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Varenna

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Varenna is a fairly sedate, attractive lakeside village in the central part of Lake Como in the Lombardy region of Italy. It is traditionally a fishing village and has colorful houses and villas built close to each other on a little piece of land just below a mountain. With staircases and steep paths, the historical centre of Varenna is nicely cozy and has bars with terraces and a pedestrian walk along the lake shore. The village has some nice hotels and restaurants (some of the best on the eastern shore of Lake Como), a conference centre for physics (Villa Monastero regularly hosts the national Italian research conference) and two botanical gardens worth a visit in Villa Monastero and Villa Cipressi.

Get in

By train

Varenna is on the line that runs from Milan to Lecco, up the eastern side of the lake through Varenna and on to Colico, then to MorbegnoSondrio and Tirano. Express trains leave from Milano Centrale station, stop at few stations, and reach Varenna in approx. 1 hr. Regional trains leave from Milan Porta Garibaldi, stop at all stations (including Fiumelatte, a southern subdivision of Varenna), and reach Varenna in 1½-2 hr. The trains are a convenient way to move along the eastern shore of Lake Como, but the service finishes quite early in the evening (the last train leaves Milan at 21:20).

  • 1 Stazione di Varenna-Esino-Perledo, Via alla Stazione (at the village of Perledo, just across the stream of Esino at the N border of Varenna). Regional services R13 line Calolziocorte–Lecco–Colico–Sondrio, RegioExpress train services on the RE8 route Milan–Lecco–Sondrio–Tirano. Ride from Milan costs €6.70 and takes 1–1¼ hr. Check Trenord website for timetables and fares.

By air

The nearest airport is Orio al Serio International Airport (sometimes referred to as Milan Bergamo) in Bergamo, which is served by several low-cost airlines. Driving distance is around 70 km (1 hr 10 min); by public transport the easiest way is to take a bus from the airport to Bergamo railway station where you can catch a train to Lecco and then change to a train to Varenna.

Milan Linate Airport and Milano Malpensa Airport are relatively close, although the latter is further away, being on the west side of Milan. Drive time from either of these is around 1 hr 40 min. Public transport is more comfortable than from Orio al Serio; from Milano Malpensa you can get to Milan central station with a bus or train and from there you can take the train to Varenna; from Milano Malpensa there is a public bus (the ATM shuttle takes you directly to Milan central station) and from there you have the train to Varenna.

By boat

Boat trips across Lake Como are an essential part of any holiday in this region. Varenna is directly served by the lake's ferry network which provides connections from several towns and villages on the lake shore.

  • 1 Ferry piers (at the N end of Varenna). Vehicle ferry services to Bellagio, Cadenabbia (near Tremezzo) and Menaggio. Passenger ferry connections to LennoTremezzo and Como. Check Gestione Navigazione Laghi website for timetables and fares.

Get around

Varenna is a small, compact village best visited on foot. It's on a steep hill with lots of steps, but there is a fairly level and very attractive waterside path along most of the shoreline. The village has one frazione (subdistrict), Fiumelatte, which is south of the main village, past the Villa Monastero garden.

If you want a taxi, you can probably find one at the Varenna-Esino railway station.

  • Vittorio Ongania Auto Pubblica Taxi, Piazza della Stazione a Perledo, ☏ +39 0341 830106.
  • Ruggero Maglia Servizio Taxi, Via Statale 45 a Varenna, ☏ +39 0341 830580.
  • Enrico Faggi Servizio Taxi, Via Per Esino 81 a Perledo, ☏ +39 0341 830269.

See

  • 1 Villa Monastero, Viale Giovanni Polvani, 4 (southern end of Varenna on SP72, a multi-storey car-park is available), ☏ +39 0341 295450, ✉ villa.monastero@provincia.lecco.it. 09:30–19:00 (last entry 18:30). Garden: daily 1 Mar – 1 Nov; house museum: Jun, Jul, Aug – daily ; 1 Sep-4 Oct – Tu-Su; 5 Oct-1 Nov – F-Su, holidays, Tu only 13:00–18:00. It was built as a convent, and in the 17th century, converted to a manor. Villa Varenna and a garden around it are now a museum. It is preserved as a house of the late 19th century and its 14 furnished rooms can be visited. It also hosts conferences (in particular it has hosted physics courses that have been attended by over 60 Nobel Prize winners) and is owned by the Province of Lecco. The garden is on a narrow strip of land that stretches 2 km (1 mi) along the lake shore until Fiumelatte. The climate is mild and the garden includes species from Africa and the Americas. €9 for garden and house museum (free for children up to 13 years old); €6 for garden only.
  • 2 Villa Cipressi gardens, Via IV Novembre 18, ☏ +39 0341 830113. Daily Apr–Oct 09:00–18:30 (last entry). The villa is now a hotel and restaurant, but non-guests may visit the gardens, which are charming, while not as grand as some others on the lake. Costs a few euros, or a Villa Monastero ticket may give you entrance here too.
  • 3 Church of San Giorgio.
  • 4 Church of San John the Baptist (San Giovanni Battista).
  • Museo ornitologico e di scienze naturali Scanagatta (museum of ornithology and natural sciences Scanagatta), Via IV Novembre 18, ☏ +39 0341 830119. In general Saturday and Sunday. €3.
  • 5 Vezio Castle (Castello di Vezio), ☏ +39 3488242504, ✉ info@castellodivezio.it. Daily Mar–Oct, opens 10:00, closes 17:00 or later depending on month & day of the week (check hours ); closed when it rains. The castle is in the municipality of Varenna, while the little village of Vezio is in the municipality of Perledo. It has a permanent exhibition of the Lariosaurus. It is home to captive birds of prey (owls, hawks, buzzard, falcon) with flight exhibitions on some days. Adult €4, child 6–12 years €2, student or over-65 and others €3.

Do

  • Cookery Lessons at Ristorante Il Caminetto, viale Progresso 4, Gittana di Perledo, ☏ +39 0341 815225. Chef Moreno gives relaxed and informative lessons in Italian cookery from his family restaurant in the neighbouring village of Gittana, up in the hills (they'll come and collect you from the main square in Varenna). Group sizes are small, and everyone gets to sit down for lunch afterwards to enjoy the fruits of their labour. After lunch, they'll take you back to Varenna or drop you off at Vezio Castle from where you can walk downhill back to Varenna.
  • Hiking itinerary: Historic mule tracks between Varenna and Esino Lario

Buy

Eat

  • 1 Al Prato (Ristorante-enoteca), Piazza al Prato, 6, ☏ +39 348 712 4389. A nice restaurant and a wine bar at a quiet tiny green square.
  • Varenna Caffe, Contrada Scoscesa, 13 (on the waterfront path), ☏ +39 0341 830459. Relaxed café serving breakfast, lunch and dinner or just drinks with lakeside views.
  • Vecchia Varenna, Contrada Scoscesa, 14 (on the waterfront path), ☏ +39 0341 830793. Small lakeside restaurant serving local dishes, with good lake views if you sit in their enclosed outdoor area. Great place to eat at sunset.

Drink

There are a few bars around, especially on the lakeside. L'Orso is last one to close (at 02:00).

Sleep

Budget

  • Appartamento Maria's House (Bed & Breakfast), Via Contrada dell'Arco 3, ☏ +39 0341 735008, +39 333 3462872 (Cellulare), fax: +39 0341 735008, ✉ info@mariashouse.it. 1 rooms, 3 reds. €360-600 per week.
  • Ca' Livia (Bed & Breakfast), via Venini 45, ☏ +39 02 76001980, +39 328 8390110, ✉ info@calivia.it. 5 rooms with 5 beds, 4 bathrooms (130 m² with 400 m² of terrace, balconies and garden). €1,200-2,500 per week.

Mid-range

  • Agriturismo Castello di Vezio - Vezio s.r.l., via Del Castellano 16 - Vezio (Above Varenna), ☏ +39 335 260429 (Cellulare), fax: +39 02 58190932, ✉ info@agriturismocastellodivezio.it. 27 beds in 9 houses. €55-95.
  • Albergo Ristorante Bar Tabaccheria Beretta, via per Esino 1 (Few meters from the railways station and the boat station), ☏ +39 0341 830132, fax: +39 0341 830132, ✉ hotelberetta@iol.it. 10 rooms, 20 reds. The hotel is 50 meters from the lido, the lake shores. €58-80 2013.

Splurge

  • Albergo Moncodeno, Via della Croce 2, ☏ +39 0341 830123, fax: +39 0341 815227, ✉ hmcodeno@tin.it. 11 rooms (7 double and 4 single), 18 beds. €70-100.
  • Albergo Del Sole, p.zza San Giorgio 21 (In the centre), ☏ +39 0341 815218, fax: +39 0341 815218, ✉ albergo.sole@virgilio.it. 7 rooms, 15 beds. €70-170.
  • Albergo Dulac, via del Prestino 11 (on the waterfront path), ☏ +39 0341 830238, fax: +39 0341 831081, ✉ albergodulac@tin.it. 17 rooms, 35 beds. €85-240.
  • Eremo Gaudio, Eremo di Perledo- Loc. Eremo Varenna, ☏ +39 0341 815301, fax: +39 0341 815314, ✉ eremogaudio@yahoo.it. 11 rooms, 22 beds. €100-125.
  • 1 Hotel Olivedo, Piazza Martiri della Libertà 14 (on the waterfront path), ☏ +39 0341 830115, fax: +39 0341 830115, ✉ info@olivedo.it. 10 rooms, 20 beds. Stile Liberty (Art Nouveau) hotel on the waterfront. €100-150.
  • Albergo Milano, Via XX Settembre 35, ☏ +39 0341 830298, fax: +39 0341 830061, ✉ hotelmilano@varenna.net. 8 rooms, 16 beds; the rooms have a balcony with view of the lake. €130-160.
  • Albergo Milano Dipendenza - Casa rossa e casa gialla, via XX Settembre 35, ☏ +39 0341 830298, fax: +39 0341 830061, ✉ hotelmilano@varenna.net. 4 rooms, 8 beds. Dependence of the Hotel Milano. €110-185.
  • 2 Albergo Ristorante Royal Victoria, p.za S. Giorgio 2, ☏ +39 0341 815111, fax: +39 0341 830722, ✉ info@royalvictoria.com. 43 rooms, 97 beds. In the city centre; rooms with a view of the lake and towards the city centre. Conference rooms, swimming pool and garden with access to the lake. €110-220.
  • 3 Hotel Villa Cipressi, Via IV Novembre 18, ☏ +39 0341 830113, fax: +39 0341 830401, ✉ info@hotelvillacipressi.it. The villa was built between 1400 and 1800. It is now owned by the city council of Varenna and managed as a hotel and restaurant. It has 43 rooms, 97 beds, 2 conference rooms and access to its beautiful botanical garden. €110-220.

Connect

Go next

  • Bellagio – take a day trip by ferry across the lake to visit the gardens of Villa Melzi and Villa Serbelloni
  • Menaggio – a town across the lake, on the western shore
  • Esino Lario – a mountain village
  • Perledo – a village very close to Varenna
  • Tremezzo – take a day trip by ferry to the western side of the lake to visit Villa Carlotta and Villa del Balbianello


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