The best day trips from Milan; #1 Lake Como-Como,Bellagio & Varenna, #2 Bergamo
If you have time to pull yourself from your Milan adventures and want to explore some of the other towns reachable on a day trip then read on. Milan is a great base for exploring the Lombardia region and is also very close to Switzerland which can be reached by train in a little over an hour. Here are a few suggestions on some side trips that we really enjoyed and think you will too!
#1 Lake Como
We had returned from a day out to Lake Como and completely enjoyed the reprieve from city life to soak up the lake side scenery that abounds throughout the Lago area. We started our journey in the town of Como then continued onto the towns of Bellagio and Varenna for a full day of sightseeing and then returning to Milan in the evening. The weather gods were once again on our side as we had a beautiful, warm sunny day of about +15C on December 27th/16. It was a bit windy but then you can’t ask for everything.
Below is a video of our day at Lake Como click on the photo below to open it. Below the video you can continue reading about our day and everything you need to know about how to get to and around Lake Como.
Here’s how we mapped out the day and how you can plan for the same;
We left from the Milan-Girabaldi train station which has a direct route to Como, you can also leave from Milan-Centrale which will have you switching trains at the first stop in Girabaldi. Often the switch gives you little time (maybe only a few minutes) to get off, figure out which platform the next train is on and then to get to it. A better plan is to take the Metro to Girabaldi for $1.50 and hop on the direct train. You can search both options on the Trenitalia route planning website and determine which option is best for you from your base in Milan. You can easily purchase your tickets online with a smartphone and the Trenitalia app or at one of the automated ticket machines in the train station which is what we usually do. The main stations also have manned ticket offices if you have questions or need help. You will be booking Milan-Girabaldi to Como-San Giovani, when looking for the departures platform on the digital displays the terminus will be Chiasso as the train continues to this final destination. ‘Albate’ is the station just before Como-San Giovani so when the train stops here you’ll know the next stop is Como S.F. Tickets start at about $4.90 euros -one way on the slower Regionale and increase for the high speed trains, train travel is so reasonable in Italy.
When you get off at the train station you will be wondering ‘where is the lake?’ but you’ll reach it in a short walk. From the station (after touring Como) you can continue by bus to Bellagio which would be the most economical route but we choose to take the water bus. Walk down the steps and straight ahead into the center of town, a few blocks ahead to the left and you’ll see the lake. There is a tourist information center on the left by the docks to help with your plans and transport schedules, as well you can obtain a free map of the area here. We would recommend taking care of your tickets to Bellagio before exploring Como and to check the schedule, today (Dec.27th) they were still on holiday hours with only one sailing at 12:25pm, returning at 6:40pm. We booked one way tickets and explored the town for about an hour and a half before heading onto Bellagio. It wasn’t enough time for Como so we plan to return in a few days for another day trip as its so easy and economical to get to, when we come back we’ll also take the funicular from Como up the mountain to Brunate.
On to Bellagio, know as ‘The Pearl of Lake Como’, it is a picturesque village situated on a peninsula that’s surrounded on both sides by the lake. Here you’ll find panoramic scenery with world class hotels, dining, shopping and sightseeing among cobblestone streets and narrow stairways. It can be reached by bus but we choose to take the water taxi that shuttles passengers down the lake connecting some of its larger villages. In hind sight it was a bit expensive at $29 euros, one way for 2 so next time we’d probably try the bus that might be as equally scenic through the countryside. The boat is a hydro shuttle where you are confined to inside seats that don’t offer much for views, we were a bit disappointed so we’d go for economy next time. The town is beautiful and has all the typical accoutrements of an Italian town where you can while away the day walking its scenic streets, visiting a few churches, perhaps a seaside walk with a gelato, some shopping and ending the day with a glass of vino and aperitivo. We spent a few hours doing such and then grabbed another water taxi, much cheaper for this leg of the journey at $9.60 euros to the town of Varenna.
We loved Varenna, a little less touristy than Bellagio but rich in character and beauty. We preferred it over Belaggio and wish we had more time here, it wouldn’t be a bad plan to do this trip in reverse; travel by train to Varenna, then boat to Bellagio, bus to Como and train back to Milan. Check the schedules for your best options. We had an enjoyable few hours wandering the town and its narrow lanes, exploring the shops and indulging in a gelato before heading back to the train station. There is a lovely café at the train station where killed some time waiting for our train home over an espresso.
We left for home in the evening fully satiated with travel experiences and returned to Milan exhausted and ready to hit the sack before starting a new adventure, tomorrow will be another fantastic side trip from Milan to Bergamo. Bergamo is our new favorite Italian city, so much to see and do and perhaps one of the most visually stunning cities in Lombardy. See our next post on Bergamo and its medieval wonders. Here is a link to our picture gallery at Lake Como.