What to see and do in Varenna, Italy – a beautiful town on Lake Como
Varenna, Italy is simply a lovely town on Lake Como. Varenna sits just opposite of Menaggio and has a view of Bellagio. The three towns (Menaggio, Varenna, Bellagio) create a constant triangle of ferry traffic and consequently are some of the biggest tourist towns on Lake Como.
All of the towns on Lake Como are unique; Varenna, as a small fishing village has a more relaxed atmosphere.
1 – Ferry and Walk into Town – Arriving by ferry is the best possible way to really appreciate the town’s location. From the ferry you will have great views of the town, seeing how it juts out into the water, admiring the brightly painted houses, and getting a glimpse of the castle at the top of the hill (hard to see at first). Plus the ferry ride gives you ample time to get at least a few dozen photos of Varenna, (Note to photographers, the light is best at sunset as the town sits on the east side of the lake).
From the ferry stop you can walk along the footpath that takes you right over the water and into the heart of the town.
* Ferry schedules can be a bit confusing but you can always be sure you are going to the right place because the stops are always announced and tickets are always checked before you board. – Ferry ticket prices are more then reasonable and round trip is always cheaper. Click here for a link to the Lake Como ferry website for more information.
2 – I suggest taking a seat at one of the cafes and enjoying the view with a good cup of cappuccino. There is always a lot to watch while seated at the cafés in Varenna – from the constant boat activity to the ferry traffic to the occasional wedding party traipsing by to get to the next photo spot (popular wedding photography town). All of the cafes are good with pizza being the best thing to order and the last gelato stand is highly recommended (by me!).
3 – From the little cluster of cafes you can continue walking through the lower part of town which will eventually lead you to stepped path. The square at the top of the town has two churches – both have incredible frescos to see. The smaller of the two churches is at the end of the square, past the hotels, at the end of the parking area.
4 – Villa Monastero – From the square, if you walk along the road going south you will reach Villa Monastero and gardens. You can walk through the gardens and tour the villa, I recommend both! Villa Monastero was built in the early 13th century and was a Cistercian convent dedicated to St. Mary Magdalen. The garden is very extensive and can take a couple of hours to see.
—–>Ticket Prices for the Villa Monastero in Varenna, Italy:
– To just see the gardens it is 5 euros, while to see both the villa and gardens it is 8 euros. – There are discounts for senior citizens, children, and groups of ten or more. – Summer hours are 9-7 from May to September. – October to November, and during April, the hours are 9-6.
For more information on Villa Monastero in Varenna, Italy click here for the official website (although the English translation is a bit off).
5 – Castle Vezio – Castello Vezio – The castle ruins at the top of the hill date back to the 7th century. Reaching the castle can be a challenge only because it is hard to find the signs that point the way. The castle has changed a lot over the last ten years! When I first visited the castle in 2002 it really was just a ruin that you could walk around and now it is more of a complex with a formal pathway through olive groves, an admission fee (just 4 euros), and events and a birds of prey show. If you have time and you are up for a small hike, you will get great views as you can climb up one of the towers!
—-> How to get to the Castello Vezio above Varenna, Italy:
– From the ferry stop, go straight ahead and up a little cobble stop path until you reach the street. Cross the street (if you look hard enough you will see a little yellow sign to the castle) and continue on the cobblestone path. You won’t feel like it is a correct path but if you make a sharp turn on it to the left and continue to climb up you will eventually reach a very shady path in the middle of small forest. The path goes right into the small town at the top of the hill and you have to continue through the town (following those yellow signs) to the castle. The walk up should take about 45 minutes.
On the whole, Varenna, Italy is a lovely town to visit! You can simply go to Varenna to sit in a café along the water and just admire the view. I do highly recommend seeing the Villa gardens and of course having that daily gelato!
Hope you enjoyed this post and found it helpful. Please feel free to leave a comment and let me know of your trip to Varenna or anything that shouldn’t be missed on a visit there!