I rely a lot on guidebooks when planning a trip to a new place since it helps me to narrow down what I’d like to see. For Lake Como, I saw that Rick Steves recommends visiting a little town called Varenna. It sounded good, so onto the itinerary it went.
While it’s possible to get to Varenna by car or train, because of where we were on the lake (northwest corner) it made the most sense to hop on a ferry. From our B&B in Trezzone, we drove down to Cadenabbia & took the ferry to Varenna via Bellagio.
I don’t always like ferry rides (especially long ones over rough, open seas), but this one was over a super glassy lake, was pretty short & offered great views all around you the entire time. So it’s really quite enjoyable.
As we were about to arrive in Varenna, the ferry guys were getting ready to tie us up.
The main thing I wanted to do in Varenna was to hike up to Castello di Vezio. There’s two routes and we took the northern route to get there (it’s the easier way). We passed by this riverbed on our way up the valley.
The stone path to the castle goes in and out of the woods and the shade was a welcomed respite from the hot summer sun (it was late July and probably in the 80s).
About 2/3 of the way up, you’ll be rewarded with lovely views of the houses nestled in the valley of Varenna.
Keep an eye out for other things to photograph, too. I just love the red, blue & greens in this shot.
A nice-looking stone building (sorry – can’t remember what it was, exactly).
Once you reach the castle and pay your entrance fee (€4 for adults) you get access to even more spectacular views of Lake Como.
The castle may not be in the best of shape, but some of the structure still remains (it’s really the view that gets me, though).
A view of Lake Como looking west from Castello di Vezio.
A narrow concrete tunnel that didn’t really lead anywhere (but it sure was dark and musty down there).
After our tour of the castle, we headed down the southern path that led us into the main part of Varenna.
This is one of my favorite scenes – with the colorful old buildings, the lake, the kids playing on the beach, the boats bobbing in the water…
We followed this path to get back to the ferry, but if you don’t opt to hike up to the castle, this is most likely the route you’d walk to get directly from the ferry stop into town.
To Go or No
I adore Varenna. The town is charming and hilly, the stone castle perched above the town offers fantastic views of the lake and its location is just slightly harder to get to so it seems a tiny bit more removed. All in all a great stop in Lake Como.
Hiking to the Castle
Although the hike might be a bit tough for some and the castle may not be enough to warrant a visit by itself, I definitely think it’s worth making the trip up the hill for the views. There were signs we followed to get to the castle for the northern route. This is definitely the easier route, though you can also hike along a southern path that is a bit more sketchy and not as well traveled.
I’d say at a minimum 1-2 hours is about what you’d need to do this.
We focused our time on the center of the lake – where Varenna is – since that’s where most of what we wanted to see was. Here’s a map of Varenna and other nearby sights. (You can click on the map to see it in Google maps, though my text labels won’t display there).