Varenna, where time stands still
Varenna is a picturesque and traditional village, located on the eastern shore of Lake Como, Italy.
Varenna is an essential stop for anyone wishing to visit one of the most typical and quite towns of the lake. A must if you are in Milan (from where you arrive after an hour train ride) or in Bellagio, which is just 15 minutes away by ferry.
Here’s my guide to the best things to do in Varenna, everything located within walking distance.
Discover what awaits you in Varenna, Lake Como!
Map of Varenna
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, and hosts many paintings from the late 15th and 16th 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.
If you happen to pass through a narrow alley called Contrada dei Sarti, you’ll have the chance to come across Pelletteria Denti, a very typical leather shop where you can buy something special to take home (leather wallets, belts and purses are all made in Italy!).
Then, walk among the colorful houses that brighten the village and get to Riva Grande, the charming lake promenade of Varenna. You will come across a walkway that leads to the boat landing, where boats and ferries keep coming and going.
A visit to Villa Monastero is definitely one of the best things that you can do in Varenna. The villa was once an old monastery, that later became a patrician residence.
Besides being an 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 (with the exception of some special winter openings).
5 best places to sleep in Varenna
Hotel Royal Victoria
B&B Il BolentinoBED AND BREAKFAST
Adjacent to Villa Monastero is Villa Cipressi, a 4-star hotel near the town center of Varenna.
The complex is surrounded by secular terraced gardens that reach the shores of Lake Como, a perfect location for unforgettable weddings and holidays.
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.
Castello di Vezio
If you don’t mind walking, you can follow the path along the Esino River and get to 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, which gave birth to a legend similar to that of the Loch Ness monster – 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.
One of the most loved hiking trails around Varenna is Sentiero del Viandante, a 45 kilometer path that winds around the eastern cost of Lake Como (from Abbadia Lariana to Colico).
The best experiences around Varenna
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In Varenna, you have the chance to take a boat tour to enjoy Lake Como from a unique point of view. You can choose between public or private tours, depending on your needs and the budget you have available.