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Lake Como Budget Trip Guide 2023

How to visit Lake Como on a budget in 2022:

When you imagine Lake Como, you can’t help but think of luxury and extravagance.

From George Clooney’s lakeside villa to movie set locations for Star Wars and Casino Royale, there’s some serious money in this area of the Italian Lakes.

But is it possible to visit Lake Como on a budget?

Despite the image of grandeur, you can definitely visit Lake Como on a budget in 2022.

From cheap accommodation to budget-friendly Italian food, free beaches and supermarket picnics, this guide will tell you exactly how to visit Lake Como on a budget.

One of the cheapest ways to visit Lake Como is on a highly-rated day trip from Milan, meaning you get transport included and don’t need to pay for expensive lakeside accommodation.

An Italian cobbled street lined with terracotta buildings with shutters and shop awnings.
The famous Salita Serbelloni cobbled street in Bellagio

Cheap (But Excellent) Accommodation in Lake Como

Cheap Hostels in Lake Como

There are only a few hostels on Lake Como, but if you can get a reservation they offer cheap beds and the opportunity to meet like-minded travellers.

Lake Como Youth Hostel

Lake Como Youth Hostel (La Primula) is the most popular youth hostel in Lake Como.

Located in Menaggio, Lake Como Hostel is right on the lake and just a 1 minute walk from the beach.

Most of the rooms have a lake view and offer a simple Italian breakfast included in the price.

The onsite bar and restaurant is cheap and a great way to make friends if you’re a solo traveller.

A shared dorm room will set you back around €20 per person per night, whilst a private double or twin will cost around €30 per person per night.

Agriturismo La Derta Hostel (Farm Stay)

If you want a quieter hostel experience in Lake Como, I highly recommend Agriturismo La Derta Hostel.

This hostel offers the unique opportunity to stay on a farm just outside busy Bellagio.

A peach-coloured Italian farm building against a backdrop of mountains with a vegetable patch and olive trees in the foreground.
The converted farm house and vegetable patch at Agriturismo La Derta

The old farm house is set in tranquil surroundings with a big vegetable garden and ample olive trees.

Inside, the space has been converted into a modern hostel with dorms (€30 pp per night) or private rooms (€40 pp per night).

Bookings include a free buffet breakfast and free entrance to the gardens of nearby Villa Melzi, because backpackers always love a freebie.

Ostello Bello Lake Como

If you want to stay in Como, there’s a great hostel there called Ostello Bello Lake Como.

Many backpackers choose Como as their base as it’s the ‘entrance’ to the lake and has a direct train line to Milan (45 mins).

Como itself is rather pretty, and from here you can do day trips by boat to the other famous lake towns without having to haul your luggage around.

Dorm beds here are slightly more expensive costing about $50 per person per night.

Lake Como Beach Hostel

If you want to get away from the tourist hotspots and visit Upper Lake Como, choose Lake Como Beach Hostel in Domaso.

Cheap Airbnbs in Lake Como

Backpackers on a tight budget head straight to HostelWorld when trying to find the cheapest accommodation.

However, if you’re travelling in a group, booking an Airbnb could be even cheaper.

During my recent trip to Lake Como I stayed at an absolutely amazing Airbnb in Lenno with a roof terrace overlooking the lake.

a jug of orange juice, pastries and fruit on top of a table on a rooftop overlooking a lake and mountains.
Airbnb with roof terrace and lake views in Lenno, Lake Como via Airbnb

It was newly renovated and slept 6 people (one double room, one twin room, one double sofa bed), meaning the price for 3 nights was just €100 per person.

Having our own apartment also meant we could save even more money by cooking dinners together in the sleek kitchen and eating on the terrace.

Other cheap Airbnb options include this traditional Italian apartment just outside popular Bellagio, which sleeps 6 and costs just €77 per person for 3 nights.

a bedroom with a double bed, wooden panelling, dressers, lamps and open french windows.
A traditional Italian apartment near Bellagio via Airbnb

Even cheaper, this big apartment with a lake view balcony in Menaggio also sleeps 6 and costs a tiny €52 per person for 3 nights!

a table set with crockery and a plastic chair on a balcony overlooking a lake and mountains
The balcony in Menaggio overlooking Lake Como via Airbnb

Budget Hotels in Lake Como

You won’t find many cheap hotels in Lake Como, but I have found one absolute gem in the village of Argegno.

La Griglia is a small family run hotel set amongst manicured gardens, offering double rooms for about €90 per night.

A charming alpine hotel in Argegno (Lake Como) via La Griglia Hotel

This includes a really good breakfast (both continental and with made-to-order omelettes from the owner’s chickens).

The cosy alpine style hotel has traditional Italian furnishings and a charming restaurant on site with great reviews.

If you do want to experience Italian hospitality in Lake Como without paying above the odds, La Griglia is a great choice.

Best Cheap Food in Lake Como

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to spend a fortune on Italian food in Lake Como.

There are some really cheap authentic Italian restaurants on the lake, as well as supermarkets and grocery stores selling fresh artisan food.

Buying Groceries in Lake Como

The supermarkets in Italy are really good, offering fresh local produce, deli counters and good quality wine for a reasonable price.

During our recent trip to Lake Como we ate most meals in our Airbnb.

We made cheese and charcuterie boards using artisan produce from the supermarkets and we even were able to buy fresh homemade ravioli and tortellini!

Two people drinking campari spritz on a balcony with a table in the foreground full of cheese, bread, salads and melon.
Cheese boards, salads and homemade Campari Spritz at our Airbnb in Lake Como

We also bought a bottle of Campari from the supermarket and made our own Campari Spritz for a fraction of the price of restaurants/ bars.

In the supermarkets you can usually buy an excellent bottle of Italian wine for around €6.

From Verdicchio to Chianti, there is always a big selection to choose from.

If you do want to cook your own meals during your trip to Lake Como, I’d recommend staying in an area with good supermarkets.

In central Lake Como you have a good supermarket in Menaggio, however Lenno is the best town for supermarkets with two big ones available.

Compact touristy areas like Varenna & Bellagio don’t have supermarkets, so you may struggle to cook your own food if you choose to stay here.

Being such a big town, Como has several supermarkets including a Carrefour and a Lidl.

Even if you don’t have access to a terrace or balcony at your Lake Como accommodation, you can still grab groceries and make a picnic to enjoy in a park or on some steps with a view.

A picnic of roasted vegetables, bread, salad, strawberries and a bottle of white wine laid out on some steps overlooking a lake.
A picnic and wine from the supermarket with a view of Lake Como

Cheap Takeaway Food and Bakeries in Lake Como

Aside from supermarkets, a cheap way to eat in Lake Como is to visit bakeries and delis to get some great food on a budget.

Lake Bakery in Varenna is one of the best places on the lake to grab a cheap takeout lunch, offering homemade focaccia, sandwiches, cakes and pastries.

Another cheap spot is L’Ora della Pasta in Como, a takeaway pasta shop offering homemade pasta dishes like ragu and ravioli to takeaway for about €6.

You’ll find the best cheap breakfast in Como at local canteen Caffè & Caffè di Angela Cuomo (two barista coffees and two fresh apricot croissants for €7).

Frothy coffees in white mugs and croissants on plates on a grey table.
Fresh croissants and coffee at Caffè & Caffè di Angela Cuomo in Como

Cheap Restaurants in Lake Como

If you want to eat out for cheap in Lake Como, there are some really reasonable restaurants if you know where to look.

Bistrot Antichi Sapori

Bistrot Antichi Sapori is the best cheap Italian restaurant in Bellagio.

The pasta dishes are the best, costing between €9-€13, whilst pizzas are around €8-€9.

You can get a litre carafe of house wine for €13 which tastes delicious, or aperol spritz for €4.50.

The homemade tiramisu is also brilliant, costing around €6.

Pizzeria Lugano

Pizzeria Lugano in Menaggio is the best cheap pizza place on Lake Como.

A plate of margherita pizza with fresh tomato and basil on a table with a white table cloth.
Pizza at Pizzeria Lugano in Menaggio via Fooddiary511 on Instagram

All the pizzas cost between €7-€9, and they also do great pasta dishes for a reasonable price (try the spaghetti alle vongole).

Il Baretto

Il Baretto is a local cafe bar just outside Lake Como with the cheapest drinks in town.

They also do good sandwiches, burgers, cheese boards and pasta.

Bar Company Vecchia Maiolica

This family run restaurant in between Cadenabbia and Griante is an absolute hidden gem.

It offers pasta, pizza, charcuterie boards and salads for a really decent price, along with good house wine.

Avoiding Tourist Traps in Lake Como

As much as you don’t want to hear it, most restaurants right on the lake in the busy spots are tourist traps, churning out overpriced, sub-par food.

Sometimes, it’s best to avoid the places with the best view and head down the side streets for authentic Italian food.

Free Beaches in Lake Como

There are many lidos around Lake Como where you pay for lake access along with sunbeds, parasols and sometimes a swimming pool.

However, there are actually plenty of free beaches on Lake Como that sometimes require a short walk off the beaten track – but they’re so worth it.

The natural pebble beaches are way more beautiful than the concrete lidos, and you don’t have to pay entry.

Lenno Public Beach

People swimming in a lake a pebbly beach, with an italian town and mountains in the background.
Lenno Public Beach on Lake Como

Lenno Public Beach is the best free beach in Lake Como.

Lenno is nestled in a natural bay nicknamed ‘Venus Bay’, which means it’s calm and great for swimming.

To find Lenno Public Beach, follow directions for ‘Public Beach’ here (go through the big green gate to reach the beach – don’t worry, it’s not private property!).

The beach provides a safe area to swim surrounded by buoys, along with views of the beautiful town of Lenno in the backdrop.

Bellagio Beach (San Giovanni Bellagio Beach)

People swimming and playing ball in a lake with a pebbled shoreline.
The view from Bellagio San Giovanni Beach in Lake Como

You won’t find any beaches in Bellagio town centre because there are too many ferries coming in and out of the terminals.

Instead, Bellagio Beach is a 15 minute walk away in nearby San Giovanni.

If you’re wondering whether to bother with the walk, you absolutely should.

The water at Bellagio Beach is a dazzling blue, and you can swim whilst admiring the view of Grand Hotel Tremezzo and Villa Carlotta on the other side of the lake.

At Bellagio Beach there is also a cool beach bar where you can grab a cold drink with a view of the lake (I would avoid the food though as the reviews aren’t great).

a hand holding up a piña colada cocktail in a goblet glass with a slice of pineapple, overlooking a pebbly beach with swimmers and a speed boat.
Freshly made piña coladas at Bellagio Beach Bar

Lierna Beach

My next favourite beach in Lake Como is Lierna Beach.

If you want to avoid the crowds, Spiaggia Di Lierna is a lovely beach in a quiet village with great sunsets.

Some other free beaches in Lake Como include Onno Beach and Abbadia Lariana Beach near Lecco, as well as Santa Maria Rezzonico Beach and ‘Tranquilla’ Beach further north.

Drinking Alcohol on the Beaches in Lake Como

It’s perfectly legal to drink alcohol on the beaches in Lake Como (and in most public places in Italy).

Therefore, you can skip the expensive drinks at the lidos and grab some cold beers from a supermarket or convenience store to enjoy on the beach.

A book and a can of moretti beer on a blue beach towel on a pebble beach.
Enjoying cold beer from the supermarket at the beach in Lake Como

Remember to always take your rubbish with you and never swim intoxicated.

Cheap Transport in Lake Como

You don’t need to travel by Ferrari or speed boat in Lake Como to have a good time.

The public ferry service in Lake Como is the best way to get around and provides a lake cruise for a cheap price.

An italian town with a lake in the foreground and a ferry departing.
Leaving Bellagio by ferry after a day trip

It’s so easy to catch the ferry around Central Lake Como, which is the area in the middle of the inverted Y shape encompassing Bellagio, Varenna, Tremezzo, Menaggio etc.

Within this area, one-way ferry tickets cost around €5.

Alternatively, you can get a day pass which allows you visit all of the central towns in one day for €15 (if you’re short for time).

Ferries are pretty regular but you can check the current timetable here.

If you’re staying in Bellagio, Varenna, Menaggio, Tremezzo etc you can catch the ferry from Como, which costs about €12 one way.

It takes about 45 minutes and goes right past George Clooney’s Villa L’Oleandra.

If you want to stick to a tight budget in Lake Como, you can get the bus to most of the central towns from Como for a couple of euros (except Varenna which you can access by train from Milan).

Train tickets from Milan to Como San Giovanni cost about €5 (avoid commuter times to get the cheap price and remember to validate your ticket).

At Milan Centrale station make sure you use the ‘Trenitalia’ ticket machines.

Free Sightseeing in Lake Como

In my opinion, the best way to sightsee in Lake Como is to wander around the towns and take in the colourful architecture, churches and lake views.

This itself is completely free and allows you to absorb the culture of the lake towns.

In Bellagio, don’t miss the Lungolago Europa, which is a lake promenade full of rose bushes and flowering trees.

At the southern end of the Lungolago Europa you’ll find a lovely grassy area where people like to enjoy the sunset with a cool beverage.

A lakeside promenade with grass, flowering trees, rose bushes and people strolling.
The Lungolago Europa lakefront promenade in Bellagio, Lake Como

Also in Bellagio is the Punta Spartivento observation deck that justs out into the lake at the northernmost point of the promontory, offering great views for free.

‘Lovers Walk’ (la passeggiata degli innamorati) in Varenna is a very instagrammable lakeside walkway which is free to visit.

A women in a brown strapless dress walking on a lakeside walkway with views of an Italian town ahead.
Lovers Walk or ‘la passeggiata degli innamorati’ in Varenna

Teresio Olivelli is a public park in Tremezzo featuring botanical gardens, fountains and lake access for a swim.

If you do want to do some paid activities, I can recommend visiting Villa del Balbianello in Lenno where Casino Royale and Star Wars II: Attack of the Clones were filmed.

A yellow Italian villa on the side of a lake with a speed boat in the foreground.
Villa del Balbianello in Lake Como

Skip the water taxi and take the twenty minute walk up to the villa from Lenno town centre, where you just need to pay €11 (or €9 for students) to enter the famous gardens.

I hope you enjoyed my guide to visiting Lake Como on a budget in 2022!