|This is it: All of tiny Varenna, jutting out into the beautiful Lake Como. View from Castello di Vezio.|
I heard more American English in Varenna than anywhere in Italy up to this point. Believe it or not, I have yet to meet anyone from the U.S. in Padua, and rarely hear English spoken around town. In Venice, the epitome of a tourist town, I have visited alone and pretty much kept to myself. However, in Varenna, we ran into English speakers everywhere. In fact, it was a place where I would speak to a local in Italian and s/he would reply in English. While I'm sure people are trying to be helpful, I am never happy when this occurs. On a positive note, it does not happen in Padua!
At any rate, I can see why tourists are flocking to Varenna. It is absolutely gorgeous. I loved it! There is plenty of amazing food, historic sites, and outdoor fun to fill a long weekend. Here are a few highlights from our trip.
1. Castello di Vezio. For the spectacular views alone, it is well worth the steep trek up to these ruins of this castle perhaps as old as the IV Century. The castle has served numerous purposes over time and its watch tower and drawbridge still stand (and you can go to the top!). It is also interesting to explore underground tunnels that were used during WWI. There is an olive grove on the property that is said to be one of the northern-most in the world (high latitude, but temperate climate due to the climate of the valley). A negative point is that the castle practices the prehistoric tradition of "falconry", the training of birds of prey. Thus, they have several birds that have been born and raised in captivity. I was disappointed to see this.
|Just one amazing view from the Castello di Vezio|
|Sorgente del Fiumelatte|
4. Orrido di Bellano. At the Bellano stop on the Path (or accessible by a 4-minute train ride) is the Bellano Gorge. It's actually right in the center of town, just behind the major church. It's basically a series of open caves carved out by rushing water that supplies two, hydroelectric power stations. For 3 euros, you can walk a path climbing up into the gorge and view the various waterfalls. Beware of La Casa del Diavolo (House of the Devil), a very creepy tower at the entrance that was supposedly the site of satanic rituals (according to the brochure). At any rate, today it resembles the abandoned haunted carnival setting of several Scooby Doo episodes.
|Orrido di Bellano|
|Love this ancient church, San Giovanni Battista|
|View of Varenna from the ferry|
Our favorite restaurant in Varenna was Borgovino, on XX Septembre street. This tiny restaurant (about 6 tables inside, 2 outside) has an awesome Italian wine collection and amazing food, including dessert. The owner/chef is a local; her Swedish boyfriend seems to be the wine expert, and runs the front end of the place. They are excellent hosts, and we enjoyed every bite.
|From Borgovino: Chocolate-caramel cake (more like a brownie) with vanilla gelato and tiramisu cream… OMG|
|View of the Piazza San Giorgio, Varenna, from our hotel room in Albergo di Sole.|