varenna & lake como

For the romantics, the historians or for those who love peace, tranquility and a history that goes back thousands of years, this is the place.

Varenna is an ancient fishing village with around 1000 residents, their homes spread along the hillsides overlooking Lake Como. The first evidence of Varenna existence dates back to 493.


Varenna is just one of the four towns that share the collective name for the imaginary quadrant in the lake called 'The Golden Triangle'. The other three towns are Bellagio, Menaggio & Cadenabbia. These are the only four destinations where the larger car & passenger ferries embark.


What is there to do in Varenna? It would be quite easy to give you a days itinerary but if you wish to visit just a few places, I have listed some ideas below.


There are two famous villas to be visited in Varenna, Villa Monastero and Villa Cipressi, both on their own right and because of their famous gardens.


Villa Cipressi & Villa Monestero, are both a few minutes walk from the central square ~ Piazza San Giorgio, past Victoria Grill, toward Fiumelatte. Villa Monestero, as the name indicates, was a Cistercian convent dedicated to St. Mary Magdalen. It was founded in 1208 by a group of faithful followers who had escaped from Comacina Island, after the Island was destroyed during the war between Milan and Como. Today, it's a real gem both botanical & architectural. The paths meander up and down, there are beautiful statues, a temple, small altars and a fountain just in front of the main building.

One can spend hours or even days in this place; walking amongst an endless parade of cypresses, palms, cedars, some of these of enormous proportions, a collection of citrus trees, eucalyptus trees, magnolias, bowers of creeping roses and extraordinary shaped palm varieties.


Villa Cipressi, built at the turn of the century is not just a hotel but also has beautiful gardens which cascade down terraces to the waters edge and along the many secret paths, wisteria covered walls and scented jasmine can be admired. Villa Cipressi is a very popular wedding destination for romantic couples.


The photo opportunities open up around every corner and will send your camera into a frenzy!

In its time, these villas must have been an extraordinary place for meditation and contemplation. Or for love. It still is!


Tickets for both gardens & villas must be bought at Villa Monastero ticket office.


You can walk to the ferry, along a wonderful promenade, called 'La Passerella' which cantilevers over the water, past a wonderful ice cream shop, friendly ducks (check out the villages ornithological museum as well) and lazy fish drifting in the sparkling water. The ferry area is naturally less tranquil, but has some magnificent villas overlooking the wharf and its own piazza. If the ferry isn't there already, then sip a late 'Latte' at the local cafe and soak up the refreshing lake air!


Giovanni Battista Pirelli was born in Varenna in1848 and in 1872 started a small rubber factory, the first in Italy and one of the first in all of Europe. It pioneered the manufacture of electric cable (1884) and in 1899 began producing automobile tires.


For those feeling energetic, the half hour hike to the Castello di Vezio which stands proudly on the verdant hills above Varenna, is well worth the effort in exchange for the commanding views of Lake Como. Walk the draw bridge & climb the tower to the top for even more spectacular views. Within the castle grounds, there is a cafe/restaurant and also an impressive collection of birds of prey with daily falconry displays. Also make a point of clambering down into the secret underground vaults dating back to the First World War.


Be sure to stop at a favorite pottery shop of mine, 'Ceramiche di Vezio'. You can't but stumble upon it as you walk up the narrow streets of Vezio leading up to the castle. They specialise in Raku firing and I've bought some beautiful pieces over some of my many visits there ~ a real Aladdin's cave of ceramic treasures!


So, onto Lake Como and it's many towns, villages, villas, gardens & attractions ~ I really haven't left much room to describe the many beautiful places you must visit. I'm going to let you decide on your itinerary that takes you beyond Varenna ~ after all, travel is an adventure, I'll leave it to your imaginations ~ spur of the moment decisions are also ways the best. Just keep your ferry timetable to hand and don't miss the last one back home! Oh, and don't forget to cram in that day trip to Venice ~ just hop on the train in Varenna and 4 hours later your there, in a city that is not only an engineering marvel but also has the world's most artistic masterpieces per square km!


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