Lake Como by Ferry, Foot, and Funicular!
Our favorite ways to get around this lake in Northern Italy were a bit unusual.
Italy’s fabulous Lake Como is 46 kilometers long. That means if you want to really see the lake, you need some way to get around.
There are roads around the entire lake, and trains run up the eastern shore, which means cars and (especially) buses and trains definitely have a place in any visit to this area.
But our favorite methods of Como transportation were:
Funicular (and cable car).
And also float-plane! (But that’s the subject of another article.)
Lake Como by Ferry
We wrote previously how much we’ve enjoyed riding the ferries up and down Lake Como. They’re the absolutely perfect way to see the lake itself, and also the many picturesque villages along its shores — not to mention a seemingly endless number of old Italian villas with their beautiful gardens.
The lake has a mixture of regular and high-speed passenger ferries (but the “high-speed” ferries are enclosed, which isn’t nearly as pleasant as being in an open-air boat, and they’re not that much faster). There are also car ferries (that take passengers too) in the direct center of the lake.
There’s a total of some 35 different boats in the Lake Como fleet. From the bigger ports, ferries arrive and leave throughout the day. (In the smaller ports, runs can stop surprisingly early in the evening.)
Alas, even with all these boats, we live in an age of over-tourism. There are no self-service ticket-buying options, and only limited online ones, so lines at the ticket windows can be ridiculously long. The boats also completely fill up in the summer high season, which means you may have to wait for the next ferry.
Meanwhile, the ferry schedules seemed hopelessly complicated to our non-Italian eyes. Definitely download the Navigazione Laghi app. Or better yet, ask one of these handsome crewmembers for help:
Lake Como by Foot
Lake Como is situated at the base of the Alps, and it’s surrounded by steep hills and mountains on almost all sides.
The Lake Como experience is as much about these wooded hills and mountains as it is the lake itself.
There are even hikes right from the outskirts of the city of Como, including the famous Steps to Brunate: a stone stairway that, when counted in 1894, had exactly 1630 steps.
A few of those steps may have crumbled away over the years, but someone has since added bits of poetry on signs along the trail, and the walkway has now been dubbed Poetry Way.
Meanwhile, Brunate, the little village at the top of all these steps, has been called “the balcony to the Alps,” because of the stunning views not just of the lake but the mountains beyond.
There’s plenty to explore right around Brunate: restaurants, a church, look-outs, and old houses and villas. In spring, the smell of jasmine is amazing.
Better still, the village is the start of a series of walks and hikes that can take you much deeper into — and higher up — the mountains. It’s only a thirty-minute walk to the Volta Lighthouse, a monument built to honor the famous Italian scientist Alessandro Volta.
If you’re especially ambitious, you can even hike the thirty-six kilometers all the way to the village of Bellagio. (We cheated and the took the ferry.)
Other hikes hew closer to the lake itself, often linking the different waterfront villages.
Via Verde, or Green Lane, is a stone walkway that winds along the western shore of Lake Como, past cemeteries and churches, and also wends through the towns of Rovenna, Moltrasio, and Laglio — sometimes passing in tunnels under old stone buildings.
The trail is a bit of a maze, especially in the towns, which is definitely part of its charm. Fortunately, it’s impossible to get too lost because green dots — green for verde! — have been painted on the cobblestones in regular intervals.
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