When I booked my trip to Milan my only plan was to see the Duomo and it was only after a bit of research about things I could do to fill my time there that I realised it is a well-situated place to visit the lakes from! (Note that if you are not visiting Milan but skipping straight on to Como you may want to consider flying into Milan Bergamo as the flights from Luton on Ryanair are always super cheap!)
Where to go
If you take a look at Lake Como on google you’ll see it’s pretty big! There are lots of places that surround the lake that you can visit and luckily it’s easy to hop between a lot of them even on a day trip (more on that later). But initially you need to decide on your destination train stop.
I chose to get off the train at Varenna as from here you are at the meeting point of the three branches of the lake and this also is a convenient destination for you to hop on a ferry that goes between Bellagio and Menaggio.
Catching the train
You want to catch the RE8 train from Milano Centrale Railway Station. The final destination will most likely be Tiranno but check the boards at the station for the stops, which will all be listed.
You can purchase your ticket at any of the red ticket machines in the main railway station building, you can’t miss them! They are easy to operate, enter your destination and the machine will select the ticket that you need. Make sure to get a return to save money… and also because Varenna is a small station so it is easier to buy your return ticket at Milan Central.
Before you board the train make sure you validate your ticket in one of the yellow machines on the platform. Just insert the ticket into the machine and it will put a time stamp on it. You will see other people doing this so if you’re unsure just watch out for what they do. Ticket inspectors have a reputation for getting uppity with anyone who hasn’t validated their ticket (even though it is not an obvious thing to do if you don’t already know about it!)
Getting around the lake
When you exit the station at Varenna just follow the crowds heading down to the edge of the water. The ferry terminal is a large prominent building along the front, which usually has loads of people waiting around it.
From here you can catch a ferry to multiple destinations including Bellagio and Mennagio. The ferries are quite regular in the summer and that makes it easy to visit a couple of destinations even on a day trip – however make sure you check the timetable and give yourself enough time to get back to Varenna train station to catch your train back to Milan!
How much does it cost?*
Lake Como Ferry – 4.60 euros per ferry ride. It is possible to purchase a day pass, although I cannot find the price of this online I doubt it it worth it unless you are making 4+ ferry rides, which you are unlikely to do if you are travelling to/from Milan in the same day.
Train from Milan to Varenna – 6.70 euros for a return ticket.
*Please note that these costs may have changed and are correct at the time of writing this post, January 2018.
Now you know how to get there, check out my solo traveller’s guide to Lake Como…