Varenna is one of the best preserved medieval centres of the entire lake area with its charming steep cobblestone streets, porticos and historic churches. With Varenna’s dwellings crowding the lake, the delightful passerella (board walk) hugs the shore, passing private villas dripping wisteria and guarded by wrought iron. The walk is from the Ferry dock to the tiny harbour and ultimately to Villa Monastero.
Built in various styles (Baroque, Classic and Moresque) Villa Monastero was once a Cistercian female convent, but now houses an important international cultural and scientific centre. When compared with other places around Lake Como, its position is in the cleanest and most tourist-free area. It is sited slightly off the general hustle and bustle of the town and it charms with its aloofness. The Cistercian monastery, Santa Maria, is known to have been on this site in 1208. It was sold in 1569 and the Mornico family built a villa. This was much changed in the nineteenth century.
The garden is terraced and was planted by an Austrian (Walter Kress) in the twentieth century. He built a waterfront loggia and a Moorish pavilion, revealing his interest in the mixed style of architecture. The garden is of great scenic impact which is due to the continual restoration and repair work. Functional and decorative elements have been added without destroying the original and make the garden possibly the most famous attraction at Villa Monastero. It is a real botanical garden along the shore of the lake, particularly interesting both for its historical value and for the richness of plant variety. The citrus grove is a highlight.
The garden provides relaxing and awe-inspiring views of the lake.