My Mini-Guide: Varenna
Day 3: Wedding Day
Overly ambitious. I think that describes me in a nutshell on this trip. Today was the wedding day, but I reckoned I could fit in Varenna, ferry back to Como, and still have time to spare before we were shuttled off to the castle for my friend's wedding. I must be a bit of a risk-taker because the day went from leisurely to a full on run from the train station back to the hotel to be wedding-ready in 15 minutes.
Having hopped on the wrong train the day before, I made a point of allowing more time to ensure I was on the correct one. When in doubt, look at both the printed paper schedule at the station and ask for the bin (track) number. So far, things were looking good as I enjoyed the 40 min. ride and picturesque views from Monza to Varenna.
Things to do in Varenna
1. Enjoy a lakeside cafe.
From Varenna, you'll see signs pointing you down to the town. This path continues past the ferry landing and then into the walking portion of the village. If you have the time (and I recommend you do), enjoy at least a coffee at one of the lakeside cafes to appreciate the setting. Here's a list of restaurants in the area.
2. Check out the market.
There's an outdoor market in San Giorgio square, across from the church, which was delightfully local and not littered with tourists.
3. Walk through Villa Monastero.
Up the road from this square, you'll find the Villa Monastero. If you choose not to purchase a ticket to the gardens, be sure to continue along the road for views of the lake and garden that are simply breathtaking.
4. Wander the town.
If you explore the little walking paths, you will find small, virtually private shores to get in a quick photo shoot and quick toe-dip into the lake.
Because Lake Como is fairly small, it's easy to visit several towns a short distance away, BUT it may mean that your timing is slowed down. Download the Ferry App, or at least pay close attention to the schedule because getting from Varenna to Lenno is only about 10 km, but the journey took about 1 1/2 hours. This caused a massive scramble in Lenno, where we ended up purchasing a bus ticket from Lenno to Como, a perfectly good option if you find yourself stranded in a time crunch.
Tip: Italy requires cash. Make sure you have some handy for emergencies or simply your meal. When using the ATM, choose the conversion rate of the country you're in, rather than your country of origin. You'll need it to pay for bus fare.
Lenno is a beautiful town, so give yourself enough time for the 20-minute one way walk to Villa del Balbianello, where James Bond recovers in Casino Royale. Allow an hour or so to enjoy the grounds, and then another 20 to walk back and find your return transportation. Check ferry and bus timetables in advance so you know when to leave.
Tip: Purchase a local sim card with data. If you have an unlocked phone, you can purchase the sim at the airport or train station -- allow an hour or so to activate. Data will come in handy if you need to check Google for bus or ferry times. It will also allow you to connect with anyone who may need to know changes in your schedule.
Day 4 was a calm day trip to old town Bergamo.
Day 5, I toured famous Verona to see Juliette's balcony and grand piazzas.
Day 6 landed me back in Milan for the Duomo and trip back to the States.