofoil may be a better option as it’s much faster. You can find more information on the stops and schedule here. I personally really loved the slowboat, especially after a day of being on your feet. Word of warning: It’s windy on the ferry, and you really do burn in the summer months without realising. The one time I may recommend factor 50 suncream.
Places to go and things to see
In terms of places to go, things to see and food to eat, there is so much choice around all the different towns. I will create a more in-depth guide for this in the next week or so. However, here are a couple to get you started with your planning:
- Ristorante la Piazzetta, Argegno for my favourite pizza around the lake and the staff are amazing
- Bellagio Botanical Gardens and I Giardini Di Villa Melzi
- Villa del Balbianello, the most breathtaking villa with gorgeous terraced gardens known for setting the scene of Naboo in Star Wars. Paying extra for the tour is honestly so worth it.