You are hereVarenna
Varenna is a quaint village lying on a promontory on the east coast of Lake Como. The term used most frequently to describe it is “picturesque,” and it is indeed the “pearl of Lake Como” for it has remained unspoiled by tourism and retains its medieval charm. Seen from the lake, Varenna looks like a colorful painting with its brightly painted houses and buildings, flowers along the lake edge, a castle tower above the tall pines on the verdant mountain behind, and the spire of the Chiesa di San Giorgio rising up above the roofs.
Because the train comes directly to Varenna from Milan, and ferries connect it to other towns on Lake Como including a car ferry, it is an easy, and most worthwhile stop. Visitors remark on the quiet and tranquility there, the relaxation afforded by the unhurried pace of this peaceful village. With that easy pace, one can take in the lovely walk along the lake edge down to the small stone beach which is inhabited by ducks, and enjoy some ice cream or coffee from the gelaterie nearby. Or one can sit at an outside terrace of a cafe on the water’s edge to enjoy a meal and the beautiful scenery: the calm lake, the towns of Bellagio and Menaggio across, and the snowcapped mountains in the distance. Along the arcade near the water are a few shops, boutiques, and cafes.
Venturing toward the piazza from the lakefront, that medieval sense is felt as one walks through the cobbled walks and steps in narrow alleyways, with shutters and flower pots on the balconies of homes, and small shops, restaurants, and bars along the lanes. Two old churches dominate the piazza center: the Chiesa di San Giorgio, and the Chiesa di San Giovanni Battista. At a short distance away from the center are the two villas which feature century-old gardens with beautiful plants: The Villa Monastero, a conference center, and the Villa Cipressi, a hotel.
The more energetic can climb up the steep steps on the mountain side to the ancient fortress called the Castello di Vezio, which was thought to be founded by Theolinda, Queen of the Lombards, in the 7th century. The views from the mountaintop of Varenna and the surrounding areas are spectacular. At the castle one can see an exhibition of birds of prey, and an occasional flight demonstration by the falconer of the castle. Intimate concerts are sometimes held at the foot of the castle.
Two small side trips will take the visitor to other attractions: Fiumelatte is a hamlet located 2 km south of Varenna, and features the “River of Milk”, a stream of white water that has baffled scientists through the ages. This is also said to be Italy’s shortest river and is a temporary phenomenon that dries up by late summer. The other hamlet to visit is Perledo, 4 km away, which offers inviting hiking trails and nature walks.
What would make a memorable experience for the visitor is to sign up for the Ristorante Il Caminetto Cookery Lessons offered by Chef Moreno who will pick up and later deliver the visitor to any point in Veranna. While the visitors relax over coffee, Chef Moreno gives a demonstration of various pasta dishes, including risotto, gnocchi and tagliatelle pasta, which are then served as lunch together with wine. Reviewers are unanimous in raving over this experience of an entertaining and gracious host providing informative lessons and fabulous food.
The quaintness of Varenna is made all the more appealing by the warmth and friendliness of the locals, who are eager to share their “pearl” with visitors. It is this quality of Varenna that makes it a memorable place to visit.