Friday, 29 August 2014

Backtracking to Varenna


Varenna on Lake Como is an easy day trip from Milan.  From Central station, the fastest way to get there is to catch a train to this pretty hillside village, positioned halfway up the lake.
In the past we've passed through Varenna, rushing down the narrow lanes to catch one of the numerous ferries to the other towns around Lake Como. Occasionally, while waiting for a ferry, we've had time to wander along the lakefront path known as 'Lovers' Way'. Having caught glimpses of a pretty town square up the cobblestone lanes, we've often vowed to return. 
A few weeks ago we made our first attempt to explore Varenna.  Unfortunately, just as we left Milan dark clouds gathered and then burst the moment we stepped off the train.  We dashed from the train station, through the pouring rain, to a rather ordinary looking main square where we grabbed a very quick bowl of pasta. After waiting for the rain to clear, we gave up and dashed to catch the next train back to Milan. A speed-record breaking trip to Varenna.  But we were determined...
What a difference the sun makes!
We returned to Varenna for a second visit and this time the main square was picture perfect. A small market provided amusement for the many tourists who were visiting as part of a vintage car tour. (The pale blue VW in the photo below, looks very similar to my first car which was almost vintage back in 1981!)
Although it was tempting to hang around reminiscing, as we watched the not-so-old cars squeeze through the narrow streets, we had other plans in mind. The weather was ideal for a stroll through the gardens of Villa Monastero.
This is the fourth garden that we've visited along the shores of Lake Como.  Although the views across the lake were beautiful, the garden was disappointing as it was a little overgrown in comparison to the others we've seen.  The extensive and perfectly manicured gardens of Villa Carlotta at Tremezzo, Villa Melzi at Bellagio or the magnificent Villa Balbianello, set a very high standard which Villa Monastero didn't quite match.  It seems we've become 'garden snobs'!  However, we didn't leave Varenna disappointed.
A garden walk was the perfect preparation for what turned out to be our best discovery in Varenna, Il Cavatappi.  This tiny restaurant is ranked number one  on Trip Advisor as the best restaurant in Varenna and deservedly so! 
It is easy to feel that you've stumbled across something rather special when you're seated in a restaurant with only five small tables inside, and outside, just two more.  The double clothed tables, set with crystal glasses and polished silver, hinted that we might be in for a treat and we were.  Fresh lightly seasoned grilled vegetables were served as an antipasto, followed by two dishes of home-made pasta; gnocchi with a 'three tomato sauce' for me, and ravioli stuffed with lake fish for Stefano.  Friendly service, excellent wine and very reasonable prices made this one of the most memorable meals that we've eaten in Italy. 
Buonissimo!

Our day spent backtracking to Varenna had a surprisingly delicious ending.

Mmmm arrivederci. E' il tempo per pranzo.  

We recommend - (Apparently bookings are usually required.)
Il Cavatappi
Via XX Settembre
Varenna
39 0341 815349

9 comments:

  1. Very timely! And we will definitely make it our mission to find this restaurant! See you soon, Robyn xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for commenting Robyn. Yes, well worth a visit to this little restaurant. I'm sure you'll love Varenna.

      Delete
  2. Will put it on our list - we are inspired!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. G & A, You won't be short of things to do when you're staying in Menaggio. Varenna is worth a visit. You can enjoy views of the lake and the garden by taking a walk along the road above the villa.

      Delete
  3. Sam, the kids and Laura took a trip around lake como when I was doing the workshop in Genoa. I'd love to get back and explore, looks gorgeous. xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes Lisa, there are so many beautiful places to visit on Lake Como. Varenna seems very busy down by the lake but much quieter in the back streets. Well worth a visit, one day.

      Delete
  4. Your blog created discussion between Bruce and me re the garden Jen. Brucey says it was a bit tired but there were indications of its past glory. I don't remember it being tired but maybe that was because it was our first Lake Como garden visit and as usual I was saying lots of 'wows'! There were many beautiful roses in flower which were possibly not looking as good when you went. Your lunch sounds fantastic. We also had a good one in Varenna where I possibly had my best caprese salad!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Haha, I wondered what you both thought. I knew you'd been there but I couldn't remember whether it was one of your favs. The roses were finished so not memorable. Mmm perhaps being the first one you mightn't have noticed the weeds and overgrown lawns. The views are wow! but the garden, well not so much on the day we saw it. High praise for Varenna's caprese salad as I know you are an expert. Varenna is worth exploring. I'm sure we'll go visit again, especially for lunch.

      Delete
  5. I love Varenna, so nice and peaceful compared to Milan!

    ReplyDelete