The walk we propose will allow you to visit Varenna, a beautiful town located in the Lecco branch of Lake Como, rich in art and history treasures, and discover an important medieval building with a stunning view of the lake, the Vezio Castle.
Once in the centre of Varenna, walk beyond Piazza San Giorgio toward the splendid Villa Monastero, an international congress centre with a botanical garden rich in exotic species.
Take the narrow paved road in front of the Villa, leading to the cemetery. Walking on the right, observe the beautiful view of the lake with the promontory of Bellagio that divides the branch of Lecco from that of Como.
At the cemetery starts the path towards the Vezio Castle, a 30 minutes hike. This is an ancient itinerary which links Varenna to Vezio di Perledo, called Sentiero degli Scabium, which is part of the most famous Sentiero del Viandante.
This highly suggestive and panoramic route leads to the small square in front of the Church of S. Antonio Abate di Perledo, in the hamlet of Vezio.
Follow the path uphill until you reach a chapel, where the path turns right, passing between walls and rocks and then flows into a plateau. It goes around the hill on which the castle stands and finally enters the alleys of Vezio.
Then you get to the Church of S. Antonio Abate of medieval origin with many subsequent reconstructions, which still preserves ancient frescoes.
To the west, an alleyway borders the cemetery and climbs the hill to the Castle of Vezio.
After passing through the gate of the Castle, climb up into the beautiful garden of olive trees and reach the refreshment point. You can order your lunch here and eat at one of the tables of the bar or buy the tickets of the castle so you can enter it and enjoy your lunch in the green area located right at the foot of the fortification. In addition, as soon as you pass the ticket office you can observe the aviaries of some of the birds of prey of the small falconry center of the Castle.
After lunch in this ancient location, you can go to the terrace of the Castle, overlooking Varenna. Here the view extends over the two branches of the lake, the promontory of Bellagio and the surrounding mountains.
A staircase leads to another wing of the garden that is home to birds of prey. During some fixed hours, a real falconry show is organized, for the delight of children.
You can then go up the high tower where you can admire a permanent exhibition dedicated to the Lariosaurus, a medium sized reptile (up to 1 meter long) belonging to the group of Sauropterigi (extinct aquatic reptiles). The exhibition includes casts of various specimens found around Perledo, in Varese and in the rest of the world. From the top of the tower, the view extends over the slopes of the Grigna above Varenna.
Once you have got back to the garden and finished your visit to the castle, you can return to the village along an alternative path, steeper and less scenic than the Sentiero degli Scabium.
In less than 20 minutes you will reach Varenna, the starting point, and you can spend the rest of the day visiting one of the most charming Italian lakeside towns.
At the center of Lake Como, on the promontory overlooking Varenna, stands the Vezio Castle, dated more than a thousand years ago, an ancient military outpost of medieval origin built to defend and control the lake and the surrounding villages by the Lombard queen Teodolinda. Situated in a militarily and commercially strategic place which dominates the entire center of Lake Como and for this reason inhabited since the Iron Age, the Castle was once associated with the village of Varenna and connected to it by two long walls surrounding it up to the lake, protecting the village and its inhabitants during the frequent wars and looting which devastated the territory throughout the Middle Ages. Partially restored in the mid-twentieth century, today the castle has a square-based watchtower, accessible through a small drawbridge and can be visited up to the top, surrounded by a first square wall with a partial corner tower.
Immersed in the green of one of the most northern olive groves in the world, thanks to the effect of thermoregulation of the waters of the lake, the castle, open from March to November, occasionally hosts exhibitions of works of art of various kinds in the garden and permanently, inside the tower, an exhibition on the Lariosaurus, prehistoric marine reptile came to light for the first time in the world a few hundred meters from the castle. With its partially visitable basements, the statues in the garden, the "ghosts" and birds of prey of the small falconry center, the castle combines, in a context of unparalleled natural beauty, art, history and culture of the territory.
The schedules of the shows are defined weekly, although approximately they take place around 15:00, they can be subject to daily changes. Please check the website of the Castle the day before the visit or contact the number +39 3334485975
By car from Milano
Take the SS 36 towards Monza-Lecco, continue to Lecco following the signs and then in the direction of Sondrio.
Take the exit: Varenna - Mandello - Abbadia Lariana - Ferry
Then merge onto the Sp 72 and enter Varenna.
Distance: 75 Km
Duration: 1h 30 about
By car from Lugano
Take the exit Lugano sud. Then follow for Gandria - St. Moritz.
In Gandria enter Italy and follow for Menaggio.
Once in Menaggio take the ferry to Varenna.
Distance: 25 Km
Duration: 1h 30 about
Download the pdf of the tametables of auto-ferry Menaggio – Varenna or visit the website of Navigazione Laghi
Multi-storey car park Varenna, Street Polvani,1