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marisal Dec 5th, 2005 10:13 PM

arrive Milan Malpensa...where to go first? Is LakeComo too far?
My husband and two daughters are flying into Milan in June. We have three weeks to visit and our itinerary is open.
We arrive in Milan- Malpensa at 6pm and are renting a car. Does anyone have any suggestions for what to do once on the ground at Malpensa. We don't have any particular desire to back-track to Milan and would prefer to head up to LakeComo or Bellagio for several days to acclimate. Arriving at 6pm(in June), would anyone have any suggestions??? Is LakeComo too far of a drive at that hour? (what is the distance?)
Thank you for any suggestions and tips

willit Dec 6th, 2005 01:15 AM

From Malpensa to Bellagio is about 90km, so I would have thought it quite an easy drive.

schnauzer Dec 6th, 2005 01:31 AM

I would go straight to Lake Como. The nights are light at that time of year so no driving in the dark. The Italian road signs are a bit dodgy ie the signs are at the actual exit unless it is a main exit. So keep your eyes peeled, you often only get one chance or you miss it!!

How old are the girls? If they are teenagers then Bellagio would be great fun to wander around by themselves and look at shops etc. If they are young and not yet interested in such activities then consider Varenna. It is really beatiful, a lot quieter than Bellagio and easier to drive to. (I believe) We drove from Milan to Varenna and there were no twisty roads to contend with. We absolutely adored Lake Como, have fun, ride those ferries and make sure you go to Villa Balbianello - an absolute must see.

Intrepid1 Dec 6th, 2005 02:23 AM

Re the can, and perhaps SHOULD, drive to Varenna and take the car ferry over to Bellagio (takes about 10-15 minutes).

marisal Dec 6th, 2005 07:36 AM

Thank you for your help. My girls are 4 and 8 and we're a bit nervous doing the three week European travel gig with them in tow, however we're thinking that about a 4 or 5 day 'unwind' in the lake region will help them (and us) with the acclimation period.
So it sounds like heading up to Varenna is a good suggestion. I must say that i am pretty unfamiliar with that town. Should we stay there for our first night in Italy (from malpensa airport) and then relocate to another town on Lake Como, or would you all suggest a particular 'homebase' and we can navigate to other areas of the lake for day trips?
I sound pretty ignorant,however i have been to Lake Como some 12 years ago,though i can't recall in which town we stayed.
Also,any hotel or pensione recommendations in the lake region that are comfortable for kids as well....probably looking to spend in the $200-$300 a night range (not sure what this buys if much)
Thanks to all your travel pro's!!

adrienne Dec 6th, 2005 09:09 AM

If you go to and query for a map of Bellagio you will see three main towns - Bellagio, Varenna, and Mennagio. These are all about 15 minutes from each other on the ferry.

I would choose 1 town to base yourself and then visit the others via ferries.

I preferred Bellagio since there are more shops and restaurants there but you can stay in either Varenna or Bellagio and easily hop a ferry to other towns. I also liked Mennagio for the promenade along the lake and the main square with cafes.

The poster who suggested driving to Varenna and then taking the ferry to Bellagio (if that is where you are staying) did so since the drive up the western shore of the lake is sooooo much easier than the drive up the eastern shore (although the eastern shore drive is more beautiful). I've driven both shores and would highly recommend the drive to Varenna, especially after a flight.

There's a tourist info booth at the passenger ferry dock (different from the car ferry dock) in Bellagio where you can get ferry schedules and info on the various towns and walking info. If you think you'll be taking the ferries a lot look at daily passes. I think if you take 3 ferry rides in a day you come out ahead.

I liked Bellagio the best.

adrienne Dec 6th, 2005 09:17 AM

OOPS! I mean drive to Mennagio or Tremezzo and then ferry to Bellagio. I didn't take the drive to Varenna only from Como to Bellagio and then crossed from Bellagio to Tremezzo and down the western shore.

One more thing about the ferries - they can become expensive, especially for 4 people. When crossing the lake check how much the car ferry costs since it might be cheaper for 4 people to cross in the car and then park the car and wander about.

I loved the ferries, just standing on the deck and watching one town receed and the other town approaching. It was magicaly.

Intrepid1 Dec 6th, 2005 09:22 AM

Actually, the drive up to Varenna IS on the eastern shore of the lake since that is the shore Varenna is located on. My understanding is the roadway to Varenna affords faster travel than the other routes.

I agree with basing oneself in one of the three towns.

Menaggio is the largest of the three and I agree that Bellagio has more shopping opportunities and overall seems much more picturesque. Varenna, to me, seems much more like a typical small Italian town. All three have their plusses and minuses; Bellagio probably has the most nightlife of the three.

The lakeside promenade in Menaggio is wonderful especially with the roses and other flowers in bloom.

Overall the entire area is quite relaxing and basically quiet/laid back and wonderfully peaceful.

marisal Dec 6th, 2005 09:31 AM

Thanks for your input.
I've found a hotel in Bellagio called Hotel Florence (from fodor's web) that looks lovely and reasonably easy to drive to from the airport that involves no ferries. (ease is important to us as we will be just arriving Italy)
Has anyone heard of or stayed here?

DeirdreStraughan Dec 7th, 2005 08:19 AM

A lot depends on how comfortable you are driving in fairly challenging conditions.

Malpensa to Varenna can be done almost entirely on highways, but you'll have to go almost to Milan and then back out again towards Lecco and then Varenna. It may seem shorter to cut across from Como to Lecco, but those smaller roads are VERY easy to get lost on.

Getting to Bellagio is all narrow, twisty roads from either direction.

Even if your final destination is Bellagio, it may be easiest to drive to Varenna and then take the car ferry across.

best regards,
Deirdré Straughan (personal) (work)

Mimar Dec 7th, 2005 09:07 AM

Wow, if I were flying into Milan and going to Bellagio, I'd take a train. Especially if I had flown any distance and was jet-lagged. I've heard the roads on the Bellagio peninsula are narrow and difficult driving. The train goes to Varenna, then you walk a short distance downhill and hop a ferry to Bellagio. You can also get a fast boat from the town of Como.

From Bellagio we used ferries to visit the various towns in the mid-Lake Como region. You can also get to Lugano by bus. It didn't seem like a car would be that useful.

Then after I had "acclimated,", I'd pick up a rental car, where depends on your next destination.

39Steps Dec 7th, 2005 01:39 PM

Hi marisal. Lake Como is not too far to get to for the first night, just make sure your hotel is aware you will be arriving late. I would also vote to take the train to Varenna and ferry to Bellagio rather than drive, as you really don't need/want a car on Lake Como IMO.

marisal Dec 7th, 2005 06:50 PM

Hi ,you all are a wealth of knowledge!
What is the distance by train from Malpensa to Varenna?
Then the boat ride to Bellagio?
Thanks for all the help!

schnauzer Dec 7th, 2005 07:13 PM

Can't help with the Malpensa section of the question, but the ferry ride from Varenna to Bellagio takes all of about 10 mins. I have this years ferry timetable but I sure they will have changed them by next year however they are available on the net, just look for the Lake Como timetable. You don't really need a car to go around the lakes for a few days, but with two little ones and luggage it could be easier than the train. Also you are not waiting for a train, get the car and drive.You will need to nearly drive all the way back in to Milan I'm afraid. We went wrong and drove to Como and then worked our way across to Lecco, it took over an hour on a small road, ie no over taking. Stick with the main roads, just don't head into Milan proper!! Make sure you take the Lecco exit and not the Como exit like we did!!
Look on either or the michelin guides to see the distances, also the michelin - gives you routes as well.

gfeibleman Dec 7th, 2005 07:23 PM

Try the town of Salo at Lake Garda. Close, pretty and relaxing

DeirdreStraughan Dec 8th, 2005 04:12 AM

Another option would be to have someone else to pick you up at Malpensa and drive you to wherever you want to go on Lake Como. That way you avoid having to deal with unfamiliar roads and traffic when you're all tired - you can just sit back and enjoy the scenery. If you later decide you need a car after all, it's possible to rent from Como, Lecco, and maybe Varenna.

For rides from Malpensa, I recommend my friend Antonello of - he's utterly reliable, his prices are fair, and he speaks excellent English.

best regards,
Deirdré Straughan (personal) (work)

marisal Jan 11th, 2006 10:02 PM

Thank you Deirdre for the information on your friend. We've decided- since we're arriving Malpensa at 6pm after a 21 hour traveling experience- to stay at a nice 'airport-hotel' (Hotel Cardano) for the night and get a good night's sleep.
The next day we considered taking a shuttle into Milan and then the train to Varenna; ferry to Bellagio...However the idea of having someone drive us (from our Malpensa hotel) to Varenna sounds much easier (and probably cost-wise about the same for a family of four..not to mention the simplicity of it all}
Thanks soo much!!
I'll get in touch with him

lakecomoexpert Feb 28th, 2010 10:48 AM

Malpensa to Como itself is only about 40 minutes and very easy - see maps/directions pages on - very helpful. Personally I would not drive to Bellagio - narrow winding road. Instead I would head for the western shore and stay somewhere central like Argegno (only 15 minutes drive from Como) and then take boat trips to everywhere else from there. You can buy a centre lake ticket and do Menaggio, Bellagio and Varenna in a day. Hotels, apartments and villas are much more reasonably priced on this shore, as are the bars and restaurants. I would avoid staying in Varenna or Bellagio for this very reason. Doing the Lake by ferry boat is much more relaxing and a very pleasant way to travel. The narrow lake roads get very busy in summer. So once you arrived in say, Argegno, you could park the car and just use it to go further afield - maybe a trip to the Factory shops - Armani, Diesel and Levi or a trip into Switzerland to one of the largest designer outlets in Europe - Foxtown. Or if shopping is not your bag - how about Lugano for the day?

Have a wonderful trip - it really is a magical place.

Nonconformist Feb 28th, 2010 10:56 AM

The trip was four years ago.

HappyTrvlr Feb 28th, 2010 11:00 AM

If you don't want to drive to Lake Como upon arrival at Malpensa, you could drive to Ranco on eastern shore ofLake Maggiore for the night, short drive and nice town.

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