From Milan, you can catch a direct train north to Como, which takes about an hour. However, I’d advise spending an extra 15 minutes on the train and heading to the town of Varenna instead. Varenna is much more charming than Como, and it’s aptly positioned halfway up the eastern side of the lake which makes it an ideal base for exploring by bike.
If you heed my advice and stay at least one night at Lake Como, then you’ll want to head across the lake to Menaggio. Either way, purchase a ferry day pass in Varenna because you’re definitely going to need it to explore the villages around the lake by bike.
Accommodation on Lake Como
If you’re not jetting back to Milan right away, book yourself a bed at Il Perlo Panorama. The Hotel is located on the top a hill facing the lake, about 3 km from the town centre. The hotel has a small garden, balcony, and an unforgettable view of the lake. The do offer special services for bikers, making them the perfect bike-friendly hotel on Lake Como.
Exploring Lake Como
If all you have is one day to explore Lake Como, stick to the holy trinity of Varenna – Menaggio – Bellagio. These three towns in the heart of the lake are all connected via a 15 minute ferry ride with routes that form a triangle.
While there are other towns and villages around Lake Como, these three are close together, easy to travel between, and exceedingly pretty. You’ll be able to amble down cobblestone streets and glimpse views of the lake and surrounding mountains no matter which village you’re in. By devoting a full day to explore them, you’ll have plenty of time to slow down and savour the proverbial dolce vita without feeling like a tourist.
Of the three villages, Bellagio is the runaway favourite amongst visitors to Lake Como. With near-360 degree views from the headland at the centre of the lake, there’s a pretty decent chance it’ll be your favourite, too.
Villa Serbelloni hosts the best panoramic view of Lake Como: if you’re a guest at this five star resort, you get a literal front row seat. The rest of us can sneak a peek through the gates or opt to take a guided tour of the grounds and gardens, which costs €9 for an hour and a half tour.
But you don’t have to splash out on a fancy tours to enjoy the best of Bellagio. All you need is a bike and a sense of adventure as you meander through the maze of cobblestone streets and wander to nearby villages and hamlets along the lake.
Pescallo is an extremely picturesque little fishing hamlet near Bellagio. There’s an excellent chance you’ll be able to soak in the vistas of terraced hills and sailboats without another person in sight.
And of course, should your wallet be burning a hole through your pocket or bag, there are plenty of boutiques and restaurants in Bellagio, Varenna, and Menaggio that would be happy to take your money. Whatever you do, make sure you indulge at Panna e Cioccolata in Menaggio, which is deemed to have the best gelato in all of Italy, largely due to its use of fresh, all natural ingredients.