When you’re in Bellagio, it often feels like you are miles away from civilization. Time seems to stand still on its cobbled lanes and secret stone stairways, and it seems like a secret island paradise with water on all sides of the promontory. Despite appearances to the contrary, getting to Bellagio couldn’t be easier! All manner of planes, trains and automobiles (and boats!) will bring you to the famous Pearl of the Lario, but be forewarned – once you get here, you may never want to leave.
The closest airports to Bellagio are Milan Malpensa, Milan Linate and Orio al Serio in Bergamo. Each is roughly 90 minutes from Bellagio by car, but traffic, road works and Lake Como’s notoriously narrow lake roads can push the trip to two hours. Malpensa is the only airport with a direct train connection – the Malpensa Express takes you to either Cadorna or Centrale station in Milan in between 40 and 50 minutes.
Without a train station of its own, Bellagio isn’t directly accessible by rail. Trains from Milano Centrale to Como station take about 40 minutes and leave once per hour. The No. 8 from Milano Centrale to Varenna gets you that bit closer to Bellagio, leaving every two hours and taking about 60 minutes. There’s also a direct train from Lugano to Como that only takes 30 minutes. Whether it’s from Florence, Venice, Turin or Genoa, most trains leading to Lake Como from elsewhere in Italy will route you through Milan Centrale. See below for ferry connections from Como and Varenna.
Driving on Lake Como is not for everyone. Being as long and thin as it is, Lake Como has 100+ miles of lake road, and, as a glacial lake from the last ice age, the steep slopes at its shores leave precious little space for vehicles. Add to that merciless bus and truck drivers, daredevil motorcyclists and clueless tourists focused on the views – and well, you get the idea. That said, having a car gives you the flexibility to visit out-of-the-way places, particularly if you opt for a compact car that can make room for passing vehicles. If you choose to get to Bellagio by car, you can take the lake road from Como or Lecco or opt for the mountain road up the so-called Dorsale del Triangolo Lariano (the triangle-shaped mountainous territory between the two southern branches of the lake), which is slightly less hair-raising and has some fantastic views. Either way, the trip will take about an hour.
The ideal way to get to Bellagio is by private transfer. Our partners at IC Bellagio would be more than happy to arrange collection at any of the airports or train stations, and bring you to Bellagio in style. We have been working with most of our drivers for several years and can vouch for their safety standards, their command of English and their wealth of knowledge about the local culture. Plus, you will be able to just sit back, revel in the views and leave the navigating to the professionals.
Lake Como is blessed with a very efficient, very reasonable public ferry system run by the Navigazione Lago di Como. Three major types of boats run regularly up and down the lake: batello, aliscafo or traghetto.
The batello is the best option for vacationers with plenty of time on their hands to enjoy the view. You can sit indoors or outdoors as the boat weaves its way from shore to shore and get a good idea of the lakefront towns and villas you want to visit later. Plan around two hours for the trip from Como to Bellagio by batello. If you catch the boat in Varenna, the trip to Bellagio only takes about 15 minutes.
The aliscafo is the rapid-service hydrofoil. The advantage with the hydrofoil is that the trip from Como to Bellagio takes less than an hour. The disadvantage is that there is no outdoor seating and no leisurely put-putting past the idyllic scenery – and it doesn’t stop at every station.
Varenna, Menaggio and Bellagio are the only towns serviced by the traghetto, or car ferry. It’s a great way to avoid a long car journey to points east or west, whether you’re heading for the lakes of Switzerland or the vineyards of the Valtellina. The trip takes about 30 minutes each way and the ferries run from early morning to late night.
(Check out the website of Navigazione Lago di Como for up-to-date timetables.)
IC Bellagio would be more than happy to arrange for a water taxi to Bellagio from any point on the lake. Our trusted suppliers have outstanding watercraft and friendly captains with a world of knowledge on Lake Como. Taking a water taxi gives guests the opportunity to linger at particularly lovely lakefront sights and even stop off for a coffee or a meal en route to Bellagio.
What to see on your way to Bellagio
Whether you take planes, trains, automobiles or boats to Bellagio, there are a host of interesting sights to visit along the way. Here are just a few examples of what awaits you on your way to the Pearl of the Lario.
Madonna di Ghisallo
If you decide to take the mountain road from Como or Lecco to Bellagio, stop off at Madonna del Ghisallo, a lovely little church with sweeping views of the lake and the mountains beyond. The hairpin turns and challenging climbs of these mountain roads are popular among cyclists, and over time, Madonna del Ghisallo has become a mecca of sorts for cyclists, with bicycles, jerseys and other memorabilia from famous ciclisti displayed at the church and the adjacent museum.
Particularly en route from Milan’s Linate airport, the Royal Villa of Monza, an 18th-century hunting lodge turned Versailles-inspired estate, is worth the stop. Recent renovations have restored the palace to its former glory, and the vast park today contains stunning gardens, a Formula One racetrack and miles of verdant walking and biking trails. The 14th-century Duomo in the cute town center is home to the Iron Crown, which is reputed to include a nail from the True Cross and was used to coronate over 30 kings and emperors, including Charlemagne and Napoleon.
On the way to Bellagio from Milan Malpensa, the Fox Town outlet mall is a great place to stop. This shopper’s paradise just a few miles across the Swiss border has a dizzying array of over 150 shops, including fashion brands from Armani to Versace and discounted prices in shoes, sportswear, intimates, housewares and even chocolate. Since Fox Town is open seven days a week from 11 to 7 (closed for only 5 major holidays!), it’s always a good time to browse the bargains…