Find out how to get from Milan to Bellagio, Varenna, Menaggio, Como, and more here!
Lake Como is one of the gems of Italy. With sparkling blue waters and gorgeous mountains on every side, it’s no wonder that celebrities like George Clooney have bought a home here.
If you’re planning a trip to this bucket list destination, you may be wondering how to travel between Milan & Lake Como. Although you can reach Lake Como from Switzerland, chances are you’ll be traveling from the south and transiting through Milan. But don’t worry! The two best options to get from Milan to Lake Como are either train or car. Find out everything you need to know in this complete guide!
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How to Take the Train From Milan to Lake Como
The absolute best way to get from Milan to Lake Como is by train.
Trains north of Milan are operated by Trenord. You can find rail schedules either by downloading the Trenord app or using Google Maps. While both work, I always recommend you just download the app. This will have the most up-to-date information AND you’ll be able to buy train tickets directly – so easy!
Lake Como is shaped like an inverted “Y” which means all the lakefront towns are not necessarily easily reachable by anything other than boat. This means you have to be very strategic when planning your train trip.
Trains from Milan have direct connections to only TWO towns on the shores of Lake Como: the town of Como proper and Varenna.
Train from Milan to Como
Trains from Milano Centrale to Como San Giovanni come about every half hour during peak travel hours. The journey only takes about 40 minutes, so it’s a quick train ride.
Unfortunately, however, most visitors to Lake Como do NOT stay in the town of Como. Most people stay in Bellagio or Varenna which means you’ll have to transfer from the train to a boat to reach your final destination.
The walk is about 11 minutes, so not terribly long but probably not super fun with luggage:
From the Ferry station, you’ll have to catch either a Ferry or a “Foil”. Don’t be intimidated – if you’re spending any amount of time on Lake Como, you will travel by boat somewhere. It’s the main way to visit the towns lining Lake Como and it’s so easy!
“Navigazione Laghi” will be your best friend while in Lake Como. Skip down to the “Traveling by Water ” section below to learn how to read the timetables!
Train from Milan to Varenna
Trains from Milano Centrale to Varenna Esino are less common than trains to Como and are not direct. The journey takes either 1.5 hours or 2.5 hours, depending on the time, day, and transfer station.
Transferring in Bellano is the fastest option but this route is less common. If you go this route, you’ll have to plan ahead!
I took the train from Varenna to Milan when I visited Lake Como and it was easy, even with the transfer in Lecco. However, it’s probably only worth going this route if you’re actually STAYING in Varenna. I loved Varenna – and I think it’s the best lakeside town on Lake Como! – so my personal recommendation is to stay in Varenna and take the train to Varenna.
If you take the train to Varenna and want to transfer to somewhere like Bellagio, you have a fairly quick jaunt to the Ferry Station:
Fair warning, though: there’s a pedestrian bridge right near the Ferry Station that is mostly smooth except for a singular stair on either end. Every few days, a pedestrian takes a nasty tumble over that final stair because they don’t expect it. I was one of those pedestrians and I super scraped up my knees and sprained my ankle. It was painful!
If you’re transferring by water to another town, check out the guide, below.
Traveling by Water Around Lake Como
Go to Navigazione Laghi to check out the timetables. They are in Italian first with English second, but they are generally easy to read once you know what you’re looking for!
Water Service from Como
If you’re starting in Como, check out the Como – Colico timetable.
- “SR” means “Rapid Service” – this will likely be on a “Foil” and are much quicker, but much more expensive. It’s a cool experience, though!
- “Gior” means daily. This service is offered regardless of it being a weekend or a weekday
- Conversely, “Fer” means “weekday” (Monday – Saturday)” and “Fest” means Sunday and/or Holiday service
On the lefthand side, start in the row for your starting destination. Move through the columns to the right until you reach the appropriate day of service and then check that that route goes to your final destination. You’ll know if it does if there is a time in that row!
Traveling by train to Como only makes sense if you’re staying in Bellagio, Menaggio, or one of the other towns listed on the “SR” line. If not, you’ll have to take a VERY slow boat OR transfer to yet another boat!
Water Service from Varenna
If you’re starting in Varenna, check out the “Mid-Lake Shuttle” schedule AND the Ferry schedule.
The Mid-Lake Shuttle schedule is super easy to read. The boat moves from top to bottom unless an arrow indicating the actual direction is used. Varenna to Bellagio only takes about 20 minutes, so it’s a quick journey.
You can also hop on the Ferry from Varenna to towns like Bellagio, too!
My recommendation? Just walk up to the ticket desk and ask when the next service to your destination is. Between the Ferry and the Shuttle, you won’t have to wait long!
How to get from Milan to Lake Como During a Train Strike
Unfortunately, strikes in Europe are fairly common. I’ve been impacted by strikes on ~half my trips to Europe, ranging from trains to car rentals to public services like the Metro. Because of this, you should emotionally prepare to be impacted by a strike on at least some portion of your trip.
When I was traveling from Milan to Lake Como, Trenord was actually striking. This meant there were literally no trains from Milano Centrale to either Como or Varenna – and I was effectively stranded.
So, what to do?
While standing in line for customer service at Milan Central, I met another traveler who was trying to get to Bellagio. We decided to pivot and book a private transport to Bellagio instead of waiting out the strike.
My new friend had WhatsApp and reached out to a few private transport companies that way. We were able to secure a vanpool from Milano Centrale to the Bellagio Ferry dock for just about 200 euro with only an hour wait.
Not ideal, and definitely MUCH more expensive than a train – but in the end, we laughed and called it part of the adventure.
Neither of us were prepared for the strike and likely paid more because of it. However, strikes are announced ahead of time, so it’s worth checking your rail provider a few days in advance to see if strike action is planned. If it is, you can arrange private transport ahead of time and alleviate some of the stress – and hopefully some of the cost! – ahead of time.
Other options always include taxis and Uber, too. Regardless, you’ll end up paying a lot more than a train ride. But it’s all a part of the adventure!
Milan to Lake Como by Car
Assuming you’re renting a car from Milan Malpensa – the airport – it’ll take you about an hour and a half to travel from Milan to Lake Como by car.
Milan to Bellagio
Milan to Varenna
However, the roads to Lake Como are windy with narrow lanes and sharp turns, which can make for a stressful experience. Additionally, you’ll have to pay for parking once you arrive – if you can find any!
Once you make it to Lake Como, you will have literally no use for a car. The most efficient mode of transport is via the water, so your car will be sitting, unused, for the duration of your stay in Lake Como.
Why bother paying for both the rental car AND the parking if you’re not even using the car? If you are choosing to drive throughout Italy, I would instead recommend just renting a car when you return to Milan from Lake Como.
(If you do decide to rent a car, don’t forget to read these tips for driving in Italy!)