Even since George Clooney purchased his world famous vacation home, Lake Como has been at the top of many travelers’ bucket lists. Back when I was living in Florence in 2019, I seized my chance to visit over a free weekend in early October. A €15 Flixbus and 5 hours later, I was checking into my hostel and ready to embark on what turned out to be one of my favorite weekend trips abroad. If Lake Como has a spot on your bucket list, keep reading to learn how to spend the perfect weekend getaway in Lake Como!
Getting to Lake Como can be difficult since the region is a series of small towns spread around a GIANT lake. The easiest way tends to be from Milan, where you can fly into any of their three major airports and take a short, 1 hour train ride to Como.
Since I was already living in Florence, I decided to book a quick Flixbus from Florence Villa Costanza to Como. Although the ride wasn’t short, lasting over 5 hours with stops, the entire journey round trip only cost €30.
From the Como bus station, you simply hop on the C10 bus and ride it 1 hour around the lake to Menaggio.
I tend to always choose hostels when I’m traveling alone. It’s exponentially easier to meet other travelers when you’re staying somewhere with a sense of community and, usually, a in-house bar.
Lake Como Hotel La Primula
For accommodation in Lake Como, I settled on the cutest rustic hostel right outside Menaggio. Lake Como Hostel La Primula could not have been more perfect for my little weekend getaway! The hostel included a restaurant, a bar and an included breakfast each morning. The front desk could not have been more friendly and the hostel even organized hiking groups led by a guide each morning. I was able to meet tons of fun, like-minded travelers from all over the world to spend my time with and the entire stay only cost me €40!
The location is perfect, with gorgeous views from the in-room balconies and only a short, 5-minute walk away from the ferry to Bellagio and Varenna.
Ostello Bello Lake Como
I was having such a wonderful time in Lake Como, that I actually decided to extend my stay and leave on Monday morning instead of Sunday. For my last night, I chose a hostel closer to the Como bus station for an easy departure the next morning.
Ostello Bello Lake Como was the perfect choice. Ostello Bello offers affordable prices, spacious rooms with security lockers, a free drink at check in and is walking distance from the bus station!
…& Grab dinner at La Vita e Bella
If you stay at Ostello Bello or another accommodation in Como, make sure to grab lunch or dinner at La Vita è Bella. Surprisingly enough for Italy, they had an amazing salad menu with tons of delicious-sounding options. However, I was enjoying my last night of vacation and opted for wine and seafood paella instead.
Transportation Between Towns
Since the lake is so enormous, it’s much quicker and easier to navigate between towns by ferry. The timetables are currently very inconsistent due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but when travel reopens you can find information regarding the public ferries here.
Although there are countless charming towns and many beautiful spots surrounding Lake Como, the three most famous spots are well-known as Bellagio, Varenna and Menaggio. Since I stayed in Menaggio, I spent the majority of my time exploring Bellagio and Varenna.
Arguably the most picturesque of the three most famous towns, Bellagio is a must-see when visiting Lake Como! Quaint cobblestoned streets, colorful alleyways and restaurants and wine bars on every corner, what’s not to love?
Wander through the picturesque streets
Even if you’ve never visited Lake Como, I’m sure you’ve seen pictures of this famous, Italian street. The rest of Bellagio is just as charming and it’s the perfect town to spend an afternoon wandering, eating and shopping.
Grab a bite at Ristorante Bilacus
I was so obsessed with this picturesque street, I decided to grab dinner at the little restaurant with the “Aperitivi Wine Bar” sign!
One of the most famous dishes around Lake Como is Risotto al Pesce Persico, which consists of creamy, usually homemade risotto, with Parmesan cheese and topped with crispy, fried perch. Although it can be a bit on the pricer side, it was, to this day, one of the most delicious meals I’ve had in Italy. Definitely worth the splurge!
At the same restaurant in Lake Como, I discovered my new favorite type of red wine. Nebbiolo is grown in the Piedmont region of Italy is made from the grape that goes into Barolo and Barbaresco, two of the world’s most expensive wines. Nebbiolo is widely available in Northern Italy and is definitely worth a try!
Take in the views in Pescallo Fishing Village
Located only a short walk from the town of Bellagio is the historic Pescallo fishing village. In the thirteenth century, Pescallo was one of the largest fishing villages in the region. Today, it’s a harbor offering a beautiful view of the lake and the sailing club.
The next stop on my itinerary was the beautiful town of Varenna! A short ferry ride away from both Bellagio and Menaggio, Varenna is a must-see on your Lake Como itinerary.
Wander around the charming streets
Like Bellagio, Varenna is filled with adorable alleyways and charming storefronts. It’s definitely worth taking an hour or two to wander around and enjoy the quaint little town!
Take the short hike to Castello di Vezio
I love nothing more than hiking to the highest point in any destination and taking in the views! Varenna was no different. As soon as I arrived, I zeroed in on the Castello di Vezio hike and set off to enjoy some views and take some pictures.
Castello di Vezio (Vezio Castle) has stood high on the hill overlooking Varenna for over a thousand years. It was originally built by the Lombard Queen Theodelinda to defend the lake and surrounding villages. The castle boasts a real-life drawbridge as well as breathtaking views, tombs from the Iron Age, gardens and numerous birds of prey raised by a local falconer.
An entrance ticket costs €4 and is well worth the small charge!
Grab lunch at Osteria Quatro Pass
Varenna is the perfect place to grab a scenic and delicious Italian lunch! We decided to stop at a quaint little osteria, Osteria Quatro Pass. Stuffed squid and an ice-cold Aperol Spritz was exactly what this perfect weekend getaway called for.
Unfortunately, with only two days to spend in Italy’s scenic lake region, I did not get to spend as much time in Menaggio as I would have liked. Besides grabbing dinner here on my first night, I didn’t get a chance to really explore Menaggio! Learn from my mistakes and make sure to leave room in your itinerary for all three towns.
Have dinner at La Grolla Menaggio
After a stellar recommendation from the hostel front desk, I made my way into Menaggio and grabbed a delicious seafood dinner at La Grolla Menaggio. The food and wine was incredible and very healthy (uncharacteristic for Italian meals).
Hike to San Martino
On my very first morning in Lake Como, I decided to take advantage of the guided hikes the hostel provided and joined a group hiking to San Martino. Not only did we get to enjoy stellar views of the lake and explore the adorable San Martino church, but it was a great chance to meet other solo travelers staying at the hostel. The hike itself was very mild, with a slight uphill climb towards the end. Round trip, the journey took us less than two hours.
Hiking is a difficult aspect of solo travel. While I was in Lake Como, I desperately wanted to hike Monte Grona. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a hiking buddy or a group taking on this hike and it seemed too difficult to take on by myself. If you’re into hiking and visiting the area, definitely look into hiking Monte Grona, photos from the peak look absolutely stunning.
Explore Villa Balbianello
Villa Balbianello was built in the late 18th century on the site of an ancient Franciscan monastery. Nowadays, Villa Balbianello boasts some of the most beautiful gardens in Lake Como and is the site of many weddings as well as a shooting location for Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones.
The gardens and architecture in Villa Balbianello is spectacular and a beautiful place to relax while enjoying views of the lake. The gardens are free to explore but you’ll have to purchase an entrance ticket to explore the 17th century English and French furnishings inside.
Lake Como was the perfect weekend getaway from Florence, but, if I had the time, I easily could have spent two weeks exploring and hiking around the lake. I would recommending visiting at this time, in early October, which is considered off-season for Lake Como. The area can get extremely busy and expensive in the on-season, so it’s best to plan to visit when there are less tourists!
If you enjoyed this travel guide to Lake Como, don’t forget to check out my related itineraries and guides 24 Hours in Milan, A Beginner’s Guide to the Amalfi Coast and The Best of Florence. And if you love the editing on my photos, head to my preset shop to buy them for yourself!
Thanks for reading and don’t forget to follow the adventure on Instagram @madisonsfootsteps!
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