Travelling around the Lake Como area by bus is perfectly do-able, but it does take a bit of planning, because the buses aren’t as frequent as you might expect in such a popular tourist area. There is a way to go yet before the lake has a fully integrated public transport system, but it’s sorely needed in order to cut down the population’s dependence on the private car. Still, while we are waiting for pigs to start flying, it’s well worth planning a few trips by bus.
If you want to base your whole holiday around public transport, there is a great new travel pass called ‘Io Viaggio Ovunque in Lombardia’ (I travel everywhere in Lombardy). You can buy this ticket, valid on all forms of public transport except the ferries, for one, two, three or seven days, from any rail station or bus station. You may also be able to buy one from a travel agent. A three-day pass costs €32.50, and a week-long pass just €43. This is good value if you want to explore different resorts along the lake, and especially for a day trip to Milan or Bergamo.
On the western shore of the lake, the C10 bus follows the ‘panoramic’ route from Como town right up as far as Colico. It starts off at the little bus station by the lake, picks up at the main railway station, and then heads off up past the Villas Olmo and Este. This has to be one of the most spectacular bus trips in Europe. The bus has the advantage over the car that you can peer over the walls of all the fancy villas and see the gardens. Not all buses go all the way up the lake – some just go as far as Menaggio, so that if you are going further, you will need to change. But don’t worry – just do what the locals are doing and you will be fine. Other bus routes go along the lake for a way and then head off up to some of the higher villages. The C12 runs from Menaggio to Lake Lugano, and is a great option for a day trip to the Swiss resort, with the caveat that there is a walk of about 10 minutes to get to the city centre of Lugano. The C30 runs from Como to Bellagio, as an alternative to the boat.
Here are the timetables for the early part of 2017 (up to 8 June)
C10 summer timetable 2017 Along the western shore of the lake from Como all the way up to the top.
C12 summer timetable 2017 Menaggio to Lugano
C13 summer timetable2017 Menaggio to Plesio (for Breglia)
C30 summer timetable 2017 Como to Bellagio
And here is a Map of buses in Como province
If you are going to be using the buses a lot, it’s worth picking up a full timetable from the bus station, either at Como or Menaggio. You can also access while you are out there via your smartphone internet browser using the link http://maps.palmbus.it/mobile. Please note this doesn’t work from a PC!
The bus system works like this: you buy your ticket in a bar or tabacchi. Just state your destination and the number of people who are travelling. Remember if you want tickets both ways, you can buy your return ticket at the same time. All the tickets will look the same and show what tariff you have paid.
You may be caught out without a ticket if, say, the local bar is closed. Bus drivers will sell you a ticket, but they will make a surcharge of €1.50. Or they may stop at the next open bar and signal for you to get off, go and buy a ticket, then get back on again.
Palm Express – Swiss Postbus
Every day a Swiss ‘Postbus’ leaves Lugano on a spectacular trip to St Moritz, passing into Italy, going up Lake Como, Valchiavenna and up a vertiginous climb through the Maloja Pass. You need to buy your ticket online if you want to pick up this trip in Menaggio. Alternatively, the travel agent Il Porticciolo in Menaggio, opposite the Grand Hotel Menaggio, runs a day coach trip to St Moritz via Tirano, with an hour on the famous Bernina Express, returning from St Moritz via the Maloja pass.