Varenna is a picturesque village, located on the eastern shore of Lake Como. Besides being an important location for conferences, Varenna is also an essential stop for anyone wishing to visit the most fascinating areas of the lake.
Time stands still in Varenna. By visiting the hamlet, you will see how the past and present coexist in perfect harmony. Traditional activities such as fishing, the construction of barrels, or the extraction of typical black marble have always been fundamental to the area, and probably always will be.
See a map of Varenna’s attractions and keep reading to discover the best things to see in Varenna during your stay!
Varenna, where time stands still
Piazza San Giorgio, the town center of Varenna, is home to the Church of San Giorgio. The church was built in the 14th century, in a style somewhere between Romanesque and Gothic. If you visit inside, you will have the chance to see many works from the late 15th and 16th century, in addition to the furnishings, which date back to the 17th-18th century. Look down and you will see the solid pavement, entirely made of local marble.
You can head toward the lake and walk along the narrow streets branching off from Piazza San Giorgio. Be careful when walking; their flooring is made of cobblestones, and some alleys are also quite steep.
Walk among the colorful houses that brighten the village and get to Riva Grande, the lake promenade of Varenna. You will come across a walkway that leads to the boat landing, where boats and ferries keep coming and going.
The southern part of the village hosts one of the best things to see in Varenna: Villa Monastero. The name of the villa tells of its origins: it was indeed an old monastery, that later became a patrician residence. Besides being a well-known international conference center, Villa Monastero attracts tourists from everywhere because of its beautiful botanical garden that collects many rare plant species.
By visiting this famous villa, you will also have the opportunity to see Casa Museo, a museum that gathers four centuries of history within an elegant setting, characterized by refined decorations and furnishings.
Keep in mind that Villa Monastero is open to the public from March to November only.
So, you’ve already packed your bags but… don’t know where to sleep?
Adjacent to Villa Monastero is Villa Cipressi, a group of buildings that were built between the 16th and the 19th centuries. The complex is surrounded by secular terraced gardens that reach the shores of Lake Como. The name of Villa Cipressi originates from the beautiful and ancient cypress trees that can still be found in its gardens. Unlike Villa Monastero, this villa is currently a luxury hotel that you can book for your vacations in Lake Como.
If you don’t mind walking, you can follow the path along the Esino River and get to the Castello di Vezio, an ancient medieval fortress overlooking Varenna. The castle houses a permanent exhibition dedicated to the Lariosaurus (an extinct sea reptile from the Middle Triassic period), as well as a center for the training of birds of prey.
A few kilometers south of Varenna there is the locality Fiumelatte, where a river of the same name flows through it. The Fiumelatte River is quite peculiar; besides having a white appearance that makes one think of milk, this short river only flows between March and September, whereas it is perfectly dry during the other months.
If you love nature, you’ll be happy to know that Varenna is the perfect starting point for doing some hiking through the Grigne mountains. Varenna is also crossed by a 45 kilometer path called Sentiero del Viandante, that winds around the eastern cost of Lake Como from Abbadia Lariana to Colico.