If you want a taste of sweet Italian luxury, your desires will lead you to Lago di Como. Lago di Como, or Lake Como, has become incredibly notable over the past few years – maybe around the time the world found out that George Clooney and fellow celebrities choose Lake Como for their luxury vacation villas. Since then people have flocked to this northern region of Italy and the small but opulent towns that make up the lake’s perimeter. Round out your Italy itinerary by visiting two of the most beautiful towns on Lago di Como – learn here how to visit Varenna and Bellagio in one day.
Lago di Como is truly a bucket list destination for anyone coming to visit Italy. It’s the essence of what people think of when the Mediterranean peninsula comes to mind – geographical wonder, charming villages, exceptional cuisine – all with a luxe, old-world feel.
When planning a trip to Lake Como, there are many possibilities of what towns to visit or how to get around the lake. My favorite way to fit it into a trip itinerary is to make a day trip to the lake from Milan.
Of course you can indulge in Italian luxury if you have the time and money to stay on Lago di Como!
But around here, I’m all about budget-conscious and efficient trip planning. So instead I’m going to show you how can visit two of its most charming and renowned towns, Varenna and Bellagio, in just one day and still get the most out of this destination. (Travel tips & what-to-do suggestions included!)
Plus, check out my guide dedicated solely to budget tips for visiting Lake Como.
Dive further into your trip planning with my ultimate guide to planning a trip to Italy.
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How to Visit Varenna and Bellagio in One Day
Surprise – it’s actually quite easy to visit Varenna and Bellagio in one day. Luckily, the two famous towns are quite close to each other, albeit they are on opposite sides of the lake.
You could easily flip which town you want to visit first. Both have similar charms and there’s not too much difference in what they offer when you compare the day vs. evening.
I will suggest to you that if you are planning to stay overnight in one of these towns, I would opt for Varenna.
While both have their tourists, Bellagio is more touristy and Varenna is a pretty quiet town. The laidback luxe of Varenna is a better option for a relaxed overnight stay.
How to Reach Varenna and Bellagio
One of the most flexible ways to reach both towns is by car.
You can travel to either Bellagio or Varenna by car, but keep in mind they are on opposite sides of the lake. If you’re driving to Varenna there is a large parking garage available.
No matter what town you start in, you can take a ferry between the two (more details on that next!)
There is a ferry between Varenna and Bellagio that is only 15 minutes long. You can even transport your car with you on this ferry if you’re not planning a return trip!
The ticket is not expensive either – only a few euros if you are not traveling with a car. If you are traveling with a vehicle, the price goes up between 12 and 20+ euros depending on the type of vehicle.
Other option: If you’re feeling bougie surrounded by all the expensive Italian villas, you could also travel between Varenna and Bellagio by private water taxi. This option is much more expensive, but it does fulfill the Instagram-dream of taking photos on your luxe wooden boat on Lake Como.
Lecco is a larger town on Lago di Como. From Lecco, there is the main ferry that stops at both Bellagio and Varenna.
This is one way to see both towns in one day, by driving or taking a train into Lecco.
It may be your better option for several reasons. For one, it’s larger so there is more parking and it’s also closer to Milan.
With this option, you have the opportunity to take the ferry up the lake and enjoy gorgeous views.
A one-way ticket to Bellagio is around 8 euros. They have extensive schedules and route options, so you can pick the best ticket for you.
What to See in Varenna
One of the most beautiful attractions in Varenna is the Villa Monastero. The Villa is open to the public, with entrance fees at 10 euros per person.
It’s a stunning location for taking photos and the epitome of the Italian luxury villa feel.
You could also just pay to enter the botanical garden portion of the villa – but I would go all out if I were you!
Near to Villa Monastero is a tiny alcove. If you didn’t know about it, you probably wouldn’t make anything of it!
If you are trying to visit Varenna on a budget, this view could be a replacement for visiting Villa Monastero.
On the wall of this alcove is a sign that states “200 steps to a romantic view.” I swear it feels like you’re in a vintage Italian romance film experiencing this!
The sign points to a seemingly infinite path of stone stairs. After gliding down the enclosed staircase, the wall breaks off and you’re hit by an expansive view of Lago di Como.
There’s a small alcove with boats tied up and another stone wall coming out over the water. Spend a few moments sitting on the wall taking in the views – I promise you’ll be pinching yourself!
Eat & Shop Along the Riviera
After getting tangled up in Varenna’s tall and narrow pedestrian streets, you’ll break out into the boardwalk area. You can tell this is the main area for tourists to shop and eat.
While the food is not necessarily the best in these restaurants, you really can’t beat the experience of lunching on Lago di Como with these restaurants’ prime real estate along the lake.
Little shops also flourish along this riviera for you to explore.
Wrap Around Boardwalk
As you stroll along the bustling sidewalk past these restaurants and shops, it eventually turns into a boardwalk that is suspended above Lago di Como along the small cliffside.
You can take this boardwalk to the other side of Varenna, where the ferry is located. There’s not much else to see on the other side, but I still suggest strolling the boardwalk to get there if not only to soak up the views.
What to See in Bellagio
Bellagio is Lago di Como’s most popular town.
Its popularity is due to its mix of luxury villas and its tiny, lovely alleyways abundant with characteristic shops and gelaterias.
For more resources on visiting Bellagio, visit their tourism website.
Stroll the Boardwalk
There is a long stretch of boardwalk along the lake lined with full trees and sweet sitting benches.
The boardwalk is especially lovely because it provides you expansive views of the mighty mountains and sprawling surface of Lago di Como.
You can also take a seat on the steps of the marina for similar views and a moment of peace and quiet to take it all in.
Parco Martiri della Libertà
Parco Martiri della Libertà is a grand botanical garden-esque park near the town center of Bellagio.
The wide green park completely juxtaposes Bellagio’s tight streets! It’s a perfect place to relax amidst the bustle.
Benches and sitting spots are all over to enjoy the views and the Italian sun.
I think the pictures do the talking when it comes to telling you about Bellagio’s charming streets.
The cascading stone stairs lead you up and down narrow walkways lined with everything from gelaterias to shops of handmade goods.
Every so often you turn and get a peek at the soaring mountains of Lago di Como beyond the rich orange and yellow rooftops.
There are also some of the cutest lakeside restaurants. Restaurant de l’hotel Florence (pictured below) has a dreamy garden terrace and pergola overlooking the lake.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when visiting Varenna and Bellagio:
- Always keep some euros in coins and cash to pay for things like parking. Small shops may also only take cash, but Varenna and Bellagio are quite popular so you should be able to use cards.
- Restaurants in the main tourist squares and lakesides likely won’t have the top quality of authentic Italian dishes and will overcharge you. If you are okay with skipping the view, search for restaurants more inland in the town (but always look up reviews first!)
- If you’re traveling by ferry, most tickets will have to be validated in small machines to be used (like on Italy’s trains!) Don’t forget to validate them!
I hope this guide has helped you plan how to visit Varenna and Bellagio in one day!
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Whenever you’re heading to Lago di Como, remember to enjoy the moments at this breathtaking natural beauty!