Why You Need To Visit Lake Como (And How To Do It!)

Explore the best beaches, safest places to swim, and the ideal towns for visiting and lodging.

Why You Need To Visit Lake Como (And How To Do It!)
The town of Cernobbio along Lake Como.

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If you're visiting Northern or Central Italy, Lake Como should be on your itinerary. Not only is it a €5 train ride from Milan, but it's easily one of the most scenic regions in all of Italy.

Of all the Italian lakes, Lake Como is certainly worth visiting—I've never disappointed a guest, and I'm sure it's because I've taken all of them to Como!

Getting to Lake Como

Views during a ferry docking along Lake Como.
The view during a ferry docking along Lake Como.

As a Milan local, I'd like to point out that taking the train is the easiest, fastest, and cheapest way to get to Lake Como from nearly any part of Northern or Central Italy. Como has a surprising amount of traffic, and spending a couple of hours on a train is far more enjoyable than being gridlocked in a mountainous tunnel.

From Abroad

The closest airports to Lake Como are Milan Malpensa Airport (MXP) and Milan Linate Airport (LIN). Direct bus services are available from Malpensa to Como, and you can also take the Malpensa Express train to Saronno and change for a train to Como. From Linate, you'll have to take the subway into Milan and then take a train to Como.

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From Milan

By Train - €5
The absolute best way to travel from Milan to Lake Como is by train. I say this as someone who has been stuck in a Como traffic jam for 2+ hours inside of a tunnel, multiple times. Take the train! They're modern, good for the planet, and they don't get stuck in traffic.

You can book your tickets here from Milan to Como San Giovanni station. The journey costs around €5 one-way and usually takes about 40 minutes to an hour, depending on the service. You'll also get great views of the lake.

By Car - €€
Renting a car and driving from Milan to Lake Como takes about an hour, depending on traffic and the exact destination. The views are stunning, especially as you get closer to the lake. However, parking is limited in the smaller towns, and the drive can take 3+ hours during rush hours and holidays.

Tip: If you're driving to Como, make sure you don't leave during rush hour or on an Italian holiday!

Alternatively, for €89, you can take a guided tour from Milan to Como in an air-conditioned coach.

From Florence

By Train - €20-€40
Traveling from Florence to Lake Como by train takes approximately 3 to 4 hours and is often faster than driving. You can book your tickets here from Florence to Como San Giovanni station.

Prices range from €20 to €40 one-way, with variations based on the train service (high-speed or regular) and how far in advance you book.

By Car - €€€
If you rent a car, the drive from Florence to Lake Como takes around 4 hours and covers 350 kilometers/217 miles. The route is straightforward, mainly following the A1 and A4 motorways while also passing through the Emilia-Romagna and greater Lombardy regions.

Be aware of tolls on the motorways and potential parking challenges around Lake Como, especially during peak tourist seasons. The toll booths accept card and contactless payments, so there's no need to withdraw cash.

Exploring Lake Como

Orrido di Bellano, featuring a 15-million-year-old waterfall.
The Orrido di Bellano along Lake Como, Italy.

How to Travel in Lake Como

The best way to travel in Lake Como is by boat. The city of Como has a public ferry that can take you everywhere you want to go! The trick is to visit during off season, such as in May or September. The ferry lines in Como are extremely long during peak season (June-August).

To book Lake Como ferry tickets online, visit the lake's official website. The website is available in English, and tickets can be purchased online from your phone. Ferry tickets are only valid for one day, so do not buy them in advance.

Tip: If you visit during the summer, I recommend arriving in Como, walking 30 minutes along the lake to the neighboring town of Tavernola, and boarding a ferry there instead.

In Tavernola, you can easily board a ferry and snag a seat without waiting hours in line and sweating off all of your makeup. The city of Como should be avoided during peak season; it's extremely busy and the lines are awful.

Lake Como is a large lake, so taking the ferry from the city of Como to the upper lake towns of Bellagio or Belluno takes around 2 hours.

Be sure to check the Lake Como ferry schedule before departing to verify that you'll be able to take a returning ferry.

The ferries have limited service on Sundays, holidays, and during the evenings. If you get stuck in a small town along the lake, bus service is limited and taxis are hard to find.

One time, my friend had to drive from Milan to Torno (1 hour) in the middle of the night to pick up some friends who were stranded there. Check the ferry schedule to ensure that this doesn't happen to you!

Best Towns to Visit on Lake Como

Every corner of this lake is incredible, so regardless of where you end up, you won't be disappointed. However, in my experience, these are the best towns to visit on Lake Como:


One of the larger lake towns, Varenna offers plenty of places to eat, drink, and shop while also enjoying the surrounding views. The town also has a lovely beach, Lido di Varenna.

A lookout point in Varenna, Italy.
A lookout point in Varenna, Italy.


A small town of just 1,000 people, Torno offers spectacular views of the lake and water access without the crowds. I recommend docking here for a couple of hours and grabbing a spritz at the harbor before taking a stroll.

Tip: Try to find the old tunnel that leads to the water!
The view from Torno, Italy.
The view from Torno, Italy.


Bellano is just north of Varenna, but it's a much quieter town and feels very local. There's a sailing club nearby, so you'll often see scores of boats out in the water. Bellano is also home to a 15-million-year-old waterfall, which can be viewed at the Orrido di Bellano.

Bellano, Italy.
Bellano, Italy.


First-time visitors should visit Bellagio just for the bragging rights. It's equally as beautiful as other towns on the lake, but it's famous for being home to celebrities like George Clooney and Gianni Versace. This city was the inspiration for the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas.

If you're looking for a beach day, check out the Lido di Bellagio.

Bellagio, Italy.
Bellagio, Italy.

Swimming in Lake Como

The city of Como.
Italians enjoying their lunch in the beautiful city of Como.

Can You Swim in Lake Como?

Yes, you can swim in Lake Como, just not near the city of Como itself! The beaches along the city of Como are polluted by boat traffic and bacteria, so it's not safe to swim directly in the city.

Further up the lake, there are numerous public beaches and lidos (beach resorts) where the water is clear and swimming is safe, and they're not just for foreigners—Italians swim in Lake Como too.

Some of the most popular swimming spots include the beaches at Bellagio, Varenna, and Menaggio. Lido di Bellagio, for instance, offers a sandy beach with sunbeds, umbrellas, and a bar for just €50. Lido di Menaggio and Lido di Lenno are also popular swimming spots with modern amenities, including pools, cafes, and changing facilities.

For a more laid-back setting, the beach at Spiaggia di Onno features stunning views and clear waters. It's a perfect spot to swim and enjoy the lake without crowds of tourists.

Note: You should not swim in Lake Como if you are a bad swimmer. Drownings are common in Lake Como due to the lake's depth and chilly water temperatures.

While most tourists worry about the safety of Lake Como's water quality, the true danger lies in the lake's shockingly cold temperatures and tremendous depth. Very few people contract rare bacterial infections from swimming in Lake Como, but plenty of people drown each year due to losing touch of the bottom or going into cold water shock.

Best Time for Swimming

The best time to swim in Lake Como is from June to September, when the weather is warm and sunny. July and August are the peak tourist months, but they also have the most comfortable water temperatures.

If you prefer fewer crowds, consider visiting in June or September. The water will be slightly cooler, but the beaches will be much cleaner and quieter.

Where to Stay in Lake Como

The Northern tip of Lake Como.
The Northern tip of Lake Como.

The best towns to stay in Lake Como also happen to be some of the best towns to visit!

Varenna, Como, and Bellagio are the best places to stay for a Lake Como vacation due to their larger population size and abundance of shops, restaurants, and gelaterias.

Varenna - Hotel Villa Cipressi

4 stars

Hotel Villa Cipressi is situated in Varenna and is known for its terraced gardens that lead down to the water. Varenna is less touristy than Bellagio but equally charming, with easy ferry connections to other towns.

Como - Vista Palazzo Lago di Como

5 stars

Located in the primary city of Como, Vista Palazzo Lago di Como is a boutique hotel offering a luxurious experience, perfect for couples.

The hotel features elegantly designed suites, a rooftop restaurant with panoramic views of the lake, and personalized services. This option is ideal for those who want a mix of city amenities and lake views.

Bellagio - Residence la Limonera

3 stars

Staying in the famous town of Bellagio doesn't have to break the bank. Residence la Limonera provides several private apartments for rent in the center of town, each with its own kitchen and modern amenities.
Note: This residence has steep stairs.

Alternatively, if you prefer slow travel, I recommend signing up for Trusted Housesitters and searching for houses in the greater Como area. As a house sitter or pet sitter, you can enjoy Lake Como at a leisurely pace while also living like a local.

If you're visiting Northern or Central Italy, consider adding Lake Como to your bucket list. Whether you're traveling solo, as a couple, or with your family, Como offers breathtaking beauty and limitless activities for an excellent price.

Thanks to Italy's extensive train network, getting to Como is easy, and the city's ferries can take you to magical towns you didn't even know you needed.

If you're looking to explore other lakes in Italy, check out Lake Orta!