How and why we re-arranged the ferry timetables

For many visitors a ride on a ferry boat will be the defining experience of their stay at Lake Como. ‘Pleasure cruises’ operate from Como town but regular services also connect the many ‘communes’ (villages) dotted along the lakesides.

Ferry rides are both a pleasure and a means of getting to places of interest. In the mid-lake area, for example, ferries are the only way of visiting Menaggio and Varenna from Bellagio.

Many visitors will take two, three or several ferry boat trips in the course of a holiday at the Lake. This makes the ferry timetables important documents for any visitors wishing to organise their day trips by boat, or indeed their boat trips by day. But the timetables can be hard to follow, especially if you don’t read Italian.

We cam across English language versions of the timetables (both in text and in PDF form) on the website of the ferry authority (GNL) but found that they were not as easy to use as they could have been, because:

  • Alternative weekday and ‘holyday’ services are intermingled on some timetables – you have to keep remembering which ‘columns’ to ignore.
  • The vehicle and passenger ferry services between Bellagio, Menaggio, Varenna and Cadenabbia print out inconveniently, either as eight pieces of paper or as a one page PDF document compressed to the point of being confusing.
  • About sixty to seventy percent of the ‘standard’ Como – Colico timetable consists of local services between Como and half a dozen nearby communes at the southern end of the western branch, which are not that important to many visitors.
  • For many stops, both arrival and departure times are shown, even though there is only a minute or two between them.
  • Where ferries visit places ‘out of sequence’ the arrows that show the actual route taken are not immediately easy to follow.

The changes we made to produce our Ferry Timetables for Visitors are not intended to be the last word on designing such a document. They are just a first attempt to simplify the document for English speaking visitors. As a result:

  • ‘Holyday’ services are separated from weekday services.
  • Vehicle and passenger services between Bellagio, Menaggio, Varenna and Cadenabbia now print out on the optimum two pieces of paper.
  • The short local trips at the Como end of the western branch have been removed from the Como – Colico timetables and shown separately.
  • Arrival times have been removed, except for the arrival time at the end of each line.
  • Where stops are made out of sequence, they are ‘boxed’ on the timetable, making it easier to see the variation from the expected order.

The result – our Winter 2008 Lake Como Ferry Timetable for Visitors – seems to us to be clear and easy to read. But if you prefer the official versions you can find them at Gestione Governativa Navigazione Laghi – Lake Como.