Sights & Attractions – Your All-Inclusive Insider Guide to Lake Como – Varenna

An Overview of Lake Como & Varenna

Lake Como was my favorite place that I ever visited, so I strongly recommend to visit if you have the opportunity. In Lake Como, I chose to stay in Varenna, so for this post, I will be talking mostly about recommendations for Varenna. I believe that Varenna was the best option for my stay on Lake Como for cost and location. Lake Como is part of Northern Italy in Lombardy. The Lake is formed by glacial runoff from the Alps. Because of its beauty, Lake Como has always been a place for a luxury vacation, with homes owned here by people like George Clooney. John Legend and Chrissy Teigen have also been here multiple times and got married here. Scenes from Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, were filmed in Lake Como. The views from each town within Como are so different and all beautiful, so I recommend visiting at least one of these small towns through the ferry. The best way to get to Lake Como is by train from Milan. The ride will take between 40-60 minutes depending on your ticket and cost around 7 euro each way depending on the time and speed of the train. One of the reasons I chose Varenna was because it was a stop on this train, which made it easy to get to but it still had the small-town charm.

Sights & Attractions in Lake Como & Varenna

Castello di Vezio

I would go to Castello di Vezio every day if I had the time during my stay in Varenna. The view from the castle is breathtaking. You’re allowed to wander about the old grounds as if it were a park. There are two different ways to get up to the castle, depending on where you’re staying. I was staying on the northern side of town, so I took a path that began between the buildings of Albergo Ristorante Montecodeno and La Casa di Lucia. This path is steep but very well developed, it is a long, wide slope with loose rocks. You will reach a small neighborhood once you’re at the top and there is also a place for water on the way from this path to Castello di Vezio. The other path is on the Southern side, by Villa Monastero (this trail is smaller and more grown in, but less steep). This path begins at the Cimitero di Varenna. Once you get up to the top, you will reach a refreshment station at the Castello di Vezio, where there is a bathroom, small snacks, sandwiches, and drinks right next to the ticket office. Purchase tickets for 3 euro each and walk down a gravel path that was ready to reveal the most beautiful view. There are plenty of benches to sit everywhere, so make sure you sit down and rest your feet after the walk up the mountain. If you walk to your left, you will go up to where the birds of prey are located and shown off at the Castello di Vezio. It is seemingly unethical since the birds are chained down and not allowed to fly far. Although, it is amazing to be allowed to see some of these huge hawks and owls so close up. Continue up the hill to the original standing tower, you can walk across the drawbridge and go up the tower to find another amazing view, probably the highest point you will be during your stay at Lake Como. Also, this entire time there is no staff in Castello di Vezio, it is largely unsupervised, walk around and explore at your own risk. If you continue downwards to the left of the birds, you will stumble upon the bunker that the Italians made to watch out for a German invasion from Switzerland during World War 1. This bunker at Castello di Vezio is completely preserved, down to the stench and cold feeling of the bunker. It transports you to another time and is such a weird but interesting addition to this beautiful Castle.

Villa Monastero

Villa Monastero in Varenna is one of the most popular attractions. It has a beautiful botanical garden which provides many different picturesque scenes since there are multiple paths. It will cost you 8 euro each to visit the Villa Monastero Botanical Gardens in Varenna. The ticket office is on the side of the Villa closer to the middle of town, near the parking garage. More information, including a brochure for the Villa Monastero in Varenna on Lake Como can be found here.

Piazza San Giorgio (Saint George’s Square)

St. George’s Square in Varenna is the center of Varenna, focused around the main church, St. George’s Church. This church was built between 1250 and 1300. It’s small and ominous on the inside but worth the quick visit. In other parts of the square, you will find multiple shops and restaurants. Be aware that these restaurants will be slightly more touristy than most, I recommend wandering through the small streets of Varenna and finding the restaurants hidden along the way. As a quick side note, the tall mountain behind the church is where Castello di Vezio is located for a frame of reference. You can find more information about the Piazza San Giorgio (Saint George’s Square) in Varenna, Lake Como, here.

Passeggiata degli Innamorati di Varenna (Walk of Lovers)

The Walk of Lovers in Varenna is one of the best things to do in town, it has breathtaking views along the water and takes you from the port for the ferry to the center of Varenna. It is beautifully constructed and there are benches along the way. At the little beach in this picture, there are a couple of gelato shops and restaurants. I strongly recommend stopping to grab a drink or gelato and sit down to enjoy the views around you at least a couple of times during your stay.


Bellagio is the other most popular small town to stay in on Lake Como. In my opinion, I believe Bellagio is less charming than Varenna. There are many more upscale restaurants and large, luxurious hotels than Varenna. Although, I do believe you must visit Bellagio. It is larger than Varenna, so there’s a lot to walk around and see. You can take a ferry to/from Bellagio and Varenna for 9.20 euro each round trip (4.60 euro each one way), take note that this is without a car. You will buy these tickets at the ticket office right outside the ferry stop. Make sure to keep an eye out on the schedule and if your ferry hasn’t arrived on time, make sure you ask about it, sometimes they can be late/early. More information on the ferry can be found here.

3 – Day Itinerary for Lake Como & Varenna

Day 1: Varenna & Castello di Vezio

As a warning for this itinerary for Lake Como – Varenna, the plans will be very loose since the best times I had in Bellagio and Varenna happened because I was walking around and stumbled upon something cool. For your first day in Varenna, it would be perfect to see everything that this amazing location has to offer, an important part of that is Castello di Vezio. This is a very loose itinerary since the Castello di Vezio trip will probably take you around 3-4 hours for your first time going up, so you will still have plenty of time left in your day in Varenna. If you can, pack a lunch or snack to eat once you get to the top of Castello di Vezio, or you could buy food there as well. Admire the views before walking back down to the center of town. Here, you can grab a drink by the water, check out the Walk of Lovers, and figure out a plan for dinner.

Day 2: Bellagio

For a day trip to Bellagio from Varenna, I strongly recommend you wake up early and get going. Take one of the earlier ferries from the port in Varenna, right near the beginning of the Walk of Lovers. Once you are in Bellagio, I recommend walking north, past the nice hotels, and going to a popular outlook. You will be at the base of the “Y” formation that Lake Como forms and you will have beautiful views. It’s called Punta Spartivento, there is a restaurant there if you need a snack or drink. Once you sat down here for a little while you should take a walk through town and explore, just take the same way back and walk up the stairs from the water. If you’d like to explore past the town you can visit the nearby fishing village in Bellagio. Walk down to the Scalotta per Pescallo (a stone stairway leading down to the ocean) to get to a part of Bellagio that tourists don’t usually see. It will be quiet and quaint, with a harbor full of fishing boats and more views. I did not find much to do in Bellagio except for walk around the shops and eat in restaurants. As a warning, most restaurants WILL NOT let you sit down just for a drink in Bellagio. While you are in Bellagio, you should buy some Bellagio silk and touristic items, this is the time to buy them. Get an earlier dinner to make sure that you catch the ferry, then go relax by the water near the ferry stop.

Day 3: Varenna, Villa Monastero, & Walk of Lovers

This last day in Varenna is mostly what you want to make of it. I recommend seeing the Villa Monastero and its botanical gardens on this relaxed day. You should explore every street in Varenna and take a break wherever you find it interesting. On this day, you could also go back up to Castello di Vezio or hike the trails that are up the hill from Varenna.

Where to Eat in Lake Como – Varenna & Bellagio

Il Cavatappi – Varenna

A wonderful small restaurant with an almost fine dining experience. I went here for an Easter dinner during my stay. Here, I had one of the best wines and meals I’ve ever had. Make sure you make a reservation here since tables are limited.

VarennaMonamour – Varenna

Slightly more casual than Il Cavatappi, VarennaMonamour is near that small beach at the end of the Walk of Lovers, up the alley from Caffe Varenna. It has a couple of outdoor seats and much more indoor seating. They have an amazing seafood selection and handmade traditional pasta dishes.

Caffe Varenna for a Drink – Varenna

Caffe Varenna is one of the more touristy restaurants since it is directly on the water. It is at the end of the Walk of Lovers if you start from the ferry port. I recommend stopping here for a drink or a pizza at least once to enjoy the view.

Antico Pozzo Ristorante – Bellagio

In peak season, it is extremely difficult to find a decent restaurant in Bellagio, Antico Pozzo Ristorante was one of the few I found that balanced their size and quality of food. The service was ok, but you cannot complain when you get great seafood risotto and cheap house wine. The outdoor seating is also a great touch.

Ristorante Bilacus – Bellagio

If you’re lucky, you will try to have a meal at Ristorante Bilacus in their outdoor area. They have a beautiful garden outside and they serve great food. Although, expect smaller portion sizes, I recommend the risotto for a filling meal.

Torre del Borgo For a Drink – Bellagio

Let me remind you that there will be a lot of walking in Bellagio, which doesn’t combine well with restaurants that don’t allow you to sit down and just have a drink. Torre del Borgo is an extremely casual restaurant with paninis and pizza in the Piazza della Chiesa. This place was a sanctuary for me for over an hour. All I had to do was order cheap, chilled house wine and relax in the square. It was a relief to have a place serve us a drink without needing to order food.

Where to Stay in Lake Como & Varenna

For Lake Como, you have a choice between many different towns to stay in. Most people choose between Como (the largest city), Menaggio, Bellagio, and Varenna. Como is the easiest to get to, most convenient, but the views and charm aren’t there as much. Menaggio is almost as nice as Varenna and easiest to get to if you’re coming from Switzerland. Bellagio usually requires at least one ferry to get to and has the most tourists and abundant nightlife. Varenna is the smallest of the three and my recommendation. I think it’s the balance of everything. It was easy to do on a budget, easy to get to, more charming than other places on the Lake, and had an assortment of attractions as well as great restaurants. If you’re lucky enough to find an Airbnb here, I believe that is the best for convenience and price. You can cook breakfast and have a nicely located place to rest up.

Transportation: How to get around Lake Como & Varenna

Above is a map of the ferries in Lake Como, notice the Red and Blue make stops at almost every area, they both make trips all the way down to the town of Como. The one that you will most likely take if you are staying between Bellagio, Varenna, and Menaggio is the yellow triangle. The tickets are around 4.60 euros each one way. This is only the price for passengers on the ferries, which is the best budget option. There are private boats, transport for vehicles, and other types of transportation available for different prices. For more of that information, you can click here.

Currency Used in Lake Como & Varenna

Italy uses the Euro, which is currently exchanged at around $1.10 USD for 1 Euro. So it’s not that much more expensive, but keep in mind that you’re always spending 10% more. Which might not seem like a huge difference but a 40 euro meal turns into a $48 meal. Meals and cost of living in Varenna will be more expensive than other destinations, so keep this in mind while booking your accommodations. I would say an average meal for dinner is around 50 euro including wine.

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