Lake Como in 48 Hours

Photo by Martha Bakerjian

Bellagio, Como, and villas on Italy's most popular lake

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Here are the top things to see on Lake Como, a popular vacation destination since Roman times, if you have only 48 hours. Lake Como is dotted with pretty villages and stately villas. The lake is set in a scenic location in northern Italy, surrounded by mountains and hills offering good places to hike. In summer, swimming, and water activities are popular but spring and fall are beautiful and usually less crowded. See Lake Como weather for more about when to go.

Lake Como is one of Italy’s most romantic destinations and has lodging options in all price ranges, from camping to luxurious villas. While you could easily spend a week exploring the lake, here’s what to see and do with 48 hours.

lake como photo
Lake Como by Colin Shawcross

Day 1: The Historic City of Como and a Mountain Excursion

Como, easily reached by train from Milan, is a good place to start your visit. The walled town has a historic center and lively squares with cafes, shops, and good restaurants. Spend an hour or so wandering around the center, visiting the cathedral and 11th century Church of San Giacomo, then have a coffee in one of the squares or by the lake.

Silk is produced in the town of Como. Visit the Silk Museum, dating from 1900, to get an overview of the entire silk-making process. Silk is sold in several shops in Como. Take the short walk along the lake to the neo-classical Temple to Volta, built in 1927, that holds relics including his famous battery.

From Como, take the funicular to the village of Brunate, 720 meters above the lake, for beautiful views of the lake and the Alps. At the top there are walking paths and more serious hiking trails and it’s an excellent area for bird-watching. You can have lunch in town before you go or at one of the restaurants at the top.

If you prefer to spend time near the lake, there are several walking paths near town, too. In summer you can rent paddle boats, swim in the lake, or take an evening excursion boat trip on the lake.

Many concerts and special events are held in town during summer, too. San Giovanni is a big festival celebrated the last weekend of June with folk arts and fireworks and boat races. In September, there’s a traditional rowing race and the Palio del Baradello, a historical re-enactment.

If you’re looking for luxury, the 16th century Villa d’Este, now a luxury hotel on the lake surrounded by gardens, is the most famous of Lake Como’s villas.

Day 2: Bellagio, the Pearl of Lake Como

From Como, take the ferry to Bellagio, one of the lake’s most picturesque villages. Along the way you’ll pass several villas and small villages.

Bellagio, set where the two legs of the lake come together, has panoramic lake views and a fairly mild climate. Stone staircases and tiny lanes, lined with shops and bars, wind up the hill.

Bellagio is a great place to just wander around or sit at a cafe and enjoy the atmosphere.

At the top of the hill is the Romanesque Church of San Giacomo with mosaics, a 12th century cross, and a 15th century triptych. Also at the top of the town is Villa Serbelloni Park with an 18th century garden and good views of the lake.

Back down by the lake, take the lakeside promenade to the early 19th century Villa Melzi where you can visit the gardens, open daily from March through October, the museum, and neo-classical chapel. There are several other walking paths and hiking trails along the lake or in the hills, including the half-hour walk to the hamlet of San Giovanni where there’s a museum of navigational instruments.

During summer there’s a touristic train tour, boat tours, water sports and swimming in the lake. Outdoor concerts are also held in Bellagio during summer.

Lake Como Transportation and Things to Do

Frequent trains run from Milan to the city of Como, taking a little over half an hour. The station is just outside the historic center. From Como, there are buses to towns around the lake but the prettiest way to travel is by ferry.

Take a Food Tour: Como Food Tour, a 2.5 hour walking tour with tastings in the historic center of Como.
Take a Cooking Class: Cooking Class on Lake Como, a 4 hour hands-on cooking class with lunch in a restaurant near Varenna.
Explore the Lake by Kayak: Lake Como Kayak Tour, a 2 hour guided kayak excursion from Bellagio.

See more villas and villages to visit on Lake Como.


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