I stayed in Varenna and loved it. Not as upscale as Bellagio, nor as crowded. Took the ferry around the Lake and hopped off in Bellagio to walk around and have lunch. Many high end stores to shop in and a beautiful town. Also hopped off at a few other little town, but I fell in love with Varenna and it's people!
Just returned from Italy earlier this month and we spent 3 nights in Varenna, which is definitely less crowded than Bellagio and really charming at night because you feel you have the town to yourself. There are plenty of restaurants open late in both towns and great walks in both towns. If you are going to either Bellagio or Varenna from Milan, the easiest way is to take the regional train from Milan Centrale to Varenna-Esino station (1 hour and around 12.90 euro round trip). Varenna is a 10 minute walk from the station. Bellagio is a 15 minute ferry ride from Varenna. The ferry dock is a 5 minute walk from the train station.
To get to Venice by train from Varenna or Bellagio you will have to take the regional train back to Milan Centrale. Trains leave from Varenna to Milan every 2 hours or so.
Varenna is a great town and has a long promenade along the lake with restaurants, cafes, and shops. It is quiet and has several nice hotels. We had a second floor room at Hotel Olivedo with a small balcony overlooking the lake.
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