Lake Como

Varenna is a picturesque and traditional village, located on the eastern shore of Lake Como, Italy. It is an essential stop for anyone wishing to visit one of the most typical and peaceful towns of the lake. 

This small village, where you can still breathe in the traditions of yesteryear (above all, fishing), is home to elegant villas with botanical gardens (such as Villa Monastero and Villa Cipressi) and beautiful walks between history and nature (Castle of Vezio and Sentiero del Viandante).

❗A visit to Varenna is a must if you are in Milan (from where you can reach Varenna after a one-hour train ride) or in one of the central towns on the lake such as Bellagio, Menaggio or Tremezzina, which are just 15-20 minutes away by ferry.

Here’s my guide to the best things to do in Varenna, where everything is located within walking distance.

Discover what awaits you in Varenna, on Lake Como!

Varenna, Lake Como, Italy
Varenna, Italy
If you can, visit Varenna in the off-season!
Lake Como is a true corner of Italian paradise that attracts tourists from all over the world, especially during the high season (late May to late September). My advice is, if you can, to visit Lake Como during the low season (for example, in April or October) to have a more relaxing and authentic travel experience.
What are you looking for in Varenna?
Sights & things to do

Picturesque walks, tradition, and a bay not to be missed

Riva Grande, Varenna, Lake Como
Riva Grande in Varenna, on Lake Como

If you arrive in Varenna from another town on the lake, most likely via ferry, you will land near the Passeggiata degli Innamorati (Walk of lovers), one of the most inspiring and romantic walks along Lake Como.

You will enjoy a beautiful view of the lake and begin to notice, after a few minutes’ walk, the charming little streets going up into the interior of the village.

❗The small alleys are full of steps, so it is best to wear a comfortable pair of shoes. If you have difficulty or cannot take the stairs, don’t worry: you can safely move along the streets surrounding the town and visit its most characteristic corners.

📷  The Passeggiata degli Innamorati leads to a beautiful and much-photographed bay, the famous Riva Grande. Here you will find several cafes, restaurants, local artisan shops and ice cream parlors: everything you need for a rejuvenating break before resuming the tour.

Another of the most beautiful things to see in Varenna is Piazza San Giorgio, the town’s central square that houses the Church of San Giorgio.

The church was built in the 14th century in a style somewhere between Romanesque and Gothic and houses numerous paintings from the late 15th and 16th centuries. As you look down, you can see the solid pavement, made entirely of traditional local black marble.

Two lush and elegant botanical gardens

Villa Monastero

A visit to Villa Monastero is definitely one of the best things to do in Varenna. The villa, located a stone’s throw from the central Piazza San Giorgio, was once an old monastery that later became a patrician residence.

📷  Besides being an international conference center, Villa Monastero attracts tourists from all over the world because of its beautiful botanical garden which contains many species of rare plants and stretches for 2km (more than a mile) along the lake shore.

When visiting this famous villa, you will also have the opportunity to see Casa Museo, a museum that collects four centuries of history in an elegant setting with fine decorations and furnishings.

Keep in mind that Villa Monastero is open to the public only from March to November (except for some special winter openings). The cost of a regular ticket is €10. Learn more about Villa Monastero!

Gardens of Villa Cipressi, Varenna
Gardens of Villa Cipressi, Varenna (picture:

Villa Cipressi

Adjacent to Villa Monastero is Villa Cipressi, a 4-star hotel near the town center of Varenna.

The complex is surrounded by centuries-old terraced gardens that reach the shores of Lake Como, a perfect location for unforgettable weddings and holidays.

Villa Cipressi’s name comes from the beautiful and ancient cypress trees that are still found in its gardens.

Unlike Villa Monastero, this villa is currently a luxury hotel that you can book for your vacations on Lake Como. For this reason, unless you are a guest of the hotel, you will only have the opportunity to visit the extensive gardens, full of Mediterranean and exotic plants

The cost of a regular ticket is €8 (€19 for the combined ticket that includes admission to Villa Monastero).

Start planning your holidays!

A few tips for your stay in Varenna

Breathtaking views, ghosts and... legends!

The Castle of Vezio is a medieval fortress that has stood for more than a thousand years on the promontory overlooking Varenna. 

The terrace adjacent to the castle offers a breathtaking view of Lake Como and is home to the “ghosts,” which are white plaster sculptures made each year in the summer with the help of people who pose for an hour.

Also noteworthy is the permanent exhibit dedicated to the Lariosaurus, an extinct marine reptile from the Middle Triassic, which gave rise to a legend similar to that of the Loch Ness monster.

In addition, on Friday and Saturday evenings in summer (usually from early June to early September) the castle organizes aperitifs on the panoramic terrace at a cost of €35 per person.

The castle, open from March to November, can be reached by two roads:

  • the shorter but rather steep road starts next to the hotel Montecodeno and the walk takes about 20-30 minutes, also offering shelter from the sun
  • the more scenic alternative is the Scabium trail, the beginning of which is almost in front of Villa Monastero; it takes 40 minutes and is also rather steep, but offers splendid views of Lake Como (although it is mostly under the sun).

Two must-see places for nature lovers

The hamlet of Fiumelatte and its river

At a 10-15 minute walk from the south of Varenna is the hamlet of Fiumelatte, crossed by the river of the same name.

Fiumelatte is a very special river: besides having a white appearance that makes you think of milk, this short watercourse flows only between March and September (except in cases of drought), while in the other months it is perfectly dry.

An easy walk of about 15 minutes from the hamlet of Fiumelatte leads to the source of the river, allowing splendid views of Lake Como and Bellagio.

Sentiero del Viandante

The Sentiero del Viandante is a stage trek that runs along the entire eastern shore of Lake Como. It has a length of 45 km (30 miles) and is suitable for everyone, but due to its length it is recommended to divide the route into at least 4 stages. 

If you want to get a taste of this beautiful nature trail, I recommend visiting the Varenna tourist website, which describes some possible routes to take starting from the town center.

Sit back, relax and enjoy the view!

Private boat tours

If you are looking for private boat tours from Varenna, here are some options that may be right for you!

Venetian Limousine
2 hour boat tour with
Venetian Limousine
2 hour boat tour with
2 hour boat tour with Riva Ariston
2 hour boat tour with
Riva Ariston
Venetian Limousine
4 hour boat tour with stop
at a location of your choice

Public boat tours

❗Looking for information about public boat service? Read my guide to boats and ferries on Lake Como!

Varenna’s pier is located in Via Imbarcadero. Here you can catch boats to any town on the lake (as anticipated, central lake towns such as Bellagio, Menaggio, and Tremezzo are only 15-20 minutes away by boat).

Plan your trips on the Navigazione Laghi website and, when possible, purchase tickets online or go to the ticket office in advance of the boat departure time.

Beaches in Varenna

Varenna’s main beach is called Olivedo Lido – Lido di Varenna and is equipped with sunbeds, deck chairs and a boat dock.

As throughout Lake Como, there are several small public beaches in various areas (e.g., here), but being free beaches, they are often occupied by tourists and locals especially in summer.

Discover the best beaches in Lake Como!

Stays & experiences

Experiences & tours

Make your trip a unique experience!​

Dining and cooking demonstration experience at Varenna
Dining experience at a local’s home in Varenna
Cranchi E26
5 hour boat tour with visit to three villas
Sunset shared boat tour
Sunset shared boat tour with aperitivo
Passeggiata degli Innamorati, Varenna, Italy
Bellagio, Varenna and Vezio Castle + boat tour
Cooking class
Cooking class at a local’s home in Varenna

about Varenna, Italy

Is Varenna in Italy worth visiting?

Varenna is definitely worth a visit! It has everything that you are looking for: villas, beaches, places to hike and typical restaurants.

Also, thanks to the public boat service you can easily reach other popular Lake Como’s towns such as Bellagio (15 minutes away by ferry), Tremezzina or Menaggio.

How to get to Varenna from Como?

Given the distance, the best way to reach Varenna from Como is definitely by ferry service.

Alternatively, you can split the trip into two parts, first reaching Bellagio by bus and then taking the ferry from there, which takes 15-20 minutes to Varenna.

Where to swim in Varenna?

In Varenna, you can swim at the Lido di Varenna-Perledo. Located in Perledo (next to Varenna), the lido has everything you’re looking for: a sandy beach equipped with sunbeds, deckchairs, and a boat dock, as well as a restaurant-bar for breakfast, an aperitif or an after-dinner drink.

Which is better: Bellagio or Varenna?

The choice between Bellagio and Varenna depends on your preferences and what you are looking for in your visit. Both cities are charming and offer unique experiences, so the "better" option is subjective.

If you love a lively atmosphere, upscale amenities and closer proximity to the city of Como, Bellagio may be the preferred option. If, on the other hand, you prefer a quieter, more romantic setting with a focus on natural beauty, Varenna might be the better choice.

Many visitors choose to explore both towns to experience the unique charm of each.

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This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Lynn

    Where can I leave the luggage in Varenna?

    1. Alessandro – Lake Como Travel

      Hello Lynn, a luggage storage is available at the Tourist Info Point in Varenna (Via 4 Novembre, 7) during office hours (please check them online).

      1. Leigh

        How far is the walk from the train station to the luggage storage area? thank you!

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