With one full day remaining in Italy, I decided to spend it on Lake Como, and I’m glad I did. Varenna is just a one hour train ride (6.50 Euros) from Milan, and a good town to start a visit to the central portion of Lake Como.
Lake Como, the third largest lake in Italy, is almost like three long lakes that come together in the center. A cluster of small towns, including Varenna, Bellagio, Cadenabbia, and Menaggio, hug the shoreline at the center. I arrived at 930 in the morning and enjoyed a cappucino and a dolce (chocolate filled croissant) before walking the lakeside path into the heart of the little town. It is quite scenic and has a few restaurants and shops along the waterfront. It is much less well-known than its neighbor Bellagio, but I think just as quaint.
Only the garden was open to tourists at Villa Monastero, but it was definitely worth the 5 Euro admission. At this early hour, much of the garden was in shade, but I was assured I could come back later in the day with the same ticket.
I hopped a ferry at 1130 to Bellagio, enjoying a front row seat for 15 minutes on the lake. Bellagio is larger than Varenna, and it was much more crowded. It seems to be best known for its expensive shops, which line the waterfront along with restaurants, pedestrian walkways, a few hotels, and a parking lot.
I found a wonderful spot for lunch up the hill on a side street and ordered the specialty of the area; lake perch with risotto and asparagus. I also sampled a caprese salad, and of course some local wine.
Of course it is impossible to go to Bellagio without doing a little shopping, so I obliged.
Another short ferry ride and I was back in Varenna, which was much more peaceful. I went back to the gardens at Villa Monastero for some afternoon sun.
One hour on the train and I was back in Milano. It was a good day trip, but I would like to return and spend more time in the Lake District.