George Clooney has been the celebrity poster boy for Lake Como for decades. And other stars including Brad Pitt, Madonna, and Matt Damon have all flocked to the Italian shore for their summer holidays time and time again.
With its colourful villas and perfectly manicured estates lining the shores and the A-list recommendations, we decided to make it the second stop of our three-week trip to Italy over August.
We pre-booked a private tour of the lake aboard a gorgeous vintage wooden boat with Classic Como Boats before we arrived. It was by far the greatest experience on this trip, but I’ll get into that a little later in this post.
How to get there:
We travelled from Milan to Menaggio by private car, which took around two-and-a-half hours due to the heavy traffic once you hit Como. Alternatively, you can also get a train from Milan Centrale to Varenna Esino station for around $13. From Varenna, you’ll then need to hop on a ferry to get to whichever town around Lake Como that you’re staying in.
Where to stay:
Once you’ve picked a town you’d like to use as a base for your time in Lake Como, it’s time to book accommodation. We found a place called Hotel Garni Corona and it was ideal for our two nights there. It’s a boutique hotel in a beautiful yellow building nestled in amongst the mains streets of Menaggio. It’s very Italian in that it’s old-school, but it still had all the facilities and services you want in a hotel. The staff were very friendly and despite our room having a view of the main square and the lake, I wasn’t ever kept awake by any noise at night.
Getting around the Lake:
There’s a ferry that runs roughly every hour between the major towns, and you can purchase tickets at the dock in each town. The ferry will take you between the hot spots like Tremezzo, Bellagio, Menaggio, and Varenna. My biggest tip: Arrive at the dock to purchase your ferry tickets 15 minutes before the scheduled arrival. The lines are hectic during the day and it can take a long time to be served. Once you’re on the ferry, bask in all the glory that is Lake Como and enjoy the ride! It takes about 12 minutes to go from, say, Menaggio to Varenna.
If you really want to treat yo self:
As I mentioned previously, our private tour aboard a Riva Super Florida 391 wooden boat was by far the highlight of the trip. I mean, you could hire any boat and cruise around the lake and it would be a magical experience, but THIS boat is a freaking dream. It’s ideal for couples, but you can also book a similar style boat for larger groups of four or 6 people. We met our boat captain, Giovanni, at the dock in Menaggio at 5pm and the next two hours were spent being cruised around the 65km lake and peeking into all the immaculate villas that lined the shores. There are plenty of other boat companies that offer this service, but from what I saw, these guys were one of the very few that had the exact style of classic boats we were looking for.
Price: €550 (AUD$820) for two hours.
Best time to go: 5pm. Sunset in summer isn’t until around 8:15pm in Italy. We chose this 5pm time slot hoping that the sun would be in the perfect position to make for a comfortable experience, and it did! Not only that, the lighting is golden at this time and makes for idyllic photos. If you go earlier in the afternoon, you risk getting sunburnt or heat stroke from the severe August rays.
Booking: I reached out to Como Classic Boats via their website and went from there. The person on the other end spoke English very well and I confirmed everything via email. It’s also possible to cancel your booking any time beforehand if it’s raining or the water is too rough.
Payment types: There’s no deposits taken at the time of booking, so you make the payment in full to the captain at the end of your time on the boat, via cash or credit card.
Watch the video!
Photography: Tyler Reisz
Words: Jody Phan
Editing: Jody Phan