Situated in the Lombardi Region in Northern Italy is Lake Como, known as the third largest lake in Italy and is home to charming towns and villages that look like from the pages of a fairytale book. Although it has a reputation of being a favorite holiday destination of the wealthy, Lake Como offers endless possibilities for every type of travelers. Whether this is your first trip to Italy or you’ve been here a few times before, a 3-day adventure to Lake Como and its surrounding villages opens up tons of new and interesting things to do. The sequence of activities and attractions below are just a guide and you can definitely change it to suit your interests.
Things to know before traveling to Lake Como, Italy:
Language – Italian is the official language of Italy. Most Italian in the city and other main tourists spots, speak English so you can absolutely get by without speaking Italian language. Like other countries, speaking at least some Italian phrases or attempting to learn is greatly appreciated by the locals.
Etiquette – Most Italians don’t like vulgar and loud people. As a visitor, you are expected to behave politely and dress appropriately. When you enter a shop or restaurant, acknowledge the people by saying “Buon Giorno”. First impressions are important, so conduct yourself properly while being aware of any social hierarchies. Always greet with Signore (for a man) and Signora (for a woman) followed by the family name. If you get into conversation with an Italian, do not go on the subject of mafia as this is considered to be rude.
Currency exchange – Italy uses euro, the same currency now used by most Western European countries with the exception of the United Kingdom, Switzerland and Norway. Prior to traveling, you can buy some euros (enough for one day or whatever your preference) and then exchange your money in the banks to get the best rates. You can also use the ATMs (called bankomat) at all main squares of every town, major airports and train stations. Credits cards are commonly accepted in most shops, restaurants and hotels. If you are going to take taxis, please note that most taxi drivers prefer cash payments as credit card transactions require them to pay a commission to the banks.
Getting there – Lake Como is located in Lombardi Region in Northern Italy. Traveling by train is possible via Milan to Lake Como’s Como San Giovanni Train Station, which is connected with most major cities in Italy. You may also get there by regular buses (Eurolines) from Milan and other major cities. Travel time by train is approximately 1 hour, while traveling by bus takes 30 minutes from Milan. You may use the Go Euro App or website to help you navigate independently in Italy.
Getting around – The villages surrounding Lake Como are small enough to explore on foot. Make sure to download a map or print a map before your trip. Also, ask directions from your hotel since the orientation in Lake Como and surrounding villages can be quite confusing. If you are short on time or you prefer less time walking, the area has a bus, ferry and taxi networks. For the ultimate road trip adventure, renting a car and driving on your own is a fantastic option. Self-drive tours allow you to stop whenever and wherever you want. It will also be an advantage as some places in Lake Como have infrequent public transport.
Where to stay – The villages surrounding Lake Como offers heaps of accommodation to suit every pocket, from budget hostels to luxury hotels, where you can base yourself for your stay. Most accommodation options with pastel-colored boutiques and breathtaking lake view are located in Bellagio, Varenna and Menaggio.
Hotels to consider in Bellagio:
Day by day itinerary: Best of Lake Como, Italy in 3 days
Day 1: Bellagio
Depending on your time of arrival, you can either take it easy and soak up the atmosphere in Lake Como or you can begin your tour of its famous attractions. After your arrival, head to your chosen accommodation for check-in or leave your belongings at the reception if it isn’t check-in time yet. Assuming your base on this trip is at Bellagio, make sure to drop by the Tourist Information Office to get printed maps, bus schedules and tour recommendations.
While it’s perfectly fine to just sit on a bench at the lakeside promenade and enjoy seeing the Alps across the lake, because after all you’re on vacation, the village offers other activities and attractions. Stroll along the cobbled street of Via Garibaldi until you reach the village’s town square, known as Piazza San Giacomo. Here, you may visit Basilica di San Giacomo, Villa Serbelloni and its gardens, and the town hall.
In the late afternoon, make your way to Bellagio Viewpoint, one of the most famous attractions in the village. The path leading up the hill is where the lake divides and is a perfect place for sunset viewing. This is where you can get splendid panoramic views of the lake and the surrounding hills. The best time to visit is in the late afternoon so you can catch the sunset as well as see daytime and nighttime views of Lake Como. Then, head to one of the restaurants in the Old Town like La Fontana Bellagio to celebrate your last day in the city.
Day 2: Varenna
On day 2, start early and have breakfast at one of the open-air restaurants overlooking Lake Como. Then, enjoy a comfortable walking tour through Bellagio to see the attractions you missed the previous day. After breakfast, board a ferry to Varenna, a charming steep hillside village across the lake from Bellagio. There is not much to do in this village, but if you prefer a quiet respite away from the crowds of its sister villages, then Varenna will the best place for you. Some of the attractions you can visit are the 14th century church of Chiesa di San Giorgio, Chiesa di San Giovanni Battista, Villa Cipressi and Villa Monastero. Don’t miss to try a couple of gelaterie located at the village’s pretty waterfront.
Day 3: Menaggio
Start your last day in Lake Como by going to one of the best morning hot spots in one of its villages. After breakfast, get on a ferry to Menaggio, one of the three main villages in Lake Como. There are plenty of things to do and see in this village, so make sure plan ahead especially if you’re scheduled departure is on this day. Some of the attractions you might want to see are Villa Mylius Vigoni, Piazza Garibaldi, Church of Santa Marta, Church of San Carlo, and of course the lakeside promenade.
Have you been to Lake Como or anywhere else in Italy? Do you have any tips or suggestions to share? If so, you can leave your comments below.
Featured image: Famous luxury villa Monastero, stunning botanical garden decorated with Mediterranean oleander flowers, Lake Como, Varenna, Lombardy region, Italy (Gaspar Janos / Shutterstock).