Varenna can be found two-thirds of the way up the eastern shore of Lake Como. Given this central position it is a perfect base to explore the lake. Compared to its sister towns, Varenna is less frequented by tourists and one of its most attractive features is its size. It has a population of less than 1,000, making it a quiet and tranquil place to stay. To allow you to settle in there are many self-catering apartments available to rent. The village sits on a steep hillside that runs directly down to Lake Como. Its old stone steps, worn by history, all lead to the shore. Here you can spend some pleasant hours taking in the view of the lake as you wander along the promenade. Or have a coffee and ice-cream on the terrace of Bar Nilus and just let the world pass by.
How to get to Varenna
Transport in and out of Varenna is good. There are bus, train and ferry options available. This not only makes it very accessible but puts the lake and surrounding areas in easy reach.
What to see
A walk along Via 4 Novembre will bring you past a series of lakeside promenades to the southern tip of the village. Here you will find the captivating gardens of Villa Monastero. They stretch along the waterfront as far as the Fiumelatte, Italy’s shortest river. The gardens host a variety of exotic plants and a great diversity of arboreal species including citrus, conifers, dracaena, and palms. Spread amongst these you will find temples, statues, and fountains. The former Cistercian monastery now houses a museum and you can visit selected rooms. The gardens and museum are open to the public from the 31st of March to the 1st of November. Opening hours for the gardens are from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. The museum is only open at the weekend. Its hours are Saturday from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. and on Sunday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.
The ruins of the medieval Castello Vezio sit atop the hillside overlooking the village. The fortress is surrounded by olive trees and it has been converted into a breeding, nursery, and training center for birds of prey. Depending on weather conditions you can visit the center to see daily exhibitions and demonstrations. Apart from the center, the tower and vaults are also open to the public. They date from the First World War. The castle is open from April to October and the public can visit from 10 a.m. until sunset. You should note that in the event of rain the center is closed.
San Giorgio parish church
Situated in the heart of the village is the San Giorgio basilica. Consecrated in 1313 it is composed of a nave and two aisles. The outside has a striking façade, a fresco of St. Christopher. It is always open to the public.
Being cloaked by the Swiss and Italian Alps gives Lake Como its own microclimate, which is temperate and mild. Spring is a lovely time here. The days are pleasantly warm, 15 to 20 degrees and the surrounding foothills burst into life. Walking enthusiasts have no end of choice here. The peak temperatures arrive in summer when they can reach the low 30s. However, the Breva wind freshens the air creating an agreeable atmosphere to be out and about in. The summers are long and stretch into mid to late October. While winter can be cold, around seven degrees, it is usually short. As long as you wrap up you can enjoy the crisp winter weather.
This little Italian village boasts 16 restaurants and is famed for its cuisine. Those that enjoy fine food and wine will not be disappointed.