I went to Lake Como on a whim and the minute I stepped off the train, I fell in love.

My husband and I arrived in Varenna, a small town on the shores of Lake Como, from Milan. It only took about an hour to get there on the train. I wanted to stay in Varenna for the peace, quiet and charm. I chose it over the bigger Como or the more famous Bellagio. Those towns have a lot to offer too, but I dreamed of strolling through village streets and stopping into whatever restaurant or cafe was open with minimal plans and fanfare. I dreamed of mixing with locals,  giving out smiles and waves and getting them in return, and passing by a church on Sunday and hearing its bells ring. 

We’d booked an Airbnb, picked up the keys and hauled our suitcases up a couple of flights of stairs. The good news was that when you’re in Italy and you’re going up, it usually means you’ll soon be looking down at something gorgeous. 

The Airbnb was light, ethereal and airy. We had two bedrooms, two bathrooms and a surprise rooftop terrace with spectacular views. I was overflowing with excitement when I discovered the roof terrace and we quickly fetched some wine, snacks and our drone. I knew we could spend hours here drinking in the sights, the wine, and talking the day away.

After a glass of prosecco, some cozying up and deep conversation – I was officially under Lake Como’s spell. I was surrounded by its striking natural beauty: the lake, the mountains, the saturated colors. I had a real sense of place and an elevated quality of being. I felt ensconced by my surroundings. The setting made it easy to feel the outside world melt away.

We spent our first afternoon exploring our town. Varenna is stunningly beautiful and provides virtually endless opportunities to admire its beauty. I just had to stop and take impromptu photos pretty much every twenty minutes. The backdrop was so electrifying, I couldn’t help myself. We found a town square overlooked by a stately church. A charming waterfront with cafes and tiny walking paths along the water. Park benches to sit and take in the vistas and walls of dark green climbing ivy. We wandered to our hearts’ content. We stopped into a restaurant and I ate gnocchi with tomatoes at a teeny table for two on a quaint terrace with a sunset view. We retired to our Airbnb for an in-bed planning session and a delicious night of sleep.

The next morning, we stumbled upon a market in the village square with local artisans selling handmade goods. I bought a wooden fountain pen engraved with the name of my small business and a leather notebook. The notebook’s cover was a rich, deep purple damask and it really spoke to me. The man selling the notebook said to make sure and not treat it with too much care and gentleness. He said the notebooks were meant to be used and proceeded to open one of them fully and flatten it on the table in demonstration. It was shocking but beautiful. We didn’t have children at the time, but I noticed that the market had a children’s area with lots of wooden toys and activities for kids to explore. 

Later that day, we rented a double kayak and set off from the shores of Varenna. We had no destination in mind and were content to glide along taking in the beauty of the villas and landscaped gardens. We eventually made our way to a tiny stone beach and found lots of families enjoying the summer sun and water. We spied a gelato truck surrounded by gleeful kids. The beach was delightful and after cooling down in the water we headed back. 

After returning the kayak, we changed clothes and had lunch  at Villa Monastero. I ate ravioli with butter and sage, and a pistachio cannoli. We split a bottle of wine and gazed out at the glittering lake. Afterwards, we wandered around the villa’s botanical gardens. The ornate ironworks and lakeside cobblestone steps were breathtaking backdrops.

The next day we splurged and rented a classic wooden boat from Como Classic Boats which was, although pricey, probably one of the most incredible things I’ve ever done. The boat itself was a work of art. It gleamed all over – from the shiny silver accents to its polished wooden exterior. We rented a Riva Super Florida boat. I was wearing a beautiful white mid century style dress and had tied a scarf from the market to hold my hair back. The boat driver presented us with prosecco and proceeded to show us around the lake explaining the history of the lake and pointing out villas and who lived there. Looking out from the water is an incredible vantage point. It felt like pure luxury. During a quick visit to a boat museum on shore, I changed into a bathing suit, shorts and a tank top so that I could jump into the lake once we reached a swimming hole. The water of the lake was clear and cool. I’d classify the experience as once in a lifetime, but I’d love to do it again. It was just that dreamy.

When we woke up, we took the ferry to Bellagio to check out Salita Serbelloni, the famous street in the city center flanked by colorful buildings. We took the opportunity to snap a beautiful photo. It was early in the morning and the streets were empty, the cafes and shops closed. The winding alley was quiet and postcard perfect. We walked to a beach club, Lido di Bellagio, and spent the afternoon soaking in the sun. 

After our hard day of tourist-ing and beach club lounging, we booked ourselves in for some relaxation with lunch at the Grand Hotel Tremezzo followed by a massage at their spa. The building was so beautiful with such a rich history. I don’t know how we managed it, but we were the only patrons of the spa’s pool facilities and had the place to ourselves. We soaked in the hot tub and swam in the pool before lounging on chairs overlooking the lake. When we returned to the AirBnb, I made us prosciutto and cheese sandwiches from a tiny local grocer. 

The next day we had coffee in the town center and reminisced about the magical visit. The color of the lake, the striking natural beauty, the picturesque towns, the incredible views and sunsets and the sense of chicness and glamor. My husband said he dreamed of taking our kids there one day, and now that we have a daughter and live in Italy, I can’t wait to make that dream a reality. 

your next flight is free

Where to next?

Relaxing Overnight In Salerno

I recently went to Salerno for the first time for an overnight trip. There are virtually endless destinations to explore from my doorstep near Naples in southern Italy and I love seizing this amazing opportunity to travel around the country, taking in new experiences and culture.  My daughter is four and I take that into […]

read more

Wine Tasting at Mount Vesuvius

read more

Women Thriving in Entertainment

read more

Creating a Peaceful Morning Routine to Set the Tone for Your Day

read more

Hi, I’m Diana — the Dolce Mom! 

In 2023 my husband took a job in southern Italy and we moved our family from Austin, Texas to Bacoli, Italy near Naples. I’m a professional home organizer by trade, but now spend my days immersing myself and our little one in Italian culture and travel. 

I believe a well-traveled life is as much about experiencing new things as it is a state of mind. I’m in a pursuit for the good life in all its forms. Here I share that pursuit and its innersection with real life. 

get to know me

The non-curated, every day expat life happens here

@thedolcemom wherever you socialize

copyright 2024 the dolce mom | Brand + Website design by Honeycomb