Getting there by train
Trenitalia run services to Como San Giovanni station, the jumping off point for Lake Como. You can take a Trenord train from Milan Central Station (Milano Centrale) or Milano Porta Garibaldi and get off at Como San Giovanni, Como’s main station, or Como Nord Lago. Trains run frequently throughout the day and the journey time for direct trains is just over half an hour. There's no train line along the side of the lake so you'll need to continue your journey by boat or bus.
Beginning your journey
Begin your day out with a wander through Como's backstreets, taking the scenic route from San Giovanni station past the cathedral before heading for Piazza Cavour at the water's edge. You might notice that there are a lot of shops selling silk blouses, ties and scarves – the town was once a major centre for silk production and that's how it made its money. Though the raw silk is now imported, dyeing and finishing is still carried out here, and you might want to browse the century-old shop, A. Picci, to take home a memento of your time here. You'll find it near the cathedral.
Across the street from Piazza Cavour you'll see the ferry dock. A good way to enjoy the scenery is to take the fast ferry to Bellagio, maximising your time without skimping on the views. The ferry stops at a few villages on both sides of the lake, and passes the little hamlet of Laglio. It's good enough for Hollywood royalty – George Clooney has a waterfront villa there. In front of you, the Alps make an appearance, their snow-capped peaks a perfect backdrop to the blue of the lake and its lushly vegetated slopes.
A quick look at Bellagio
On the opposite shore sits Bellagio, perhaps the most charming of the villages by the lake. As you pull up next to the water taxis and cigarette boats, you can't fail to be won over by this sprawl of hotels, cafes and shops in muted shades of terracotta, yellow ochre, peaches and cream. Drag yourself away from its tree-lined waterfront and up the steps to narrow winding lanes which open up to reveal little squares watched over by ageing towers.
At the southern end of town, if you look carefully you'll stumble upon a little enoteca, or wine bar, called Cava Turacciolo. Inside, you can nibble on local cheese while exploring their varied selection of Italy's wines. Don't be in too much of a hurry to leave Bellagio, as the gardens of its Villa Melzi D'Eril are a must. Built in 1808 in a neoclassical style, the gardens are best in spring when the azaleas and rhododendrons are in bloom.
Rather than return by ferry, take the bus C30 and experience the twists and turns of the road that hugs the shore of the lake. The scenery is beautiful and the bus drivers' skills impressive as the bus squeezes its way along an impossibly narrow route. If you can, sit on the right hand side to take full advantage of the view.
Need to know
You won't be allowed to switch seats on the fast ferry once the journey is underway, but the scenery is equally good whichever side you sit. Reservations are not necessary for the ferry – just turn up and buy a ticket from the office on the jetty. The bus C30 to and from Bellagio runs to an uneven schedule but pulls up right outside the station. It takes just over an hour to make the journey.