On our busy tour around Northern Italy—which included Trieste, Venice, Bologna, Bergamo, Brescia, and Verona—Big & Small fell head over heels for the spectacular Lake Como. With its glistening waters rippling against the foothills of the Alps and its scenic towns colored by stacks of modest abodes and luxury villas, it’s hard not to fall in love. Even big-name celebrities like George Clooney and Madonna have been unable to resist its charms.
This kind of high-profile place can be intimidating for budget travelers, but Big & Small were able to keep costs low while taking in all the natural beauty and effortless elegance of this Italian gem—it just takes a little strategizing. Here, we offer some tips on how to enjoy a quick 48-hour trip to Lake Como on a budget. And click the video above for more information!
- Visit in the Low Season (Early Fall/Late Spring)
We are total believers in low-season travel, which typically means fewer crowds and lower prices. We visited Lake Como in mid-September, an ideal time to capture some rays on the lake and take in all the lakeside attractions.
- Stay in the Town of Lecco
Located on the south-eastern part of the lake, Lecco is in a strategic position. You can get there in under 40 minutes from Milan or Bergamo via train, and you can easily hop on a ferry to access other major towns along the lake. It’s a cool little city, too, with great shops and restaurants. We found a spacious AirBnB studio in Lecco, just a 2-minute walk from the lake, for about $65 (USD) per night. Check out the video to see what we got for this price!
- Bounce on the Lecco Trampolines!
Sure, you can take a nice jog lakeside, but how often can you find a trampoline with such a spectacular backdrop? We happened upon a small outdoor trampoline park, about a 5-minute walk north of the Lecco ferry terminal, and enjoyed 10 minutes of jump time for just €2 per person. It was a great adrenaline boost before our busy day on the lake.
- Skip the Car and Get Around Via Ferries and Trains
Forget the stress of navigating narrow, curvy roads (and fast Italian drivers!), and sit back and relax on a ferry or train. Lake Como is filled with cute towns to discover, many easily accessible without a car. Tip #5 below is our recommended day trip for hopping between two of the lake’s most popular villages.
- Take a Day Trip to Bellagio and Varenna
Panoramic Lake View from Bellagio
Landing in Varenna
From Lecco, take a 90-minute ferry to Bellagio (€8,30). This posh town boasts world-class hotels and restaurants among its hidden alleys, cobbled stairways, and panoramic lake views. Schedule in a few hours to walk around the historical center and grab a panino or gelato. Here, you’ll find a few recommended walking tours through nearby mini-villages as well. From Bellagio, take a quick 15-minute ferry across the lake to Varenna (€4,60). Upon arrival, take a stroll along the shore-hugging path, part of the 6-km Greenway dei Patriarchi. When you’re ready to head back, make your way to the Varenna train station for a 25-minute train back to Lecco (€2,90). Transportation for the day totaled to just €15,80 per person (these prices are from September 2017).