Lake Como – Pretty but Touristy

VIew from ferry leaving Bellagio

My expectation of a relaxing, serene day trip from big city Milan to some quaint, lake-side towns by Lake Como was somewhat misplaced. Lake Como is very, very pretty but it is not particularly serene. Not sure what I expected of Lake Como but it’s hoards of tourists, touristy shops lining the small alleyways and an exorbitant 3 Euro per person cover charge (coperto) to eat a a restaurant.

We caught the train from Milan to Varenna which took just over 1 hour. It is worth to get up early to beat the crowds. It is nice to experience the place without quite so many people and before the heat really sets in! (To be honest, there were already plenty of people at 9am in the morning and it only proceeded to get more and more crowded.) We quickly caught a 15 minute ferry to Bellagio to try and beat the crowds but in reality, plenty of people had the same idea!

After sightseeing and checking out Bellagio, we caught the ferry back to Varenna and then later on, the train back to Milan. It makes for a manageable day trip from Milan an the mountain views from the train to Lake Como are spectacular.

Lake Como itself, is actually pretty big and it is unrealistic to see all the lakeside towns in one day. The three most popular towns are Bellagio, Varenna and Como. We skipped Como because it’s the largest town and supposedly the least pretty. It was also to allow us a more leisurely pace on the day trip and to avoid having a very long day.

Bellagio and Varenna are very similar. Pretty but very touristy. Cute alleyways but anything lake-side will have lots of people. If you head inland just a few streets, it becomes deserted. There are steep rocky hills that rise dramatically from the sides of the lake. It gives the impression that the lakeside towns cling to any tiny available space leftover between the hills and the water.

Church of St. John the Baptist, Varenna
Chiesa di Santa Maria delle Grazie. Varenna
View from the ferry leaving Bellagio
View from Bellagio
Salita Serbelloni of Bellagio – the famous main passageway in Bellagio which is picturesque and lined with touristy shops. Crowded with people in August!
Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni
Ferry between Bellagio and Varenna

Love to hear what you think! Thanks!!