There’s more to Lake Como than its namesake town or potential George Clooney sightings. The Lake itself is beautiful, with glistening blue water backdropped by the foothills of the Alps. The road that winds along the bank slices into and out of the mountains, disappearing before suddenly reemerging and founding cities along the way. Huge cyprus trees shoot up among marine pines, creating a green contrast to the many layers of blue.
Throughout, tiny towns cling to the banks, offering glimpses of pure beauty, provincial life with a paradisiacal backdrop, a stereotypical glimpse of Italy in a place you wouldn’t think to look.
Sometimes, all it takes is a second glance. Though we’ve visited Varenna dozens of time – taking friends to see an obscure castle, enjoying date nights on the patio and enjoying melting gelato, racing to eat it before it falls to the cobblestones – it seems we hadn’t seen all of the ancient fishing town.
Because right at the entrance of the town was another heaven-on-earth site we hadn’t known about:
Villa Monastero and its gorgeous gardens
Originally a 12th-century convent, the Villa was converted into a private residence in the 16th century, changing hands from one rich guy to another. The house faces the lake, and is probably best appreciated from that viewpoint. In fact, the first time I truly noticed it was diving into the cold water from our friend’s small fishing boat last summer. I had no idea that it was visitable, nor that it was so worth a visit, until we chose a sunny spring Saturday to relax in the Villa Monastero Gardens.