I was heading to Barcelona to check out the micro country of Andorra when flights suddenly went upside down. Since I love first class, I hopped on to a wide open Milan flight. And then began a frantic search for somewhere to go.
Don’t get me wrong, Milan is nice but I fly there for work so wanted to go a little further outside of Milan. My first thought was Lake Maggiore. But it turn out everything is closed from December until the spring. Second idea was San Marino but I really needed more than two days. So I’m saving that for a longer trip.
I ended up settling on Lake Como. It’s not that I don’t love Lake Como. I do. But I have been on a tour before. But I didn’t have a lot of options. So I headed to Como to check out Varenna and Bellagio.
Arrival in Milan Malpensa airport took longer than usual. There is usually no lines. Had about 45 minute wait through customs, which is unusual. It’s usually very fast.
After exiting the secure area, you go directly left almost all the way down towards the trains sign and Sheraton Hotel sign. You take an escalator down one level and then walk through a tunnel. There’s a train ticket office right there and they will help you plan the best route to your destination.
I thought to go MXP to Cadorna to Como de Lago. The ticket counter said go via Saronno and then Lake Como. $10.50 euro one way. Waiting for train about 20 minutes and then I was off! It took one hour from landing, customs and train departure.
Twenty minutes from mxp to my first stop I’m in Saronno. I get off and have no clue where to go. I don’t see Como listed on computer screen. I head to the office and ask. They direct me to my platform and I have a 20 minute wait. Several of the screens only list the end destination, not all the stops so check with someone!
Ps. The look here for women seems to be puffer jackets and black short boots. Like a Chelsea shirt boot or black doc martins. With ankle length jeans or black leggings.
The train leaves late. About 9:15 am. It takes about an hour and twenty minutes to Como de Lago Nord station total train time. It was clean and comfortable with several stops. The Como de Lago Nord stop is clean. It’s not like a grubby scary train terminal. It’s safe and clean.
After you exit, you walk straight out onto beautiful Lake Como. I hung a left and walked a few feet to my hotel. The Palace Hotel. The first time I was here, I walked by this hotel and thought the location was perfect. Next to the train station and overlooking Lake Como.
I walked in and asked for a rate for one night. It was $150 euro for street view and $200 euro for water view. I went with the cheap version. Included breakfast too. Rooms are small but clean. Shower had pretty good pressure. I would stay here again because the location is perfect.
After showering and getting ready, I quickly spoke to the concierge and made a plan. The ferry station is also a couple blocks from the hotel. So very convenient.
I bought a ticket to Bellagio. $14.50 euro one way for the fast boat. Oddly they only sell you one leg at a time. The ferry boat has more limited times in winter. So be careful to check. Also, note everything is closed in winter. Every villa and garden. It was super disappointing. I think one was open with limited winter dates, Villa del Balbianello. But the times didn’t work for me. Also a lot of the stores and restaurants were closed as well. So while I got some great solo photos, there’s a lot missing.
The fast boat still takes a good hour to get to Bellagio. The left side is better than the right and views are better up front. After disembarking, I cruised around the old town. I then caught a slow ferry to Varenna and walked around. Both were gorgeous. I then caught the fast ferry back to Como. Roughly an hour and twenty minutes return ferry ride. Both Bellagio and Varenna were beautiful.
Back In Como they had a beautiful Christmas market in the Old Town. Beautifully decorated with tons of wooden stalls with festive foods and treats. There is nothing like the Christmas markets in Europe. So well done. Como was the only town I visited with a Christmas market.
I wandered over to Il Ducato for dinner. Number 7 on TripAdvisor. I got the burrata and prosciutto and farfalle Bolognese pasta. Delicious. Then off to bed!
The next morning I slept in and missed my free breakfast. They really ought to offer breakfast until 11am. Here it is was only from 7am to 10am. So sadly I can’t review the food at the hotel.
I decided to take the funicular up to Brunate before heading back on the ferry to another lake town. First ferry was 7:30 am or 12:25pm. Not a lot of options. The funicular was $5.50 euro round trip. You get great views of the lake.
I jumped back on the ferry at 12:25pm. 40 minute ferry ride to the town of Argegno. I decided to head there and take the funicular up to Pigra. Note the funicular also runs at odd hours in winter.
So I stopped for lunch at Albergo. Had a cappuccino and pizza. Yum.
Then I headed up the funicular. It’s to the right of the boat dock. Roughly 10 minute walk past the old church. The funicular was $3 euro round trip. I can tell you that the funicular in Como is 100 times better. The views were blocked by the cables and there’s nothing to do up in Pigra in winter. Apparently there are some hiking trails but I was so alone, so I got nervous and headed back.
Of course I had way to much time before the next ferry so I got a aperol spritz on the lake. There’s not much else to do in Albergo.
I then took the Ferry back to Como and train over to Mxp airport. Be wary of train times by the way. My hotel concierge found me a direct train to airport. It did not exist at train station. Also trains can run a few minutes late. So I did a 45 minute ride to Saronno with multiple stops and then had a twenty minute stop til my train to MXP which was another 20 minutes. So roughly hour and twenty minutes total time. I did have to go inside the ticket office to see which track had the connection. $10.50 euro. Very easy.
Stayed at the Sheraton Malpensa airport. Check out my review.
In the morning, I walked out of my hotel and straight into terminal. Delta Check in counter is all the way to the left. After I checked in, trekked to security. Lines were long, but I’ve been there when it’s quick. Then walk through stores to customs. Lines can be long here as well. This time, no line. Then another long walk to gate. It’s a good 45 minutes and my lines were pretty good so make sure you arrive at the airport at least two hours before departure.
Then I waited to be cleared for a seat. Milan will clear you right away but will not allow non revenue passengers to board until the end. I got first class which is Always a wonderful end to a great trip!
•• so what to change and fix???
1) not much open in Como in winter. Only town with Christmas market was Como. You only need an hour in each town because nothing is open. Had the villas been open, you could probably spend 4-8 hours in each place.
So for sure, two days max in winter, December to March. Christmas markets in December in Como.
In summer you could spend a few days. A day in Bellagio, a day in Varenna. Visiting the villas.
I would do shoulder season but check villa availability. It would be so nice with extra ferries and longer daylight hours.
Winter, only Como for Christmas markets. After that, even less to do. Cheap and Still beautiful but not a lot open so maybe a day or two maximum in the winter.