The best things to do in Bellagio, Italy
Nestled at the fork of the lake, with charming hamlets scattered along the eastern arm, Bellagio is a picturesque destination that begs to be explored at a leisurely pace.
Stroll through the winding streets of the historic center, marvel at the gorgeous gardens of villas and mansions, and indulge in an aperitif or hot drink while taking in the breathtaking views of the lake.
Bellagio is a place that will leave a lasting impression on your travels and steal your heart.
If you’re planning a visit to Bellagio, we recommend scheduling your trip between March and November, when many of the town’s most popular attractions are open to the public.
During these months, you’ll be able to experience the full charm of Bellagio, whether it’s the stunning gardens in full bloom during the spring or the colorful foliage of late summer and early autumn.
These seasons are also the perfect time to explore all that the town has to offer, from the historic center to the beautiful villas and mansions that dot the landscape.
In this article, we’ll provide you with some practical advices and ideas for the best things to do and see in Bellagio, whether it’s your first time visiting or you’re a seasoned traveler.
Last update, 28 September 2023
Table of Contents
- Accomodation in Bellagio
- Day-trip to Bellagio from Milan
- Why is Bellagio worth visiting
- How much time do you need
- What to do, the historic village
- What to do, walking itineraries
- Bellagio, the best things to do in the surroundings
- The weather
Accomodation in Bellagio
Bellagio is a popular holiday destination known for its wide range of accommodation options, from luxurious hotels with every comfort to elegant apartments in the heart of the village.
There are also villas with seasonal outdoor pools and bed and breakfasts with gardens and terraces.
Many of these accommodations offer stunning views of the lake, adding to the beauty of your stay.
Whenever I talk to friends about my experience in Bellagio, they often ask me which is the better option: spending a night there or returning to Como or Milan.
In my opinion, it depends on your schedule. The atmosphere in Bellagio is definitely one-of-a-kind and, if you have the time, I would recommend treating yourself to at least one night on the shores of Lake Como.
While Como is also beautiful, it is a larger city and may not have the same cozy, intimate feel as Bellagio.
If you’re opting to stay in Bellagio, be sure to check out the best offers and availability at the following link.
You’ll find a variety of options to suit your needs and preferences, all within easy reach of the town’s many attractions.
On the other hand, Como is a city located just about an hour’s drive from Bellagio.
It offers a variety of accommodation options at various price points, so there may be more options available to fit different budgets.
If you’re interested in comparing the prices and amenities of different places, you can use the link provided to view the available accommodation in Como.
Day-trip to Bellagio from Milan
If you find yourself in Milan for tourism, work, or study, and have just a free day to spare, an excursion to Como and Bellagio is definitely worthy.
This one-day experience in Bellagio is an excellent choice for those who don’t have a lot of time to spare for planning their trip.
It includes everything you need for a memorable day in Bellagio and beyond, such as transfers, a guide, and a boat cruise.
The tour, led by an English-speaking guide, lasts about 10 hours and covers a full day of activities.
The itinerary begins with arrival in Como by bus in mid-morning.
After a guided tour of a couple of hours exploring the city’s main attractions, depending on the season, there are two options.
The first involves a pleasant walk along the harbor and a subsequent ascent to the village of Brunate by funicular (from November to March).
The second option involves boarding the motorboat and cruising on the lake (from April to October).
Initially, you’ll follow the western shore of the basin, where you can admire some prestigious villas, including Villa Olmo and Villa d’Este in Cernobbio.
Finally, you’ll move to the opposite shore and dock at the Bellagio pier.
Once in the village, we recommend making the most of your free time to explore the historic district, which we’ll detail in one of the upcoming paragraphs.
The tour, done at the right pace, lasts for about an hour.
Another interesting activity to consider from Milan is a private boat cruise on Lake Como and Bellagio.
In this case too, the excursion takes a full day, and the guide speaks in English and Spanish.
After reaching Como by bus, the activity includes a guided tour of the beautiful historic center of the city.
Finally, you’ll move to the outskirts to visit Villa Olmo and its wonderful English gardens.
The park located at the back of the building extends for about five hectares.
Within it, there are approximately 450 shrubs and 800 trees, including some monumental plants like horse chestnut, cedar of Lebanon, and some plane trees.
The building was constructed in the 18th century and is one of the most sumptuous villas overlooking the lake.
At the end of the visit, you’ll board the boat, and a relaxing cruise to discover the splendid lake landscapes begins.
After about an hour of sailing, you’ll arrive at Bellagio, a small village nestled on the shores of the lake.
If you wish to venture beyond Como and Bellagio to the picturesque village of Varenna, then this full-day tour is perfect for you.
Compared to the previous excursion, there is no guided tour of Villa Olmo included. After spending a few hours in Bellagio, you’ll take the ferry and reach Varenna.
The town has become one of Lake Como’s major tourist attractions due to its historical, artistic, and architectural treasures.
Villa Monastero and Villa Cipressi, both surrounded by well-maintained parks, the Churches of San Giorgio and San Giovanni Battista, and the medieval Castle of Vezio are just some of the places that have gained international renown.
At the end of the tour, return to Milan by bus.
Why is Bellagio worth visiting
During my five years studying in at Politecnico di Milano, I always jumped at the opportunity for a day trip to Lake Como.
It’s just over an hour away from the bustling city, but it feels like a world apart.
The combination of the lake’s calming waters, vibrant colors, and the charm of a place frequented by celebrities from all over the world make Lake Como a unique destination.
Among the ones I’ve visited Bellagio is the coziest village on its shores, and the gardens at Villa Melzi d’Eril are unmatched by any others I’ve had the pleasure of visiting.
In fact, they even won the prestigious award for “Italy’s Most Beautiful Park” in the private park category in 2016.
It’s difficult to put into words just how special this place is – you have to experience it for yourself.
Planning your trip: how much time do you need
When planning your visit to Bellagio, it’s important to consider the amount of time you have available.
While a full day is ideal for truly experiencing all that the town has to offer, it’s still possible to enjoy a memorable visit even if you only have a few hours.
In this case, we recommend focusing on the historic center and the beautiful gardens of Villa Melzi. Trust us, even a short visit to Bellagio will be well worth your time.
If you have instead a full day to spend in Bellagio, we recommend taking the opportunity to explore the nearby hamlets.
This walking itinerary, which takes a couple of hours, is a great way to fully immerse yourself in the local culture and see some of the lesser-known sights.
Just keep in mind that the private park of Villa Serbelloni is only accessible through guided tours.
When planning your visit, it’s also important to consider transportation.
If you’re arriving in Bellagio from Como, you can park your car in the free parking area along Via Carcano or in one of the paid parking areas a little further away.
Keep in mind that the journey from Como to Bellagio takes about an hour, as the road follows the picturesque shoreline of the lake and is full of twists and turns.
What to do in Bellagio: the historic village
Gardens of Villa Melzi d’Eril
If you want to start your visit to Bellagio with a bang, we recommend beginning at the stunning gardens of Villa Melzi.
In my opinion is the best thing to do in Bellagio.
This neoclassical villa, built in the early 19th century, served as a summer residence for Francesco Melzi d’Eril, Duke of Lodi and vice-president of the Cisalpine Republic during the Napoleonic period.
The entrance ticket includes access to the garden, museum, and small chapel, giving you the opportunity to fully immerse yourself in the history and beauty of the property.
The gardens of Villa Melzi are accessible through two entrances, one located a short distance from the town center and the other in the hamlet of Loppia.
Upon entering, you’ll be greeted by the beautiful English garden, considered one of the most beautiful in Italy.
This garden, designed by architect Luigi Canonica and botanist Luigi Villoresi, features numerous sculptures and a Japanese-style pond, as well as over 60 species of plants, including some from distant countries in the Americas and Asia.
The gardens are particularly breathtaking during the spring flowering season, when the camellias are in bloom.
One of the first buildings you’ll encounter along the main gravel pathway is the Moorish cloister, a beautifully elegant structure within the complex.
Be sure to stop on the balcony for a photo opportunity with breathtaking views of the lake.
No matter what time of year you visit, the gardens of Villa Melzi are sure to delight and inspire you.
The walk through the gardens continues under a beautifully pruned portico of plane trees, leading you to the square in front of the villa.
Here, you’ll find the pool of nymphs and the grand entrance staircase adorned with sculptures of Egyptian lions.
A short, gently sloping path leads to the former orangery, which now houses the Lodovico Gallarati Scotti Museum.
This museum is divided into two sections: “Arte Storia Natura,” which covers the history of the villa and its founders, and a section dedicated to ancient art and archaeological finds from the collections of the Melzi d’Eril and Gallarati Scotti families.
The museum is a fascinating look at the rich history and cultural heritage of Villa Melzi.
The tour of the gardens of Villa Melzi ends at the small Chapel of Gentilizia, located at the southern end of the park.
This religious building was commissioned by Francesco Melzi d’Eril and completed in 1818, two years after his death.
The interior features a Greek cross-shaped plan and is illuminated by two large thermal windows.
Before heading back, take a few minutes to exit the park and visit the small port of Loppia, in our opinion it is one of the most picturesque views around Bellagio.
The view of the lake and surrounding landscape is truly breathtaking.
After your visit to the gardens of Villa Melzi, take a leisurely stroll along the Lungolago Europa to reach the town of Bellagio.
This path is lined with beautiful flower beds, filling the air with delicate fragrances.
As you walk, be sure to take the time to sit on one of the benches and admire the stunning views, or snap some pictures from the wrought iron parapet.
Basilica of San Giacomo
One of the must-see attractions in Bellagio is the Romanesque-style Church of San Giacomo, built between the late 11th and early 12th centuries.
This is the most important religious building in the town, and it was constructed by the Masters of Como, a corporation of itinerant construction companies that operated in Lombardy and the Canton Ticino in Switzerland.
The church has a three-nave design and houses works of art from different historical periods.
Inside, you’ll find a valuable 19th-century organ by “Angelo e nipoti Bossi” of Bergamo, which was restored in 2013 while maintaining many of its original components.
The Church of San Giacomo is adorned with a beautiful bell tower that rises to the left of the façade.
The upper part of the tower was rebuilt in the 17th century and was finally restored in 1990, taking on its current appearance without plaster.
According to some historical documents, the bell tower was originally part of the village’s defensive system and predates the church itself.
The top of the tower is home to five bells, cast in 1849 at a famous foundry in Valtellina.
Church Square is also home to a beautiful granite fountain, built in 1897 and originally located in the garden of Villa Gotica.
It seems it was moved to its current location in the center of the square between 1908 and 1910, adding to the beauty of the town center.
Tower of Arts
Located on the southeastern side of Church Square, the Tower of Arts is a cultural center that hosts exhibitions and temporary exhibitions.
It is open to visitors only on the occasion of exhibitions and events.
On the ground floor of the tower, you’ll find the efficient tourist information office of the Promo Bellagio association, established in 1986 to promote and enhance the town as a tourist destination.
The park of Villa Serbelloni
Villa Serbelloni is a must-see attraction in Bellagio, with a rich history and beautiful park that covers about 21 hectares.
Originally built as a noble country residence, it was transformed into a villa after expansion works in the 15th century.
Legend has it that the villa is built on the site of the former villa of Pliny the Younger, a famous Roman lawyer, writer, and magistrate.
The villa has undergone several changes of ownership over the years and was transformed into a hotel in the late 19th century.
It was eventually purchased by American noblewoman Ella Walker, who donated it to the Rockefeller Foundation in New York upon her death.
Today, visitors can only explore the park of Villa Serbelloni by participating in guided tours, which depart from the infopoint in Church Square (except on Mondays).
It is for sure one of the most interesting things to see in Bellagio.
These tours provide a wealth of historical and environmental information, as well as the opportunity to take stunning photographs of the surrounding Bellagio and Como Lake landscape.
What to do in Bellagio: walking itineraries
In addition to visiting the gardens of Villa Melzi and exploring the charming town center, one of the best ways to discover the most interesting places in Bellagio is by taking a leisurely walk.
The historic village has a comb-shaped plan, with Piazza Mazzini at the base and narrow, sloping alleys leading into the houses.
To help you plan your walk, you can find detailed routes in brochures available at the tourist information office or on the official website of the Promo Bellagio association.
These routes will take you through the charming streets and alleys of Bellagio, giving you the opportunity to fully appreciate the beauty and history of this picturesque village.
Itinerary 1 – The Village
Duration of about an hour.
The Borgo itinerary is a classic walking route that takes you through the heart of Bellagio’s historic center.
The walk starts at Piazza Mazzini, in front of the pier, and takes you past a series of arcades with a variety of commercial establishments.
From there, the road turns right and begins to gently climb as you pass the entrance to the Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni.
As you walk through the town, you’ll be struck by the warm colors of the building facades, which are painted in shades of yellow and antique pink.
At a certain point, the road forks. If you turn left, you can take a detour to Punta Spartivento, the end of the promontory where the lake branches.
If you continue to the right, you’ll reach Piazza della Chiesa in just a few minutes.
After visiting the Basilica of San Giacomo and seeing the Tower of Arts from the outside, you can continue your walk along Via Garibaldi.
From here, you have two options: you can either return to the starting point via the steps of Salita Serbelloni, or head towards the outskirts of the village.
Salita Serbelloni is one of the main streets in Bellagio and is lined with inviting wine bars, jewelers, and clothing stores.
If you choose to continue along Via Garibaldi, you’ll eventually reach the 11th-12th century Church of San Giorgio.
At the end of the street, you can descend towards the lake via Salita Genazzini and end up right in front of the ferry boat terminal.
Itinerary 2 – Tour of the hamlets
Duration of about two hours
If you take the Salita Mella route, also known in the past as Via dei Fiori, you’ll reach the upper part of the village.
From here, you can continue along Via Garibaldi until you reach the Town Hall and the Church of San Giorgio.
This Romanesque church houses the sculpture of the Madonna della Cintura, and the nearby oratory serves as the headquarters of the confraternity of the cinturati.
As you continue up Salita dei Cappuccini, you’ll eventually reach the small fishing village of Pescallo, located on the other side of the lake in Lecco.
Along the way, be sure to take a few moments to stop at the various natural viewpoints and take in the breathtaking beauty of the landscape that surrounds you.
This is a great way to experience the charm of Bellagio and the surrounding area while getting some exercise and enjoying the fresh air.
If you continue your walk towards Guggiate, you’ll pass through some charming neighborhoods with well-maintained parks and gardens, before eventually reaching San Giovanni.
Here, you’ll find the Museum of Navigation Instruments in a tower-shaped house with a sundial on the façade.
As you make your way back to Bellagio, you’ll pass through Loppia, a beautiful fishing village that seems to be stuck in time.
Before returning to Bellagio, consider taking a detour to visit the beautiful Gardens of Villa Melzi if you haven’t had a chance to do so already.
Itinerary 3 – Tour of the eastern hamlets of Bellagio
Duration of about two and a half hours
The third and final itinerary is best suited for those who have a few days to explore the area.
This route takes you mainly to the Lecco side of Lake Como and offers the opportunity to discover some truly interesting places.
Shortly after passing through the towns of Oliverio and Grena, you’ll come across Villa Giulia, a beautiful building dating back to 1624 and arranged over three floors, the lower of which is decorated with ashlar.
In Visgnola, you’ll find the ancient Tabaccheria Mazzoni, which still has a 19th-century tavern appearance and features a stone table in the courtyard shaded by a centuries-old horse chestnut tree.
As you leave the village in the direction of Taronico, you’ll come across the ancient wash house, which has been restored in recent years and was once used by housewives to do their laundry.
Finally, in Taronico, you’ll find the Bellagio Dairy, established in 1933 and still processing milk collected from the farms of its associates in the Larian triangle region.
Bellagio, best things to do in the surroundings
The Madonna of Ghisallo
Cycling enthusiasts will be familiar with the iconic climb of Ghisallo, on of the most famous climbs of Giro di Lombardia, which starts on the outskirts of Bellagio.
The north side of the climb, which is the most challenging, is about nine kilometers long.
The crossing point, located next to the Sanctuary of the Madonna del Ghisallo, is at an altitude of 754 meters above sea level.
For several years, the Museum of Cycling has stood next to the church, showcasing historical relics and a multimedia collection.
Giant Bench of Civenna
In San Vincenzo di Civenna, along the Ghisallo climb, a giant bench designed by American designer Chris Bangle has been placed.
Known as the “big bench,” these structures have become a popular tourist attraction in various regions of Italy.
As of October 2022, there are 266 big benches in Italy and around the world, with an additional 55 under construction.
The first big bench was installed on the Bangle family estate in Clavesana, located in the Langhe area (Piedmont), with the intention of providing a unique and elevated viewpoint of the surrounding landscape.
The big bench in San Vincenzo is number 137 in the series.
To learn more about these structures, visit the official website of the Big Bench Community Project.
The weather in Bellagio
The weather in Bellagio is similar to that of Milan, due to their proximity.
However, there are a few important things to keep in mind. Bellagio is located on the shores of a lake, which means that it tends to be warmer at night and cooler during the day compared to other towns in the Po Valley.
This can be for sure pleasant, but as my Aeroacoustics professor used to say – there are no free meals – it’s worth noting that Bellagio is also more prone to storms during the summer months, especially in the afternoons.
To avoid being caught in the rain, it’s a good idea to check the weather forecast before heading to the Lake Como area.
There are several apps and websites that provide forecasts for Bellagio, but one that I recommend is Arpa Lombardia, which is provided by local professional meteorologists.
If you’re experienced and interested in tracking the weather in real-time to make decisions about what to do, you may also want to check out the Lombardy meteorological radar.