A Varenna Visit: A Day Trip to Lake Como’s Most Beautiful Town

This destination guide covers a visit to Varenna, a beautiful town located on Lake Como that is easily accessible as a day trip from Milan.

Train to Varenna

After a gorgeous train journey from Milan, I had finally arrived in Varenna where I would spend a couple of hours before moving onward to Tirano.

I’ve visited Varenna a couple of times before and it’s my favourite town on Lake Como.

Although the beauty of the town is hardly a secret and the direct train connection to Milan means it’s easily accessible, the crowds aren’t as bad as in other famous Lake Como towns such as Bellagio.

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View over Lake Como from the Milan to Varenna train. ©Paliparan
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Passengers waiting at the station of Varenna. ©Paliparan

Walk into town

It’s an extremely straightforward walk to get from the train station to the town centre of Varenna on the lakeside.

The walk from the train station is clearly signposted and takes about 10 to 15 minutes.

All you need to do is walk downhill towards the lake.

Once you reach the lakeshore, simply turn left onto a small pedestrian path that will lead you to the town centre.

On your way you will pass by the Varenna jetty from where ferries depart across Lake Como to Menaggio and Belaggio.

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Walking downhill from the station towards the lake. ©Paliparan
town houses
Beautiful town houses. ©Paliparan
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The small harbour where ferries depart to destinations on the western shore of Lake Como such as Menaggio and Belaggio. ©Paliparan
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The outskirts of the town. ©Paliparan
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The coastal path towards the town centre of Varenna. ©Paliparan


As you walk along the lakeside path, you can enjoy lovely views of Lake Como, with even more scenic vistas awaiting you as you reach the centre of Varenna.

Varenna is basically built on a small promontory jutting out into Lake Como.

As you approach the town centre of Varenna from the lake, the views over the town are truly gorgeous.

The colourful yellow and pink pastel-coloured houses create a stunning contrast against the deep blue waters of the lake and the clear skies, adding to the picturesque beauty of Varenna.

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View from the path back towards the ferry terminal. ©Paliparan
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The stunningly located town centre of Varenna finally comes in sight. ©Paliparan
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The colourful houses of Varenna. ©Paliparan

Varenna town centre

The town of Varenna isn’t large and you can easily walk through the entirety of it in an hour.

However, you don’t necessarily come to Varenna to walk around as the town is much more about taking in the stunning lakeside setting and enjoying the environment while sipping a drink or two.

The best place to do so is undoubtedly along the lakefront, where you’ll find the most appealing bars and restaurants, all offering outdoor seating and picturesque views of Lake Como.

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There are many bars and restaurants down by the lake, offering great views over Lake Como. ©Paliparan
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Al fresco dining along the shores of Lake Como. ©Paliparan
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Making a day trip to Varenna is really all about enjoying the fabulous lakeside setting of the town. ©Paliparan
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Rocky beach on Lake Como in Varenna. ©Paliparan

Upper town

Varenna’s main square is however not located on the lakefront but higher up the hill.

As you climb up through the narrow streets and alleys you can enjoy some beautiful views of the town and lake from a completely different perspective.

Along the main square you can find several more cafés and restaurants, as well as Varenna’s church called Chiesa San Giorgio.

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If you hike up through the narrow alleys you get a completely different perspective of the town. ©Paliparan
The streets and alleys offer beautiful views over Lake Como. ©Paliparan
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Varenna’s main square. ©Paliparan
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Chiesa San Giorgio. ©Paliparan

Villa Monastero

A day trip to Varenna is not complete without a visit to Villa Monastero.

Located just outside the town centre, this waterfront mansion features rooms with lavish décors from the 1800s, but the main draw lies in its adjacent botanical gardens.

A full-price ticket to visit both the villa and the botanical gardens costs €13.00, whereas a ticket for the gardens alone is priced at €10.

Children aged 0 to 14 years old can enjoy free entrance, while those between 15 to 25 years old are eligible for a discounted ticket.

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View from Villa Monastero over the botanical gardens. ©Paliparan

A walk through the gardens

On this trip to Varenna, I only bought a ticket for the botanical gardens as I had visited the villa before.

The terraced gardens of Villa Monastero rank among the most stunning in all of Europe and are without a doubt my personal favourite.

Not only are the lakeside gardens painstakingly landscaped, they also blend in perfectly with their surroundings.

You need at least two hours to explore the gardens although one can easily spend half a day here enjoying the beautiful views.

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Stunning lake view from Villa Monastero. ©Paliparan
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Entering the gardens of Villa Monastero. ©Paliparan
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A look back towards the hilltop villa. ©Paliparan
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The botanical gardens of Villa Monastero are located right on the lakeshore. ©Paliparan

Fountains and statues

The botanical gardens of Villa Monastero are a beautiful place to explore.

Most of all, the gardens offer a tranquil setting by the lakeside, where you can relax and take in the natural beauty.

Don’t miss the lovely statues, fountains and all kinds of fine architectural details as you wander through this delightful botanical oasis.

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The botanical gardens of Villa Monastero, which can be seen on the hilltop in the distance. ©Paliparan
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Garden fountain. ©Paliparan
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Villa Monastero. ©Paliparan
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Inside the gardens you can see a variety of flowers and plants, as well as elements such as statues and fountains. ©Paliparan
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Villa Monastero gardens. ©Paliparan
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A walk through the botanical gardens is highly enjoyable. ©Paliparan
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The gardens are also the best place from where you can enjoy the views over Lake Como. ©Paliparan
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There are also some beautiful architectural elements within the garden. ©Paliparan
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Garden view. ©Paliparan
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A visit to the botanical gardens is as much about taking in the tranquil lakeside setting as exploring all the flowers and plants. ©Paliparan


Of course you will also discover a variety of impressive trees and plants when you walk through the botanical gardens of Villa Monastero.

Among them are the majestic Lebanese cedar, tall and elegant cypresses and different kinds of palm trees that add a touch of exoticism to the landscape.

The lakeshore is adorned with oleanders showcasing their beautiful pink blossoms.

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Flowers in the botanical gardens of Villa Monastero. ©Paliparan
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A wide variety of trees in the botanical gardens of Villa Monastero. ©Paliparan
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The beautiful lakeside setting of the gardens. ©Paliparan
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One of the houses inside the gardens.. ©Paliparan
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Looking towards the upper part of the terraced gardens. ©Paliparan
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Palm trees. ©Paliparan
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View over the gardens and Lake Como from a higher level. ©Paliparan
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Villa Monastero. ©Paliparan
Fountain. ©Paliparan

Garden café

Inside one of the houses in the gardens you can find a café where you can buy basic snacks and drinks.

Although it’s a much better idea to have lunch at one of the many restaurants in the town of Varenna proper, the garden café is a great place for a drink.

I certainly enjoyed two or even three glasses of Aperol Spritz while enjoying the fantastic views over the gardens and the lake.

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The garden café of Villa Monastero. ©Paliparan
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You can easily take your drink and sit on one of the many benches along the lake. ©Paliparan
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Yours truly enjoying an Aperol Spritz in the gardens of Villa Monastero. ©Paliparan
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I was enjoying the surroundings so much that I ordered a second Aperol Spritz during my visit to Villa Monastero in Varenna. ©Paliparan

Back to the station

As I had an onward train to catch, I did unfortunately had to leave the tranquil environment of the botanical gardens after a while.

On my way back to the train station, I again enjoyed stunning views of Varenna and Lake Como, savouring the beautiful surroundings one last time.

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Walking back towards the station. ©Paliparan
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A stunning view over the town of Varenna from the main road. ©Paliparan
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Approaching the railway line and station. ©Paliparan

Some more Aperol

A great way to end your day trip to Varenna is a visit to the lovely station bar for a drink or two before you catch your onward train to Tirano or return to Milan.

The station café has both indoor and outdoor seating and makes a good Aperol Spritz.

I therefore wouldn’t worry too much if you have just missed your train as it’s hardly a crime to wait a bit longer for the next departure with a drink in your hand.

Back at Varenna’s train station to catch my onward train to Tirano. ©Paliparan
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The Varenna station bar. ©Paliparan
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Enjoying an Aperol Spritz on the terrace of the Varenna station bar. ©Paliparan
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A second Aperol at the station bar. ©Paliparan


Lake Como is one of Italy’s most breathtaking travel destinations and there is perhaps no better place to enjoy the stunning scenery than the picturesque lakeside town of Varenna.

As Varenna is an easy day trip by train from places like Milan or Bergamo, it can get crowded if you visit in summer or on sunny weekends, although the town is not as touristy as some other places on Lake Como.

Varenna has a highly scenic lakeside setting and it certainly makes for a fun day to explore its small alleys and to have a lovely meal at one of the many lakeside restaurants.

No trip to Varenna is however complete without a visit to Villa Monastero, which was the absolutely highlight of my day in town.

The botanical gardens of Villa Monastero are not only one of Europe’s prettiest, but the tranquil setting and wonderful views over the lake really help you to slow down and relax while you absorb the beautiful surroundings.

Trip report index

This article is part of the ‘Scenic Trains Around Switzerland and the Italian Lakes‘ trip report, which consists of the following chapters:

1. Bergamo: A Visit to Lombardy’s Beautiful Hilltop Town
2. Travelling From Bergamo to Milan by Train
3. From Milan to Varenna and Tirano By Trenord Regional Train
4. A Varenna Visit: A Day Trip to Lake Como’s Most Beautiful Town (current chapter)

** rest of the chapters to follow soon **

koen paliparan rhodes rodos


Koen works as a freelance journalist covering south-eastern Europe and is the founding father and editor-in-chief of Paliparan. As a contributor to some major Fleet Street newspapers and some lesser known publications in the Balkans, he travels thousands of miles each year for work as well as on his personal holidays. Whether it is horse riding in Kyrgyzstan’s Tian Shan mountains, exploring the backstreets of Bogotá, or sipping a glass of moschofilero in a Greek beachside taverna, Koen loves to immerse himself into the local culture, explore new places and eat and drink himself around the world.

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