The last leg of our month-long time was a visit to the village of Varenna, on the shores of Lake Como. Everywhere we went in Italy, when a local asked us about our itinerary, they all said how beautiful Lake Como is … and they were right.
We chose to stay in Varenna because it’s relatively small and quaint, plus it’s easily accessible by train from Milan. The first part of the hour and a half long train trip was unremarkable, but then we emerged from a tunnel and saw the lake – wow! Lake Como is breathtakingly, spectacularly beautiful, with its deep emerald waters and backdrop of snow-capped mountains.
We were surprised to find how hot it was when we got off the train, considering there WAS still now on the distant mountains. Varenna-Esino station is small, unmanned and has a short platform. You need to be in the middle carriages of the train to line up with the platform, otherwise you might have to jump down from some height – or travel to the next station! We had been warned that the train only stops for about 1 minute, so you need to be ready, near the door with luggage in hand – which we were.
After our train pulled out, we had to walk across the tracks (no bridge or tunnel here) to reach the nearby access road – of course, we check for trains first!
According to Google maps, our hotel was only about 800 metres walk from the station.
We had to drag ourselves and our bags down stairs, down a hill, up another hill, down a cobblestone walkway, down two sets of stairs just to get to the front door of our accommodation, then it was up 3 flights of internal stairs – with the last one only just wide enough to fit one person – before we arrived in our room, phew! We were pleased to be staying 4 nights in Casa Rossa (the Red House), which is an annex of Albergo Milano Hotel, as we didn’t want to renegotiate the stairs with our bags again for a while.
This accommodation was among the most expensive of all the places we stayed in Italy. We’d book a room with a lake view, which cost more, of course. It was also the smallest room we encountered, but the view of the lake was so magical, we knew we’d made the right call straight away.
There are stairs everywhere in Varenna, so you certainly can’t rush anywhere unless you’re super fit. I guess we could have done a few laps of running the stairs to work off all our gelato and wine? 🙂Aside from the one main road in and out of town, there are no streets to speak of in the old part of Varenna, just narrow laneways called contrade, and the harbour front walkway. The town was originally a fishing village, and the little stone harbour dates from about 1600.
After strolling around the village for a little while, we found a little salumeria or deli, so we purchased some bread, cheese, olives and small biscuits to tide us over during our stay.
Later that evening, we ventured out to dine at the hotel’s restaurant, Ristorante La Vista, which has a delightful terrace with views across the lake. We’d booked a table when we confirmed our accommodation. The hotel/restaurant owner, Egidio, showed us to our table, and we were thrilled to be seated right on the front edge of the terrace, with uninterrupted lake views.
We ordered a glass of prosecco while we pondered the menu.
I have to say, it was absolutely delightful to sit and relax while enjoy the changing landscape of the lake as the sun set. The restaurant slowly filled up and we were really pleased we had booked early.
Egidio suggested we try the three course menu for 38 euro, which consisted of an appetiser or soup, main course and cheese or dessert.
For appetiser, I chose a local fish delicacy – which I discovered was raw fish when it arrived at the table! While I don’t usually eat raw fish, I figured it was worth a try. It was quite edible, but not something I’d rush to order a second time. The Bestie opted for soup – which looked rather yummy, I must say.
For main course, we both enjoyed the slow-cooked lamb shank with marsale and thyme sauce and potato gratin, accompanied by a glass of lovely red wine which Egidio served via a fancy wine aerator with all his showmanship skills!
Afterwards, we indulged in dessert – I had a chocolate pudding with raspberry coulis and the Bestie had a pear tart with ice cream. Both were delicious.
As the sun set over the mountain on the western side of the lake, we were offered blankets to wrap around our shoulders, which warded off the cool night air. After dinner, we carefully negotiated several sets of stairs, first down and then up, to get back to our room.
This was one of the most memorable dinners of our trip and we were so pleased to have booked in early and got such a great table. If you ever visit Varenna, I highly recommend you dine at Ristorante La Vista one evening – or two!
The Besties Do Italy series details how Seize The Day Project’s Lyndall and her long time best friend ventured to Italy to celebrate a significant birthday – sans husbands and children. Shhh, don’t tell anyone they’ve gone!
Read more posts in this fascinating series here:
Exploring Lake Como: The Greenway Walk – Visiting Villa Balbianello @ Lake Como – Bellagio, The Pearl of Lake Como – Eternal Rome: I only just met you, but I think I love you – Some Enchanted Evening in Venice – Cooking up an Italian storm in Roma – A gourmet twilight tour of Trastevere
Linking up with Albom Adventures for #WkendTravelInspiration
Also linking up with Justin plus Lauren for #WeekendWanderlust