The best way to experience Lake Como is from the water – and the best way to take in its colorful lakeside villages, its elegant villas and its Alpine views is from a chauffeured boat. The twists and turns on the lake road can be hair-raising and traffic can ruin your day. The public ferry provides a convenient service for pedestrians and cars, but it doesn’t always go where you want. In fact, some of Lake Como’s best-loved sights are not easily accessible by car or ferry. That’s when you need a Bellagio water taxi you can rely on.

Our partners at Taxi Boat Service are great at what they do, they know every curve and cove across Lake Como and always provide their Lake Como water taxi service with a smile. Prices vary based on timing and season, but we’d be happy to arrange to rent a water taxi in Bellagio while you are at the Palazzo, as well as a guide to accompany you to provide insider insight and historical anecdotes. To give you an idea of the places best visited by boat, we’ve compiled a handy list with detailed information on tickets and timings.

Villa del Balbianello

Nothing quite compares to arriving by boat at the stunning Villa Balbianello. The yellow twin towers, the terra cotta roof tiles and the arched loggia climbing with vines make for a stellar photo op from the boat even before you arrive. When you step onto the small landing stage, the aristocratic air is unmistakable – wrought iron gates, stately urns atop vine-covered columns and barber shop-striped mooring poles. The gardens are an oasis of green with domed oaks, stately cypresses and a whole host of flowering plants that change with the seasons. Inside, you’ll have the chance to discover the eclectic collections of noted explorer and Renaissance man Guido Monzino: rare paintings on glass, ancient artifacts from China, Africa and South America and myriad memorabilia from Guido’s global adventures – including a narwhal horn and retro Mount Everest gear.

The trip takes around 30 minutes with a Bellagio water taxi, depending on the time you spend ogling the scenery and the lakeside villas! Villa del Balbianello is open every day except Mondays and Wednesdays from 10-6 from March to November (check the website for selected winter opening). A ticket for the gardens cost €10 per person, €5 for kids from 4-14. If you add the 60-minute guided tour of the house (entrance is with a guide only, hourly tours in Italian and English), the price is €20 for adults and €10 for kids from 4-14. Access may be limited when weddings and events are taking place at the villa.

Villa Carlotta

Villa Carlotta sits above the shoreline, as if on a throne, surveying the scenery and blessing the bounty of its botanical garden. Spanning over 17 acres, the garden invites you to stroll its romantic lanes past terraces and fountains, statues and stairways and through a dizzying array of vibrant rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias. Century-old trees ranging from cedars and palms to redwoods and plane trees are scattered across the property and 25 different species of bamboo grow in the ¾-acre bamboo garden. Inside, Villa Carlotta has been bestowed with masterpieces by Italy’s best painters and sculptors. The period furniture harks back to more elegant times and the stunning collection of plaster cameos has to be seen to be believed.

It only takes a few minutes by Bellagio water taxi, but you can extend the experience by viewing some lakeside villas and rounding the Bellagio promontory. Villa Carlotta is open from March to November from 10 to 6, and on weekends in November. During the winter months, visits are by appointment only. Tickets for the villa and gardens cost €10 for adults, €8 for seniors (ID required) and €5 for children and students from 6 to 26 (ID required for students). A family ticket for 2 adults and 2 children costs €20.

Villa d’Este and the Primo Bacino

Locals divide the southwestern branch of Lake Como into three basins, or bacini, the first of which – the primo bacino – stretches from the city of Como to the promontory of Torno. For centuries, this has been prime real estate for moguls and magnates, thanks to its proximity to Milan and the industrial hubs of Italy’s northern corridor. The result is a coastline lined with extravagant villas and manicured gardens – and there’s no better way to see them than with a Bellagio water taxi. There is Villa Erba, where film director Luciano Visconti sought inspiration; Villa Fontanelle, the site of Gianni Versace’s legendary supermodel-packed parties; and Villa Troubetzky, a chalet-inspired cottage built for an exiled Russian prince and his ballerina wife.

Perhaps the area’s most famous villa is the Grande Dame of Lake Como hotels – Villa d’Este. In your Bellagio water taxi, you’ll arrive in style, disembarking at the hotel’s private pier and strolling through the gardens to the lakeside terrace for lunch. Enjoy the elegant park after your meal: its balustrades, grottos and fountains are adorned with nymphs and dragons and its exotic and native flowering plants and trees are truly a playground for the senses

Plan to spend about one to two hours in the boat cruising from Bellagio to the primo bacino in your Bellagio water taxi, admiring the villas and then stopping at Villa d’Este for lunch. The Veranda is elegant under its striped awning and provides haute cuisine (at “haute” prices as well!). Il Platano is slightly less formal and the Sundeck offers light lunches and snacks by the pool (reservations recommended).

Varenna

One of our favorite day trips is the lovely lakeside village of Varenna. Not only is its historical center a charming place for an ice cream, a coffee and a bit of souvenir shopping, but it is also home to some very historic sights. With a Bellagio water taxi, the trip only takes about 10-15 minutes, but you can enjoy the best sights of the Central Lake Area along the way – the villas described above and the Bellagio promontory itself with the mountain panorama rising behind the eastern shore. In Varenna, your options depend on your physical fitness and whether you like your palaces more medieval or modernist.

The turrets and towers of the 12th-century Castello di Vezio are already visible from the water, but you’ve got to work to get there. The steep, uphill walk lasts between 30-60 minutes, depending on your level of fitness, but the trek through ancient villages and past a welcome water fountain fed by a mountain spring is worth every step. Once at the top, you’ll thrill to the panoramic views of the lake and the falconry demonstrations from the resident falconiera. Open from March to November (closed in inclement weather), the entrance fee is €4 for adults, €2 for children from 7-12.

Slightly less strenuous is a visit to Villa Monastero on the shore. Like many lakeside estates, Villa Monastero has a fascinating history. First a convent for nuns fleeing the fires of Isola Comacina, then a lakeside retreat for magnates in the iron ore business in the 16th century. German businessman Walter Kees bought the villa at the turn of the 20th century and his additions in an eclectic neo-Baroque, neo-Classical and Belle Epoque mix are the star attractions of the house museum today – along with exotic species in the stunning botanic gardens. The final owner, Dr. Marco de Marchi, was a famous patron of the sciences, and the villa still hosts numerous scientific symposia and conferences today. Open from March to November and on select weekends and holidays during the winter (check the website), the entrance fee is €5 for the gardens, €8 for the garden and the house (children under 11 go free).