Varenna is a village on the eastern shore of Como lake and it’s a jewel amongst the most important destinations on the lake. Varenna’s picturesque lanes and old fishermen’s houses are charming. Varenna is a gateway to Lake Como, as it lies on a railway line with direct trains to Milan (1h 3min), and is connected to the other lake resorts by regular car and passenger ferries boat.
From the ferry jetty to the centre of the village there is a romantic elevated pathway over the water. This brings you to a characteristic lake’s harbour, and to a tiny stone beach.
Heading up the sloping narrow alleyways from the lake you’ll arrive in the main square.
The square is dominated by Varenna’s principal church, the fourteenth-century Chiesa di San Giorgio, with frescoes in and out. Opposite you’ll find the smaller and more even older Chiesa di San Giovanni Battista, that goes back to the XI century. You can visit inside the church where there are further frescoes to be seen (14th century).
The two gardens you may visit are down the main road to the right. Villa Cipressi, the first is an hotel with beautiful gardens open to the public.
Further on there is the entrance to Villa Monastero, was originally a Cistercian convent. The establishment dates back at least 1208. It’s gardens are even more renown and stretch along the side of the lake with statues, pavilion, terrace. Secular trees include cypresses, oleanders, citrus fruits, American and African palm trees, agaves, yuccas, dracaenas.
Along the lake, past Villa Monastero, there is a hamlet Fiumelatte which is notable for the small torrent of the same name, meaning ‘Milk-river’, which gushes white and is said to be the ‘shortest river in Italy’.
An inland route leads back to the castle which has watched over Varenna for centuries, the Castello di Vezio. This medieval fortress now hosts falconry displays and other events.