Often a journey is just as memorable as the destination itself and a Lake Como road trip is no exception.
One of the best road trips that you can take in Italy is from Milan – the most cosmopolitan of Italian cities, to the peaceful little villages on nearby Lake Como.
Head up to Lake Como from Milan and make sure you make a series of fantastic stops on the way. Como, at the Southern tip of the Lake, is just 50 km from Milan, while the town of Bellagio is over 80 away.
Not only is the destination of Lake Como absolutely amazing, but the road trip itself is also pretty stellar as you navigate the mountains, its twisting lakeside lanes, and charming towns.
Not only is Milan one of of Orbzii’s favourite Italian cities thanks to its bustling shopping streets, beautiful architecture and chic cafe culture, it’s also conveniently the gateway to Lake Como too, making this an ideal starting point for your Lake Como road trip adventure.
If you are looking for the ultimate juxtaposition of Italian architecture, start your Lake Como road trip from the Porta Nuova district of Milan.
An invariable glittering skyline of futuristic buildings that is home to designer shops, contemporary apartments, cultural centres and offices, this neighbourhood may not have much in the way of traditional Italian architecture, but if you are looking to be dazzled by a more pioneering cityscape, then why not grab a coffee and a sandwich from Pescaria for the road
One of our favourite districts in Milan is Navigli, it’s often referred to as a Milanese equivalent of New York’s Williamsburg or London’s Shoreditch, this hipster neighbourhood is as known for its stellar selection of trendy bars, restaurants, vintage shops and bijou art galleries popping up all along the streets as much as it is known for its navigable system of canals that dates back to the the 12th century.
Get lost in the side streets and the picture-perfect too courtyards and don’t forget to enjoy a drink at the world’s smallest bar – Backdoor 43 which sits at a mere four square metres and that’s including the tiny unisex bathroom). As you might expect this quirky little bar gets a smidge chocka, so be sure to book in advance to get your pew secured
Once you have satisfied your Milan ‘itch’, head along the A9 towards Como, it shouldn’t take you any more time than 35-40 minutes. Como is one of the prettiest cities in this region and is one of the highlights of a Lake Como road trip.
From perusing the market stalls that adorn the mediaeval city walls at the Piazza Vittoria to exploring the ancient churches, there’s so many things to do in Lake Como.
For those that love to shop, make sure you don’t miss the fabulous outdoor market which is only open on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8 am to 1 pm, and on Saturdays from 8 am to 6 pm next to Porta Torre (which is the main entrance of the old town) where you will find a superb selection of everything from artisan cheese to vintage clothing.
A Lake Como road trip cannot be without a visit to the Como Cathedral (Duomo di Como) in Piazza del Duomo. Visiting this striking building is one of the most popular things to do in Como, since the church encompasses a myriad of architectural styles from Romanesque to Gothic.
If you prefer more of a contemporary twist when it comes to art and architecture, make sure you don’t miss the avant-garde monument ‘Life Electric’ which is a tribute to physicist Alessandro Volta by sculptor Daniel Libeskind.
Orbzii Insider Tip
For one of the best and the most breathtaking views of the city of Como? As part of your Lake Como road trip, drive on over to Brunate a town that overlooks Como and take a ride on the cable car where you can enjoy far-reaching and fantastic views of Como city and beyond.
Take a scenic drive to the picturesque city of Lenno, but make sure that you make a pit stop to
Villa d’Este along the way. It’s located on a thrill-a-minute road called Via Regina, that wraps around the lake and offers out-of-this-world views around every corner as you navigate this narrow road and pass the prettiest pastel-coloured villas.
Villa d’Este was originally built as a summer home for the Cardinal of Como in 1586 and is now one of the region’s finest hotels as well as one of the best restaurants in Lake Como.
Enjoy an espresso and admire the lakeside vistas and take a stroll through the lush gardens where you will find magnificent fountains, grand terraces and fragrant flora and fauna.
In Lenno itself which sits on the western shore on Lake Como, you will find a great selection of cafes, bars and restaurants and café bars as well as the insta-worthy Villa del Balbianello which was one of the filming locations in the 2006 James Bond blockbuster Casino Royale.
It’s one of the region’s best-preserved villas and is a must-visit for your Lake Como road trip bucket list. The lakefront Lido di Lenno is widely regarded as one of Lake Como’s best beaches.
If the heat gets too much for you, head to one of the handy cabanas and take cover with a cooling glass of Asti Spumante.
As you navigate the roads from Lenno through to Tremezzina, make sure that you carve out some time to visit Varenna; a picturesque and traditional village, located on the eastern shore of Lake Como.
You can’t miss including Varenna in your Lake Como road trip, meander along the famous lovers’ promenade and the steep narrow cobbled streets which are dotted with cafes and restaurants along the way.
Pay a visit to Villa Monastero, a historic mansion that overlooks the shores of the lake which is undoubtedly one of the main attractions of the colourful village of Varenna.
The villa is surrounded by a gorgeous botanical garden which is home to some of the rarest botanical species from all over the world.
If you live for all things flora and fauna then why not pay a visit to Villa Cipressi, a hotel and restaurant with an equally enchanting botanical garden. This hotel and surrounding garden is like stepping into a fairytale and the buildings originate from the 1400’s.
Are you ready to hit the water yet? It was always going to be a big part of your Lake Como road trip! It’s time to head over to Bellagio and the best way to get there is via the ferry. It only takes 15 minutes and only costs between €2 – €4.
Bellagio is Lago di Como’s most popular town and it’s easy to see why.
From the Parco Martiri della Libertà; a grand botanical garden-esque park near the centre of Bellagio to the charming streets where you can find some fantastic cafes and restaurants to enjoy a casual lunch or coffee.
Bellagio which is often referred to as the ‘pearl of Lake Como’ has a real cosmopolitan and elegant vibe and is more commercial than the likes of Nesso and Menaggio, but you can’t fail to be charmed by its unrivalled coastal views and its Instagrammable pastel-hued houses that line the cobbled streets.
It’s time to head back to Milano! It might be a short drive, but make sure you get the soundtrack and the snacks on point and wind your way out of Bellagio through the tiny hamlets and fishing villages towards Torno. Your Lake Como road trip may be coming to an end, but there’s still plenty of fab things to see along the way,
Torno has been captivating international visitors for centuries and it was the favourite haunt of the glitterati which included the likes of Leonardo da Vinci, Lord Byron and Percy Shelley who stayed here.
Sipping a coffee at the little port in Torno is like stepping back in time. Enjoy the slower pace of life before you depart for the hustle and bustle of the city and can reminisce about your Lake Como road trip.