Despite its popularity, Varenna has managed to retain its distinctive charm with narrow streets, quaint shops and restaurants. Furthermore, it is one of the villages where the ferry docks, so for this reason and many others, it makes for a great base from where you can easily visit the other towns on the shores of Lake Como by ferry.
With its steep streets and colourful houses clinging to the sloping rock walls, Varenna has a pleasant ambience reminiscent of the famous fishing villages Le Cinque Terre in Liguria. Many argue that Varenna is Lake Como's most beautiful and charming town, and since it is small and doesn't have a lot of nightlife, it is quite peaceful. Here it is possible to swim in the lake and there are two small beaches in town. You will also find a lido on the other side of the ferry which is nice and where you also can get refreshments on the beach.
Take a stroll to see the oldest of all churches on the lake, San Giovanni Battista from the 11th Century and the city church San Giorgio, which is from the 13th century with a bell tower. Also of historical interest is Villa Monastero with its elegant design and botanical garden. Varenna is a charming historic centre with bars, restaurants and cafes. At the small beach bars in the town centre you will also find a small harbour and an unusual lakeside promenade, which is hooked on the rocks and oozes romance. The path leads down to the ferry port and is illuminated during the evening hours. Just near the ferry you will find a thoughtful children's play ground.
It is easy to get to Varenna since there is a train station here with direct links to Milan (around 1 hour) and regular ferries to neighbouring lake towns of Menaggio and Bellagio and many other lake towns. It is quite economical also to take the car on the ferries.
Varenna is not far from the Swiss border and it is approx. 1 ½ hour drive to the fashionable ski resort of St. Moritz from here. However, it is more affordable to visit the historic town of Chiavenna, located half way (about 45 km north of Varenna). This town, which is traversed by a river, is blessed with many coffee shops and eateries. Between Colico and Dervio (north end of Lake Como) you will also find a peninsula with the monastery Abbazia di Piona , which is home to many monks and you can visit the park, the monastery and the monks shop where they sell spirits (up to 90%) from their own distillery! If you are into hiking mood, it is recommended to go up to the medieval tower Castello di Vezio in the neighbouring town Perledo which is open to the public and surrounded by a beautiful olive grove.
Varenna cosy centre offers some shopping but is not particularly rich. If you want an actual shopping street it's best to catch the ferry to Bellagio (approx. 15 min.). While for everyday household items you have the following options: In Varenna centre there are two small merchants, while in the neighbouring towns Bellano and Mandello del Lario there are further supermarkets. If you require a larger selection still, there is a huge hypermarket Iperal, just north of the town of Colico.
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