A Piece of Heaven in Lake Como
Some consider Varenna Italy to be the most heavenly of all the towns on the Lake of Como. Elegant and peaceful, it captures the breath of its visitors with charming rustic houses, a matrix of narrow cobble-stoned alleyways, and its lovely lakeside promenade…
A nice stroll along the long, lakeside promenade which begins from the boat harbor is one of our favorite ways to unwind and relax…letting the peaceful sound of the waves from the deep-blue water, and the calming breezes capture your senses.
Aaaaah! If only some moments could last forever…
It would be the moment when the sun just begins to hide behind the mountains of the other side of the lake and casts its gleaming rays of sunlight onto Bellagio and Menaggio. When you stay in Varenna, you can witness some pretty amazing sunsets.
There are also some great villas with awe-inspiring botanical gardens, delicious restaurants with authentic cuisine and a special river from the nearby town of Fiumelatte that has stunned even the most renowned scientists like Leonardo da Vinci…
Varenna, Italyis in the central part of Lake Como and there is a convenient ferry service which runs very frequently between other centrally-located towns such as Menaggio, Bellagio and Cadennabia.
By ferry: From Como’s harbor (close to the Como Nord Lago station) there are fast and slow boats which can take you here directly. Schedules at www.navigazionelaghi.it There are also car-ferry services from the above-mentioned towns of Menaggio, Bellagio, and Cadenabbia. You can buy an unlimited ferry ticket for the central lake region…a great value!
By train: A train will take you here from Bergamo airport with a change in Lecco.
By bus: There are buses that run from Lecco to Varenna but depending on where you are arriving from it may be faster to take the C10 bus on the western towns of the lake and then take the ferry over.
Varenna, Italy is located on the eastern shores of Lake Como 22 km north of Lecco and 20 km south of Colico. The Via 4 Novembre is the main road leading from southern towns and the Via Corrado Venini leads to northern towns. The central train station is located 200 meters uphill from the ferry harbor where boats depart frequently to Bellagio and Menaggio as well as Como and Colico.
Varenna, Italy is ideal for romantics and day-dreamers who will fall in love with the charm of Varenna’s steep hillside and alleyways which see to emerge out of the lake. It is a wonderful spot to relax, enjoy nice, long meals, and a great base from which to explore other parts of the lake such as Bellagio and Menaggio.
The residents are very warm-hearted people and love to share their pride of living in Varenna. One odd tradition is how they keep water bottles just of outside their houses to keep stray cats from peeing on their door!
The long tower which sticks out of the horizon when viewing Varenna from a boat and which can even be seen at a faraway distances, was once an important strategic military point, as fire sticks thrown out from its top would warn the neighboring villages of incoming intruders.
A Sample Day
Here’s how we have spent our days in Varenna in the past…
After your morning capuccino in one of the excellent cafes overloooking the lake, you could take a morning walk towards the south over to the Villa Cipressi and Villa Monastero. It has a beautiful botanical garden which could take several hours to see in entirety.
After this refreshing encounter with nature, you can walk back towards Varenna’s center but instead of taking the hundreds of descending steps down to the lake just continue straight until you reach Varenna’s central square – Piazza San Giorgio.
Here you can still peek through the alleyways to get a glimpse of the lake, but you have the feeling that you are in another world altogether. The cobble stoned streets of this Piazza and the fresh aroma of Italian cuisine coming from its numerous, delicious, family-run restaurants will put you in the mood for a meal…
…Where to Eat
While in the Piazza San Giorgio, you can visit the Ristorante Del Sole for some tasty wood-fried pizza using an original recipe from the Naples. They also have a great selection of fish. Don’t forget that you can always return here in the evening for some late-night karaoke entertainment.
A little farther north, is a must-stop for those who love eating. The Vecchia Varenna (via Scoscesa 10) has delicious meals and a lakeview terrace which will add to your culinary dining experience.
Where should I stay?
Unfortunately, some of the best accommodation in Varenna, Italy will require an uphill walk up the narrow steps leading up from the lake. This may be inconvenient for some travelers, but we can only re-assure you that it’s absolutely worth the effort.
For a small mid-priced hotel, the Albergo Milano – Casa Rossa (Via XX Settembre 29) is highly popular but books very much in advance as it only has 8 rooms. When the hotel gets overbooked, there are also a set of apartments nearby. The balconies have beautiful views of the lake.
Other Things to See/Do
Castello Vezio – These are the ruins of a castle on top of the hill overlooking Varenna where Theodolinda, Queen of the Lombards, is said to have died in the 7th century. It’s quite a strenous walk to the top, so a car is advised.
Perledo – This is a mountain community, 4km drive from Varenna and offers wonderful hiking trails and nature walks.
Fiumelatte – or ‘River of Milk’ is also nicknamed Italy’s shortest river and is located 2 km south of Varenna in the town of Fiumelatte. Scientists are still baffled to this day as Leonardo da Vinci was back in his day as to what causes its milky appearance each year after the rainy spring season. By the late summer, it completely dries up so plan your trip accordingly.
You can also walk up to the very top and get to the hole where the water comes out of the mountain. Just follow the "Sorgente" signs. FYI, Fiumelatte has its own train station but requires quite a bit of walk downhill.
Varenna Italy is one of the most scenic towns in stunning Lake Como.
Only from Varenna can one benefit from the amazing view of Bellagio and Menaggio on the other sides of the lake while admiring the surrounding snowcapped mountains. It’s possible to spend a few hours exploring the narrow lanes of Varenna and its very own small harbour. Varenna is very easy to “check off” your list of visited towns in Lake Como, because everything is within walking distance and the town itself is quite small. Even if Lake Como will just be a day trip for you, it is still only a one hour and a half drive from the regional capital, Milan, roughly 80 kilometers.
Not to be missed in Varenna
In July there’s a wonderful display of fireworks not to be missed. It’s actually a reenactment of an important battle that took place on Lake Como’s only island, Island Comacina. This event occurred in the twelfth century, when Como was nearly entirely obliterated. The inhabitants of the island were welcomed by the folks of Varenna, who’d suffered the same fate from before. The district where they settled down became identified as Insula Nova, a title which was soon put on the entire village. Through a series of fortuitous circumstances, the small town of Varenna shortly became among the richest of any town found on the lake.
You should also pay a visit to the tiny, nearby town of Fiumelatte with its Fiumelatte river. It’s actually the shortest river in Italy – only 250m long – and flows only half the year. It owes its name to the characteristic milky colour of its flowing water.
Its mysterious sources were analyzed by Leonardo da Vinci who was in awe of its irregular flow. It’s also called the River of the two Madonnas as it usually begins to appear ’round the time of the Feast of the Annunciation (March 25th) and evaporates around Oct 7th, which also pertains to the Feast of the Madonna of the Rosary.
Where to Dine in Varenna Italy – Varenna Vacation Packages
Once arriving, some guests enjoy visiting the modest, enchanting restaurant found at the very height of the hilltop called ‘Il Portichetto’, located next door to a bed and breakfast (both the B and B and restaurant were owned by Rita, a fantastically warm, friendly and helpful Italian woman). You can’t go wrong with other family-run restaurants in the area for their hearty meals and stellar service. Enjoy a few beers, a small plate of ?salumi?, a couple of cappuccinos before boarding your homey apartment for a night or two. That would summarize a classic stay in Varenna.
One thing to keep in mind while visiting Varenna is that the train station is located quite high from the lakeshore harbor. You may even want to bring some hiking boots with you since the walk down into the town can be quite steep at times. The nice thing is that We went ahead and got our train tickets for the airport before we left the train station in Milan for our resort.
Anyone who visits Varenna for the first time usually falls deeply in love with it, while others simply cannot get enough of the wonderful location. Most people have nothing but beautiful memories of their wonderful trip there and know that they will be back to Varenna Italy in the future.
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