Just beyond Bellagio is the medieval town of Varenna, with its quaint cobblestone streets, charming porticos, breathtaking scenery and laid-back ambiance, makes a perfect retreat from the more obviously touristed towns around Lake Como. Like a sentinel in the middle of the lake, Varenna is located at the “Y” intersection of the three branches of Lago di Como just beyond Bellagio, across from Menaggio and Cadenabbia/Tremezzo (with Villa Carlotta), and is perfectly situated for exploring the hiking and mountain biking trails of the Esino valley. You can discover a magnificent medieval fortress, the Castle of Vezio, set high above the lake where I encountered mysterious sculptural apparitions chilling out. But the jewel of the town is Villa Monastero which hosts a museum, an exhibition center and a quiet lakeside garden full of rare flowers and plants.
From Varenna’s pier and ferry station you can stroll along the romantic Passeggiata degli Innamorati (Lovers’ Walk) along the edge of the lake which leads to the center of the old borgo (town) lined with charming boutiques and lakeside bars and restaurants where the twilight is always magical.