Spend 8 days exploring the villages of Lake Como, at the heart of the Lake District. Begin in the main town of Como with a guided tour of the 14th-century Cathedral of Como and Villa Olmo park. Travel by boat to Tremezzina and walk through charming villages along the Greenway of Lake Como. Discover the elegance and history of villas and botanical gardens in Varenna, Bellagio, and Menaggio.

Highlights

  • Spend time relaxing on beautiful Lake Como
  • Walk the Greenway of Lake Como
  • Visit magnificent villas in Bellagio and Varenna
  • Ride a funicular and admire mountaintop views across Lake Como

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 Tremezzina Tremezzina
Day 4 Walk the Greenway of Lake Como, Visit Villa Balbianello Tremezzina
Day 5 Tremezzina to Varenna Varenna
Day 6 Varenna and Bellagio Tour Varenna
Day 7 Self-Guided Day Trip to Menaggio and Villa Mylius Vigoni Varenna
Day 8 Goodbye Italy  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Milan, Transfer to Lake Como

Como, Lake Como

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.

Day 3: Como to Tremezzina

Villa Monastero
Sunset Lake Como

This morning, you'll check out of your hotel and make your way up the west shore of Lake Como to Tremezzina, directly opposite Bellagio to the east. The nicest way to travel on the lake is by boat, so you will use the ferry service from Como which takes around 40 minutes to reach your destination. You'll be able to see many other villages and villas that line the lake during this pleasant journey. 

Tremezzina is an area formed of four small communes: Lenno, Mezzegra, Ossuccio, and Tremezzo. Though it may be small, the area boasts a variety of historical and cultural attractions, including the background scenes for several of the Star Wars films. 

Once you are checked in to your hotel, spend the afternoon relaxing and exploring the shops and cafes along the lake. Villa Carlotta is located close to Tremezzo's pier and is one of the most visited villas on Lake Como. Set upon 17 acres, the villa contains a fine art museum and a stunning botanical garden. The 17th-century architecture and design have been well-preserved. Entrance tickets allow you access to the villa and its gardens, where you could easily spend many hours admiring the variety of flora and the elevated views of Lake Como. 
  
In the evening, head to an upscale restaurant for dinner and drinks. Stay after dinner to enjoy cocktails and a buzzing social atmosphere that continues late into the night, à la Jay Gatsby's lavish dinner parties. If you prefer something a bit more high-energy, pay a visit to Lenno's nightclubs and bars.

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Day 4: Walk the Greenway of Lake Como, Visit Villa Balbianello

Old stone houses in the village of Cadenabbia
Houses in the village of Cadenabbia

Have a generous breakfast this morning so you are full of energy to venture into nature on the Greenway of Lake Como.  This route allows you to tread in the footsteps of the Romans along the ancient road Via Regina, which connected Lake Como to the Alps. The route starts from Griante and finishes at Colonno. Nowadays on this walk, you will discover villages, villas, gardens, and unique architecture nestled amongst outstanding natural beauty. 

There are five different stages to the walk so you can choose how far you want to go, and there are numerous nice local restaurants along the way to stop for lunch and a rest. The easiest path to follow is guided by metal signs on the ground, showing you the right direction. If you're an adventurous walker, you can find slightly more challenging ways of completing the route by heading further up into the hills.

When you reach Lenno, we recommend visiting Villa del Balbianello which you may recognize from movies such as Casino Royale or the Star Wars series that were partially filmed here. It's accessible by walking on a 0.6-mile footpath from Via degli Artigiani, or you can jump on a taxi boat from the public beach of Lenno. Visit the ornately decorated houses containing extensive art collections, walk the luscious green gardens, and on the upper level, look out over Lake Como on the terrace for unrivaled views. It shouldn't be missed when you're in Lenno. Villa del Balbianello is a halfway point on the Greenway route, so depending on which village you are staying in, the walk back from here is around 3.1 miles. If you prefer to do a shorter one-way walk, then you can jump on the ferry from Lenno back to Tremezzo, or you can also catch a local bus that runs all the way along the Greenway of Lake Como.

Duration: approximately 3 hours (entire route)
Difficulty: Easy
Length: 6.2 miles one way (10 km)
Towns: Colonno, Sala Comacina, Ossuccio, Lenno, Mezzegra, Tremezzo, Griante

When you get back to your hotel, rest up and head out for a well-deserved meal. Try missoltini, a local dish of preserved fish, bay leaves, and olive oil, served with bread and polenta.

Day 5: Tremezzina to Varenna

Colorful Houses, Lake Como

Wave goodbye to Tremezzina as you board the ferry to Varenna, located on the opposite side of Lake Como. This is a short 20-minute journey, so there is no need to rush your breakfast and checkout. Whenever you're ready to head to the pier, you'll head across the lake where a new village 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 6: Varenna and Bellagio Tour

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 7: Self-Guided Day Trip to Menaggio and Villa Mylius Vigoni

Villa Monastero
Lakeside Villa, Lake Como

After breakfast, you'll hop across the lake on a 20-minute ferry ride to explore another of Lake Como's picturesque towns, Menaggio. When you arrive by ferry, you'll instantly be charmed by the town's promenade, lined with iron fences, colorful flowerbeds, and palm trees. There are a couple of areas to explore today including the lakefront, the center surrounding Piazza Garibaldi, the medieval old town, and Villa Mylius Vigoni.

Begin your self-guided tour from the top of Via Calvi, a street lined with local boutiques, craft shops, and the churches of St. Stephen and Santa Marta. The Church of Santa Marta is small but houses beautiful religious artwork from the 17th century. As you reach the end of the street, you will enter Piazza Garibaldi, a square with fantastic views of Lake Como and a great place to enjoy a coffee or an Italian gelato. Menaggio used to have a walled castle overlooking the town center and lake. Some parts of the walls remain in the old town, accessed by walking up the old narrow streets and staircases. From Via Castellino da Castello you can walk the fortress perimeter and step back into history. Walk towards Via Strecium and cross the charming bridge over the peaceful Senagra stream. Admire the waterfall and the surrounding greenery before walking the 1 mile (1.5 km) footpath to Villa Mylius Vigoni.

Located in an area called Levano, Villa Mylius Vigoni is the highlight of a day in Menaggio. The villa has an Italian-German design due to the interesting family history of the Mylius and Vigoni families. Through marriage, the villa was passed through three generations of the families which is visible in the ornate frescoes and other artworks telling the story of life during the 18th and 19th centuries.

The spectacular gardens were designed by Guiseppe Balzaretto in a romantic English style. Here you'll find exotic plants, ancient trees, and viewpoints overlooking Lake Como. It is now a world-famous conference center but thankfully still open to visitors between March and October. Take a guided tour of the lavishly decorated villa and beautiful English gardens to learn about its history, art, and architectural design. 

A short walk downhill takes you back to the town center where you can stop for a late lunch, or maybe it's time for an aperitivo. Enjoy a leisurely walk along the promenade from Piazza Garibaldi before taking the ferry back to Varenna. You're sure to have great photos and memories of Menaggio.

Day 8: 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 - 8 Days
Map of Exploring The Villages of Lake Como - 8 Days