How to Visit Varenna and Bellagio in One Day: Your Ultimate Guide to Lake Como

How to Visit Varenna and Bellagio in One Day: Your Ultimate Guide to Lake Como

If you want a taste of sweet Italian luxury, your desires will lead you to Lake Como. Lake Como, or Lago di Como, has become incredibly notable over the past few years, with people itching to experience its luxurious villas and charming towns. Round out your northern Italy itinerary by visiting Varenna and Bellagio in one day.

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Lake Como Overview

Lake Como is truly a bucket list destination. It’s the essence of what people think of when they think of Italy – amazing landscapes, 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. I suggest fitting it into a trip itinerary as a day trip from Milan.

I think Lake Como is beautiful, but at the end of the day there is not much to do other than walk around the towns and enjoy the view. That’s why I think you can make the most of your northern Italy itinerary by visiting its two most charming towns, Varenna and Bellagio, in just one day.

Is One Day Enough to Visit Varenna and Bellagio?

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, although 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

By Organized Tour

While you can DIY your way around Lake Como, you may want to consider going with a day trip tour from Milan instead. It is not the easiest place to get around just because of the mountainous terrain and how spread apart some of the villages are.

Plus, it’s the simplest way to see both towns in one day since everything is handled for you.

By Car

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!)

By Ferry

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.

Good to know: If you’re feeling fancy 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.

From Lecco

Lecco is a larger town on Lake 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

Villa Monastero

One of the most beautiful attractions in Varenna is the Villa Monastero. The Villa is open to the public, with an entrance fee of 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!

Secret Steps

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 Lake 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 Lake 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 Lake 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 Lake Como’s most popular town.

Its popularity is due to its mix of luxury villas and its tiny, lovely alleys abundant with characteristic boutiques and gelato shops.

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 Lake 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.

Charming Shops

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 Lake Como beyond the rich orange and yellow rooftops.

There are also some of the cutest lakeside restaurants. Ristorante Terrazza Florence (pictured below) has a dreamy garden terrace and pergola overlooking the lake.

The SGTD Take

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. Check out my guide for visiting Lake Como on a budget!
  • 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!

Italy Trip Planning Resources

  • Accommodation: For Italy, I mainly use to search and book places to stay.
  • Booking flights: I like to search for flights through Skyscanner, but I also book direct depending on the airline.
  • Activities & experiences: For things to do that require a ticket, and for more unique trip activities, I use Musement.
  • Road trip: For renting a car, I get the best prices by comparing companies with AutoEurope. I then use ViaMichelin to estimate road trip costs and to find gas stations/have live updates on traffic.
  • Transportation: Traveling by public transportation is a great way to see Italy. I use Trenitalia or Trainline to book tickets for trains and Flixbus for long-haul bus trips.
  • Accessories: I always travel with this portable charger to stay connected and with a universal adapter to accommodate Italy’s plug types.
  • Need help planning an itinerary? Fill out my form for a custom itinerary request!

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Whenever you’re heading to Lake Como, remember to enjoy the moments at this breathtaking natural beauty!




Michela is a travel writer and photographer living in northern Italy. She is passionate about helping people make the most of their travels by sharing advice gained from her personal experiences, off-the-beaten-path destinations and time-saving quick itineraries. Browse her top articles or have her help you plan your itinerary to your dream destination!

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  1. April 24, 2021 / 10:12 am

    Can’t wait to be able to go here. You photos are gorgeous!

    • April 26, 2021 / 5:43 am

      Thank you so much! Hopefully you’ll be here sooner rather than later!

  2. Taylor
    April 24, 2021 / 11:31 am

    Ah I loved Lake Como when I visited in 2018. Everything was seriously so magical. I stayed in the town of Como, but also visited Bellagio and Varenna and loved them both. This may sound weird, but I actually want to get married in Varenna one day. It’s one of the most romantic places in the world! 🙂

    • April 26, 2021 / 5:45 am

      Oh, that is not weird at all, I totally agree with you! I too am planning my future wedding for somewhere like Lake Como! Haha, I’ve also visited the town of Como, but found the charm of Varenna and Bellagio just too cute to miss!

  3. April 24, 2021 / 4:50 pm

    Wow these are both beautiful places to visit! I would definitely love to spend at least a day in each spot to make sure I see everything.

    • April 26, 2021 / 5:45 am

      You could definitely do that too! Accommodations range from quaint apartment rentals to the most luxurious of resorts, so it’s a great place to take an extended vacay!

  4. April 25, 2021 / 8:31 am

    What an amazing post! I’ve visited Lago Di Como when I was younger, but I would absolutely love to go back. Bellagio’s charming streets look the cutest. I miss Italy!

    • April 26, 2021 / 5:46 am

      Ah, I totally feel you! Some places you feel satisfied visiting just once, but others can draw you back over and over again!

  5. Luciana
    April 12, 2022 / 11:50 am

    can you guide us where is the large parking garage in varenna ?

    • April 12, 2022 / 12:47 pm

      Hi Luciana,

      The address to the parking garage in Varenna is Viale Giovanni Polvani, 1. If you are entering the town from the south it will be one of the first buildings you see on the right, right across from the Villa Monastero. Let me know if you need more information and have a great visit to Varenna!

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