"Very pretty...." Top 5 Page for this destination Varenna by leics

Varenna Travel Guide: 55 reviews and 244 photos

Yes, Varenna is very pretty. With its colourful houses set on the side of Lake Como and its ancient stepped alleyways running up from the shore acting as a reminder of its fishing-village origins, its attraction for visitors is obvious.

It was a grey, damp and very 'English' day when I first visited in 2011. I didn't see Varenna at its best, obviously, but even then I recognised its prettiness. My April 2016 visit was made in much better weather, with sunshine from the late morning onwards.......although the lakeside hills remained shrouded in a fine haze. The farmer's wife, in 2016, truly relished sitting by the lake in the sunshine with a glass of wine in her hand! :-)

In 2011 there were several tour groups being shepherded form place to place. The same in 2016. On both my visits there have been numerous other independent visitors (some clearly village-hopping with suitcases and backpacks, waiting for the ferry and train); I've heard lots of German, lots of English, a little French. some Korean, Japanese and Chinese. Both of my trips have been out of season so I imagine Varenna is extremely busy in the summer months.

I arrived by train from Bergamo, having changed at Lecco. Varenna-Esino station is in Olivedo, the adjoining (tiny) village, just a short walk downhill to the lakeside. From there you can take either the road into Varenna or (better) the lakeside footpath ...the passarella....which meanders its way very prettily (there's that word again) into the village centre.

In 2011 the ticket office at the station was firmly closed and the ticket machine out of order (and, as I later discovered, all the validation machines were out of order too). I was worried about getting back so wanted to buy my ticket immediately. The travel agency suggested by the sign at the station was....ummm...well, the girl said the website was 'stuck' so she couldn't provide a ticket. All she could suggest was that I 'passed by' later. That wasn't really very helpful as they were closing from 12.30-3 and it was now about 11.. And especially not helpful as the sign outside says, in English, 'Last stop to buy train tickets'. Which is a lie.....because....

....... the bar next door (also listed on the station sign) was much more helpful. Ticket to Lecco? No problem; smiley lady takes ticket from pile by the till, I pay, I wander off. with no worries about rushing back to the travel agency before 12.30.

That was in 2011. By 2016 the travel agency had moved to the station building itself (remaining just as unhelpful, imo) and there was no ticket machine at all...and the Bar Beretta is now a restaurant. I'd bought a return ticket because of my 2011 experience but I was pleased to see a very, very small Trenitalia notice in the station which said train tickets could be purchased at the tabacchi on Via lV Novembre in Varenna.

In 2011 I'd decided to visit Varenna because it has a couple of very ancient churches I wanted to see, was obviously going to be pretty (given its situation) and because it was easy to access by train. In 2016 it was my companion's choice...the farmer's wife is very into gardening and wanted to see the gardens of the Villa Monastero (see tip).

The lakeside walk is lovely, with excellent views of water and mountains (and swans and mallards too). The village's ancient alleyways fascinate me (as they have done elsewhere) because if one strips away all the modern accoutrements one can imagine a little of what life was like here before the area's beauty was discovered. I think, though am not sure, that this 'discovery' really began with the 'Grand Tours' beloved of the European upper classes from the late 1600s ('send your boy off on a trip around Europe!') and which became so much easier with the advent of rail travel.

In 2011 I wandered the streets a little and poked my head into the extremely ancient (dating from the 10th century, existing walls from 1151) church of San Giovanni Battista to see its frescoes. One of these, St Christopher carrying the Christ child, dates from the very early 1300s whilst others are a little later.

The main church, San Giorgio, dates from the 13th century, probably started around 1200 though having undergone many changes since, with the bell-tower being built in the 1600s. Fragments of 13th and 14th century frescoes are still visible inside. I particularly liked the barely-visible depiction of Hell on the back wall, with its montrous hairy creature gripping the naked bodies of the damned. And I liked the narrow, aesthetic faces of the saints.

Although I've visited twice I still can't get a 'feel' for Varenna. Its real life remains hidden from me, although I was pleased to see a fisherman's nets stored in his garage. To me, almost everything seems to be created with the visitor in mind... though how else could residents make their living nowadays?

If you're in the area you'll want to go, of course, and perhaps combine Varenna with Bellagio (the ferry runs quite often and it's a short trip). There is no doubt that Varenna is a most attractive settlement.........but whether what you see and encounter is 'real' or not, I cannot say.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Lake and mountain views, little alleyways, ferry to Bellagio
  • Cons:Probably heaving with visitors in high season
  • In a nutshell:Very pretty...and knows it is!
  • Last visit to Varenna: Jun 2011
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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Reviews (11)

Comments (6)

  • Chinggis_n_Borte's Profile Photo
    Apr 18, 2016 at 2:17 PM

    I have had the pleasure of visiting Varenna two times in the Autumn season and off season. I love the stairways, the lakeside walk, and the ancientness of some of the churches. Borte

    • Chinggis_n_Borte's Profile Photo
      Apr 20, 2016 at 1:28 AM

      Oh I remember we ate here and went back the same day on a ferry boat to bellagio??

      chi k

    • leics's Profile Photo
      Apr 20, 2016 at 4:29 AM

      Yes, it's a short ferry journey to Bellagio and many people do combine the two places.

  • Maurizioago's Profile Photo
    May 3, 2014 at 12:46 AM

    Here' s another nice place to visit; as a day trip from Bergamo. I wish I had lot of time to spend there!!!!

    Ciao!

  • aussirose's Profile Photo
    Mar 19, 2012 at 6:27 AM

    Oh my goodness J... I just love it!! ...and I am sooo jealous I wanted to shut my eyes!! ...because I want to go there!! Damnnnn!! :o) What gorgeous pictures!...those little alleyways and that stunning opening pic of your travelogue! WoW!! ...and you guys are going near there for the big meet!! Get Down!! :o) I am totally green right now!! What a great page! Hugs, Ann xx

  • glabah's Profile Photo
    Jun 26, 2011 at 10:15 AM

    This really looks like a beautiful place. I hope you get a chance to explore some holes in the USA during your visit.

  • Maurizioago's Profile Photo
    Jun 5, 2011 at 4:17 AM

    It seems a nice place. Ciao!

  • Gillybob's Profile Photo
    Jun 5, 2011 at 1:42 AM

    You're very right - its truly pretty! Gillybob greetings

leics

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