Menaggio

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Menaggio is one third of the mid-lake ‘golden triangle’ along with Bellagio and Varenna. But it differs from the other two in one important respect. There’s more flat land between the Lake and the mountains, and the lower slopes rise more gently. This gives Menaggio enough room for a nineteenth-century town centre in front of its medieval old town. It also makes Menaggio a base for walks in the hills.

For many visitors, Menaggio is the most attractive place on the western side of Lake Como. The heart of the town is the Piazza Garibaldi, a wide 19th century square, open on one side to the Lake and connected on the other side by a narrow road to the rest of town. The Piazza is home to restaurants and pavement cafes as well as shops selling essential items for tourists, such as ice cream, guide books and international newspapers. This means that you can enjoy a triple scoop, or a coffee (or both) while reading yesterday’s paper. And when you lift your eyes up, you see the Lake and the mountains. Pure bliss! And as if that wasn’t enough, when we were last there the Piazza gave us a special treat – a procession from a nearby church accompanied by a uniformed ‘Alpini’ oompah band.

The Piazza Garibaldi also contains the best tourist information office at Lake Como. It produces helpful written information about Menaggio and its surroundings, and about other parts of the Lake, including:

  • Details of local hotels, apartments, B&B and farm holidays
  • Itineraries for boat, car, mountain bike and walking trips, with maps
  • Guide to historic Menaggio
  • Opening times of villas and museums
  • Public transport timetables
  • Information on other places around the Lake

It also has a computer with internet access, which you can use for an hour for free. Best of all, the staff are multi-lingual. You are guaranteed to get answers and explanations in English (provided, of course, that you ask the questions in English). There is also an English version of their website.

That is partly a reflection of the fact that the area between Menaggio and Tremezzo is the most British part of the Lake. And nowhere is that more evident than at the Menaggio and Cadenabbia Golf Club, high in the hills above town. Founded in 1907 by four English gentlemen meeting at the Victoria Hotel, it has a club house described on its own website as ‘like taking a leap into the past, into a corner of England as it was a century ago’. What that seems to mean in practice is a worn wooden floor, old prints, leather sofas, a seafood restaurant, a library of valuable old golfing books and a baronial fireplace ‘to warm you up on autumn days’. The course itself is an Alpine par seventy on which, from time to time, you may find yourself sharing the fairway with newish member G.Clooney and his playing companions, B.Pitt and M.Damon.

Down at the lakeside, Menaggio has a long, tree-lined promenade that takes you to the commercial lido ‘Giordano’, with its adult and children’s pools, ‘grassy beach’, playground, bar and restaurant, and big sun terraces. Walking towards it, you pass two very different sites – first, a monument to the women of the silk trade; and second, an ‘obstacle’ putting course – the other end of the golfing spectrum from the Menaggio and Cadenabbia Club. We believe that the promenade is also the location of the market held every 2nd and 4th Friday of the month.

There are opportunities for both land based and water sports in and around Menaggio, including:

  • Hire of tennis courts, tennis lessons and some facilities for team sports at Sporting Club Leveno.
  • Hire of mountain bikes and kayaking, provided by the ‘Primula’ International Youth Hostel.
  • Horse riding, English or western style, by the hour or longer, at the Centro Ippico La Torre, between Menaggio and Porlezza.
  • Rock climbing practice at the ‘Palestra Di Roccia’ rock climbing ‘gym’.
  • The ‘Percoso della Salute’ fitness trail, a four kilometre route including areas set aside with equipment for exercising.
  • Mountain walks organised by the Menaggio section of the Club Alpino Italiano.
  • Snooker at the Bar Constantin.
  • Orienteering maps.
  • Menaggio is also one of the bases from which Vivere La Vele runs sailing courses.

Contact details and further information on all of the above activities can be found in the ‘Sports’ section of Menaggio.com

Separate details are also given of suggested walking itineraries, varying in duration and degree of difficulty. However, the site doesn’t include in its sport section the facilities for sailing, waterskiing and windsurfing, which are apparently available at the Grand Hotel Victoria.

The site, like the office, does also give information on accommodation available in Menaggio, including hotels ranging from four stars to one, holiday apartments to let and the ‘Europa’ campsite. It also lists restaurants serving classical Italian dishes and pizzas.

Clearly, Menaggio is a location for activities rather than cultural attractions. However, there are a few historic sites in town, including the churches of S. Marta, S. Stefano and S. Carlo. Further along from S. Stefano in Via Lusardi is Menaggio’s cinema. And in the hamlet of Loveno, there are two historic villas – Garovaglio Ricci and Mylius Vigone. The latter is now the seat of the German – Italian cultural foundation. Therefore, although the interior is said to be preserved as it was in the eighteenth century, only the Park can be visited, by reservation, every Thursday.

Bizzarely, we also found from a map of the town that there is a ‘Museo Leonardo Da Vinci’ in the Lido. What’s in there, we wonder – Leonardo’s swimming costume? And how come nobody mentioned it before? All we know is that it opens daily between 10 am and 9 pm, from March until December.

Menaggio is very well located for access to [post=33] and [post=37], by dedicated ferry service across the Lake, including car ferries. And just to the south, the [post=119] and Villa del Balbianello are also easily reached. And Menaggio is a convenient point from which to explore the northern end of the Lake (the Alto Lario) by ferry, car or C10 bus. Alternatively you could try the Menaggio Boat Service, a water taxi for bespoke trips on the Lake.

One traveller for whom a planned journey northwards didn’t turn out well was Mussolini. Trying to escape to Switzerland in 1945 he spent the night of 26 April at the headquarters of the Brigate Nere in the primary school building but was captured next day in Dongo and executed one day later in Mezzegra.

Today, Menaggio is the starting point for the C12 bus service to the Swiss town of Lugano, which combines a lakefront promenade with a sophisticated modern centre. Just remember to take your passport with you.

Go to map of [post=30]

Need a hotel in Menaggio? Check our [post=102]