Lake Como in October: How to Explore the Best of Menaggio, Bellagio and Varenna
Last Updated on May 27, 2023 by Madison Krigbaum
**This post contains affiliate links, which means if you buy something through those links I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Click here to view my legal page. Thank you for your support!
If you LOVE shoulder-season prices and HATE elbowing your way through crowds…then Lake Como in October is calling your name.
Ever since George Clooney purchased his world famous vacation home, Lake Como has been at the top of many travelers’ European bucket lists. When I was living in Florence, I freed up a weekend and finally seized my chance to visit Lake Como in early October.
I booked a €15 Flixbus leaving from Villa Costanza and, five hours later, I was checking into the cutest lakeside hostel and getting ready to embark on what turned out to be one of my favorite solo weekend trips abroad.
Long story short…screw a Lake Como summer and bring on a Lake Como October! If you’re itching for late summer breezes, half-full ferries and delicious Italian food with no waits, then keep reading for the only itinerary you’ll ever need to visit Lake Como in October.
💡 YOU MAY ALSO BE INTERESTED IN…
**This post contains affiliate links, which means if you buy something through those links I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. All opinions are my own. Click here to view my legal page. Thank you for your support!
Lake Como in October FAQs:
Yes! In my opinion, October is the perfect time to visit Lake Como. There are significantly fewer crowds than the summer season, hotel and transportation prices are lower and you can enjoy outdoor activities without being uncomfortably hot. However, the weather in Lake Como in October is still warm enough to hike, eat outdoors and enjoy scenic boat rides. If you’re wondering when to visit Lake Como, the answer is October.
The average temperature in Lake Como in October is 13-16 degrees Celsius (55-60 degrees Fahrenheit). When I visited in October the weather was a bit warmer than this, probably closer to 65 degrees Fahrenheit. October brings mostly clear skies and the perfect weather for walking or hiking around Lake Como’s scenic towns.
Sunrise in Lake Como in October is around 7:00AM and sunset is around 6-6:30PM. That gives you around 11 good hours of daylight to wander around and explore to your heart’s content.
The best time of year to visit Lake Como is in the shoulder season. I would recommend going in late March-May or October. I would not recommend visiting in November – February because many of the best attractions are closed for the off-season.
It depends, but usually it is too chilly to swim in Lake Como this time of year. However, many hotels in the area have heated pools and hot tubs that would be perfect for October.
When visiting Lake Como in October, be sure to pack lots of layers. If you’re hiking to Monte Grona or exploring Castello di Vezio on the hill, you might be too hot in a full sweater. On the other side, if you’re on the ferry at night with a light breeze, you might be in need of long sleeves. If you dress in layers, you’ll be prepared for any situation.
🧳 What to Pack for Lake Como in October // My Favorite Travel Essentials
FOR ALL TRAVELERS:
- World Nomads travel insurance
- Comfortable layers
- Sneakers or comfortable walking shoes
- Everyday travel bag (My Favorite: the Calpak Sling Bag)
- Photography essentials
- Jase Case (personalized prescriptions + preventative care so you’re prepared in any destination) + first-aid kit
FOR DIGITAL NOMADS:
FOR HOSTEL GUESTS:
Yes, the ferries in Lake Como run year-round.
The quick answer is that you should visit Lake Como because it’s stunningly beautiful. Colorful Italian towns framed by towering cliffs and a sparkling lake is a postcard view that won’t soon be forgotten.
Although Lake Como is a popular destination in Italy, it’s not nearly as crowded or expensive as other destinations, like Cinque Terre or the Amalfi Coast. Lake Como offers amazing hiking, gorgeous villas, botanical gardens on every corner and centuries of Italian history in every little town.
Wondering how many days to spend in Lake Como? Four days in Lake Como is a good amount for a mini vacation in Italy’s beautiful lake region. Personally, I would prefer to have at least a week, but I love to travel slow. Four days should be enough to see the highlights in Menaggio, Varenna and Bellagio. You could even fit in a hike or two!
There is no airport in Lake Como. The closest airports are the three major airports in Milan: Milan Malpensa MXP, Milan Bergamo BGY or Milan Linate LIN. After flying into Milan, make your way to Milano Centrale train station. From there, hop on a train to Como San Giovanni station.
How to Get to Lake Como
Getting to Lake Como can be difficult since the region is a series of small towns spread around a huge lake. The easiest way to get to Lake Como is from Milan. Simply fly into one of their three major airports (Milan Malpensa MXP, Milan Bergamo BGY or Milan Linate LIN), take a taxi or airport shuttle to the Milano Centrale train station and hop on a train to Como San Giovanni.
If you’re not visiting Lake Como from Milan – don’t sweat!! You can book trains to Como San Giovanni from train stations all over the country. Head to ItaloTreno or TrenItalia to browse the best options for your trip.
Since I was already living in Florence, I decided to book a quick Flixbus from Florence Villa Costanza to Piazzale San Gottardo, the bus station next door to the Como San Giovanni train station. Although the ride wasn’t short (it took over five hours with stops), the entire journey round-trip only cost €30.
From Como San Giovanni, simply hop on the C10 bus and ride it 1-hour around the lake to Menaggio or Bellagio. If you’re headed to Varenna, you’ll need to take the C10 bus to Bellagio and hop on a ferry from there.
💡 PRO TIP: Since the best accommodations in Lake Como tend to be very far from the train station, you may find yourself in need of a budget-friendly one-nighter in the center of Como. For my 7:00AM Flixbus, I booked one night at Ostello Bello Lake Como. With clean and spacious rooms, a friendly front desk, a social hostel bar and a location smack dab in the middle of Como (minutes from the train station), it was the best call before a long day of travel. Be sure to grab dinner at La Vita è Bella nearby if time allows!
Where to Stay in Lake Como in October
I love to stay in hostels when I’m traveling alone. It’s much easier to make friends when you’re bunking with other solo travelers…and a hostel bar never hurt anyone!
…Actually that might not be true 😂
If you’re not in the hostel fan club, I get it. Nothing makes you want to splurge on a bougie hotel room like drunk 19 year old British dudes yelling in your room at 3:00AM. If you’re not sure where to stay in Lake Como in October, scroll down for the best Lake Como hotels for all budgets.
🏡 Where to stay in Lake Como for all Budgets:
BUDGET-FRIENDLY HOTELS IN LAKE COMO:
- Lake Como Hostel La Primula – Menaggio (⭐️ 8.9/10)
- Lake Como Beach Hostel – Domaso (⭐️ 9.2/10)
MID-LEVEL HOTELS IN LAKE COMO:
- Locanda della Maria – Bellagio (⭐️ 9.4/10)
- Hotel Villa Belvedere – Argegno (⭐️ 9.0/10)
LUXURY HOTELS IN LAKE COMO:
- Grand Hotel Tremezzo – Tremezzo (⭐️ 10/10)
- Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni – Bellagio (⭐️ 9/10)
- Grand Hotel Victoria Concept & Spa – Menaggio (⭐️ 9.4/10)
My Stay at Lake Como Hostel La Primula
For my accommodation in Lake Como in October, 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, bar and an included breakfast each morning. The front desk was super friendly and the hostel even organized daily hiking groups led by a local guide. I was able to meet tons of fun solo travelers from all over the world to spend my time with. As a bonus, the entire stay only cost me €40 for two nights.
The hostel’s location is perfect (in Lake Como Menaggio) and offers gorgeous lake views from the in-room balconies. It’s also only a 5-minute walk from the ferry to Bellagio and Varenna.
Transportation Between the Lake Como Towns
Since the lake is so enormous, it’s much quicker and easier to navigate between towns by ferry than by bus. My hostel in the Menaggio town centre was the perfect jumping off point for day trips to Lake Como’s most scenic towns: Varenna and Bellagio. The autumn weather was beautiful and there were significantly fewer crowds trying to push their way onto the ferry than in the summer months! Needless to say, I took full advantage.
The public ferries in Lake Como are operated by Navigazione Laghi. You can either browse the ferry boat timetables or simply head over to the ferry in the morning to inquire about timing throughout the day. Since the timetables are a bit confusing, the second might be the lower-stress option for your Lake Como visit.
Lake Como Travel also offers a very informative FAQ about the ferries that you may find helpful for your trip.
What to Do in Lake Como in October
Italy’s Lake Como region is filled with beautiful views, breathtaking hikes, rich wines and delectable cuisine. There are countless charming Italian towns surrounding the sparkling lake. However, if you’re attempting to see the most of Lake Como in 2 days, the three must-visit towns are Bellagio, Varenna and Menaggio.
Let’s start with the most scenic – Bellagio.
Lake Como in October: Visiting Bellagio
Arguably the most picturesque of the Lake Como towns, Bellagio makes the top of the list of Lake Como things to do. Quaint cobblestoned streets, colorful alleyways and wine bars on every corner…trust me – you’re about to fall in love.
Hop on the ferry from Menaggio to Bellagio to enjoy one of Italy’s most charming towns and the mild October Lake Como weather.
Wander Through the Picturesque Streets
Even if you don’t know anything about Lake Como, I’m sure you’ve seen pictures of this famous street 👇🏼
If you have – then I have good news for you.
The rest of Bellagio is just as charming! It’s the perfect town to spend an afternoon wandering, snacking, shopping and throughly enjoying the beauty and serenity of Lake Como in the fall.
Grab a Bite at Ristorante Bilacus
I was so obsessed with the views on this street, I decided to grab dinner at the little restaurant with the “Aperitivi Wine Bar” sign.
One of the most famous foods to try in Lake Como is Risotto al Pesce Persico. This dish consists of creamy, homemade risotto with Parmesan cheese that’s topped with crispy fried perch. Although it can be a bit on the pricer side, it was one of the most delicious meals I’ve had in Italy. Some meals are definitely worth a little splurge!
Also at Ristorante Bilacus, I discovered my new favorite type of red wine. Nebbiolo is grown in the Piedmont region of Italy. It’s 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 I highly recommend trying a glass during your visit to Lake Como in October.
Explore The Basilica of San Giacomo
This historic, Romanesque church was built in the Borgo neighborhood of Bellagio between the 11th and 12th centuries. Around the 17th century, the Basilica di San Giacomo was given a Baroque-style transformation. Apparently, someone didn’t like the renovations and it was returned to its original Romanesque style in the 20th century. Afterwards, it was declared a national monument!
The church is free to enter and is one of the most prominent features of the Bellagio skyline.
Visit Pescallo Fishing Village
Located only a short walk from the center of Bellagio is the historic Pescallo fishing village.
And – real talk – you won’t want to miss these views.
In the thirteenth century, Pescallo was one of the largest fishing villages in the region. Today, it’s a lovely little community offering a beautiful view of the lake and the sailing club. When you arrive, order a glass of wine and enjoy il dolce far niente – the sweetness of doing nothing.
💡 PRO TIP: Keep in mind, although the walk to Pescallo from Bellagio is not far – it’s also not easy. This trek is not for anyone that has difficulty navigating stairs or uneven passageways. Margie in Italy offers in-depth directions on how to get to Pescallo from the center of Bellagio, complete with photos of every staircase and turn!
Relax in the Melzi Gardens
Villa Melzi d’Eril was originally the summer residence of Francesco Melzi d’Eril – the Vice President of the Italian Republic in in the early 1800’s. Although the villa itself is not open to the public, you can visit the surrounding botanical gardens for an €8 entrance fee.
I Giardini di Villa Melzi boasts gorgeous lake views and is filled with walking paths and exotic plants. A visit to these gardens is the perfect activity when visiting Lake Como in October – since you won’t be sweating uncomfortably the entire time.
Lake Como in October: Visiting Varenna
The next stop on our Lake Como in October itinerary is the charming town of Varenna! Varenna was founded by local fishermen in AD 769 and, today, remains one of the most visited comunes around Lake Como. It’s only a short ferry ride away from both Bellagio and Menaggio, so there’s no reason not to visit!
Stroll Down the Passeggiata degli Innamorati – The Walk of Lovers
If you arrive on the ferry from one of the other towns, you’ll need to stroll through the Passeggiata degli Innamorati to reach the Varenna town center. This appropriately named walking path is one of the most romantic and scenic walks in all of Lake Como! Red iron archways line the path and, as you walk, you’ll enjoy gorgeous lakeside views to your right and cliffs lined with ivy and flowers on your left.
The Passeggiata degli Innamorati will lead you to the main bay of Varenna – Riva Grande. Here, you’ll find quaint restaurants, little boutiques and shops selling fresh gelato.
Wander Around the Charming Streets
Like Bellagio, Varenna is filled with adorable alleyways and charming storefronts. It’s worth carving out an hour or two in your itinerary to wander around and enjoy the beauty of this quaint little town. Who knows? You might stumble upon a hidden gem!
Visit the Church of San Giorgio
Constructed in 1313 in Baroque style, the Chiesa San Giorgio is located in the center of Piazza San Giorgio. This ancient church features a rose window and a fresco depicting St. Christopher. The church is open to the public every day from 8:30AM to 7:00PM and is the perfect place to immerse yourself in the rich history of Varenna.
The Villa Monastero Botanical Gardens
Nearby Piazza San Giorgio is the Villa Monastero – an old monastery from the 1800’s that later became a patrician residence. The botanical gardens are famous for housing many species of rare plants. They span over a mile along the lake shore in Varenna.
The grounds are also home to the Casa Museo – a museum that houses four centuries of history. If you’re visiting Lake Como in October, you’ve arrived at the perfect time to explore Villa Monastero. It’s only open to the public from March – October and a general entrance ticket costs €8.
Hike to Castello di Vezio
There’s nothing I love 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 the gorgeous October weather and take some solo travel photos.
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 is protected by a real-life drawbridge and showcases breathtaking lake views, tombs from the Iron Age, gardens and numerous birds of prey raised by a local falconer.
An entrance ticket costs only €5 and is definitely worth the small charge! View the seasonal hours on their website.
Grab Lunch at Osteria Quatro Pass
The short hike up to Castello di Vezio made me seriously hungry. I decided to stop at a quaint little osteria, Osteria Quatro Pass with a new friend I met on the way. Stuffed squid and an ice-cold Aperol Spritz was exactly what this Lake Como in October trip needed 👌🏼 *chefs kiss*
Hike the Sentiero del Viandante (Path of the Wayfarer)
I have a safety rule as a solo traveler that I never hike alone. Because I was visiting Lake Como as a solo traveler, I sadly did not get to hike the Sentiero del Viandante from Varenna.
But, that doesn’t mean YOU can’t! In fact, Lake Como in October is the perfect time to hike around Lake Como. The sun is still shining and it’s accompanied by a refreshing lake breeze to keep you cool as you stroll along.
The Wayfarer’s Path from Varenna to Bellano is not very challenging and can be hiked in 2.5 hours. Along the way, you’ll enjoy beautiful lake views and pass by Castello di Vezio (above) and Orrido of Bellano, a natural gorge created by the Pioverna river. If you’re looking for more of a challenge, you can hike the trail from Varenna to Lierna, which takes about 4 hours.
There are three starting points to the trail in Varenna: Varenna to Bellano, Varenna to Lierna, and Varenna to Albiga in Perledo.
Lake Como in October: Visiting Menaggio
Unfortunately, with only two days to spend in Lake Como, I did not get to spend as much time in Menaggio as I would have liked. Besides grabbing a delicious Italian dinner here on my first night, I didn’t get a chance to really explore the center of Menaggio.
Learn from my mistakes! Be sure to leave room in your Lake Como itinerary for all three of the famous Lake Como 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…which was a bit shocking after all the pizza and pasta I had been consuming. I mean look at those veggies!
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.
Hike Monte Grona
While I was in Lake Como, I desperately wanted to hike Monte Grona – a peak 1736 m high. Unfortunately, this hike is a lot more intense than San Martino and I didn’t feel it was a good idea to hike it alone.
The hike starts in Breglia. You’ll need to look for a sign that says Rifugio Menaggio that will lead you up a small road to Monti di Breglia. There are three different ways to get to the top of Monte Grona. Since I wasn’t able to experience it myself, Explore Lake Como offers easy-to-follow instructions on which route may be right for you.
Rumor has it, on a clear day you’ll be rewarded with views of Lake Como, Lake Piano and Lake Lugano from the top!
Wander Around 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. It’s the site of many weddings and was a shooting location for Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones.
The gardens and architecture in Villa Balbianello is spectacular and it’s 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 – and October was the perfect time to visit. If I had the time, I easily could have spent two weeks exploring and hiking around Lake Como.
If you enjoyed this Lake Como itinerary, don’t forget to check out my related guides linked below. Thanks for reading and don’t forget to follow the adventure on Instagram @madisonsfootsteps!
I Love Traveling!
I truly love all the place full of colorful flowers and greenery everywhere.
Me too! It’s really the most magical place ❤️
Thanks for sharing this. It is interesting to know that cuisine is so tasty.
It’s delicious! And every meal in Lake Como comes with a view 🙌🏼