UPDATED FOR 2024
I’ve always been enthralled by the ease and beauty of Italian train journeys. So when Cooper and I planned our trip to Italy, the Milan to Varenna train was a no-brainer for a day trip to Lake Como and Bellagio.
Let me guide you through how to make the most of this picturesque journey in 2024.
Why Take the Milan to Varenna Train Route to Lake Como?
Italy has always been a tapestry of cultural and scenic marvels. Our experience with the Milan to Varenna train route only adds to this rich fabric. Lake Como, a gem near Milan – Italy’s fashion and business hub – is an unmissable destination. Initially considering a pricey guided tour to Lake Como, we instead chose the more adventurous and budget-friendly train journey.
Choosing the train from Milan to Varenna was a decision driven by:
- Ease of Travel: The trip from Milan Central Station to Varenna is a comfortable journey lasting just over an hour, making it the perfect choice for a day trip.
- Affordability: At just €6.80 for a second-class one-way ticket, it’s a steal for the beauty you’re about to witness.
- Flexibility and Accessibility: With trains departing as early as 6:20 AM and the last one at 9:20 PM, you have the freedom to plan your day as you like.
- Charming Destination: Varenna, a quaint village nestled on the shores of Lake Como, is a sight to behold and a delight to explore.
How to Book and Board the Milan to Varenna Train
Booking our tickets was a breeze. We used Trenord’s efficient online service, which also offers an app to store your digital tickets. Departing from Milano Centrale, you’ll head to Varenna-Esino station. The modern rolling stock operated by Trenord ensures a smooth ride.
A little tip: Always book for specific times but don’t worry if you miss your train. The staff are accommodating and will usually let you board the next one. However, do give yourself extra time to navigate the stations as they can be a bit confusing with not-so-clear signage.
Varenna on Lake Como: A Serene Escape
Upon arriving at Varenna, you’re greeted with the tranquil beauty of Lake Como. This village is a perfect blend of picturesque landscapes and Italian charm. It’s just a five-minute walk from the Varenna train station to the heart of the village, making it an easily accessible spot for travellers.
Varenna, with its delightful alleyways and waterfront dining options, offers a peaceful escape from the hustle of Milan. Despite encountering a rainy day on our trip, the allure of Varenna, with its sweet winding paths and views of the lake, was undeniably charming.
Getting to Bellagio from Varenna
Often referred to as the ‘pearl of the lake’, Bellagio is a key highlight of any Lake Como itinerary. It is easily accessible from Varenna too. Our initial plan was to visit Bellagio, but the rain had other plans. So, we immersed ourselves in the beauty of Varenna instead. If you’re luckier with the weather, here’s how to get there:
- Ferry Travel: The ferry from Varenna to Bellagio is not just a mode of transport, but a journey through the heart of Lake Como. For about €5 each way, the ferry offers frequent services, less so in winter, but still with enough options to fit your schedule. The ferry terminal, a mere five-minute walk from the Varenna train station, can’t be missed.
- Bellagio’s Charm: Bellagio, with its cobbled lanes and elegant architecture, is a treat for the senses. It’s a place where you can experience the luxurious tranquillity of Lake Como in full.
Why Lake Como?
Lake Como, the third-largest lake in Italy’s lake district, is a 46 km long expanse of natural beauty. It’s a region where snow-capped mountains meet the mystique of a deep blue lake. Ferries glide between hills that rise like islands from the water, and colourful buildings huddle at the mountains’ base, interspersed with ancient church steeples.
The landscape here is like a living painting, with roads and rail tunnels carved into sheer rock cliffs. The waterfront is adorned with sculpted gardens, Roman statues, and water fountains, creating a serene and almost surreal atmosphere. The air is fresh, and the sense of peace is palpable. It’s a place that must be experienced to be truly understood and appreciated.
Visit Lake Como in a Day Trip from Milan
For those looking to explore beyond Varenna, Lake Como has much to offer in 2024. Here are some of the year’s unmissable experiences:
- Gastronomic Delights: Indulge in authentic gelato flavors at Gelab Gelateria in Como, or for a scenic treat, visit La Passerella in Varenna.
- Hiking the Sentiero del Viandante: For nature lovers, this well-marked trail offers stunning landscapes and a unique adventure along the Lecco coast of the lake.
- Tempio Voltiano: A must-visit in Como, this museum celebrates the work of Alessandro Volta and is a journey through scientific history and picturesque settings.
Exploring Varenna on a Day Trip from Milan to Lake Como
Varenna, nestled in the Lombardy region, is a jewel on the lake. With its picture-postcard beauty, this village is more than just a stop; it’s an experience. A five-minute walk from the train station leads you into its heart.
Remember to wear comfortable shoes, as the stairways in Varenna are long and steep. That said, every step is worth the stunning views you’ll encounter.
Despite our rainy day visit, the allure of Varenna remained undimmed. Its charming alleyways and waterfront dining provide a serene escape. Even under cloudy skies, the beauty of this place shines through making it a worthwhile destination in any weather.
Luxurious Moments in Bellagio and Beyond
While we embraced the quaint charm of Varenna, Bellagio is just a short ferry ride away and offers its own unique splendour. Known for its elegant atmosphere and luxurious vibe, Bellagio is a haven of cobbled lanes and sophisticated buildings. Bellagio remains a key destination on Lake Como, offering visitors a blend of natural beauty, history, and culture.
- Villa Melzi Gardens: Explore the breath-taking botanical gardens of Villa Melzi for a small entrance fee, a testament to Bellagio’s lush beauty.
- Basilica of St. Giacomo: Visit this 12th-century basilica, a historical and architectural marvel, embodying the rich cultural heritage of the region.
Italian Treats Abound
A trip to Italy is incomplete without savouring its culinary offerings. In Lake Como, this means indulging in the region’s specialty dishes and treats. Here are some must-try experiences:
- Polenta: A staple of Lombardian cuisine, yellow polenta is a delicious dish you must try for an authentic taste of Como.
- Michelin-Starred Dining: For a luxurious dining experience, visit Ristorante Sottovoce in Como, the only restaurant with a lakefront terrace on the roof, offering an exceptional culinary journey.
Embracing Luxury and Nature in Lake Como
Lake Como in 2024 is not just about serene landscapes and quaint villages. It is also a destination for luxury and nature. Here are some top experiences you shouldn’t miss:
- Luxury Boat Rides: Experience the opulence of Lake Como with a luxury boat ride, a perfect choice for honeymooners or those seeking an exclusive experience.
- Outdoor Activities: For a more active experience, take a stroll in the town of Menaggio, or enjoy sunbathing on the public beaches near Como.
A Glimpse into the Future: Sustainable Travel
As we continue our journeys, Cooper and I are increasingly aware of the importance of sustainable travel. Lake Como and its surrounding regions are treasures that we must preserve for future generations. We encourage our fellow travellers to be mindful of your environmental impact, opt for eco-friendly accommodations, and support local businesses that practice sustainability.
Wrapping Up: The Timeless Beauty of Lake Como
Lake Como, with its blend of natural splendour, historical richness, and modern luxury, remains a timeless destination. Our journey on the Milan to Varenna train was just the beginning of a memorable adventure. We hope this guide inspires you to explore this magnificent region and create your own beautiful memories.
And remember, travel is not just about the destinations; it’s about the experiences, the people you meet, and the stories you create along the way.
Questions or comments…
I hope this updated guide helps clarify any queries or concerns you may have about undertaking a self-guided day trip on the train from Milan to Lake Como. Whether it’s the charm of Varenna or the elegance of Bellagio, Lake Como offers a tranquil glimpse into the beauty of Italy.
Despite our minor hiccups with rain and train timings, our day trip was close to perfect, filled with scenic views, delightful cuisine, and the serene ambiance of the lake.
On this week-long trip across Italy, we not only discovered the quaint charm of Varenna but also experienced so much more. We continued our exploration to Verona and Venice, embracing the diversity and beauty of Italy’s landscapes and culture. Stay tuned to our blog for more insights and stories from these attractive destinations.
In this series – a week across Italy by train:
– Milan to Lake Como, via Varenna and Bellagio [you’re reading it]