Postcard from Varenna

Postcard from Varenna

by Dejou Marano

Narrow, serpentine passageways of cobblestone wind through a tableau of pastel dwellings, as stone arches and villa columns frame an idyllic backdrop of lake and sky. A dreamy lakeside confection, Varenna is delightfully garnished with quiet waterfronts where the lake laps gently against the shore and the wake of swans gracefully drifting by makes silent ripples in the glass like water.

Located in the province of Lecco on the less frequented eastern side of Lake Como, Varenna maintains a decidedly slower pace than its neighbors Bellagio and Tremezzo. A visitor can seemingly get lost in the natural landscape of the town, which looks like a lush garden floating upon the water. Strolling through Varenna is like entering a fairy tale, only better, because its pages are filled not with fantasy but with the deliciousness of everyday life in a timeless town. It’s where medieval edifices share space in the piazza with a macellaio and alimentari (neighborhood grocer) and where window boxes overflowing with colorful blooms canopy cool stone walkways below. In Varenna, art galleries, boutiques and cozy cafes retain a pronounced local sensibility because they are owned by townspeople, artists and entrepreneurs alike, who love their home and have chosen to stay lakeside for yet another generation.

When visiting Varenna, it is easy to park yourself at a cafe and sit for hours mesmerized by views of little boats bobbing along the surface of the lake. But it is equally rewarding to venture off into the periphery of the town, where magic is waiting just around the corner. The palm-tree lined botanic gardens of Villa Monastero, a 12th century convent turned noble residence, affords a quiet moment to admire the surrounding hillsides from beneath the shade of an intricate stone terrace. The mountain village of nearby Perledo is home to the omnipotent Castello Vezio, which boasts some of the most exquisite views of the entire lake.

Whether spending the last sunlit hours of the afternoon sitting on one of the many benches that line Varenna’s promenade or sipping an al fresco aperitif at one of its adorable cafes, it is quite easy to succumb to Varenna’s whimsical allure and perfectly appreciate the essence of dolce far niente.

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