We'd deliberately not booked a hotel for the second half of our holiday to give us maximum flexibility - we could stay put or move on to somewhere new - and after a couple of days in Bellagio we felt like a change of scenery. Not having a hire car had turned out to be a godsend; it would have cost us a fortune to park it in Bellagio and it massively shortened the list of places we could consider staying at - to be considered now, any hotel had to be straightforward to get to with public transport.
At times like these, hotels with free WiFi really do shine - out came the MacBook, and soon after we'd hit on a perfect solution. The small town of Varenna that we'd admired from afar had quite a lot to offer, including a railway station with regular trains back to Milan - quite rare on the lakes! We easily found a hotel that could accomodate us, a short walk from the ferry pier. Job done! A short ferry-chug later and we were checked in and ready to explore.
Varenna was almost impossibly lovely. Where Bellagio had bustle, an exclusive air and touristy shops cheek-by-jowl, Varenna kept it very simple. Walking along a path hewn into a rock face brought you to the "city centre", which consisted of 4 restaurants and one souvenir shop, all nestled around a tiny harbour where ducks and swans bobbed around seemingly soaking in the tranquil atmosphere.
The next day we checked out Varenna's stunning Monastery Gardens - well worth a visit even if you're staying elsewhere on the lakes: