Varenna is one of the most beautiful towns on Lake Como. Together with Bellagio this charming lakeside village is often mentioned on lists of must-see places to visit in Lombardy. Even though both villages are located on the same part of the lake and quite close to each other you need a ferry to go from one to the other since there is the Eastern part of the lake in between. Luckily this only takes roughly 15 minutes and it is always nice to be out on the water and see the villages from a different angle.
Varenna is smaller than Bellagio, the pearl of Lake Como, and not as crowded. With a population of less than a thousand inhabitants (Varennesi) this charming municipality feels more relaxed. Since Varenna has less restaurants, cafes and shops than Bellagio it is also less touristy. A good place to start when you leave the ferry is Varenna Caffè Bistrot. This café has a lakefront terrace and is a perfect spot for your morning coffee or an afternoon apéritif. An aperitivo is a pre-dinner drink that is served with light snacks and this afternoon ritual is one of my favourite Italian traditions. I usually order a Negroni, a true Italian classic cocktail.
Villa Monastero on the shore of Lake Como
A must see when visiting Varenna is magical Villa Monastero on the shore of the lake just outside town. Originally a 12th century Cistercian convent, the villa underwent many restoration works from 1569 to 1862. This eclectic style residence has beautiful botanical gardens. I would suggest to start at “il giardino botanico” of Villa Cipressi. From this villa you have a spectacular view on Villa Monastero and the lake. After Villa Cipressi you can visit Monastero and have a nice stroll through the gardens alongside the lake. You can reach both villas on foot from the harbour and on your way to these villas you will walk through the lovely narrow cobbled streets of the historic town. After all this walking it is nice to have a refreshing swim in the lake so that is exactly what I did. A nice place to enter the lake is the little public beach in front of Hotel Royal Victoria. The water can be a little cold at first but it is absolutely delightful once you are in.
Here you can find additional information about Villa Monaserto: https://www.villamonastero.eu/en/home_en/