Esino Lario

Esino Lario from above
The mountain basin of Esino Lario
Esino Lario and its Grigna mountains above Lake Como and Valsassina

Esino Lario is a mountain village in the Esino valley, between Lake Como and Valsassina in the Province of Lecco, in the Lombardy region of northern Italy. The village has a history of tourism that started in the late 19th century with scientists fascinated by the karst phenomena of the Grigna mountains and searching for fossils and the almost 500 caves of Moncodeno. From this early tourism a number of small hotels, restaurants and villas were built. Tourism developed greatly in the 1960s and 1970s. Today Esino Lario – 12 km above Lake Como and connected to Valsassina – is a special location for summer mountain holidays and a starting point for excursions in the Grigna mountains and the Regional Northern Grigna Park.

The peculiarity of Esino Lario is its position in a sunny mountain basin at an elevation of around 910 meters, with a pleasant microclimate and "good air", as the historical tourism leaflets would advertise, particularly to families with children. The landscape is diverse, with the charming historical streets of the two centers of Esino superiore and Esino inferiore, with the high peaks of the limestone Grigna mountains (with excursions from Cainallo), with the gentle walks in the woods (with excursions from Ortanella) and with spectacular views of Lake Como from the lawn in front of San Pietro Church in Ortanella, from Passo di Narele and from the mountains (Grigne, San Defendante, Monte Croce). For its variety of landscapes, for its position in the heart of the Grigna mountains and for its sunny and pleasant position, Esino Lario is sometimes referred to as the 'Pearl of Grigna'.



Esino Lario is a mountain village with documented archaeological finds since the 5th century BC and with a territory that presents very visible traces of the Alpine orogeny: fossils, almost 500 caves, doors, sinkholes and erratic boulders. The village was along the path of the Strada del Viandante (road wanderer), connecting the villages of the eastern shore of Lake Como; before the 18th century, and the construction of the road along the lake, to travel the territory from south to north, the road would go up from Lierna to Ortanella in Esino Lario. The village was also connected to Valsassina, a large valley with a strong production of iron; Esino was part of the Squadra dei monti (team of the mountains) proving wood and charcoal for the iron industry.


Esino Lario, like most of Valsassina, features a humid temperate climate, cooler than in the Po Valley due to the higher elevation. In Barzio, the nearest weather station (elevation 770 m/2,500 ft. - Esino Lario has an elevation of about 100 meters higher), mean annual temperature is around 10°C/50°F (compared, for example, with around 13°C/55°F in Milan). Precipitation is abundant, with more than 1,700 mm (55 inches) falling in an average year. Rain is frequent in every season, with a little minimum in winter when there can be snowfall. As in most temperate areas, there are prolonged and well-defined intermediate seasons.

Summers are moderate, with frequent rain showers and thunderstorms. Mean summer temperature is around 19°C (66°F), higher in July and August, and slightly lower in June; even during the most intense heat waves, anyway, maximum temperatures very rarely exceed 32°C (90°F). Winters are quite mild; the average temperature for December, January and February is around 1-2°C (34-35°F), more or less the same temperature recorded in the Po Valley at much lower elevations. This is due to the phenomenon of inversion (a deviation from the normal atmospheric behavior, where temperature increases with elevation) frequently observed in midwinter when subtropical high-pressure systems reach northern Italy. Anyway, winters can become snowy, as extratropical cyclones carry moist and cool air from North Atlantic.

Get in

Esino Lario is in the north of Italy, in the Province of Lecco in Lombardy Region, between Lake Como and Valsassina. The major city near Esino Lario is Milan, and Esino is located 12 km (900 m in altitude) above Varenna. You can reach the village by car, bus, taxi, bike or by foot; there is no airport. To reach Esino Lario there are two provincial streets: one from Varenna and one from Bellano-Parlasco (Strada della Valsassina).

By plane

The most convenient airports are Milano Malpensa (MXP), Milano Linate (LIN) and Milano-Bergamo Orio al Serio (BGY). There are quite a few low cost flights in particular from Italy and Europe; have a look also at Meridiana airlines for low cost flights from Africa.

By train

The nearest railway station is Varenna Esino, actually located in the territory of Perledo and a very short walking distance from Varenna boat station and Varenna centre. Trains come to the station from the line Milan, Lecco (connected to the line to Bergamo), Colico (connected to the line to Valchiavenna), Morbegno, Sondrio and Tirano (Valtellina). Trains from Milan's main railway stations (Milan stazione centrale - central station for direct trains and Milano Porta Garibaldi for regional trains) to Varenna Esino take 1 hour and 5 minutes. From the railway station there is a public bus service to Esino Lario; buses are not available for every train, but when available they wait for the train.

From Switzerland, the fastest rail travel option is usually the route via Monza (near Milan; 5 to 6 hours to Varenna Esino from Zürich). Another option is using the Rhaetian Railway via Chur to Tirano and then taking the train from Tirano to Varenna Esino. From Zürich, this takes 7 to 8 hours, so considerably longer than the Monza/Milan route. However, this is a chance to travel via the UNESCO World Heritage Albula and Bernina lines (another option is to skip the Albula line and take a train through the Vereina tunnel, via Klosters). Also, as the Swiss GA travelcard is valid on the Rhaetian Railway till Tirano, this route might actually be a cheap option for holders of this card, only needing a ticket from Tirano to Varenna Esino. The regular prices of the Swiss railways are rather steep, however.

By bus

There is a public bus line connecting Esino Lario to Perledo, Varenna and Bellano. In Varenna the bus stops at the Varenna Esino railway station. The service is meant for school students (from Esino to the railway station Varenna Esino and to Bellano where there is the secondary school) and commuters (from Esino to the railway station Varenna Esino) and the schedule is designed accordingly. The bus timetable reports 40 minutes from Varenna Esino station to Esino Lario. In Esino Lario there are two main bus stops, in Piazza Gulfi and Piazza Italia; during the summer the bus also stops in Ortanella and during winter the bus stops in some other villages to collect students.

By car

By taxi

There are no taxi companies in Esino Lario; taxi can be found in Varenna and Perledo and at the Varenna Esino station. A ride by taxi to Esino Lario from Varenna Esino station is around 30 €.

By boat

Ferry dock in Varenna
Passenger ferry on Lake Como

From Varenna you can sail on Lake Como to many destinations, including Abbadia Lariana, Argegno, Bellagio, Bellano, Careno, Cernobbio, Colico, Como, Gravedona, Isola Comacina, Lecco, Mandello, Menaggio, Piona, Pognana, Torno and Tremezzo. The ferry boats between Varenna, Menaggio, Bellagio and Cadenabbia carry cars and buses. Fast rides are more expensive than regular transport. Boat rides are also a beautiful and cheap way to enjoy sightseeing on Lake Como. See time and frequency of Lake Como boats on navigazionelaghi website.

From Time Price
Menaggio 15 minutes (7 minutes for passengers only - fast transport, more expensive) 4.60€ one-way; 15€ one day. Car+driver: 8.60€-14.40€, depending on car size.
Bellagio 15 minutes 4.60€ one-way; 15€ one day. Car+driver: 8.60€-14.40€, depending on car size.

Get around

The best way to get around Esino Lario is by foot, even if the majority of the inhabitants certainly prefer to use their cars. The taxonomy of the territory is extremely detailed; there are names not only for groups of houses (localities) but also for small areas of the forest; the detailed naming of the forest is due to the fact that the forest of Esino Lario is owned by the city council and assigned to the inhabitants making necessary to identify precisely every single slot of it.

By foot

Walking around the centre is pretty simple and there are signs for the main landmarks. Walking in the mountains can get more complicated. Trails are indicated by numbers and codified by the CAI, the Italian national mountain organisation.

By bike

There is only one bike you can use in Esino Lario and it is a mountain bike. The local mountain community and the Northern Grigna Regional Park have developed a map of bike roads and trails.

By car

The village has few major roads and a wide amount of little roads you need to be a very wise driver to use (or at least try them only with a very small car). To reach Ortanella and Cainallo a car can be convenient; Ortanella and Cainallo (specifically Vo' di Moncodeno) are the starting point for many excursions. Some mountain streets are classified "agro-silva-pastorali" (roads agro-silva-pastoral) and they can be used by cars only with an authorization.

By bus

Buses coming from Varenna make two regular stops in Esino Lario (Piazza Gulfi and Piazza Italia). During summer the bus also reachers Ortanella, and during winter some further stops allow to pick up and drop off children to and from school. To move around the public bus is normally used only to reach Ortanella; occasionally during summer there have been a bus to Cainallo organized by the city council.


In the bottom right the meadows of Cainallo
The mountain shelter Baitello dell'Amicizia with its view on Lake Como and the Alps

Although it is a small village, the territory of Esino Lario is quite extended with an area of 18.7 km2 (7.2 sq mi) and an elevation that goes from 554 m to 2,409 m. A convenient way to visit and enjoy the territory is to browse it by area and through itineraries. You can visit the historical centres (with old buildings, churches, doors, washes and narrow alleys), the sculptures of Michele Vedani in the via Crucis and the main church of San Vittore, and the areas of Ortanella and Cainallo, which are departure points for further walks.



Natural landmarks

Porta di Prada



The new building of Museo delle Grigne
The sound installation Animagus in Villla Clotilde
Fossils from Pizzi di Parlasco


Esino Lario is the perfect location for open-air actives, sports and for excursions. When it rains the best option is to enjoy a meal in a restaurant.



Activities with and for children

There are many excursions that are suitable for children. There are playgrounds located in the centre, in Ortanella and Cainallo. Below a list of playgrounds and you can find in the description of the excursions hints for the most suitable itineraries for children. Esino Lario received the prize LavoroFamiglia (WorkFamily) of Lombardy Regione and the Catholic University in 2010 for its children-friendly territory. You can find indicated with a sticker on shops and restaurants the services for children (high chair, changing, warmer) and all restaurants and children menu (specifically designed or simply offering half portions and children-size pizza).

Every summer there are activities and childcare organized in Esino Lario.



The Via Crucis with the sculptures of Michele Vedani.
The church of San Pietro in Ortanella.
An old mountain house.
Villa delle Marcelline.

Esino Lario is definitely not a shopping centre but there are some shops for your needs (food, cigarettes, newspaper, toys for children, cloths, little presents, tools...) and where you can find some regional food specialities and little presents and souvenirs. The nearest shopping mall is Fuentes in Colico or the shops in Lecco.

It is probably also useful to know that there are two banks.


The traditional local cuisine is a simple mountain cuisine, based essentially on polenta, potatoes, dairy products, nuts and pork meat, with some specialities such as the ravioli called patole or the simple dessert called "paradell". More broadly the traditional cuisine of Lake Como, Valsassina and Valtellina includes specialities such as fish from the lake (i.e. lavarelli - whitefish, pesce persico - perch) on a white risotto, pizzoccheri and grilled pork (ribs and sausages). The local cuisine is today always mixed with Italian cuisine coming from different regions and which can satisfy also vegetarian and vegan diets and include meat dishes which do not include pork.




The mountain shelter Rifugio Brioschi
The restaurant, bar and hotel La Montanina
The restaurant, bar and hotel Centale

The coolest place to have a beer is definitely a mountain shelter, but if you can't be bothered to walk up there, you can find other places for an appetitive or a drink. Have a look at the eating places; in all of them it is possible to have an aperitif (a drink between 6pm and 8 pm with some chips and snacks included in the cost of the drink; in some places – like the bar 58, Oasi, La Sosta – you can get a quite luxurious amount of food with focaccia, canapés and little sandwiches) and an evening beer. Gardens and terraces can also be a good places to select your spot.


Esino Lario does not have very luxurious solutions for sleeping; the hotel with most stars is Rosa delle Alpi with 3 out of 5. To decide where to sleep it is probably more important to select where you want to stay and if you prefer accommodation right in the middle of the village (centre), in the areas of Cainallo and Ortanella (at 10-15 minutes car-ride, around 1 hour from the centre by foot, and immerse in nature) or right in the middle of the mountains in a shelter you can only reach by foot. To sleep in the mountains there are different solutions: mountain shelters managed with rooms and restaurants, or mountain shelters that are owned by city councils and which can provide a simple shelter. Camping is authorized in designated areas (or you need to ask the authorization to the city council).


There are many flats available for renting. The city council through its tourist office facilitates information about priviate apartments and houses for rent.


Stay safe

Esino Lario is a very safe location with an extremely low crime rate, and with a system to manage medical assistance and emergencies.


It is important to bear in mind dangers associated to mountain excursions, trekking, claiming and alpinism and to know the normal safety measures and the principals of environmental education. It is prohibited to light fires outside prone areas and you are always requested to put out fire with care, and to do not leave abandoned garbage.
To visit the Ghiacciaia del Moncodeno (the famous cave of Moncodeno) is necessary to have a guide and the visit is organized with helmets, harnesses and a head torch. The same safety procedures should be used to visit any cave.
Trails and muleteers maintenance is a major issue and often those paths are not well-maintainded; it can be convenient to plan excursions on the less popular trails after the annual celebrations of mountain shelters (on the occasion of the celebrations, the community takes care of the cleaning and mowing; the celebrations are usually organized in the first weeks of July) or to use trails connected to managed mountain shelters (the managers usually take care also of the trails). When trails are not properly maintained they can be difficult to find, identify and follow, they can be afforested, or – for muleteers – they can be flooded with rain (if not maintained the banks of small streams break and the steams grow bigger using the trail as a canal).

Emergency Services

For emergencies there is a unique emergency number which is 112 (numero unico di emergenza). The service is managed in Varese and the forward the requests to the appropriate structure (police, carabinieri (military police), firemen, etc).

Stay healthy

The emergency number in Italy is 118; it is a centralized service. The nearest hospitals are in Lecco, Gravedona and Morbegno. Esino has a airstrip for helicopters located in Bigallo and used for medical emergencies. Ambulances reach Esino Lario from Bellano and the association Soccorso Val d'Esino provides assistance and transport for medical visits.


Lake Como from Esino Lario belvedere.


Esino Lario is connected with broadband and the Internet is distributed through phone landlines (56Kb and ADSL Alice), UMTS (tim) and Wireless (Eolo). Villa Clotilde provides free access to the Internet (Eolo) during its opening hours and there are few netbook available for visitors.


There is a postoffice in Esino Lario and of course mail carriers deliver there (there are quite a few mail carriers already delivering regularly to local companies).


The local area code is 0341; international code is +39 if calling from outside Italy (you keep the 0 when dialing a number; i.e. +390341...). Mobile operators active in the area are Tim, Tre (roaming) and Vodafone. 3G with Tim appears to be the one working at best.

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This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Friday, February 26, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.