Varenna, Italy: Tips for Visiting

Lake Como frequently comes to mind when people think of the Italian Alps. One of our all-time favorite trips combined Lake Como, Milan and Bergamo. All three locations are around an hour away from each other by train or car. So it’s perfect for a week’s vacation. Between the three towns we visited on Lake Como, we thought Varenna was the most beautiful.


The most famous town on Lake Como is Bellagio. The luxury Las Vegas casino named after it is also well known, so it draws hordes of American tourists.

Bellagio is known for its cobbled lanes and elegant buildings. Villa Serbelloni Park terraced garden with lake views that dates to the 18th-century. Other highlights include  the Romanesque San Giacomo Church and the Tower of the Arts, a venue for exhibitions and performances.

Bellagio is touristy, but you’ll still come across lovely alleys that are quiet and peaceful during off-peak May travel.

Bellagio is absolutely lovely. But it’s also overly touristy – with hordes of American tourists. Expect to pay double for accommodation in Bellagio compared to nearby towns that feel more authentically Italian.

Keep in mind that it’s easy to visit Bellagio, Italy on a day trip, like we did. Every town nestled along Lake Como is picturesque. And regardless of where you base yourself, you should plan to visit other nearby towns.

Stay in Lecco to Save Money

During our visit to Lake Como, we stayed in Lecco. Lecco sits on the southeastern shore of Lake Como, in northern Italy. The neo-Gothic bell tower of Basilica di San Nicolò rises majestically for lovely vistas.

Lecco is surrounded by mountains like Monte Resegone. Take the cable car up to Piani d’Erna lookout point for stunning views.

Beautiful Lecco, Italy. We stayed in a lovely lakeside hotel for half the price of the equivalent quality in Bellagio.

Monte Barro Regional Park has paths, plus the remains of a 5th-century settlement. The Costa Perla birdwatching station is another highlight. There are hiking trails for beginner, moderate and advanced levels.

The lovely HLL Hotel Lungolago overlooks the lake and mountains. Lecco is the closest town along Lake Como from Milan. Since accommodation is cheaper, it’s a great spot for budget conscious travelers. But if you’re looking for the picture perfect place to spend your honeymoon or a special anniversary, we recommend Varenna.


Varenna is like a quintessential Italian post card. It’s stunningly gorgeous, romantic and quaint. Amazing views abound of the surrounding mountains and towns around Lake Como, including Bellagio and Menaggio. The area can be conveniently explored on ferry boats, which operate regularly.

Varenna cafe lunch, looking out to Lake Como, Bellagio and Menaggio

Varenna is home to elegant villas with botanical gardens, Villa Monastero and Villa Cipressi. Castello di Vezio and Sentiero del Viandante offer beautiful walks combining history and nature. Fishing has been a traditional occupation of Varenna. It’s a destination to catch glimpses of life over the past several centuries.

Varenna Cafe

We enjoyed one of our all-time favorite travels strolls around Varenna, followed by one of the most picturesque lunches we’ve eaten. Varenna Caffe Bistrot serves the best pecorino and Romano cheeses we’ve eaten in our lives. It was also the tastiest lunch we ate on Lake Como. There are several charming Varenna restaurants serving delicious cuisine paired with scenic vistas.

Varenna Caffe Bistrot address:

Contrada Scoscesa 13 – Riva Grande, 23829 Varenna (LC)
T. +39 0341.830459
T. [email protected]

Varenna Arch

Lake Como is a Bucket List Destination

If you haven’t visited Lake Como or Varenna, you should add it to your bucket list. Whether you’re after a luxury experience or budget trip, Lake Como covers everyone looking for stunning beauty. For more inspiration, read our article on how to experience Bellagio, Italy cheaper.

Looking for more tips on planning a trip to Italy? Leave a comment below and we’ll get back to you!


  • Alex&Bell

    Alex and Bell originally met while solo traveling after finishing university in 2002, in Brugge, Belgium. Alex grew up in the USA and Bell hails from Australia. During our nearly 20 year marriage we've lived around the world, including spending six years living in the Netherlands and Ireland. We have traveled to nearly 70 countries and enjoy giving readers authentic and quality travel tips. Alex is an award winning travel journalist and travel planner, who also freelances for other outlets. Bell is an award winning PhD scientist who currently works for a non-profit lung cancer advocacy research organization called Lungevity. Happy travels and if you have any questions leave a comment or drop an email!

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6 thoughts on “Varenna, Italy: Tips for Visiting

  1. I agree I loved Lake Como and I stayed in Bellagio and it is a very beautiful place on this wondrous planet.

    1. We loved Bellagio too, Alex even more so as it was probably 50% American tourists and had comfortable amenities along with beauty. We look forward to featuring some great Bellagio photos in a future post!

  2. WoW, this looks amazing! What a way to spend your last days as residents of Europe. I have to agree the real town of Bellagio is more impressive than the upscale hotel one (for me anyway)…though I haven’t really been to Lake Como (yet!) 🙂
    Great to see you guys enjoying yourselves and having fun at the playground too!

    1. Thank you, Jean! Bell and I were last in Las Vegas in 2005 and swung into the Bellagio hotel just to look around and see the beautiful and famous fountain show out front. At the time we had no idea where the actual town of Bellagio was, even though both of us had already visited Italy and spent a couple weeks touring around the country (we spent a few days in Rome together in 2002, just after we first met). There’s just so much in Italy and neither of us made it up to the Lombardy province until 2 months ago. It’s amazing and in the future we look forward to visiting Sicily as we haven’t been yet…The very best of travels to you and thank you for stopping by! 😀

  3. I like when I see water that meets the hills or the mountains, because this way I have both: the chance to climb the mountains and the chance to sail on the lake.

    1. Absolutely agree! Alex grew up in Florida so there was plenty of water around but no mountains, and the closest mountains were the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee, a 12 hour drive from Orlando…The combination of the huge lake and tall mountains in Lake Como is pretty magical.

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