With stunning scenery, beautiful mansions, quaint towns and a plethora of activities, Lake Como is a dream destination. You can easily spend an entire week here without getting bored. But sometimes you don’t have a whole week and it can be difficult to decide what to see and do if you only have two days for this iconic destination in Northern Italy.
When I decided to end my interrail trip of Switzerland in Lake Como, that was my dilemma as well. There was no way to extend my trip any further and I had to make do with two days. So I came up with this Lake Como 2 Day Itinerary and it worked great for a first introduction to the area!
Read on to find out what I did, what worked good, and what I would change (most of all I would avoid getting sick next time)!
Lake Como is really as pretty as it looks on pictures
Short Intro to Lake Como
Of glacial origin, Lake Como is Italy’s third biggest lake located in the Lombardy region of Northern Italy, quite close to the Swiss border. With its distinctive shape in the form of an inverted “Y” it is easily recognisable on a map.
Lake Como is a true bucket-list destination. Since Roman times, the rich and famous have enjoyed visiting (or living) here. The same is true today – it was at Lake Como that long-time bachelor George Clooney first met his future wife, Amal Alamuddin!
But Italy’s third-largest lake has plenty to offer for regular tourists as well. Its mild subtropical climate, the beautiful landscape of wooded hills and mountains, the quaint villages along its shores, and impressive palaces and mansions combine to make Lake Como one of the most popular destinations in Europe.
My Lake Como Itinerary in 2 Days at a glance
In case you are impatient and just want a short overview of what I recommend if you want to experience Lake Como in 2 days, here is a quick overview.
Please note that this itinerary is based on staying in the town of Como (see below about best locations at Lake Como). Lake Como is actually bigger than I expected and it can take quite a while to get around. Consequently, my recommendation for a short trip to Lake Como is to concentrate on just one section, preferably the one closest to your hotel.
Take the funicular up from Como to Brunate and hike to the lighthouse before returning to Como (or hike down if you want something more extensive)
Eat lunch and spend the afternoon exploring Como and soaking up the atmosphere
Take the ferry to Bellagio. On the way, stop to tour Villa del Balbianello. If you have time, tour the Melzi Gardens in Bellagio before returning to Como.
Now in actuality my trip didn’t quite work out like this – partly because I didn’t pre-book but mostly because I felt sick the entire time. Read on to see what I actually did!
The town of Como makes a good base without compromising on charm
Staying in Lake Como – best location
There are over a dozen bigger and smaller towns along the shores of Lake Como. Each has its pros and cons and which one is best for you will depend on your plans and your personal preferences.
I decided on staying in Como at the Southwestern end of the lake. This was due to several reasons:
- As one of the larger towns, Como offers a bigger selection of affordable hotels, shops, etc.
- Como is one of just a few towns at Lake Como with regular train service (Lecco and Varenna also have stations)
- Como is also the start-point for many excursions and activities
And, to be fair, I booked my trip rather last minute so pickings in the smaller towns were pretty slim!
However, Como turned out to be nicer than I had expected. Though not as quaint as some of the smaller towns like Varenna or Bellagio, it still has plenty of charm and the good connections by train, bus, and boat made it a great choice for my stay.
So for a short 2 days in Lake Como I would definitely recommend Como as a base, especially if you will be relying on public transportation!
Como was much prettier than I had expected
Day 1 of Lake Como Itinerary
The day prior I had taken the Bernina Express to travel from Saint Moritz in Switzerland to Northern Italy. Highly recommended! From there I went on by bus and regular train to Como.
Unfortunately, I wore neither a hat nor did I take care to hydrate properly, so by the time I got to Como I was feeling quite sick and had a headache for most of my time there. Do not recommend!
As I was feeling less than 100% I did take it easy on my first day. Still, I managed to see quite a bit and enjoyed myself. I will note in my write-up where I would do things differently if I had been quite healty.
Make sure to protect yourself from the sun by wearing sunscreen, hat, and drinking plenty of water!
Take the funicular to Brunate
From my hotel near the train station I walked walk down to the lakefront where I turned to the right. Soon after I got to the valley station of the funicular going up to Brunate. You can buy a ticket right there as you enter.
In the summer, the funicular runs every 15 minutes during most of the day and a ride to the top takes about 7 minutes. At currently €6.60 for a return ride, the ticket price is quite reasonable, especially if you were visiting Switzerland previously.
I dithered about a bit so by the time I decided to ride up to the top, the line at the entrance was fairly long and right out in the sun. Do not forget to wear a sun hat in Lake Como in the summer!
Riding the funicular is a fun experience with great views over the town of Como
This funicular links Como with the village of Brunate. The line was opened in 1894 and changed from steam to electricity in 1911.The ride itself is fairly smooth and offers some great views over the town of Como. Once at the top, you will find even more beautiful views and several benches to enjoy them from.
Now, originally I was planning on going on a small hike from Brunate. You can either walk straight down to Lake Como, walk in about 3 hours to Montepiatto and down to Torno from there (taking a boat back to Como), or visit the lighthouse of San Maurizio.
I did take a couple of steps towards the lighthouse but standing in the sun while lining up to purchase a funicular ticket after getting way too much sun the day before turned out to be a bit too much. So instead I just enjoyed the view for a while and then took the funicular back to Como town.
The view from Brunate was definitely worth taking the funicular
Explore and enjoy the town of Como
Once back on the ground, I felt quite sick and returned to the shade and airconditioning of my hotel room. But hopefully you will have avoided a similar fate and will be able to enjoy your afternoon in the town of Como (I did go back out later on when it started to cool off).
While Lake Como has many sights and attractions on offer, it is the kind of place that really unfolds its magic if you take it easy and enjoy the moment. So my recommendation for you would be to explore this ancient town that goes back to the time of Julius Caesar in a leisurely manner.
Stroll through the narrow streets, tour the Duomo (Cathedral) with its rose window, carved choir, and tapestries, and above all, find a shady spot in one of the many outdoor cafés to just relax and watch the world go by!
Don’t try to cram everything into your 2 days at Lake Como – it is one of those destinations that shine if you just soak it all in!
There is plenty to see in Como but taking a break in an outdoor café should be on top of your list
Day 2 of Lake Como Itinerary
Explore the lake by ferry
The lake is of course the most important part of Como. While I had a great view of it on the previous day from Brunate, it was time to go out on a boat!
There is a wide variety of boat tours at different price points available, from driving your own to luxury cruises and everything between. One of these boat tours definitely needs to be part of any 2 days in Lake Como!
I decided on taking the ferry from Como to Bellagio, probably the most famous town on the shores of Lake Como (if only for the Las Vegas casino with the same name).
There are ticket huts selling the various tickets right at the ferry pier in Como. As schedules and prices vary depending on time of year, your best bet is to check once you are there (or online just before your trip).
I had a choice between a fast (one hour) and slow (two hours) boat to Bellagio. On the way there, the boat made several stops and you can get a circular ticket which would let you get off several times during a round trip.
As I was still feeling far from healthy, I decided to only explore Bellagio. However, if you are more energetic and plan ahead a bit, it would be possible to visit two towns/sights in one day.
Villa del Balbianello is movie-famous and definitely worth a visit
Ferry Ride to Bellagio
During the ferry ride you can enjoy a beautiful view of Como from the water as well as several other enticing sights.
The most famous is probably Villa del Balbaniello which has starred in Star Wars (Episode II – Attack of the Clones) and James Bond – Casino Royale.
If you want to visit this pink villa, you best take the ferry to Lenno and then either walk to the Villa (about 20 to 25 minutes) or take a taxi-boat. Even if traveling by car, you would have to park in Lenno and make your way by foot or boat.
Villa Balbianello and Gardens are generally open in the summer from March to October (limited opening times in the winter season). The Villa is closed on Mondays and Wednesdays and you need to prebook your ticket!
You can book your visit of either just the gardens (about €13) or house and gardens (€24) on the official website.
Not only was I still feeling sick but I had dithered too much beforehand and had made no reservations, so I only got to see Villa del Balbianello from the water. It looked great though and on my next trip to Lake Como I will visit for sure!
Make sure to pre-book a timeslot if you want to visit Villa del Balbianello!
Bellagio’s town square had a pleasantly sleepy atmosphere
Explore beautiful Bellagio
So even though I did not get off in Lenno, I did spend time in Bellagio. With a population of around 4,000, Bellagio is quite small but due to its narrow alleys, hillside location, colorful buildings, and romantic atmosphere a hotspot for tourists.
I enjoyed climbing up the steep streets, looking down to the lake, and soaking up the peaceful atmosphere (if there aren’t too many tourists around).
However, there isn’t that much to “do” in Bellagio. It definitely is more of a place to just enjoy the vibe, soak up the charming views, and relax.
Cobble-stone paths, narrow alleys, and colorful houses make up the quaint charm of Bellagio
Villa and Garden Melzi
After a good look at Bellagio I made my way along the lakeside promenade towards Villa and Gardens Melzi.
In July, the small trees planted along the shore were covered in cheerful white and pink blooms. It looked just like a picture on a postcard!
Lake Como really does look like you imagine
Villa Melzi was created for Francesco Melzi d’Eril, an Italian politician, between 1808 and 1810. The elegant Villa is rather austere and closed to the public. However, the English-style gardens are the real star here and can be visited from March to October.
I bought my ticket (€10) right at the entrance and also received a map of the property. The gardens are not huge but if you want to follow all the paths and see everything you can easily spend a good hour there (or more if you sit down and just enjoy the view).
Who doesn’t love a pavilion?
The views of lake and surrounding mountains are definitely worth spending some time here. I think my stop at the Melzi Gardens was my favorite part of staying in Lake Como. The plants make it look almost Caribbean!
Beautiful gardens are always a highlight for me
Return boat tour to Como
I loved my visit to Villa Melzi and Gardens but I definitely still wasn’t feeling healthy. So I decided to return earlier than originally planned.
Possibly the fact that I was feeling sick had something to do with my confusion but I had a hard time finding the right pier for my ferry back to Como. For such a small town Bellagio has a surprising number of piers that are stretched across the waterfront. I actually was in the wrong line for a while but luckily noticed just in time.
Double-check from which pier your boat leaves! Waiting in the wrong line is no fun at the end of the day.
Even though the ride back dragged on a bit, there were some great views. First we passed by Villa Melzi again and I loved the way it looked from the lake.
If you run out of time and don’t get to visit the Melzi Gardens you can at least see them from the boat
And Orrido di Nesso with its rustic buildings and romantic bridge looked great. People were jumping from the bridge and frolicking in the water. It looked very enticing (if you aren’t feeling sick)!
On a future trip to Lake Como I definitely will check this out!
Final dinner in Como
Once back in Como, it is the perfect time for a nice dinner in one of the many outdoor restaurants near the waterfront or along the town’s main squares.
I still strolled over towards the Western side of the lakefront to enjoy the view from a little park as the sun was glittering on the water. A perfect end to my stay!
B&B Hotel Como City Center was a good base at a reasonable price
Some practical info about Lake Como
My Hotel in Como, Italy
Lake Como is a popular destination in summer and by the time I was planning my trip the pickings for hotels were rather slim. Most hotels in the smaller towns were already sold out which was fine as the larger town of Como worked best with public transportation.
Eventually, I decided on the B&B Hotel Como City Center. It was a fairly basic but clean hotel that worked well for me.
While a bit further from the lake, it was quite close to the train station which made it easy to get there even with a suitcase. And Como isn’t all that big so it still was only about a 10 minute walk down to the water. (Careful though – there are several B&B Hotels in the area so check which one you are booking).
The hotel was also quite well set up as far as amenities went. There was a chair and desk as well as a fridge in the room (not always the case, especially for solo travelers) and the hotel lobby sold various snacks, beverages etc.
So while B&B Hotel Como City Center wasn’t anything out of the ordinary I would stay there again as it offered all I really needed at a fair price (about €116 per night).
However, if I went to Lake Como for a romantic weekend I would splurge on a nicer hotel like Albergo del Duca or even the luxurious Hotel Villa Flori or Vista Palazzo.
How to get to Lake Como
If you are traveling by car, Lake Como is well-connected with other major towns. Getting there should pose no problems.
If you are traveling by public transport, you can travel via Italy or Switzerland. The town of Como even has several train stations!
The airport in Milan is the closest but Italy has an excellent rail network so Venice or Bologna would also work well. Getting to Como at the Southern edge of Lake Como from Milan Central Station takes less than 40 minutes, whereas Bologna is about 2.5 hours and Venice 3.5 hours by train.
You can also easily combine Lake Como with a trip to Switzerland as I did. I highly recommend taking the Bernina Express from Saint Moritz to Tirano. From Tirano to Como takes about 3 hours 15 minutes with a change in Monza. Alternatively, there are trains to Zurich which drive through the Gotthard Road Tunnel, the fifth-longest in the world.
I highly recommend the Bernina Express for getting to Lake Como – well worth the extra effort
Final Thoughts for Lake Como in 2 days
My two day stay in Como at the end of my Switzerland/Italy Interrail Tour was enjoyable even though being sick made it a bit challenging.
If you have more energy than me, I would recommend a bit of a walk/hike up on Brunate and possibly adding in Villa del Balbianello on the lake day but otherwise I feel my 2 day itinerary works well.
Lake Como is quite big and if you tried to see everything in 2 days you would likely end up enjoying none of it. Como is definitely the kind of place where you want to have plenty of time to just soak up the atmosphere and admire the pretty views.
Often you find that bucket-list destinations don’t live up to the hike and don’t quite look like they do on pictures. This isn’t true for Lake Como – it looked just as it does on Instagram!