"Very pretty...." Top 5 Page for this destination Varenna by leics
Varenna Travel Guide: 48 reviews and 218 photos
Yes, Varenna is very pretty indeed. With its colourful houses set on the side of Lake Como and its little alleyways running up from the shore a reminder of its fishing-village origins, its attraction for visitors is obvious.
It was a grey, damp and very 'English' day when I visited. I didn't see Varenna at its best, obviously, but even so....
There were several tour groups in attendance, wandering and being shepherded. There were numerous other independent visitors (some clearly village-hopping with suitcases and backpacks, waiting for the ferry and train); I heard lots of German, lots of English, a little French. That was on 1st June, so I imagine Varenna is extremely busy in season.
I arrived by train from Bergamo, having changed at Lecco. Varenna-Estino station is in Olivedo, the adjoining village, just a short walk downhill to lake, from where you can take either the road into Varenna or (better) the lakeside footpath which meanders its way very prettily (there's that word again) into the village centre.
But the ticket office at the station was firmly closed, 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 site was 'stuck' so she couldn't provide a ticket. All she could suggest was that I 'passed by' later. Not very helpful really, as they were closing from 12.30-3 (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.
I'd decided on Varenna because it has a couple of ancient churches I wanted to see, was obviously going to be pretty (given its situation) and because it was easy to access by train. I had thought of taking the ferry to Bellagio (only about 15 minutes or so) but in the end I didn't...I felt rough, for some reason, and not up to a trip on grey choppy waters. Next time, perhaps.
So I just wandered Varenna instead. The lakeside walk is lovely, with excellent views of water and mountains (and swans and mallards too). The little alleyways fascinated 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.
I'd thought of visiting the gardens of Villa Monastero (the site of a convent dissolved in the mid-1500s [licentious behaviour by the nuns, apparently] and now a conference centre). But feeling rough meant I didn't. Next time.
So I wandered the streets a little, 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 (or the Apocolypse) on the back wall, with its body fragments and huge hand (of God? Of the Devil?) reaching out. And I liked the narrow, aesthetic faces of the saints. I'd have liked to know more but information was scarce; it is, after all, a place of worship rather than a museum.
So...a short visit only, with no real 'exploration' involved. Weather and general iffiness precluded either. But I saw what I wanted to see and enjoyed some superb views of mountains and clouds and water.
I couldn't get a 'feel' for Varenna, somehow. Its real life remained hidden from me (although I was pleased to see a fisherman's nets stored in his garage). Maybe that was just because I felt so rough?
The journey to Lecco without validating my ticket was a little nerve-wracking. I couldn't get to the a conductor (one of the inter-carriage doors was locked) to tell him about the machines, so half-expected a 20+ euro fine. So did the other travellers. But I was lucky; getting off in Lecco meant I avoided the conductor's check. :-)
- Pros:Lake and mountain views, little alleyways, ferry to Bellagio
- Cons:Probably heaving in high season
- In a nutshell:Very pretty...and knows it is!
If you are feeling energetic you could spend a lot of time going up and down the numerous stepped and cobbled alleyways... more travel advice
The church of S Giorgio presides over the main village square (named after the church). It was started in around 1200,... more travel advice
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- "An idyllic little town on Lago di Como"
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- "Varenna - Diamond of the Lake"
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