Lake Como: Milan's Hidden Secret
by Sofia Abrantes
Oh, the glorious city of Milano! Best known for it’s unforgettable pizza, pasta, and for being the capital of fashion, Milan is one of the many cities of Italy that has got everyone’s attention; from movie stars and fashion designers to university students. But especially for you university students out there, like myself, cities like Milan can get quite pricey (from accommodation to museum entries and entertainment). It was because of this that, on a recent city break from university life to Milan, my boyfriend and decided to look beyond the typical city guides and “Top 10 Must Sees” and did some research on the surrounding areas. The result of our research was simply breathtaking and because of this I’d like to share my experience with you to hopefully inspire you not only to visit it, but also to start thinking outside of the box whenever you decide to embark on an adventure to a big city like Milan.
When Is The Best Time to Visit Lake Como?
As you can probably tell from the pictures (I have a jacket on) we went there during the winter, more specifically beginning of March. From our experience, any time that is not raining and not too cold (it was 15 C when we went) is a great time to visit. We could tell by the amount of tourist stores and information that in the spring/summer seasons it might get crowded, so despite how appetising a lake might sound in the summer, winter is your best bet if you want a peaceful and quiet visit. It almost felt like we were at a private island! Bonus: the mountains were still green but had snow at the tips… incredibly beautiful!
First Things First, How To Get There:
Getting to Lake Como is not only easy, but it’s also extremely cheap and super fast! From Milan’s Central Station (“Centrale”) the train company Trenord has hourly trains to a town called Varenna-Esino. These tickets are easy to purchase at the station through one of Trenord’s vending machines and each ticket is 6,50€. On the machine it asks that you choose the date and time, but my boyfriend and I discovered that the neither the date nor the time gets printed on the ticket, so we purchased both the outbound and return ticket. The return ticket we selected was supposedly for the 17:47 train, but we took the 16:47 train back with no problems! Once you have the tickets you must look at the screens for the platform (this train’s final destination is “Tirano” so you will have to search for that name on the boards) and “voila”! You’re ready to go! After passing security and getting near the actual train you’ll have to get your ticket marked by a little machine that shouldn’t be too hard to find (near the train) in order to validate your ticket. Don’t forget to do that on the way back too!
You’re At Varenna-Esino, So What Now?
Congratulations you’ve made it! So now what? As you probably could tell by the beautiful scenery you will have witnessed on the train (please tell me you were looking out the window and not at your phone!) anywhere you go/look is pretty much gorgeous. However, if you want to follow what we did and visit the small village of Bellagio, your next step is to get on the ferry. Before I get into that however I really recommend you just walk around and explore! Don’t worry, it is pretty much impossible to get lost. The ferries leave every half-hour and are a little pricey (8€ each way) but definitely worth it! It is not simply a method of transportation to the other side of the lake; it allows you to see all the little villages amongst the mountains on your way there. On our way back, the ferry stopped at three other villages before it got back to Varenna-Esino, which meant we got a lot of site-seeing done without actually leaving the ferry!
Bellagio in All It’s Glory
The village of Bellagio is one of the most visited villages at Lake Como, and has beautiful little streets, amazing architecture, and several cafes with traditional pastries that are definitely worth exploring. Take your time, be adventurous, and walk up and down these streets. Don’t forget to take plenty of pictures as well as take in the view. One of the most noticeable things I observed while there was that workers at cafes and shops all speak English due to it being a tourist location, which is not very common in Italy. Small disclaimer: watch out if you order a hot chocolate at a cafe, we learned the hard way this means they literally melt chocolate and serve it in a cup. We were scared that if we waited too long it would turn solid again. Don’t get me wrong, it was absolutely delicious, but we were looking to quench our thirst and ended up even thirstier! Another cool tip is that if you go near the lake and are patient enough you can get up close and personal with beautiful swans.
The Journey Home
Once you’ve taken in all the views that Lake Como has to offer (and hopefully without ending up with a sunburn on your nose like my boyfriend and I; yes tanning when it’s cloudy is a thing, be careful!) it is time to return home. If you’ve done it correctly you’ll be dozing off on the train, we walked so much that we had to return to our hotel in Milan and take a nap before we headed out for dinner. All in all you’ve hopefully had an incredible experience and will be feeling calm and relaxed.
If you’d like to check out the video of the trip, you can find the youtube link here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y6NEMUIbEPY
Enjoy and happy travelling!