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Lake Como offers breathtaking views, stunning scenery and classic Italian villages. Some of these have been pimped for the tourist dollar but others remain a fond reminder of days gone by. Lake Como has been popular for centuries as a haven for the rich and famous. When you are not busy keeping an eye out for the likes of George Clooney and friends, there is plenty to see and do. Here are 5 tips for visiting Lake Como.

1. Lake Como accommodation

The main town of Como, where the train station is located, is the best and most popular jumping off point for most visitors. Como is the area’s largest town and has its own sights and attractions. It is the place to come for stocking up on food and other supplies, particularly if you are self-catering. Lake Como has an abundant assortment of hotels, guest houses, B&Bs and backpackers. You can also stay at one of the towns around the lake. If you are planning on sightseeing around the lake most days, then spending less on your accommodation isn’t such a bad idea. However, do look for accommodation with a view so you can can enjoy those famous Lake Como views before you head out each morning and soak up the sunset over the lake with a glass of wine on your return.

Lake Como
View from our Airbnb

2. Which Lake Como town should you stay in

Lake Como is fine however it doesn’t offer the picture postcard experience many visitors are seeking. If you want to stay in a classic Lake Como town but don’t have a movie star’s budget, skip well known spots such as Bellagio. Staying in one of the lesser known towns can save a lot of money. Not only will your accommodation be cheaper, the views are just as good. Even better, these lesser known towns are also far less touristed and therefore offer a more authentic Italian experience. We stayed at a charming Airbnb for the price of a hotel room and enjoyed the fun of being able to pick up Italian delights from providores in Como and self-cater for breakfast and dinner each day.

Lake Como
Stay at a smaller town

3. Lake Como transport

Lake Como is much larger than it looks on the map. There is a network of ferries and buses and traveling by car is also an option. However, if you travel by car, parking could be a challenge at your destination as many of the lake towns don’t allow cars in the town centre. The best and most picturesque option is the ferries which offer an extensive network and timetable that connects with almost all of the towns around the lake. Travelling around the lake does take some time so don’t be in a rush.

Plan ahead for what stops you want to get off at and explore and then consider getting the Express hydro foil back. The hydro foil from Bellagio to Como takes around 30 minutes; the all-stops trip takes around 2 hours. The all stops trip is lovely to do one-way but you don’t really want to do it a second time as this adds up to 4 hours travel time, not including getting off the ferry and exploring a few towns. If you want to take the Express back to your accommodation, buy your ticket in the morning as these sell out during the day. During peak season, you might even have trouble getting on one of the slower ferries if you leave it until the last minute to buy your fare.

Lake Como ferry
Take an all-stops ferry and explore

4. Lake Como budget

One (unwelcome) surprise is the cost of travelling around the lake each day as this can add up very quickly. We spent around AU$120 for a family of three each day just on public ferry tickets. Admittedly, the poor exchange rate had an impact on this amount, but even if your currency is stronger than the Australian dollar, getting around Lake Como is not exactly cheap. Normally a day ticket is the best option and only expires when you return to the port of boarding.

We discovered another advantage of staying in a less touristed town when it came time to buy our first lot of ferry tickets. Our ticket seller only had a handful of customers most days and was happy to have a chat and help us choose the best option. In our case, this involved an all-stops one-way ticket to our final destination of Bellagio and an Express ticket back to Como, with a single fare ticket on the local ferry from Como for the one stop trip back to our accommodation.

Lake Como food
Self catering is a pleasure in Italy

5. Lake Como things to do

Before you arrive, have a think about what type of Lake Como experience you would enjoy most. Lake Como is best known for its picturesque scenery and pretty towns. However, you can also experience a different side of Lake Como. Jungle Raider Park has a zip line and ropes course that is perfect for adrenalin junkies and fit families. Or if romance is your thing, book a sea plane trip around the lake with lunch at one of the iconic lakeside hotels. It’s not a cheap day out but it is certainly memorable.

You can also take a flying lesson as the Lake Como Aero Club which has modern and vintage sea planes available for people to fly (beginners are welcome). If you are at home on the water, you can hire your own boat and explore the small coves and tie up at one of the piers for lunch or coffee with a swim off the boat as a bonus. You can also go for a cable car ride in the main town of Como for something different plus you get to enjoy that famous Lake Como view.

Disclosure: The writer visited Lake Como at her own expense and loved it (except for those pricey ferry tickets). 

If you are passing through Rome while you’re in Italy and looking for things to do, we enjoyed touring the Colosseum and also our food tours around Campo di Fiore and Trasevere. If you want something a little different, check out these Rome hidden secrets.

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Dr Tiana Templeman is an award-winning food and travel journalist, travel author and media industry academic. She is the creator of The Travel Temple, writes for Australian and international media outlets and appears on radio talking about where to go, what to see and travel industry trends.