Explore three beautiful villages of Lake Como on a quick 5-day trip to Northern Italy. Learn about the history of Como during a guided tour of  Villa Olmo and the Basilica of San Fedele. Take a scenic ferry ride to travel to the traditional village of Varenna. Learn about the significance of iconic villas including Villa Monastero in Varenna, then hop across to Bellagio by boat to visit the botanical gardens of Villa Serbelloni and the neoclassical Villa Melzi.

Highlights

  • Spend time exploring the romantic gardens of Villa Monastero in Varenna
  • Visit magnificent Bellagio
  • Relax by the shore of beautiful Lake Como
  • Wander through quaint village streets, piazzas, and cathedrals

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Milan, Transfer to Lake Como Como
Day 2 Walking Tour & Funicular Ride Como
Day 3 Como to Varenna by Boat Varenna
Day 4 Varenna and Bellagio Tour Varenna
Day 5 Goodbye Italy  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Milan, Transfer to Lake Como

Como Town

Welcome to northern Italy! Upon arriving at one of Milan's two international airports you will transfer to Lake Como, renowned for its natural beauty. The train from either airport takes around 1 hour and 40 minutes to Como San Giovanni station. Lake Como is one of the three main lakes in Italy's Lake District, alongside Lake Garda and Lake Maggiore. Lake Como is grand yet peaceful and quiet, surrounded by forests that add to the serenity. The lake is popular with travelers from around the world and has attracted numerous celebrities who own villas along its shores, including George Clooney and Madonna.

You'll be based in the town of Como on the southern end of the lake while you spend the next few days exploring. City highlights include the Gothic 14th-century Cathedral of Como, sprawling Villa Olmo park and exhibition halls, and the Museo Didattico della Seta (Museum of Silk), which chronicles the region's historic silk industry.

As it's your arrival day, take it easy after checking in to your hotel.  Grab an Italian gelato and take a walk along the lakeside promenade. As a tradition in Italy, locals come together with friends for an early evening cocktail called an aperitivo. In almost any piazza you can sit and enjoy a spritz accompanied by some local bread, meats, and cheeses. Spend the rest of your evening familiarizing yourself with Como's streets and enjoying views over the lake.

Day 2: Walking Tour & Funicular Ride

Brunate, Lake Como

Enjoy your breakfast, then meet your guide in the center of Como and head out for a full day exploring Lake Como's biggest town. Wander through the narrow streets and take in the sights and sounds coming from local shops. In the center, you'll find the Gothic 14th-century Cathedral of Como and the 12th-century Basilica di San Fedele. Both are spectacular from the outside as well as inside. As they're near each other, you can take a tour of either or both of these local landmarks. Facing the lake is the Piazza Cavour square with many restaurants to sit and take in the view with a coffee.

From the square, you will walk for 20 minutes to the sprawling Villa Olmo park and exhibition hall (entrance to the buildings and grounds is free). Your guide will show you around the villa and gardens before giving you some free time. If you would like to relax a while, there is a pool and cafe near Villa Olmo. On a warm, sunny day, you can also take a dip in the lake. Upon walking back to the center, visit the Museo Didattico della Seta (Museum of Silk) to learn about the region's historic silk industry and then find a perfect spot for lunch after your tour ends.

In the afternoon, take some time to do some shopping in Como. There are many boutiques and a weekly market on Saturdays around the Porta Torre medieval gate. Enjoy walking through the winding streets and stop at a gelateria to grab an ice cream on the go. 

Just before sunset, you should head along the waterfront promenade to the right of Piazza Cavour and take a ride on the funicular. The Brunate funicular runs every 30 minutes and promises a panoramic view across the city and lake. It only takes 7 minutes to reach the viewpoint where you can see the historic center of Como from above and look over the Alps. At the top, you'll enjoy a beautiful sunset. It's the perfect place to end your day in Como.

After heading back downhill, get ready for a well-deserved dinner. If you still have energy after your meal, be sure to stop into a local wine bar.

Plan your trip to Italy
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

Day 3: Como to Varenna by Boat

Views from Brunate
Views Across Lake Como

Wave goodbye to Como as you board the ferry to Varenna, located further north along Lake Como. This journey is around one hour, so there is no need to rush your breakfast and checkout. Whenever you're ready to head to the pier, you'll head onward to your next destination where a new hotel and new discoveries await you.

Varenna is a typical Northern Italian village on the eastern shore of Lake Como. The village is divided into a grid of streets that slope steeply down towards the lake. Go for a walk among the colorful houses that brighten the village streets and along the lakefront. There is also a small pebbly beach located below the Hotel Royal Victoria.

For those who enjoy more challenging walks, Varenna's hilly landscape is the perfect place to begin an adventure: 

  • Follow the path along the Esino River and climb up to Castello di Vezio, a medieval fortress built to overlook and protect Varenna. The views from up here are spectacular and worth the effort. Inside the castle is an interesting exhibition about Lariosaurus, a legendary sea creature from the Triassic period with a similar story to the Loch Ness monster.
  • Walk to the nearby village of Fiumelatte, and witness a river which locals say is white and looks like milk as it flows
  • Hike through the Grigne Mountains

Relax in the evening with a stroll along the Riva Grande lakeside promenade, then settle on a restaurant for dinner and watch the sunset over Lake Como.

Day 4: Varenna and Bellagio Tour

Sloping Streets in Varenna

Spend the day exploring the beautiful lakeside towns of Varenna and nearby Bellagio. You'll meet your guide in Varenna and begin your tour here, then take a scenic boat trip together to Bellagio, on a three-hour guided tour to see the little-known vantage points and sights which many visitors miss.

Walk the cobblestone streets of Varenna, stopping at Piazza San Giorgio square in the center.  Here you'll see the Church of San Giorgio and its locally-sourced marble paving. Leading off the square are narrow streets with small shops selling leather and other local products. As a typical lakeside town, Varenna has many beautiful and extravagant villas built by wealthy families. Villa Monastero and Villa Cipressi attract many visitors each year, and the latter is now a luxury hotel. Both villas are famed for their botanical gardens containing many rare plant species, including cypress trees.

Jump on the ferry to cross the lake, arriving at Bellagio in around 20 minutes. Bellagio is renowned for its beautiful villas and scenic shoreline. Stroll through the village to see grand buildings and picture-perfect cobblestone lanes lined with cafes and shops. Tour the botanical gardens of Villa Serbelloni and the neoclassical Villa Melzi, which are filled with spectacular rare and exotic plants and a Japanese pond. The residence was built for Francesco Melzi d’Eril, vice president of the Italian Republic during Napoleon's time. Head inside the elaborate home to see works by Antonio Canova, Andrea Appiani, Giovan Battista Comolli, and Giuseppe Bossi, then step into the adjacent Orangery to view a small museum of Napoleonic memorabilia. Spend some time here enjoying the views of Lake Como from the elegant terrace and gardens. 

Round out your tour with lunch at a local restaurant. In the afternoon, explore Bellagio's center at your own pace. We suggest the following activities:

  • Stroll around Punta Spartivento and gaze out at Lake Como
  • Go shopping for leather goods, clothing, and street food on the Via Giuseppe Garibaldi 
  • Tour the 12th-century Romanesque Basilica of San Giacomo 
  • Soak in the sunshine at the Lido di Bellagio and San Giovanni beaches 

Return to Varenna by boat and walk into the center, to Piazza San Giorgio. Here you'll find family-run restaurants for a tasty and wholesome dinner.

Day 5: Goodbye Italy

Cozy street in Trastevere, Rome
Depart Italy

Your journey in Italy will end after breakfast, with a transfer to the airport to catch your flight home or to your next destination. Arrivederci!

Map

Map of Exploring The Villages of Lake Como - 5 Days
Map of Exploring The Villages of Lake Como - 5 Days