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Bellagio Or Varenna: Where To Stay & Which Is Better?

Two images of Bellagio and Varenna from the waters of Lake Como

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Lago di Como (Lake Como), in the Lombardy region of Northern Italy, is one of the most stunning places in Italy. Located along the eastern shores of Lake Como, Bellagio and Varenna are two of the lake’s most beautiful towns. Each town is unique and has its own charm and makes visitors wonder which town to make their home base in Lake Como. We spent a week in Lake Como last year and visited a few of these small towns around the lake. Having visited both of these Lake Como towns and spent a few days exploring the narrow streets, stunning villas and taking in incredible views of the lake, I bring you a firsthand comparison of Bellagio and Varenna.

This blogpost is a complete guide to help you choose between Bellagio and Varenna as your base in Como as well as unique features of each. It includes things to consider, travel preferences, best restaurants and places to stay to help you make your choice between Bellagio or Varenna. 

BELLAGIO VS VARENNA: A COMPARISON

Bellagio Or Varenna

Which has better nightlife? BELLAGIO
Which is more laid back? VARENNA
Which is more expensive? BELLAGIO
Which is bigger? BELLAGIO
Which has better restaurants? BOTH
Which has better shopping? BELLAGIO

BELLAGIO OR VARENNA: WHICH IS BETTER?

Both are equally charming.

Which is better depends on your personal preference but I highly recommend BELLAGIO for first time visitors to Lake Como.

This is a tough question to answer and it depends on your personal preference.

Bellagio is glitzy, glamorous with high end restaurants and hotels. It is more happening with lively atmosphere, better nightlife and more tourists. It is “the pearl of Lake Como.” Bellagio is the most popular town in Lake Como!

If it is your first trip to Lake Como, I recommend staying in Bellagio to experience the beauty and glamor of Lake Como.

Varenna is for those who prefer intimate, laid back atmposhere and less expensive compared to Bellagio. If romantic, less crowded towns are your vibe, Varenna is the best place to stay.

If you are staying for 5 or more days in Lake Como, consider splitting your stay between Bellagio and Varenna.

Bellagio Vs Varenna: My personal recommendation

I loved the grandeur and elegance of Bellagio’s luxury hotels. The grand spaces and opulence showed me a glimpse of the artistocracy of the 17th century. But I felt Bellagio to be a little too crowded (even during shoulder months) and overrated.

Me and my family loved Varenna and its promenade, the colorful houses and restaurants. We enjoyed dining at the restaurants in Varenna and had the best meals of our trip. Varenna brings back beautiful memories of my daughter’s footsteps and our dance at the promenade while we watched the most beautiful sunset over Lake Como. Varenna also has some great luxury hotels like the Hotel Villa Cipressi. In terms of attractions and things to do, we thought both were equally impressive.

If you are like me and love grand villas and opulence, my personal recommendation would be to stay in Bellagio’s incredible villa hotels. Spend early hours and late evenings in Bellagio and avoid the daytime crowds. Head to Varenna during the day to explore the villas, have an aperitif and enjoy the lake views from the promenade.

Whether you decide to stay in Bellagio or Varenna, be sure to add these two towns to your Lake Como itinerary.

BELLAGIO OR VARENNA: WHERE TO STAY?

When choosing where to stay in Lake Como, the decision between Bellagio and Varenna often comes down to personal preference, with both towns offering unique charms and luxurious accommodations.

If you love vibrant atmosphere bustling with shops, restaurants and people, Bellagio is the perfect place for you. It’s perfect for travelers looking for a lively experience, especially if you plan to stay for a few days.

Varenna, on the other hand, offers a more relaxing and chill vibe, ideal for those seeking calm and quiet. It is charming, romantic with less crowds and stunning lakeside views.

If you are staying in Lake Como for 5 days or more, consider splitting your days in Bellagio and Varenna.

WHERE TO STAY IN BELLAGIO?

Bellagio has some of the best luxury hotels in Lake Como. The grand villa style hotels provide the most opulent experience along with beautiful lake views. Bellagio is more expensive and you may not find many budget friendly accommodations here. The hotels in Bellagio are on par with the best hotel of Como like Grand Hotel Tremezzo and Villa d’Este.

  • Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni: One of the most exclusive hotels in Lake Como, offering opulent rooms, fine dining, and stunning lake views.
  • Hotel Belvedere Bellagio: Known for its breathtaking panoramas, spa facilities, and elegant rooms, it is one of the best places to stay in Lake Como.
  • Hotel Du Lac: Located in the heart of Bellagio, this hotel offers comfort and luxury with incredible views of Lake Como.

WHERE TO STAY IN VARENNA?

narrow street with lake Como views Varenna

Varenna offers a wide range of accomodations from luxurious hotels to cozy budget friendly guesthouses. Here are some of the top places to stay in Varenna with the best views and convenient access to the town’s attractions:

  • Hotel Villa Cipressi: A historical hotel with lush gardens, offering a mix of history, luxury, and panoramic lake views.
  • Hotel Royal Victoria: This hotel boasts a prime lakefront position, offering elegant rooms with a blend of modern comfort and historical charm.
  • Hotel Olivedo: Another great hotel to stay in Varenna with beautiful rooms and views.

BELLAGIO OR VARENNA: WHERE TO EAT & BEST RESTAURANTS

When it comes to restaurants in Bellagio vs Varenna, both the towns have great restaurants and incredible local cuisine. Bellagio’s restaurants are a bit more chic and upscale while Varenna’s restaurants are more intimate and laid back.

dish with fresh lake fish

BELLAGIO

Restaurants here range from upscale dining to charming lakeside cafes offering a wide range of culinary experiences. The restaurants in Bellagio generally charge higher prices than those of Varenna.

Bellagio’s cobbled streets are lined with many restaurants where you can savor traditional Italian dishes and fresh lake fish. These are some of the best restaurants in Bellagio.

Mistral

An award-winning restaurant situated in the opulent Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni, Mistral stands out for its innovative Italian and Mediterranean cuisine. This is an upscale, over the top dining experience, with beautifully presented dishes and a terrace with the most beautiful views of the lake.

La Terrazza

Also located within the Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni, La Terrazza provides a classic dining experience with a focus on traditional Italian dishes crafted from the freshest ingredients.

Ristorante La Punta

Positioned at the very tip of Bellagio’s promontory, Ristorante La Punta offers diners stunning 360-degree views of Lake Como. The menu highlights local cuisine, with delicacies like fresh lake fish. This is one of the best places to enjoy seafood, we absolutely loved it. Note that it is away from the town center and requires 10 minute walk.

Ristorante Salice Blu

Just a short distance from the heart of Bellagio, Ristorante Salice Blu is a Michelin starred restaurant with incredible dishes. Chef Luigi Gandola’s focuses on local, seasonal ingredients combined with great presentation.

La Goletta

Situated in the Hotel Belvedere, La Goletta provides a laid-back dining atmosphere. Ideal for enjoying classic Italian fare, pizzas, and a fine selection of local wines, it’s a welcoming spot for a relaxed meal.

A few special mentions include Trattoria San Giacomo and Enoteca Cava Turacciolo. This Enoteca offers great selection of regional wines, cheeses, and cured meats.

VARENNA

Varenna has great restaurants that offer a more intimate experience. We loved dining at some of the best restaurants in Varenna like Osteria Quattro Pass and highly recommend dining in Varenna. These are the best restaurants in Varenna for not only great food but also best views.

Osteria Quatro Pass

Osteria Quatro Pass is a cozy restaurant and is renowned for its incredible dishes made with local ingredients. The risotto topped with local lake fish is a must try and so is their wine list.

La Veranda dei Pescatori

This restaurant is up the hillside and needs a bit of walking but a must visit in Varenna. La Veranda dei Pescatori is unassuming and specializes in seafood, with dishes that are as fresh as they are flavorful. We absolutely loved the seafood and fresh fish and can’t wait to go back again.

Ristorante La Vista

True to its name, Ristorante La Vista offers spectacular views that complement its exquisite menu. This restaurant is perfect for a romantic dinner, offering a selection of Italian dishes prepared with the utmost care.

Varenna Caffè Bistrot

Varenna Caffè Bistrot is the place to be for the best views of Lake Como and traditional Italian fare. This bistrot serves a variety of Italian classics, from pastas to sumptuous salads, all in a storybook setting by the lake.

Bar Il Molo

Bar Il Molo is not just a place to grab a drink; it is a destination. With its prime location by the lake, it offers unparalleled views of the colorful homes of Varenna and Lake Como. It is the perfect spot to unwind with a cocktail or a glass of wine, with stunning views of the quaint village of Varenna.

Bar Giocomo

Last but not least, Bar Giocomo is one of my favorites for best the best views of Lake Como. Whether you’re starting your day with a cappuccino or ending it with an aperitivo, this bar offers a front-row seat to some of the most stunning vistas of Varenna and Lake Como.

La Passerella

And of course, you cannot end your day in Varenna without gelato at La Passerella. With over two dozen flavors, La Passerella is a must visit gelataria for a rich, creamy gelato and beautiful lake views. My personal favorite is the pistachio!

BELLAGIO VS VARENNA: Popular attractions and things to do

BELLAGIO

Bellagio, the “Pearl of Lake Como”, is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful places in Lake Como. It is the most famous town in Como and a must visit.

  • Explore the gardens of Villa Melzi: Stroll through stunning landscaped gardens along the lake shore and the beautiful 17th century villa.
  • Visit Villa Serbelloni: Take a guided tour of the villa’s park for spectacular panoramic views of Lake Como.
  • Stroll along the Bellagio Promenade: Stroll through the beautiful lakeside promenade and visit the local shops and cafes.
  • Wander the cobbled streets: Discover charming alleys, boutiques, art galleries, and cafes in the historic center. Don’t miss the famous street of Salita Serbelloni.
  • Day trips by ferry: Use Bellagio as a base to explore other Lake Como towns like Varenna, Menaggio and Tremezzo.
  • Indulge in fine dining: Savor fresh lake fish and Lombardy specialties in of the exclusive Michelin starred restaurants.
  • Visit the church of San Giacomo: Explore historic churches such as the Basilica of San Giacomo, known for its architecture.
  • Attend a classical music concert: Enjoy summer concerts in villas and gardens around Bellagio.
  • Shopping: Shop for quality silk products, local crafts, and Italian fashion in Bellagio’s boutique shops.
  • Visit Punta Spartivento: Experience breathtaking views of the lake at the very tip of Bellagio, where the lake divides into two branches.
  • Enjoy a private bout tour of Lake Como and view the villas and towns from the lake.
  • Visit San Giovanni Beach, one of the best beaches to swim in Lake Como.

VARENNA

Beautiful Varenna promenade during sunset

From luxurious villas, monasteries to beautiful sunset views and hikes, Varenna offers a diverse list of best things to do and attractions in Lake Como. Even if you do not plan to stay in Varenna, I highly suggest visiting this charming town and explore the villas and promenade. Varenna, in my view, is the most beautiful of all Como villages. Here is a list of my favorite activities to do in Varenna.

  • Explore Villa Monastero: A visit to Villa Monastero is a must in Varenna, with its stunning botanical garden and museum offering breathtaking views of Lake Como. It is one of the best places for Instagram worthy shots in Lake Como and beautiful view of the lake.
  • Walk along Lover’s Walk (Passeggiata degli Innamorati): This scenic lakeside promenade referred to as the “walk of lovers” offers picturesque views and is perfect for a romantic walk or a leisurely stroll. You will also find most beautiful view of Varenna along the promenade. You can’t miss this promenade walk!
  • Visit Villa Cipressi: Wander through the terraced botanical gardens of Villa Cipressi, enjoying the lush vegetation and spectacular views over Lake Como. Visit the nearby Hotel Royal Victoria for more incredible views of the lake.
  • Explore the Church of San Giorgio: Visit this beautiful 14th-century church, which is a fine example of Lombard Romanesque architecture, adorned with historic frescoes.
  • Savor local cuisine: Varenna’s restaurants serve up delicious Lombardy dishes, including risotto with perch, providing a taste of the local culinary delights.
  • Take day trips to nearby towns: Varenna serves as an excellent base for exploring other charming towns around Lake Como, easily accessible by ferry. Menaggio is a great town to visit from Varenna. Bellano is another charming lakeside town that is close to Varenna.
  • Visit Castello di Vezio: Hike up to this medieval castle for panoramic views of the lake and the surrounding area.
  • Hike the Sentiero del Viandante: This ancient pathway offers stunning lake views and passes through picturesque villages and countryside, perfect for nature enthusiasts.

BELLAGIO VS VARENNA:

Bellagio or Varenna: Which is bigger?

Both are relavitvely small but Bellagio is bigger in terms of area and population.

Bellagio or Varenna: Where to stay with car?

Colorful homes of Varenna from Lake Como

VARENNA

When deciding whether to stay in Bellagio or Varenna with a car, there are a few factors to consider, such as parking availability, ease of access. Here’s a comparison to help make your decision easier:

  • Parking: Finding parking in Bellagio can be challenging compared to Varenna, especially during peak tourist season. The town has limited parking spaces, and can get expensive.
  • Access: Driving in Bellagio involves narrow and winding roads that might be daunting for some drivers. Varenna is easier to reach by car from Milan and other major cities. The roads are a bit more straightforward compared to Bellagio.
  • Exploring: If you plan to use Bellagio as a base, be prepared for some driving time. You’ll often need to navigate around the lake or take a car ferry. Varenna is a great base for exploring Lake Como with car, as it is easier to take a car ferry to explore Menaggio and other towns. The ferry service between Varenna, Bellagio, and Menaggio allows for easy car transportation across the lake.

Bellagio or Varenna: Which is more expensive?

Woman walking on cobbled streets in front of yellow colored homes

BELLAGIO

From hotels to restaurants, shops and parking, Bellagio is relatively more expensive than Varenna.

Bellagio offers a luxurious atmosphere, which can make it a more costly destination. Its popularity and central location on Lake Como contribute to its higher overall costs.

Varenna provides a more laid-back experience, making it a cost-effective alternative that still offers the beauty and charm of Lake Como.

For a budget friendly stay, Varenna is a better choice.

Bellagio or Varenna: Which one is most happening?

BELLAGIO

Bellagio is bustling with tourists and is more happening than Varenna.

The town also hosts several cultural and social events throughout the year, including music festivals, classical concerts, and exhibitions, which add to its lively vibe.

Bellagio or Varenna: Which is more laid back and quieter?

Beautiful Varenna promenade during sunset

VARENNA

Varenna is quieter and offers a relaxed pace. Varenna’s local shops and restaurants are more spread out and offer an authentic Italian village feel.

Is there more to do in Varenna or Bellagio?

VARENNA for scenic and outdoor activities

BELLAGIO for entertainment and shopping

Both Varenna and Bellagio are home to popular attractions and things to do. Both the towns are great places to explore historic villas and offer great lake views.

Bellagio is the center of Lake Como, has a vibrant historic center and is a hub for tourists.

Varenna, on the other hand, is a spread out with more outdoor activities nearby. If you love hiking, waterfalls and exploring nature, Varenna is a great option.

Bellagio or Varenna: Which has better nightlife?

BELLAGIO

Although Lake Como is not known for its night scene, Bellagio has more bars and places to enjoy drinks compared to Varenna, providing a relatively vibrant nightlife.

The nightlife in Varenna is more subdued, with evenings spent enjoying a leisurely dinner or a drink overlooking the lake.

Bellagio or Varenna: Which has better restaurants?

BELLAGIO & VARENNA

The dining experiences and restaurant offerings in both Bellagio and Varenna are exceptional. The question of which town has “better” restaurant depends on the experience you prefer.

Bellagio is more upscale and offers several fine dining experiences.

Varenna is more intimate and offers cozy and romantic dining. We had some of the best meals in Varenna!

Bellagio or Varenna: Where to stay for exploring other towns?

BELLAGIO & VARENNA

Both the towns have excellent ferry connections to explore nearby towns around Lake Como.

Varenna is easier to get to from Milan and bigger cities in Italy thanks to its train connections.

Bellagio or Varenna: Which is better for romantic holiday?

BELLAGIO & VARENNA

Varenna and Bellagio are both incredibly romantic. They are, afterall, the storybook towns of Lake Como. There are a few distinctions between the two to help you choose:

BELLAGIO

  • Luxurious hotels and resorts with panoramic lake views.
  • Lively streets filled with shops and cafes for leisurely strolls.
  • Fine dining options for romantic dinners.

VARENNA

  • A peaceful and less crowded alternative, offering a more intimate experience.
  • Picturesque walks along the lakefront and through the town’s narrow lanes.
  • Cozy, romantic dining spots with authentic Italian cuisine.

Bellagio or Varenna: Which is better for panoramic views?

BELLAGIO & VARENNA

Whether you choose Bellagio or Varenna, both offer stunning panoramic views of Lake Como.

Bellagio or Varenna: Which is better for shopping?

BELLAGIO

Bellagio has great shopping options from high end Italian clothing, boutique wine shops to souvenir stores.

BELLAGIO AND VARENNA: FAQs

How to get to Varenna?

The easiest and most direct way to get to Varenna from Milan is by train. Trains leave regularly from Milano Centrale train station and Milano Porta Garibaldi stations, heading to Varenna-Esino station. The train ride takes about an hour. Varenna is an easy day trip from Milan.

You can drive to Varenna from Milan, which is about 80 km (50 miles) away. The drive usually takes around 1.5 hours, depending on traffic.

How to get to Bellagio?

  • From Milan: There is no direct train service to Bellagio, but you can take a train from Milan’s Central (Milano Centrale) or Porta Garibaldi stations to either Como or Varenna.
    • Via Como: Take a train to Como San Giovanni train station. From there, you can catch a ferry or a hydrofoil to Bellagio. The ferry ride offers stunning views of the lake and its surroundings.
    • Via Varenna: Another option is to take a train to Varenna-Esino station. From Varenna, it’s a short walk to the ferry terminal, where you can take a short ferry ride directly to Bellagio.
  • You can choose to drive from Milan to Bellagio but parking can be challenging.

What is the best time to visit Bellagio and Varenna?

The best time to visit these charming towns of Lake Como is April – October with the summer months of June – August being the most popular. The perfect time to visit Lake Como is September and May when there are fewer crowds.

How far is Varenna from Bellagio?

Bellagio and Varenna are quite close to each other with a distance of 4 kms between them. It takes 15 minutes to travel between Bellagio and Varenna by ferry. Ferry is the fastest and the most scenic way to travel between the two towns.

Is Varenna worth visiting?

Varenna is one of the most beautiful towns in Lake Como. Its colorful buildings, historic villas and beautiful lakefront promenade are well worth visiting!

Varenna to Bellagio ferry – How to get to Varenna from Bellagio?

Taking a ferry between Bellagio and Varenna is the best way to travel but also a memorable part of the Lake Como experience.

The late evening ferry ride with cool summer breeze from Varenna to Bellagio was one of the highlights of our trip! My little toddler and I loved the ferry ride more than the Michelin star restaurants that we dined at!

Woman in pink dress and toddler baby girl in blue dress sitting on the stairs of a ferry in Lake Como

Check out these tips to make your ferry ride as smooth as possible.

  1. Check the Schedule: Check the latest ferry schedules. The Lake Como ferry service operates year-round, but frequencies might be reduced outside of the peak tourist season (spring through autumn). Make sure you check the last ferry to your home base in Lake Como. We met a few people who missed the last ferry and had to order a private taxi boat or take a bus all the way around the lake.
  2. Head to the Ferry Terminal in Bellagio: The ferry terminal is located near the center of Bellagio. It’s easily accessible on foot from most parts of the town.
  3. Purchase Your Ticket: Tickets can be purchased at the ticket office at the ferry terminal. It’s advisable to arrive earlier than your intended departure time, especially in summer when there can be long queues. You can also buy tickets online ahead of time. You have the option to buy one way or return trip.
  4. Board the Ferry: Once you have your ticket, wait for the ferry at the designated boarding area. There are clear signs and announcements to guide passengers.
  5. Enjoy the Ride: The ferry ride from Bellagio to Varenna takes about 15 minutes. It’s a short journey, but onef o the most beautiful rides.
  6. Arrive in Varenna: The ferry docks at the Varenna ferry terminal are conveniently located within walking distance of Varenna’s town center and the train station.

Tips for a Smooth Trip:

  • Check for Updates: Ferry schedules can be affected by weather conditions, so it’s a good idea to check for any service updates on the day of your trip.
  • Consider Round-trip Tickets: If you’re planning to return to Bellagio the same day, inquire about round-trip tickets, which might offer a slight discount.
  • Explore Both Towns: Both Bellagio and Varenna offer unique attractions, scenic beauty, and dining options, so make the most of your trip by exploring what each town has to offer.

FINAL THOUGHTS: BELLAGIO VS VARENNA

Deciding whether to stay in Bellagio or Varenna during your trip to Lake Como is a delightful dilemma. Both towns offer their unique charm, stunning views, and a range of activities that cater to different preferences.

Bellagio, the ‘Pearl of Lake Como’, is glamorous with bustling streets, and boutique shops. It is the epitome of Lake Como luxury, making it perfect for those seeking a lively vibes with exquisite dining and shopping.

Varenna, on the other hand, with its historic sites, and picturesque waterfront, offers a more laid-back and authentic Italian experience. It is a charming lakeside vilalge that offers a slower pace. Varenna is an excellent choice for romantic getaways and those who prefer intimate and calm vibes.

The choice between Bellagio and Varenna ultimately comes down to personal preferences and what you wish to get out of your Lake Como vacation. If you’re drawn to glamour and wish to be in the heart of the action, Bellagio is your go-to destination. However, if you prefer a more relaxed setting, Varenna is an ideal choice.

*****

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I am Aswani Kurra. I am an engineer, dreamer and part-time wanderlust, writer and wine lover. I always had an urge to write, create and travel. So I created this space to satisfy my creative itch and combine all my skills to help you plan your Charming Escape.

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