January, 31 2017 ( Updated August, 09 2017)
Lake Como is certainly one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe because of its stunning landscape, wildlife and the surrounding mountain peaks. There are a number of regions from where you can enjoy the lake at its best. The small village of Varenna rewards you with a panoramic view of the lake, and is certainly one of the most romantic destinations which surround lake Como.
At 60 kilometres from Milan, Varenna is located at the intersection of the three branches of Lake Como. The charming village is known for its relaxing atmosphere, gardens, colourful houses, flowers and floral perfumes. Be prepared to also be transported to the older days as the village has an abundance of 19th century villas and churches. As you walk along the steep alleyways, you will be awestruck and left to wonder how the buildings stand so still on the village’s steep slopes.
Houses at Varenna
The best way to explore the old world charm of this village is definitely on foot, as the attractions are approximately 15 minutes away from each other, plus you also get to walk through the beautiful alleyways and the lakeside.
Start your journey at the Church of San Giorgio, which is one of the finest examples of 14th century Lombard architecture. The beauty of the church lies in the frescos, for e.g. Satan holding the antichrist, painted at the counter. You will find yourself surrounded by a number of Altarpieces painted by some of the most renowned painters of medieval Italy, like St. George Jo Pietro de' Brentanis, Como Sigismund De 'Magistris and more. Do remember to take a picture of the Instagrammable clock tower right outside the church.
Church of San Giorgio
As you walk towards the east, you will be acquainted with the two villas - the Villa Cepressi first, followed by the Villa Monastero. The Villa Cepressi is a perfect blend of the old and the new, courtesy of being built during the 1400-1800s and then later being restored. Explore the magnificent architecture of these buildings before you make your way to the botanical gardens which houses some exotic plant species like the American Agave. The staircases and terraces are fine works of architecture, which lead down to the lake. You pay €4 to visit the botanical gardens. You can have your lunch at the alfresco restaurant located at the Villa garden which serves up Italian, European and Mediterranean food.
Next up is the Villa Monastero, which previously used to be inhabited by some of the powerful figures of medieval Europe like Valsassinesi Mornico and is now a museum and a centre for cultural studies and cultural conferences. Some of the most important rooms of this villa are the Billiard room, the Black hall and of course, the Fermi room, where renowned physicist Enrico Fermi delivered his last lesson. He also used to live and study at the Villa itself. There is a botanical garden on the terrace. Don’t forget to check out the “La Clemenza di Tito”, a neoclassical sculpture by Giovanni Battista Comolli.
As you walk north east from Villa Monastero, you will reach the source of the river Fiumelatte, which happens to be one of the shortest rivers in Italy, at a length of only 250m. The river gets its name as it waters are so foamy that the colour of the river looks milky white. The river appears towards mid-March and disappears by October. You can follow the course of the river which will lead you to the head of the river which houses a picnic area, where you can enjoy a romantic sunset with the lake and the mountains in the background.
Towards the west, near the ferry station (Varenna’s pier) is the picturesque and romantic Passeggiata degli Innamorati (Lovers’ walk) which runs along the lake and is covered by hanging willows and cypress trees on one side. This walkway leads to the lakeside promenade which is lined with restaurants, bars and boutiques.
Sunset over Lake Como
Or you can head over to the Castle of Vezio - a fortress which has played host to a number of bloody battles, clashes and drama over the course of history. This castle was destroyed as a result of war and was later restored, but it hasn’t lost its medieval charm. Take a walk around the castle and also enjoy a panoramic view of the lake and the village itself. A visit to the castle costs €4.
Now that you are done with the architectural beauty that the village has to offer, you can dine at Vecchia Varenna, a restaurant whose tables are placed on a platform suspended on the lake and serves up Italian food. Their little gnocchi cooked in goat cheese is a must try. A meal there would cost you about €35-45, but do head there early as the place closes by 9:30pm.
End your wonderful day at this village as you have a drink and enjoy a view of the lake at Du Lac.