Continuing on with our journey in Italy, our next post is about the quaint little villages around Lake Como. I guess the village/city of Como is by far more popular due to some famous Hollywood Celebs who call it their home – which probably means it’s more touristy and crowded. We decided to take a break from the crowds and celebs and head onto the less popular but gorgeous villages of Varenna and Bellagio.
There are no direct trains to the villages of Lake Como from Venice so we had a quick change in Milan.
Departure Station in Venice: Pordenone (closest train station to Treviso where J recommended to get our tickets from).
Arrival Station in Milan: Milano Centrale
Train Operator: Tren Italia
Duration: 3hr 35m
Departure Station in Milan: Milano Centrale
Arrival Station in Varenna: Varenna-Esino
Train Operator: Local train – Get on the Tren Nord train towards Turin.
If you go during November/December (or the winter months), most shops including restaurants in these villages are closed. The ones that are open have siesta hours between 12PM to ~3PM. Things may be different in the village of Como as it seems to be more popular.
Some of the best views of these villages are from the water. So take the ferry if you have time.
Make sure to buy a return ticket in Milan as the station in Varenna didn’t seemed to have any ticket office. The local train tickets don’t have a date or time of travel only the ‘From’ and ‘To’ stations printed on them and the ticket is valid for a whole year. So you need to validate it at the yellow machine at the station BEFORE you get on the train.
In Milano Centrale, you can buy the train ticket to Varenna from the ticket machines. Remember you still have to validate your ticket at the little “yellow” machines on the platform before you board your train.
The train station in Varenna is so gorgeous, I couldn’t get enough of it (wish I could post more photos here). We checked into our hotel in Varenna, dropped off our bags and made our way to the ferry terminal which was literally a 5min walk from our hotel to catch a ferry to Bellagio which is a 15 min ferry ride from Varenna. The ferry is huge – you can take your car on it if you have one!
What we didn’t know is almost all shops are shut for siesta from ~12PM-3PMish every afternoon. Not even the gelateria is open, boo 🙁 Its kinda nice to have the whole town to yourself. Gorgeous pictures without anyone photobombing you.. The downside is even eateries are closed. After walking around talking pictures, we found a nice sunny bench on the waterfront where S decided to take a nap. The man can nap anywhere.. The airport, ferry, park bench, you name it. Finally around 3:45PM, we saw a hair salon opening up so we went inside and asked why most shops were closed. To our surprise, the lady said most of the town shuts down during winter. How awesome is it to take 3-4 months off?? Looks like we found the perfect place to retire. S can go on all day bike rides and come back just in time to eat at my cafe (that i’ll have open during winter and shutdown during summer). Neat plan, eh?
While I was dreaming of moving there, S was getting impatient. The man was hungry and after walking the whole town twice, we finally found a lovely Cafe that was open until 6PM. We got some delicious hot chocolate (a well made Italian hot cocoa is thick-almost a pudding consistency that’s why you get a spoon with your cuppa), some apple cake with subtle apple flavor (seemed like the apple was melted in the cake) and pizza to go to eat back at our hotel in case restaurants were closed in Varenna when we got back.
We wandered around Bellagio some more and made our way into a shop with handcrafted wooden things made by the owner’s son to buy souvenirs. We made our way back to the ferry terminal and waited in the waiting room until our ferry came . 15 minutes later, we were back in Varenna. We woke up early next morning to get a quick run in before heading back to the city. We ran from Pereldo to Fiumelatte hoping to see the river. There was no water but we were able to see the mouth of the cave where the water comes out of. May be when we retire there, we can run to the water everyday. There are several granite picnic benches and even a BBQ area so it probably gets busy it gets when the weather is warmer.
Good place(s) to Run: Pereldo to Fiumelatte – You pretty much run up to the town square in Varenna to where the parking structure is (on the left), then take the road on the left up to the cemetery. From there, you go up the stairs (which are pretty steep) and go down the trail. The trail forks after a bit and both the signs say Via Dante. Make sure you stay on the trail you were on which will lead you to the lookout point and the iron bridge.
We booked it back to the hotel so we could scarf down some breakfast before heading to the train station which was right behind our hotel. There are no ticket counters at the station and there was some sharpie’d signs on a window on where/how to get tickets. We didn’t get to test it out since we bought our return ticket at Milano Centrale. An hour later, we were in Milan.