Lake Como is Calling

We opted to make the trek to Lake Como for a few nights upon our arrival to Italy. We have been in and out of Milan several times, but we’ve never had time to fit the lake into our itinerary. This trip we made sure to make it a priority. Making our way there from the Milan (Malpensa) airport, we took 2 short train rides and arrived in no time.

Stepping off of the train in Como, we were surprised at the amount people that were there (and American!). Nearly everyone was speaking English, or so it felt. Like other famous cities in Italy, we’d held off on visiting Lake Como because we weren’t sure if it would be overrun with tourists (and it was). We cannot imagine visiting the lake in the summer months when it’s busy season! Even now was overwhelming at times and this is supposed to be shoulder season!

Yes, we are tourists too. No doubt about that! But what we’ve found sometimes is that when you visit cities with mostly American or English-speaking visitors, the locals typically speak to you in English! When we come to Italy, we desire a more immersive experience. We want to speak our (poor) Italian to the locals and learn from their responses (in Italian)!

We chose to stay in Como for a few reasons: (1) its proximity to the airport, (2) the number of restaurants, and (3) a bigger city to explore during the day. We were really glad we chose it as our home base – we loved it! Como is a beautiful city. The streets are unbelievably clean, the buildings are well-kept and stunning, and the restaurants (at least the ones we ate at) were fantastic. It was a great place to unwind from the long plane ride and adjust to Italian time.

We arrived to Como on Monday afternoon, and by Wednesday we were ready to explore the lake. We took the bus up to Varenna for a lunch date and to see all that the lake has to offer. No matter which way you slice it, the roundtrip would be an all day affair – which wasn’t ideal! The ferry sounded like the more fun option, but it was going to be a much longer commute than the bus, so we opted for the latter! It was a very pretty (and stressful) ride! We had no idea that the roads would be like those of the Amalfi Coast.

If you’ve never been there, we don’t recommend driving a car yourself!! The roads are very narrow, often a lane only wide enough for 1 car to pass, while in the meantime, giant city buses run in both directions like they are the smallest Fiat on the road. We don’t know how they manage it! Often times our bus driver would have to stop abruptly or put the bus into reverse so an oncoming car could squeeze by. Meanwhile, you are sitting high above the lake and next to you is a steep cliff and a small guardrail. It’s something else, but truly breathtaking.

We finally made it up to a town called Menaggio – which we didn’t even have time to explore because the ferry we needed to take us over to Varenna was departing soon. We hopped on the ferry and took the short boat ride across the lake. Varenna looked exactly like the photos we’d seen online — a very picturesque town, full of charming places to stay, stunning villas with gardens, restaurants and shops tucked into the town that is layered on a hill.

After exploring for a bit, it was time to eat! We ended up at a restaurant called El Prato. The weather was perfect that day so we ate outside and enjoyed the unseasonably warm weather that they were having. By the time we were done with lunch, we were exhausted! Probably due to the number of carbs we had just inhaled, but also because we weren’t 100% acclimated yet to our new timezone. We decided that we were too tired to explore any other towns (Bellagio was next!) but it turned out to be okay. We took the ferry from Varenna to Bellagio to catch the bus back to Como. Sadly, the return ferry to Como was going to take 3 hours (and the bus was only an hour and a half), so we walked around Bellagio’s waterfront for all of 5 minutes before heading out. The town was so crowded. It was chaos! No fomo here.

We are happy that we finally got to stay and experience a small fraction of what Lake Como has to offer. There’s no doubt about it — the lake is beautiful. The villas, the trees, the hills — everything about this area is stunning! I don’t know that we would go again just because it’s a process to get there, but we now understand the hype. If you are looking to explore Lake Como, but don’t want the crowds, you may look into some of the smaller, lesser known towns like Torno (or those even further North).