A holiday at Lake Como offers majestic villas, relaxing swims in Italy’s third largest lake and beautiful views on green valleys and mountain peaks. Read below how to make the best of your holiday in the Lake Como region no matter whether you have just 3 days or 6 days free to visit.
Where to stay: While in Como, we stayed at Crotto Bedroom and paid around 75€ per night for a room with a private bathroom and a balcony overlooking lake Como.
Best time to travel: June or September, because it’s not too hot and you’re not travelling ‘in-season’ where prices are higher. We visited the Lake Como region at the end of August and experienced a week of sunshine in 25 degree Celsius without a single day of rain. The Mediterranean climate with its cool breeze made the warmth definitely pleasant.
How to get around: ferries and buses will bring you to most places. Subways and walking will work for Milan and Bergamo given that you don’t mind hilly walks. Due to the many cobbled streets in Bergamo it’s best to take good sneakers with you. Some places such as Belvedere della Sighignola (“the Balcony of Italy”) are only reachable by car, so if you don’t fear the narrow Italian streets and want to access all the sights of Como, arriving by car or renting one on location is definitely recommended.
How to get there: both Bergamo and Milan have a fairly big airport so you can decide whether you want to start your journey in Bergamo or in Milan. We landed in Milan just because the flight tickets were slightly cheaper. Check your flight options on Skyscanner.
How long to stay: we decided to stay for 6 days in order to also visit Milan, Bergamo and Lugano. However, if you only plan to explore the Lake Como region without taking any day trips then 2 to 3 days should be enough. Of course, you can always add an extra day to just laze around the lake.
Day 1: Milan
Milan being known as the Italian capital of finance and fashion is an exciting city not to be missed. If you are heading to Lake Como chances are you are going to land in Milan anyway and it is definitely worth to stay one night. The breathtaking Duomo di Milan, the historic Sforzesco Castle, the hip district of Navigli and Porta Ticinese, the best Italian Panini you have ever eaten, Milan offers so much that we made a separate post to make sure that we cover everything.
Day 2: Milan + Como
We spend the morning of the second day exploring the rest of Milan and around 2pm headed out for Como. You can reach Como easily by bus and because the city is quite small, 3 hours should be enough to explore most of it.
For a Gelato in Como
Your first stop in Como should be Gelateria Lariana, which is the best gelateria in the whole region of Como, maybe even Italy! Yes, it was THAT good! If you do one thing in Como, go there and you will not regret it. We can recommend fragola (strawberry) and fico (fig).
Explore Como’s Piazza’s
After that you can stroll around Como along Piazza Vittoria. On Tuesdays/Thursdays from 8am to 1pm and on Saturdays from 8am to 1pm you will find a vintage market here selling clothing and handcrafts. Then head to Piazza San Fedele for a coffee. Originally a wheat market, it is one of the main squares in Como housing the Basilica San Fedele, a Romanesque church dating back to 1120. Next continue toward Piazza del Duomo, which hosts the Duomo di Como (Como Cathedral). It is dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary and was constructed in the 14th century. Between the cathedral and its bell tower you will see the Broletto, an old town hall where public assemblies used to take place in.
After exploring Como we took the bus to Argegno, where we stayed for the next 3 days.
Day 3: Argegno and Pigra
Stay + Groceries
Most people who travel to Como seem to stay at Como itself or in Belaggio, Menaggio or Varenna, which are the three most famous cities around Lake Como. Because we wanted to have a more authentic experience of staying in a small Italian village away from the tourists (and the high prices), we decided to stay in Argegno and can definitely recommend it. Specifically, we stayed at Crotto Bedroom and paid around 75€ per night for a room with a private bathroom and a balcony overlooking lake Como.
The only problem we ran into in Argegno was grocery shopping on a Sunday. Off-season the two small (and we really mean small) grocery stores in Argegno are closed and the nearest (only slightly bigger) supermarket is in Lenno, a longer busride away, and we can not say for certain that even that one is open on Sundays, so just make sure to buy enough supplies the day before.
Piadine at Café Colombo
If you also decide to stay in Argegno, you should make sure to try the Piadine at Café Colombo. The Lombardy region is famous for its piadine, a flatbread with different fillings such as prosciutto di parma, buffata di mozarella, mortadella, etc. It tastes similar to a quesadilla. Piadine are sold for around 6€, which makes them a very affordable lunch option. Café Colombo had the tastiest Piadine we have tried in the whole Como region, but make sure to head there latest around lunchtime. Google suggests that they’re open until midnight, but when we were there, they were usually already closed at 2pm.
Ice-Cream Brioche at Gelato di Zoe
The next culinary sensation can be found across Café Colombo at Gelato di Zoe: an ice-cream filled brioche for merely €4. You can pick three different flavors that should go into your brioche. After sampling almost the entire range, we can highly recommend Cremino and Chocolate the most. This Italian ice-cream sandwich is so filling that it served as our lunch one day, and tasty it was!
Pigra is an even smaller town next to Argegno that you can reach by using the funicular. When you reach Pigra, you will be offered great panoramic views of lake Como. If you follow the signs to Belvedere you will reach an even more scenic spot in a tranquil forest where you could easily spend an hour just sitting and enjoying the great view. After that we recommend strolling through the little town of Pigra where you will find signs all over the village describing life in Pigra during the Medieval times, before heading back to Argegno again.
Villa del Balbianello
If you have watched Star Wars or James Bond Casino Royale you will recognize this Baroque villa complex since both movies were filmed here. For a heavy entrance fee of €22 you can participate in an hour long guided tour through the villa that used to belong to the Italian heir of the supermarket chain Sigma. If you only want to visit the gardens, you have to pay €11. Then you can also access the Punta Balbianello, a promontory that sticks out into Lake Como. We could not justify to pay the high entrance fee and decided not to go. Also, if you have visited Pigra, the views from Punto Balbianello, will definitely not be better than what you already saw.
Pizzeria Ristorante Lido di Argegno
If you come after 2pm on a weekday you can enter this Lido for €12. This will grant you access to a deckchair, a swimming pool and a private entrance to Lake Como as well as the ability to order cocktails and pizza on end. We decided for the ‘free’ access to Lake Como by just setting up camp right next to the Lido di Argegno and bringing our own snacks and drinks along. However, if you like the comforts of deck chairs and a bar service, this Lido has got you covered.
Day 4: Belaggio, Menaggio and Varenna
Definitely reserve one day to visit Belaggio, Menaggio and Varenna. You will pay €16,50 for a ferry ticket with which you can ride across the three towns as often as you want. We first visited Varenna. If you have a car, you have the option of heading to Castello di Venezio. Without the car a one-hour hike promises to get you there as well. However, we had trouble finding our way as there are not a lot of guiding signs and not all routes were very walk-friendly Instead we followed the river into the town of Varenna and had lunch close to the ferry station at NaturalMente. You can find vegan wraps, smoothies, panini’s and a selection of Italian delicatessen here.
Menaggio can be found on the western shore just above Bellagio. It is a 10 minute ferry ride from Varenna. It offers some amazing views of Lake Como and a nice lakeside stroll that is decorated with nice flowers and plants. It definitely feels a bit more touristy, but that did not hold us back from sitting down in one of the cafés for a ginseng. Traditionally it is made by boiling ginseng root with milk and adding a little bit of sugar. Unfortunately it seems that most coffee places use an instant mix that is overly sweetened (when I asked to leave the sugar out, my request was denied and said this was impossible hence my theory).
We visited Bellagio with a little bit of prejudice in our minds since it was described as tacky and overly touristy. However, we ended up liking it the most out of all three towns. The little artsy stores hugging the small streets, people drinking wine on the historic stairs and restaurants serving Italian pizza and Risotto alla milanese, another classic of the Lombardy region, made Bellagio a definite win. Another fun thing to do in Bellagio is people watching, since you will see a lot of very fancy rich people and extravagant cars touring the hotspot.
The first thing you see when reaching Bellagio is the Hotal Villa Serbelloni, which looks a little bit like Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel. The villa is a former retreat for the Sfondrati Family who lived in the 16th century. Although the villa cannot be accessed, you can visit its gardens. Prices in Bellagio were generally slightly higher than in Argegno and the town was of course overflowing with tourists, however that came with the added advantage that it was generally easier to communicate in English.
Day 5: Lugano
Because of the Lombardy regions close proximity to the Swiss border, you should not miss out on visiting Lugano, especially, if you are a hiking fan like us. Climbing Monte Bré, walking the Olive Tree Trail, admiring the luxury that’s eminent from every corner of the city, exploring Centro Storico, eating Swiss cheese are all things you can do in Lugano. It was one of the best parts of our trip to Lake Como that we can highly recommend. If you want to check out our detailed itinerary for Lugano, go here: Exquisite Lugano – 1 Day Itinerary
Day 6: Bergamo
The last day of our Como trip we spend in Bergamo. If you are a fan of the movie Call me by your name or if you like low key, historical cities with cool vibes, you should come here. Exploring Citta Alta, tasting Polenta, the Lombardian specialty and admiring Cappella Colleoni are only a few of the things you can do in Bergamo. Reason enough to visit are the people, whom we found to be the friendliest and the most welcoming! Feel free to visit our Bergamo-guide to find out more.
If you have more time in Lake Como
- rent out an electric bicycle in Argegno and cycle through the areas surrounding Argegno up to …
- rent out a paddle boat, a kayak or a stand up boat in Lenno
- visit Tremezzo, another picturesque town at Lake Como
- try to find George Clooney (unfortunately we did not succeed in that endeavour but are very curious to hear if you achieve it)