Lake Como is an absolute dream destination. I’d go as far to say that you shouldn’t even bother coming to Italy without seeing it (yes, I realize that’s dramatic, #virgo remember?!).
Sure, there are adorable restaurants, quaint towns with uneven cobblestones, sweet puppies everywhere, and more gelato shops than my heart can handle, but only when I got out on the water did I feel like I was really experiencing Lake Como.
I mean, look at this and tell me you wouldn’t agree?!
Lucky for me then that the ferry system is robust and super simple to figure out. We always chose the slow ferry, so we could sit in the front in the open air, and zig zag back and forth across the sparkling lake.
It takes about 2 hours total to go from the split in the lake back down to the town of Como, where we ended up staying last minute after major issues with our Airbnb in Colonno.
While it all worked out in the end (we ended up in a beautiful villa with a garden filled with lemon trees overlooking the lake), I prefer the northern parts of the lake, so we went out on the water as much as we possibly could!
From Milan: If you’re just doing a day trip from Milan, here’s what I’d do: Take the train from Milano Cadorna to Como Nord Lago (takes a smidge over an hour). Exit the station towards the lake, turn left and walk until you see the “Navigazione” sign. This is the ferry port. Check out the timetables for the Como-Colico direction and hop on a slow ferry (red ink indicates the fast ferry, more expensive/less enjoyable). Make sure to do some research ahead of time so you’ll know which little towns you want to hop off at. Stand/sit up front so you can see everything. Weave up and down the lake for as long as humanly possible. At the end of the day, take the ferry or C10 bus back down to Como to catch your return train. Get a lemon grantia to go for good measure.
Staying on the lake: If you’re coming to Lake Como to ya know, see the lake, I wouldn’t stay in Como. Como is good for day trippers from Milan and can get very busy and crowded, especially if the weather is nice. Stay up north in the bigger towns of Bellagio or Varenna, or any of the little towns near the split. Tremezzo is one of my favorites, and the Grande Hotel Tremezzo is a gem with a gorgeous swimming pool that floats in the lake! Villa d’Este is the holy grail of Lake Como hotels, so if you can swing it, stay there for sure . Besides, once you see the northern parts of the lake, you’ll be hooked, so you might as well set up shop up there instead of in Como. Plus the ferry and bus system are more than comprehensive enough to get you anywhere you’d want to go. There’s a really nice Greenway walk between several of the towns on the west coast, so you can hike between them all if you want. Also, get a lemon grantia.