The BEST 3 Days in Lake Como Itinerary

Would you like to spend 3 days in Lake Como? It’s the perfect amount of time to enjoy the lake! Keep reading to find out more on what to see and do!

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Lake Como is simply beautiful. Between its deep blue waters, the peaks of the Alps all around, stunning villas, and lovely towns all around its shores, we can all agree that Lake Como is definitely one of Italy’s must-visit destinations.

We’re from Milan, and between us, we’ve visited Lake Como more than 50 times. Whenever people come to visit or contact us for travel tips, we are always asked is whether Lake Como is worth visiting (YES!) and how many days to spend there.

We’ve put this itinerary together to answer this question, and to help you optimize your time spent exploring Italy’s most beloved lake. Visiting Lake Como during the high season can be a hassle, so we’ve also included some travel tips at the end of the itinerary!

How many days in Lake Como?

Most people only spend 1 day in Lake Como, most of the time visiting as a day trip from Milan. There’s nothing wrong if you’re pressed for time and only have 1 day to spare, but we highly recommend spending longer if you can – 3 days in Lake Como are the perfect amount of time.

This itinerary aims to use 3 days to visit various locations around the lake – day 1 is dedicated to Como, day 2 is for Varenna and Bellagio, and the last day is for visiting some of the best villas around Lake Como, as well as the lake’s only island.

Do you have extra time? Even better! If you decide to spend 4 days in Lake Como, you could follow this itinerary, and spend day 4 in Lecco or hiking Sentiero del Viandante. On day 5, you could head to Colico and the lesser-visited towns along the north shore.

Read our ultimate guide to Lake Como if you’d like more inspiration!

lake como 1 day sunset
Amazing Lake Como sunset

3 Days in Lake Como – Day 1

Como 

Start your 3-day Lake Como itinerary in Como, the largest town around the lake, after which the lake is named. The town is full of charming squares, boutique shops, and bars for a morning coffee.

Among the top highlights, make sure you visit the Duomo, also known as Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta. The cathedral’s construction started in 1396 and took 400 years to finish. Today, it is one of northern Italy’s most significant Late Gothic churches, especially for its facade.

The interior is outstanding with colorful details in the ceiling held by large columns. You can see paintings by artists like Gaudenzio Ferrari and Bernardino Luini and tapestries dating back to the 16th and 17th centuries. It’s about 10 minutes walk away from the lake, but well worth it!

It is also nice to go for a stroll along the lakefront, also known as Lungolago. Along the Lungolago you find bars, restaurants, landmarks like Tempio Voltiano, a museum dedicated to the 18th-century scientist Alessandro Volta, and lush gardens.

You will also come across opulent villas like Villa Olmo. The neoclassical residence was commissioned by the Marquis Odescalchi di Fino Mornasco family in the 18th century but now it is mainly used for events and exhibitions. Rejoice in a walk through the groomed gardens where colorful flowerbeds, statues, and fountains meet the shore.

A pedestrian street in the historic centre of Como

Brunate Funicular

Walking along the lakefront, you will also notice the Brunate Funicular, which takes you 700 meters up to Brunate village in only 7 minutes. It departs every half an hour and has been working since 1894. But don’t worry, it has been revamped several times since then and is completely safe.

From there, you can enjoy sweeping views of the city and Lake Como. On a clear day, you can see as far as the Apennines, which is why the town is also known as “The Balcony Over The Alps.” The village roots back to the Celtic and Etruscan eras and was later an important Roman city.

Centuries later, Brunate became a popular vacation spot for the Milanese upper middle class in the 1800s, something apparent as you walk past the stylish Art Nouveau-style villas in the village.

There are also plenty of nice spots for lunch in Brunate. One favourite is Ristorante Bella Vista, which offers great food (including gluten-free and vegan options) with splendid lake views.

brunate view lake como
Lake Como from Brunate – the town you see is Chiasso in Switzerland!

Faro Voltiano

There are some really great views over the lake from Brunate, but my favourite one is from its 29-meter-tall lighthouse, Faro Voltiano.

Set in picturesque surroundings about 20 minutes walk (uphill) from the Brunate Funicular, it overlooks Lake Como and has guided boats since 1927. But Faro Voltiano is not only a lighthouse, it is also a memorial to Alessandro Volta, born in Como in 1745, and inventor of the electric battery. You can see several tributes to the local physicist and chemist in Como.

In the summer months (March to September) the lighthouse is open for visits most days until 7.30 PM. In the winter months it closes at 6.30 PM. If you get there before it closes, you are up for some of the most epic views of Lake Como and the surrounding landscapes from the top of the lighthouse for only a couple of euros.

Cernobbio

Once back down in Como, make your way to Cernobbio, a lakeside town only a 10-minute drive away. Start by taking a stroll along the lakeside promenade before exploring the cobbled streets of Cernobbio’s historic center. The narrow alleyways in the medieval center hide boutique shops, bars, and restaurants. But you also find several of Lake Como’s exclusive villas in Cernobbio. 

Villa d’Este, a former Renaissance patrician residence, is now a 5-star hotel and the perfect place to stay if you want to feel like a royal for the night. It has first-class views right on the lakefront but is only open for guests. Villa Pizzo, an impressive example of Italian Art Nouveau, offers guided tours of the residence and its gardens.

Villa Bernasconi is another villa worth visiting. You can enter the interactive museum to learn more about the history and culture or visit the tourist office for a tourist map of the area. Whether you visit the villas (that can be visited) or take in their facades from the outside, they sure are an important part of Lake Como’s history.

For dinner, there are plenty of restaurants in Cernobbio. Trattoria del Vapore is a warm and welcoming family-run restaurant with delectable Italian cuisine. Whether you feel like pizza, homemade pasta, or fresh seafood, you will find it there. Another great option for dinner is Osteria del Beucc. They serve delightful Italian dishes with fresh, locally sourced ingredients to enjoy on the terrace with idyllic lake views.

Villa d’Este in Cernobbio and the lake

Where to Stay: Como or Cernobbio

3 Days in Lake Como – Day 2

Boat Tour on the Lake

Start your second day in Lake Como with a boat tour exploring the lake for an hour or two. Seeing the picturesque towns from the water gives a different perspective and is a must-do activity. There are many different boat tours to choose from and whether you prefer a traditional wooden boat tour or a luxurious private cruise, there is something for you.

Besides the views from the lake, the guide will give you inside information about the lake and the different sights you see on the journey, including the villas that Lake Como is so famous for. It’s a pricey experience, but well worth the splurge!

Here are some scenic Lake Como boat tours – or else you can just catch a ferry to Bellagio, but you’ll miss out on information along the way.

Salita Serbelloni in Bellagio, the iconic lake viewpoint

Bellagio

Bellagio is one of the most charming towns in Lake Como, divided into an upper and lower part. When you get there, start by walking on the shore to Punta Spartivento which mouths out to the point where all the forks of Lake Como gather. In the summer months, you might want to go for a swim, so make sure you carry your swimwear conveniently (or even wear it.)

There are also beautiful views of the town from the end of the marina if you continue walking along the waterfront. You will also find many restaurants and cafés where you can sit down for a coffee.

Upper Bellagio is the place where you get the best views of the lake. Climb up the steps of Salita Serbelloni for the most iconic view. From there, you will see the cobbled street with restaurants and boutique stores taking up the steps leading down to the deep blue lake backed with mountains.

On the way back down, you can browse the stores. Bellagio is great for shopping for souvenirs, from handmade arts and crafts to local cheeses.

bellagio streets
Picturesque corners in Bellagio

Varenna

Next, head to Varenna, a peaceful lakeside town where you can find some more of Lake Como’s magnificent villas. Go for a stroll along the Passeggiata degli Innamorati (Lovers Walk) when you arrive to enjoy the shore at its best. It is the scenic route to the old town.

Next, make sure you visit Villa Monastero, mainly recognized for its manicured botanical garden. Before it became a patrician residence, it was a monastery, thus the name, meaning Monastery Villa. The House Museum captures four centuries of interior design in its full splendor.

Villa Cipressi is adjacent to Villa Monastero and is now a 4-star hotel. Its gardens cascade down to the lakefront and is a popular wedding location. When there is no private event in the gardens, you can meander around treasuring the magnitude of plants from roses to oleanders and its famous cypress trees, after which the villa is named. Due to its unique microclimate, it is home to many plant species that normally do not grow in northern Italy, making this garden a true jewel.

On top of the hill, Castello di Vezio overlooks the town and Lake Como offering the best views in Varenna. It is a steep 20-25-minute walk from the harbor, but it is totally worth it. Especially if you can time it with sunset, you are up for a treat. The castle was built in the shift from the 11th to the 12th century as a military outpost and today it is one of Varenna’s most iconic tourist attractions.

In the evening, go for a stroll along the shore, where you will find the iconic view of Varenna. There are a few restaurants on the lakefront where you can grab dinner or explore the old town where you will find many snug and welcoming trattorias serving local dishes. Varenna Old Town is also home to the 14th-century Church of San Giorgio which is worth visiting.

Where to Stay: Varenna

villa monastero
The gardens of Villa Monastero in Varenna

3 Days in Lake Como – Day 3

Villa Balbianello

Begin your last day in Lake Como by visiting some villas. The late 18th-century Villa Balbianello, located in Lenno, was built on the site of a 13th-century monastery. It has gained fame because of several big Hollywood movies that have been filmed there. Hardcore Star Wars fans will surely recognize the villa’s balcony in the scene of Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones when Anakin kisses Padme.

One of the latest James Bond movies was filmed there. The scenes in Casino Royale when Daniel Craig is recovering from injury are set in the villa and its garden.

But Villa Balbianello is so much more than that. It holds an incredible art collection from exotic corners of the world, but what attracts most visitors are the gardens and the loggia where you have sweeping lake views.

Menaggio

Menaggio is a lovely village to stop for lunch, especially Piazza Garibaldi, a vibrant square with restaurants and bars, but make sure you also explore the narrow streets and alleys of the old town.

The waterfront promenade also makes for a lovely walk with its colorful flowerbeds and palm trees jutting up from the green grass. Take notice of the monument to the Silkweavers, a trade that has been important for the region over decades.

On Fridays, there is a market there where you can shop for local arts and crafts. In the summer, you might also want to go for a dip in the refreshing water at the beach in Lido di Menaggio or lounge in the pool. The Lido also has a restaurant and bar if you decide to stay for an hour or so.

Menaggio Castle sits atop the hill and can be reached with a wonderful walk through the town. Once at the top, you will be met by postcard views like no other. The castle was built between the 8th and 10th centuries and was surrounded by walls. You can still see parts of them and the remains of two towers after the fortress was destroyed in 1523. Besides, you can see the ruins of some buildings that were built after the destruction of the castle.

Villa Carlotta

Next, catch a bus or taxi to nearby Tremezzina. Villa Carlotta overlooks Lake Como and is surrounded by elaborate gardens, where colorful rhododendrons meet ancient trees and beautiful sculptures elegantly surround fountains. Being one of the most beautiful gardens in Lake Como, it is a great example of human art melting together with nature.

The museum in the villa holds a vast collection of paintings, statues, and neoclassical furniture. There are important names behind some of the artwork, like Antonio Canova, Bertel Thorvaldsen, and Francesco Hayez. Villa Carlotta was built at the end of the 17th century and the name derives from Carlotta who was gifted the villa by her mother, Princess Marianne of Nassau.

Villa Melzi in Bellagio with Villa Carlotta in the background

Isola Comacina

Round off your trip to Lake Como by taking a boat over to Isola Comacina, the only island on the lake. The tiny island has a dramatic history of war and was held by many different rulers throughout the centuries.

Now, it is an uninhabited and peaceful place where you can visit the few attractions that remain on the island. The Church of San Giovanni was built in the 17th century and is the main attraction. Besides, there are interesting archaeological remains amongst the lush vegetation, like the three artist houses, making it an ideal place for walking around.

If you are looking for a unique place to have dinner on your last night in Lake Como, you should try the restaurant at Isola Comacina. Its 6-course dinner has not changed since 1947 and has been frequented by a long list of celebrities. The restaurant is open every day in summer, but unfortunately it’s closed in winter.

The island is reached by boat directly from Menaggio or you can go to Ossuccio and get there in less than 10 minutes by taxi boat.

Where to Stay: Menaggio, or head back to Milan.

bellagio swim
Yep, you can also swim in Lake Como!

Lake Como Practical Tips

How to get to Lake Como

We recommend leaving your car at home and reaching Lake Como with public transport.

You can easily catch the train from Milan to Como and back for this 3-day itinerary – this article highlights how to get to Lake Como from Milan.

How to get around Lake Como

We don’t recommend renting cars or using cars to travel around Lake Como, especially if you are visiting in summer.

The best way to get around Lake Como is by ferry. There is a good ferry network crossing the lake – find out more about routes and timetables on the official website. It’s recommended to get tickets in advance during the summer high season.

The ferry is ideal to cover longer distances or move between different branches of the lake, such as Como to Bellagio or from Varenna to Menaggio. For shorter distances, like to travel between Como and Cernobbio or between Menaggio and Lenno, you can use local buses or taxis.

Varenna as seen from the lake

Best Time to Visit Lake Como

I would strongly recommend avoiding summer – the months of June, July and August are extremely hot and busy all around the lake. Accommodation prices skyrocket, lake ferries and buses are packed to the brim, you have to wait HOURS to access attractions and the funicular, and the traffic it’s just horrendous.

Shoulder season, such as April/May and September/October, is a much better time to visit Lake Como. The weather is usually good and there are not many people visiting, meaning accommodation prices are reasonable.

However, my personal favourite time to visit Lake Como is the winter. Yes, there are misty, rainy days, when the lake just looks magical and mysterious. However, January and February in Italy are usually dry months, and there are very few tourists on the lake – blue skies and no crowds, yes please!

The only downside is that some villas and attractions might be closed during the off-season, but you can always visit again!

Looking for more posts about Lake Como? There you are!

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