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Best Lake Como Itinerary Ideas

lake como itinerary

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Nestled in the Italian Alps, Lake Como is a dreamy vacation destination famous for its scenic natural beauty, historic villas, and picturesque lakeside villages. If you’re planning a trip to Northern Italy’s Lombardy region, these Lake Como itinerary ideas are crafted with you in mind.

Lake Como is worth visiting for an alpine setting surrounded by lush mountains and colorful houses. There are plenty of things to do in Lake Como; spend your days strolling along a waterfront promenade, going on boat tours, or admiring the beautiful villas.

This Lake Como travel guide details all you need to know with regards to picking a home base, key highlights, and how to have an excellent 3-day itinerary of Lake Como. Use one of these 3 days in Lake Como itineraries to plan the perfect trip to suit all your needs.

Pick Your Base To Stay When Visiting Lake Como

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Before diving into this perfect Lake Como itinerary, you need to pick a place to stay as the base for your day trips. Luckily, there are several charming towns to look for where to stay in Lake Como. Each village or commune has a unique appeal; from tightly packed cobblestone streets to stunning lake views, there’s certainly a town for you in this Northern Italian destination.

Como

como itinerary

Situated at the southern tip of Lake Como, this bustling city boasts a historic appeal dating back to Roman times. Although Como has that “big city” vibe, it’s actually very walkable and easily explored in just a few hours. It is one of the main tourist towns, so you may encounter crowds.

Como’s maze-like cobblestone streets are packed with treasures, from quaint restaurants serving local Lombard cuisine to art galleries and intriguing museums. The city’s crown jewel is the blue-domed Como Cathedral, with its imposing beauty and regal interiors.

Getting around Como is relatively easy on foot. If you’d like to visit the western shores of the lake, there’s a bus system that operates from the city to other towns like Bellagio and Menaggio.

Bellagio

lake como itinerary

Affectionately named the “Pearl of Lake Como,” Bellagio sits at the intersection point of the two southern branches of the Y-shaped lake. The village is one of Lake Como’s most romantic towns, and it’s easy to see why. A flowery lakeside promenade, picturesque colorful buildings, and cobbled lanes dotted with delightful boutiques and eateries make Bellagio a must-visit.

Bellagio’s most prominent natural landmark is Parco di Villa Serbelloni — an 18th-century tiered garden boasting exotic flora and spectacular lake views. The popular way to get around Bellagio is by boat. Use the regular ferries to get to towns on opposite banks like Menaggio or Varenna.

Varenna

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Quiet, compact, and characterized by stunning views, Varenna is where you go when you want to visit Lake Como for a tranquil getaway. The quaint village is a lover’s paradise, offering romantic walks along a blooming lakeshore with a sea of fishing boats anchored at the harbor.

Get lost in Varenna’s narrow alleyways, uncovering gems like charming trattorias, cafés, historic landmarks, and hidden arches. The Church of San Giorgio is one of Varenna’s most unmissable landmarks; sitting in the center of town, its towering spire can be seen from miles away.

Although it’s a small town, Varenna has a train station, making it easy to get there from nearby major cities like Milan. In fact, there are over 12 direct trains making the day trip from Milan to Varenna-Esino each day. Walking is the best way to get around, as parking is limited.

LISTEN: To our podcast with local tips for Cruising Lake Como.

Lake Como Itinerary From Como

Como is a fantastic home base when visiting Lake Como for a wholesome experience. The city’s historic but elegant appeal offers an old-world charm with a modern twist. Here’s the perfect 3-day Lake Como itinerary starting in the water body’s namesake.

Where To Stay in Como City

stay como itinerary

As the largest city around Lake Como, this city boasts the best opportunities for shopping and sightseeing, so finding a place to stay here certainly won’t be an issue. Consider these hotels:

Luxury – Como Crystal

Nestled in the heart of the picturesque Old Town, Como Crystal is a remarkable apartment that seamlessly blends opulent original features with modern elements. It offers a luxurious experience at the edge of one of Italy’s famous lakes, so be ready for commanding lake vistas.

The double-height ceilings are adorned with frescoes, while the walls boast intricate moldings and carefully selected art. While it only has two bedrooms, the apartment features a grand living room and an eight-seater dining room, perfect for hosting >> Check Rates and Availability.

TIP: Use the code ‘Untold5′ and get 5% off your booking on Plum Guide.

Budget to Mid-Range – Albergo del Duca

Tucked in the city’s center, just a mere five-minute walk from Como Cathedral, Albergo del Duca invites you to a comfortable and convenient stay. Boasting subtly decorated rooms with private bathrooms, this hotel is a welcomed budget-friendly option when staying in the tourist hub.

Indulge in local flavors at the on-site restaurant, Le Colonne, and immerse your taste buds in classic Italian cuisine, from pizza to a la carte specialties made with fresh ingredients. There won’t be any lake views here, but the hotel’s terraces provide a cozy outdoor setting  >> Check Rates and Availability.

Day 1 – Explore Como and Brunate

lake como itinerary brunate

Hit the ground running on the first day of your Lake Como itinerary with a visit to the belle of the ball — Como Cathedral, affectionately known as Duomo di Como.

Completed in the 18th century, the predominantly Gothic cathedral hosts pleasing notes of Renaissance, Baroque, and Romanesque designs. Access to the cathedral is available to tourists on weekdays from 10:30 am to 17:00 and from 13:00 to 16:30 on holidays.

After spending time at the most famous landmark in Como, head over to a close runner-up — the town center. Dotted with many museums, churches, and bustling pizzas, this is home to Como’s oldest street, lined with family-run restaurants, shops, and enchanting cafés. Take a guided walking tour of Como to experience the city’s history and culture.

Stopping for lunch at one of the best eateries in the historic center, Il Farcito is a terrific option, serving mouth-watering Mediterranean and Italian cuisine. Once you’ve had your fill, dive deeper into Como’s manufacturing history at Museo della Seta di Como (or Silk Museum of Como).

The silk industry has rapidly grown since the first mulberry trees were planted in the region as far back as 1400. Learn more at the museum from 10:00 am to 13:00 and from 14:00 to 18:00 — only the second slot is available on Tuesdays and is closed on Mondays.

End your day with a quick day trip to Brunate for sweeping lake vistas from above. The best way to get there is by a 10-minute funicular. Or opt for a tour from Como to Brunate, offering a funicular ride, a walking tour around smaller villages, and a boat tour of the lake.

Day 2 – Visit the Villas — Villa Carlotta and Villa Balbianello

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Getting there: By ferry, you can quickly get from Como to Tremezzo or Lenno. Be sure to check the ferry timetable before you leave your hotel.

Day two of your Lake Como itinerary takes you to explore the lavish villas on the sunny western shores. Perched on a verdant lakeside, the neoclassical Villa Carlotta in Tremezzo offers a museum with sculptures from the likes of Antonio Canova, and paintings by Giovanni Migliara.

The age-appropriate furniture from previous villa owners also leaves a lasting impression, not forgetting the botanical gardens, perfect for strolls. Visit from 10:00 am to 19:00.

Next is the equally magnificent Villa Balbianello (also known as Villa del Balbianello). Nestled along the shores of Lenno, this exclusive 18th-century mansion has featured in popular blockbusters like Star Wars: Attack of the Clones and James Bond: Casino Royale.

Explore the manicured terraced gardens of Villa Balbianello after a scenic ferry ride to Lenno with these entry tickets. The villa operates every day from March to January, 10:00 am until 18:00, except for Mondays and Wednesdays.

Day 3 – Take a Trip to Varenna and Bellagio

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The last day of your Lake Como itinerary takes you to nearby lakeside towns that exude charm on every corner and provide scenic lake views. Start with a day trip to Varenna, nestled along the eastern shores of Lake Como. This charming town is home to arguably the most romantic spot in all the towns: La Passeggiata Degli Innamorati, otherwise known as Lovers Walk.

Built between water and rock, this red-fenced promenade features romantic arches and verdant pedestrian pathways that lead to cafés, bars, and gelaterias, offering light lunches and snacks.

Hop on a ferry from Varenna to Bellagio for a sensational end to your final day in Lake Como. Bellagio is a beautiful town with a historic center boasting a pleasing mixture of high-end shops and fabulous restaurants that spill onto the narrow cobblestone streets.

Head over to Salita Serbelloni to capture the iconic postcard image of Bellagio. There are lots of eateries nearby, like Ristorante Bilacus, serving traditional Italian fare and fine wine. The restaurant offers lunch and dinner, so have your last meal here before returning to Como.

TIP: See several Lake Como highlights with this guided tour of Bellagio and Varenna.

Lake Como Itinerary From Bellagio

Characterized by vibrant cliffside homes and incredible vistas of Lake Como with backdrops of the surrounding mountains, Bellagio offers a serene abode with fewer crowds. Follow this 3-day Lake Como itinerary and enjoy picturesque streets and romantic lake views.

Where To Stay in Bellagio

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Offering a wide range of accommodation options from restored villas and palazzos to quintessential family-owned hotels, Bellagio is a suitable place to stay for everyone.

Luxury – Oh, Wonder

Prepare to be captivated by the breathtaking beauty of Lake Como from the vantage point of this stunning stone brick villa. Overlooking the natural wonder, this massive five-bedroom property offers unending lake views thanks to its expansive windows.

The interior décor seamlessly blends bright whites, oranges, and terracotta with wooden accents, perfectly harmonizing with the lake setting. Enjoy sunny days by the outdoor pool, then soak in some bubbles in the hot tub after sunset >> Check Rates and Availability.

TIP: Get 5% off using the code ‘Untold5′ when booking with Plum Guide.

Budget to Mid-Range – Hotel Il Perlo

Hotel Il Perlo presents mesmerizing lake views atop a hill overlooking Lake Como. This hotel offers a typical Bed & Breakfast service with private bathrooms and balconies. Enjoy a buffet breakfast on the veranda for the most breathtaking vistas.

You have the hotel’s friendly staff ready to assist you with information on local tours and other insights about bike rentals and restaurant recommendations. The hotel is less than two miles away from Bellagio town center, so there are plenty of opportunities for shopping and dining at traditional eateries >> Check Rates and Availability.

Day 1 – Explore Bellagio, Go Shopping, and Take a Sunset Boat Cruise

itinerary for lake como explore bellagio

There are loads of exciting things to do in Bellagio, begin the day with a visit to Basilica di San Giacomo to admire its 11th-century Italian architecture. The church sits in the town center, making it easy to see other landmarks like Parco di Villa Serbelloni, your next stop.

Villa Melzi is another must-visit landmark in Bellagio. Overlooking Lake Como, the property offers lush gardens where you can enjoy history walks and artistic workshops. The Villa Melzi Gardens are open to the public, and so is the on-site museum. The gardens are open daily from 10:00 am to 19:00. The museum often hosts school and private guided tours for a deeper understanding.

Go shopping for artisanal crafts, jewelry, or souvenirs at a few of Bellagio’s boutique shops. If you’re in luck, there might be a local market happening in the town center, presenting you with the perfect opportunity to buy cured meats, fresh goods, and other homemade products.

Wrap up the day with a relaxing sunset boat tour to explore Lake Como. Alternatively, take a private boat tour, passing several Lake Como landmarks such as Villa del Balbianello and Villa Carlotta. This tour takes you past iconic properties such as Villa Melzi and the lovely town of Nesso.

Day 2 – Visit Como and Brunate

villa olmo como itinerary

Begin your second of three days in Lake Como with a trip to the largest city in the area. Stroll through the lush gardens of Villa Olmo and take in the scenic lake setting from its shores. The pastel-colored main building used to host cultural events and exhibitions, but it’s now closed for restoration work. So, walk through the gardens, dotted with statues and vibrant flora.

Immerse in Como’s innovative history at Tempio Voltiano — a neoclassical museum built in honor of a scientist and inventor of the electrical battery, Alessandro Volta. The temple hosts a collection of Volta’s personal items, instruments, and the first version of the electric battery.

Another fascinating monument you can’t miss in Como is the Porta Torre. Standing in the heart of town, this fortified tower was built in 1192 to defend the main entrance to Como City. The medieval tower provides an opportunity to take photos and walk through the ancient gate.

Take the Como-Brunate funicular and enjoy a brief day trip to the lovely hilltop town. Home to about 1,800 residents, Brunate is a charming little town providing superb aerial views, which have earned it the nickname the “Balcony of Lake Como.”

Day 3 – Visit the Villas – Villa Carlotta and Villa Balbianello

villa carlotta lake como itinerary

Getting there: Book your tickets from Como to Villa Carlotta and get there in less than two hours. Here’s the ferry timetable — note that the schedules might slightly change.

The last day of this Lake Como itinerary explores the region’s most beautiful villas. In Tremezzo, Villa Carlotta attracts the most tourists with its elegant white exterior and art-filled interior. Spend some time walking through the verdant garden featuring lively fountains and sculptures.

Visit Villa Balbianello in Lenno later in the day and enjoy exploring the movie set of famous Hollywood films. Perched on a small wooded peninsula called Dosso d’Avedo, the villa boasts walking paths meandering through superb gardens. Stay for the sunset, as it’s equally scenic.

TIP: Can’t find a guided tour that suits your needs? Book yourself a Villa del Balbianello Gardens with a ferry ticket and discover the mansion’s beauty at your own pace.

Lake Como Itinerary From Varenna

Dominated by blossom-filled lakeside gardens and colorful homes, Varenna’s picturesque streets are lined with eateries and crafts shops selling ceramic, leather, and silk products.

Follow this Lake Como 3-day itinerary from Varenna for a quieter and laid-back experience.  

Where To Stay in Varenna

stay varenna itinerary for lake como

Although small, Varenna is a beautiful town providing modern services along its narrow alleys. These include a handful of gorgeous villas, hotels, and family-run establishments.

Luxury – Tales by the Lake

Tucked along the serene lakeshore, Tales by the Lake offers a charming waterfront retreat like no other. This historic residence is furnished with all the modern comforts, from plush beds to a sizable kitchen with a farm-style gas stove. There’s a six-seater dining table suitable for hosting.

Spend your days taking in delightful views of Lake Como from the balconies, or head down to the ferry port less than half a mile away for a relaxing boat tour. Note there’s a lack of staircase handrails if traveling with young kids or elderly people >> Check Rates and Availability.

TIP: Claim a cool 5% off your Plum Guide booking using the code ‘Untold5′.

Budget to Mid-Range – Hotel Royal Victoria

Set in a restored 19th-century building, Hotel Royal Victoria aptly sits along the shores of Lake Como. The rooms offer modern conveniences such as Wi-Fi, air conditioners, and flat-screen TVs. Each of them provides a stunning view, either of Lake Como or the surrounding greenery.

Start your day with a lovely stroll through the garden before taking a nice dip in the seasonally available swimming pool. After a day of exploring, head to the sauna or unwind in a steambath at the hotel’s wellness center.

There are three on-site restaurants here: Visteria offers lake views, Giardino serves amazing cocktails, and the Victoria Grill overlooks Varenna’s vibrant town center >> Check Rates and Availability.

Day 1 – Explore Varenna and the Abbey of St. Mary of Piona

villa monastero como itinerary

Begin this Lake Como trip with a peaceful walk around Varenna. Start your Lake Como itinerary at Villa Monastero. The property boasts incredible gardens peppered with exotic plants from across the globe, a museum, and era-appropriate furniture in the convention center.

Villa Monastero opens daily, from 10:00 am until 17:00 pm, except on national holidays. After spending time here, head to eerie Castello di Vezio. Built in the 11th century, the castle was once a defense fortress but was later turned into a noble residence.

Walk around the property and try spotting the spooky ghosts of Vezio. These plaster-cast sculptures are created annually, then they are speckled all over the grounds of Castello di Vezio.

Towards the end of the day, take a short one-hour day trip to the Abbey of St. Mary of Piona. Dating as far back as 610 A.D., this monastery is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and is one of the most religious sites along the shore of Lake Como.

Visit the abbey from 07:00 am to 19:00 pm, but to see the church interior, cloister, and chapter house, come between 08:00 am – 12:00 pm and 14:00 pm – 18:30 pm.

Day 2 – Visit Como and Brunate

cathedral visit lake como itinerary

The second day of your Lake Como itinerary sees you discovering the vibrant town of Como. Start your day with a visit to the Old Town Hall, also known as Comune di Como. The hall’s allure is its stone facade, featuring pleasant Renaissance, Romanesque, and Gothic details.

Take some time to explore the numerous churches in and around the Lake Como area, like Basilica di San Fedele and Basilica of Saint Abundius. Como is home to tons of museums, so don’t miss out on a time travel experience at Museo Archeologico Giovio.

Ride the Como-Brunate funicular for magnificent vistas of Lake Como. The Monte Piatto Trail offers the best trek to immerse yourself in the natural surroundings and get a great vantage point of the lake. End your day on a high note with unmissable sweeps of the city from the popular Como Point Of View.

Day 3 – Visit Villa Carlotta in Tremezzo and go to Bellagio for Shopping

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End your three days in Lake Como on a high note with a boat trip to Tremezzo — home to one of the finest villas in the region. Villa Carlotta not only offers gorgeous gardens, it’s a house museum, featuring a massive collection of intriguing artworks from renowned Italian artists.

Before leaving Tremezzo, be sure to stop by a few of the museums, such as Museo del Paesaggio del Lago di Como and Museo del Territorio, for a cultural awakening. These are right next to each other, so there won’t be a need for excessive walking or driving around.

From Tremezzo, take a ferry ride to Bellagio for an unforgettable shopping experience. The streets of Bellagio are laden with unique boutiques to shop for silk clothes and artisanal products. Visit Bellagio’s best shops and browse through locally made jewelry, wooden, and leather goods as memorabilia for your trip.

TIP: Get access to the Villa Carlotta Museum and its extraordinary gardens with this entry ticket.

Wrapping Up – The Perfect Lake Como 3-Day Itinerary

the best lake como itinerary

Perfectly blending historic charm, alpine scenery, and lots of culture, Lake Como is an ideal Italian destination for an escape from the bustling metropolitans. You can easily get from Milan to Lake Como by rental car, private transfers, or train, making it an ideal day trip from the city.

Whether you’re seeking a casual Lake Como getaway exploring its lakeside villas via a ferry or looking to indulge in the local history at various museums, this itinerary has you covered. Don’t leave the region before exploring Villa Olmo in Como and Villa Melzi in Bellagio.

Spend your days in Lake Como strolling on the busy cobbled streets of Old Town in Como, popping into souvenir shops in Bellagio, or marveling at the vibrant houses of Varenna. This expansive lake and its enchanting towns allure many tourists, making Lake Como a must-visit destination.

READ: If you’re not sure whether to visit Lake Como or Lake Garda — read up on the similarities and differences between the two destinations to make the most suitable decision.

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