Before it was turned into a hotel for the public, Villa Cipressi was a lakeside retreat for centuries of noble families, who built and added onto it from the 15th to the 19th centuries. Much of its aristocratic legacy is preserved in architectural details that run the gamut from Renaissance to Baroque to Rococo and Moorish Revival and, especially, in its magnificent gardens, which are an attraction in their own right and draw plenty of Varenna daytrippers. Although there's plenty of flair and drama in the building and gardens, it must be said that the guest rooms at Villa Cipressi are fairly basic, with adequate but uninspired modern furnishings that are jarring considering the antiquity of the setting. Some are a little more charming, with folksy wall hangings and vivid, old-fashioned colors of paint lending coziness.

Thankfully, you'll get major drama in rooms that have a view. In fact, don't stay here unless you can secure a room with a view, because here, the view isn't just about the water, or even the mountains in the distance. Here, the views are all of that framed by the towering, ancient cypresses in the gardens below. And they are gorgeous. Amenities are few—you'll find Wi-Fi in the lobby only, for example—but you'll be well taken care of by longtime manager Davide. Note that Villa Cipressi is a popular wedding venue—the gardens, lake scenery, and fanciful architecture lend themselves to photo ops that brides love and that you, the average guest, should take full advantage of—but if there's a wedding going on during your stay, it may make an impact your experience, so inquire about that when booking.