The first time I traveled to Italy, it was my first time abroad—ever. I spent a whirlwind ten days in Rome, living out my Lizzie McGuire dreams and stuffing myself with gelato and spaghetti: the classic Italian vacation. This time, I was looking forward most to more authentic Italian food, but also exploring a brand new region. Italy is such a long and skinny country that the weather, culture, and overall vibe varies greatly from north to south. Although we spent most of our time in the bustling city of Milan, we made time for a relaxing day trip to the town of Varenna on Lake Como, and enjoyed a long and leisurely day in one of the most beautiful locations in the world.
Photos: Alex Ry
We decided to start our day in Varenna based on casual Internet research (not to be confused with Verona), and also based on availability for the main activity we wanted to do—get on a boat. Alex and I connected with blogger/photographer duo Kristin and Luccia to indulge ourselves with some additional company during our Italian excursion, so I booked tickets for four on Trenord. Tickets were an incredibly low 6,70€ each way, so I booked separate one-way journeys from Milano Centrale to Varenna Esino and back. Arrive to the train early to avoid any potential problems—you should be sitting on the train fifteen minutes prior to departure, not running into the station and trying to find your platform.
Our first stop upon arrival in Varenna was for food. We snagged a picturesque table at Caffe Varenna for brunch. I wasn’t super hungry, but I highly recommend the espresso con panna, which is the most decadent way to enjoy espresso in Italy, which therefore makes it my favorite.
We also allowed some time to walk around and get lost. My favorite way to explore a new city is just to wander and see where I end up, and the main walk stretches for miles to the south. There are a ton of beautiful villas to observe and explore, and many have tours available if you want to go inside.
For our boat tour, we ended up using Taxi Boat Varenna. We wanted to do a one-hour lake tour, but there were none available since we were booking on such short notice. We ended up going with the 2.5 hour tour, which was way too much of a commitment for us. It involved a tour of Villa Balbianello, which was a beautiful space where a ton of movies have been filmed, but you couldn’t touch anything or even take pictures inside (without paying), and the tour became quite dull about eight minutes into the hour. I would recommend sticking to the shorter tour and enjoying more time on the water. And for that, bring a hair tie. If you're wearing a hat, make sure it has a chin strap!
Clearly, there isn't a ton to do in the sleepy north except for ogle at the spectacular scenery, eat, drink, and spend time on a boat—which usually happens all at the same time, and is my favorite kind of activity. Also, trust any of the gelato shops in Italy. After dinner, we stopped at one for 'un cono piccolo' and sat on the beach watching the sunset...after we finished, we went to a second shop and everyone got seconds!
Transit will run you about four hours—two hours each way—so just remember to head out with a patient and curious mind. The scenery on the way up will blow your mind and is, on its own, worth the time spent. We got some of our best shots along the way.
Questions? Ask away in the comments or shoot me an email!
Photos: Alex Ry