Being in Milan for the Easter Weekend basically meant a lot of stores, attractions and other such events were closed on the Easter Sunday and Monday. However, trains and transportation were still running. *WIN* means we can go on a day trip!
We heard amazing things about Lake Como, well the whole area, and being just an hour and 20 mins train ride from Milano Centrale, there were no excuses for visiting the famed lake full of celebs. It is the setting for James Bond movies and Star Wars (if you count Episode 2 as Star Wars that is) so we knew it was going to be a beautiful place to visit.
How to get there:
We took the train from Milano Centrale to Varenna Esino. It takes about an hour and 20 mins on average to get there. From Varenna, you can get the boat to any of the towns along the lake’s shoreline. Trains to and from Milan are infrequent and the last train home is at 20:37pm so you want to make sure you don’t miss it.
There are other routes that will take you to Como itself however this was going to take longer on the day of our travel and went with the shortest option on this occassion.
Was it busy:
Being the Easter break, we think everyone had the same idea as us, including the locals. Every bit of space on the boats, towns and resturants were jam-packed but that was ok for us as Bellagio and Varenna have loads of little side streets and alleyways to walk down.
Resturants were packed out so there was a wait if you wanted something a little more alfresco, but the snack bars had much shorter queues and there was plenty of spots to sit, eat and enjoy the atmosphere. There were even some places to sit and splash your feet around in the lake water, which is crystal clear BTW.
What did we see:
Gorgeous landscape. Look at this!
To be honest, photos don’t do it justice. They really don’t!
No wonder George Clooney has his house here (although we’re just down the road from his UK home too). The water was super clear and the air was relaxing. Luckily for us, the weather stayed great all day, with a little chill in the air as the sun began to set.
We decided to take the earliest boat to Bellagio. Round trip tickets are available from the boat ticket offices for 15EUR per person covering 5 towns around the lake, including Como itself. We didn’t have enough time to explore the whole lakeside so stuck to a return ticket to Bellagio from Varenna and we weren’t disappointed.
Bellagio is definitely the hub where everyone visits. On the map, of the lake, it’s the crotch of the running person!
It’s a picturesque Italian town. It’s exactly what you’d expect to see, with narrow passageways, lots and lots of stairs and purple whisteria covering balconies of the apartments and hotels along it’s harbourside.
When you get off the boat, there’s some amazing gravel paths along the shoreline with a lido at the end. Perfect for stopping for a slice of pizza while paddling your feet in the cool water. There’s also this old hotel right on the habourside that’s derelict, unfortunately it was completely blocked off but we really wanted to have a look inside. It looked really grand!
We decided to do a loop around Bellagio and of course, stopping for some pizza and gelato along the way. The route was packed with visitors to the town so took a little longer to get around and to get those perfect pictures, but it all adds to the atmosphere.
After a bit of meandering and many many steps (trust me, our Fitbits clocked some great figures that day!), we made our way to the boats to ensure we were where we needed to be for the train. I freak out a little about missing a train, especially when there’s not so many! So we decided to get the boat back to Varenna and have a look around there too.
It was much quiter than Bellagio but didn’t lack it’s charm. TBH, I would say it had more of what you’d expect for a quiet italian town. It did look like the type of place you’d go for a bit of peace and a nice restuarant. It looked like a picture postcard too.
It was then time to get the train so headed back to the station. The station is quite unique as you have to cross a train track to be able to board your train! UK health and safety would have something to say about that.
The trains are a mix, some are old fashioned with traditional seats and curtains but some of the more modern trains have Wi-Fi and plugs to charge your phone. Either way though, the view from the train is amazing and helped bring the end to a great day.
Definitely worth the visit and if you have a few days available while you’re in Milan. It felt like heading to the beach without actually having a beach! The sound of the water lapping against the lakeside was perfect for your state of mind. Really helped to make you feel relex, especially with some Italian gelato.
I do wish we had an opportunity to spend more time here and having a taste has ment we’re likely to visit again for a longer time. We’ve done some research and there’s some decent camp sites near by too, especially great for those who are budget conscious as the hotels seem a little pricey.
Lake Como was pretty straightforward to get to from Milan. The views were awesome and we were lucky it was a nice clear and sunny day to maximise the scenery. As it was the Easter break during our visit it was very busy, so perhaps try and avoid the popular holiday periods if possible – although it was still okay to get around, just pretty crowded.
The trip across to Bellagio didn’t take too long, but lets you get a good view of the lake itself, the nearby villages and the snow capped mountains in the background. Head upstairs to find yourself a seat if you need a rest.
I liked the winding streets and steep steep stairs, although obviously walking down them was more enjoyable than walking up. I’d like to spend a little more time checking out this area and try to get across to some of the other nearby lakes. Hopefully we’ll manage to head back soon.
Book your tickets online. You can pay via Paypal so you don’t have to worry about sorting out machines when you get to the train station, especially when you’re travelling on a Sunday or public holiday as help won’t be around. Tickets are 13EUR return per adult.
Carry your passport with you. We didn’t need it but the trains do go to Zurich and other European cities and you may be asked to show this with your train ticket.
Get snacks before you travel at a Carrefour Express or similar supermarket. There’s not a buffet car or anything like that on the train so you’ll want something to snack on. It’s also handy to have some drinks as even though it was Easter, it was toasty hot and finding somewhere to buy drinks without having to sit at a bar or restuarant was a little difficult. However there were a few places to fill up a water bottle.
Public toilets are hard to come by and many require cents to use them. We found many of the hotels with restaurants have free facilties and made use of these.
Wear suitable walking shoes. Even though Lake Como is considered a fashionable place, it’s incredibly hilly with lots of steps. Definitely, not a place for heeled shoes.
Work out where you want to visit around Lake Como before queuing for your boat tickets. The queues are epically long and the sales office quickly fires through people meaning you wont have time to ask questions. There’s an app and mobile website that you can use for research before your visit.
When on the train, sit on the left hand side in one of the forward facing seats and get to the station with some spare time – the train was at the platform for around ten minutes before the departure time and rapidly filled up and you don’t want to end up standing. The views are fantastic on the way and you definitely won’t want to miss it, so try and grab a window seat.