On Wednesday, we woke up in Venice and walked for about 20 minutes to the train station. Inside the station, we picked up sandwiches and Cokes for the train ride. This was crucial as we were taking small regional trains that definitely did not have food cars! The train took about three hours, and we had to transfer in Milan.
We stayed in Varenna on Lake Como. It was very convenient as there was a train station right in town. It was only a 10-minute walk to our apartment, but our Air BnB host picked us up in her car. This was a great touch—it eliminated the confusion of being in a new town. Check out the view from our apartment:
It was really warm, so we changed clothes and went walking and exploring. Varenna is located at the base of the Alps, directly on Lake Como. It is basically how I envision heaven to look.
The sand on the lake is very rocky, but full of sea glass! It was really beautiful. We had a snack of gelato, which hit the spot.
After walking around for a few hours, we decided to go change back into pants and head to dinner. We ate at Bar il Molo, directly on the water in Varenna. The view was truly breathtaking. We had wine, pizza, and risotto. We learned that it’s better to share plates and order more courses!
We watched the sunset and went to bed very, very happy.
On Thursday we woke up in Varenna, on the banks of Lake Como. We had pastries and coffee at a small cafe on the town square. Then we headed out to catch the ferry across the Lake. We bought an all day unlimited ferry pass for 15 Euros each, which was a great buy. You got your money’s worth on four rides, but it was worth it just to not have to wait in the lines—the ferries come and go quickly and don’t wait on you to buy tickets!
First, we headed across the lake to Menaggio. It was a much more bustling town than Varenna, but it was still a small town. We didn’t have a plan, but we saw a sign with a map up to a trail, so we headed in that direction. It ended up being a paved walking trail that went through a tunnel. We walked for about an hour before deciding to turn around and head back to the dock. Where we turned around ended up being a trail map sign at a road crossing, and showed many places to go see. We had other towns to see that day, so we decided to turn around, but we definitely could have spent a full day hiking Menaggio!
Next, we hopped the ferry to Bellagio. Bellagio was the largest town and was a bit more touristy than the other towns. We grabbed some pizza and wine and then walked around. It was on the point of the lake, and so it was surrounded by water on both sides. It was really beautiful. Sadly, there was no casino to match the hotel in Las Vegas, but we did see the hotel that they must have mirrored the one in Vegas after.
Next, we hopped the ferry to Lenno. That was the furthest town that our ferry went to, and it took about 20 minutes from Bellagio. We walked about 20 minutes, some of it very steep, from the ferry station to Villa del Balbianello. This was where Star Wars: Episode II and Casino Royale filmed scenes. It’s an old mansion that was donated to become a public park. We purchased tickets to tour the gardens, though there was a second ticket to tour the villa as well. We spent about an hour looking at the gardens, views, and flowers.
On our way back to the ferry, we stopped on a beach to skip stones. Suddenly, we realized that we were about to miss the boat and had to sprint to catch it! I was really glad that we didn’t have to buy tickets or we would have missed it, and the next boat wasn’t for an hour.
We headed back to Varenna and picked up a few souvenirs before headed back to the apartment to drop off our bags. We had dinner at the Nilus Bar, right next to where we had dinner the night before. We had wine and pesto spaghetti and bruschetta—it was delicious.
We walked home in the dark through the tiny alleyways with no other people around. It was such a beautiful and peaceful town, so we were very sad to say good bye to Lake Como. Lake Como was like a dream. I grew up visiting the mountains a lot and just felt at home there, and the towns were so friendly and beautiful, I truly feel that we could have stayed for weeks.
But, we had more of Italy to see. We caught the early morning train from Varenna to Milan, then connected in Geneva, then headed to our final destination of Riomaggiore. This was our roughest travel day. The three trains were local trains, meaning that they moved slowly and made a lot of stops. They were also small trains without some of the amenities, like a food car. Long story short, we had croissants at 8:00 AM and were unable to get food again until we arrived in Riomaggiore after 3:00 PM. The time between trains was short and the stations were small enough to not have cafes (Milan did, of course, but our first train was late and we had only four minutes to get on the next train). I incorrectly assumed that the trains would have food service and ended up…hangry. Our lesson was learned, and after that day we went to a grocery store and stocked up on granola bars and fresh fruit for emergency snacks. This helped immensely.
So, once we arrived in Riomaggiore, we were starving. We dropped our bags off at our apartment (which was incredibly centrally located) and popped over to a pizzeria for a quick slice. Mamma mia was it good! The specialties of Cinque Terre are pesto, seafood, and focaccia pizza. The focaccia pizza is soft and thick, unlike the usual Italian cracker-crust pizza. It was delicious and great to get some variety!
With a slice (or two) of pizza and a Coke in my belly, I was good to go. We walked down to the water (only a three minute walk from our apartment—Riomaggiore is a very small town with one main street) to check out the sites. We didn’t hate it.
Cinque Terre is a cluster of five cities, situated on the edge of the Mediterranean. It used to be all olive farmers, but the area has become a major tourist destination for people that like to be off the beaten path of places like Rome, Florence, and Venice. It’s easy to see why.
We walked along the path on the coast. This path is called the Lovers Trail. It connects all five of the cities. We were sad to hear that three-quarters of the trail was closed due to a landslide. It was still beautiful!
We walked all around the town just taking pictures. When we decided that we were hungry, we knew exactly what to do. First, we popped into the grocery and got a bottle of three Euro white wine (way better than $5 wine in the US!). I ran it up into our apartment fridge. The food specialty in Riomaggiore is fried seafood in a cone. Yep. We headed to Il Pescato Cucinato and ordered a grande cone. That’s a a paper cone filled with fried sardines, calimari, potatoes, vegetables, and shrimp. We took it back to our apartment’s balcony and enjoyed the wine and seafood while people watching.
Once that was scarfed, we walked up the street a few spots and got fresh pasta to go—only five Euros each for delicious, fresh pasta. It wasn’t as good as del Maro’s was in Venice, but still yummy. I want to say—why is $5 fresh pasta fast food not a thing in the US? It’s so good and easy, and I really could go for it at least twice a week.
After we ate that, we walked around the town and above the town along a road and looked at the town lit up in the night.
We just sat on the deck and watched the people and the stray cats and felt lucky. I know that it was our honeymoon and I did want to splash out on nice meals at restaurants, but the times when we got take-out and sat on our decks were some of our favorite meals of the trip! I highly recommend it.
We went to bed early to prepare for our big hiking day the next day!