Cadenabbia – Griante is one ‘town’. Cadenabbia is the part that fronts onto the lakeside, while Griante is the area about fifty metres up in the hills behind it. Both are principally places to live or stay in, rather than places to visit – accommodation rather than sightseeing.

The main difference between them is that Cadenabbia consists mostly of a succession of hotel blocks – large, old rectangular buildings that have been refurbished inside but left reasonably unspoiled on the outside. They include the Grand Hotel Cadenabbia and the Hotel Britannia Excelsior, both used by Thomson holidays. Only the road separates them from the water. Consequently, travelling through Cadenabbia, you often see groups of visitors outside their hotels; waiting for, or boarding or leaving, their coach or ferry boat.

Where those groups of visitors go for sightseeing are the popular mid-lake towns of [post=36], [post=33] and [post=37]; the nearby [post=119] and Villa del Balbianello; [post=62], at the foot of the Lake, and possibly the northern end of the Lake (the Alto Lario). They also take excursions to Millan, Bergamo, Lugano or St Moritz.

It’s ironic, because there are a number of villas in Cadenabbia – Griante that could provide sightseeing attractions ‘close to home’ if they were open to the public, which they mostly are not. They include the Villa Collina, where Konrad Adenauer spent his holidays (now a hotel and conference centre owned by his Foundation) and the Villa Marguerite, built for the Ricordi family of music publishers, where Verdi wrote part of La Traviata.

Verdi was not the only creative artist to find inspiration in this area. Longfellow wrote a poem in 1879 entitled ‘Cadenabbia’. Unfortunately it’s not a very good poem, but it does sort of manage to sum up the area in one of the verses:

I ask myself is this a dream?
Will it all vanish into air?
Is there a land of such supreme
And perfect beauty anywhere?

Stendhal was another writer seduced by the place. In his novel ‘The Chartreuse of Parma’ he wrote of Griante: ‘Everything is noble and delicate…Nothing reminds us of the ugliness of civilization’.

Other admirers have left practical legacies that have lasted to the present day. The ‘slice’ of Lake Como between Menaggio and Tremezzo, with Cadenabbia – Griante at its heart, has traditionally been a favourite destination for visitors from the UK. This is reflected in the existence of two institutions founded by the English. One is the Menaggio and Cadenabbia Golf Club, in the Croce suburb of Menaggio. Another is the Anglican church in Cadenabbia – Griante, the first to be built in Italy (in 1891). For those not in action at the former, there’s a service at the latter at 10.30 am each Sunday between May and September. The parish church of SS. Nabore and Felice, however, conducts daily and two Sunday services, making it much easier for its congregation to pray and play, if they so desire. For visitors, the church is worth exploring for its paintings.

If golf is not your kind of exercise, there is a gym and a tennis court in Griante. But there is also a walk that will give you all the exercise you need, if you don’t allow yourself to be distracted. Unfortunately, we did.

The most remote church in Griante is S. Martino, perched like an eagle on a ledge high up on the mountainside. We decided to visit it one day, but our start was delayed when we came across the Bar Vechia Torre in the Via Brentano. Described as a ‘snack bar and pub’, it has a very unusual interior. The tables look like old school desks, even to the extent of being covered in carved names and initials. The walls are either painted with murals or hung with original paintings, which you can buy. All available space is filled with statues, flowers, vases or candles, the only concession to convention being a couple of table football games set up in the back room. This eccentric decorative scheme obviously required some further evaluation, and so we did our duty and stayed there for something to eat and drink. And after that, it was a bit too late to follow the signs for S. Martino, so we left it for another day.

The official Cadenabbia – Griante web site lists several other bars, including:

  • The Euro Pub in Via Regina, also unusually decorated but advertising ‘good beer and exquisite cocktails’, live music at weekends, ‘pay TV to watch your favourite team’ and ‘any kind of party you want’.
  • The Bar Victoria, which serves alcohol but focuses more on ice cream and cakes, served on its delightful lakeside terrace, across the water from Bellagio.
  • The bar La Vecchia Maiolica in Via Roma, owned by Vincenzo who used to run bars on cruise ships. He advertises snacks, drinks and home made ice cream.

For each of these three bars, information is given only in Italian and English; more evidence that Cadenabbia – Griante is a little England. The same can be said of the public Lido by the lakeside, with its pool, sun beds, sandy beach, drinks and restaurant. At the weekend, it becomes ‘one of the most elegant discos’. And further along the ‘shoreline’, the moored ‘Bisbino boat’ provides live music.

Griante has been a base for two men at completely opposite ends of the moral spectrum. The castle of Griante was the stronghold of Antonio the Crazy, the pirate of Lake Como. He was killed with a shot from an arquebus, which would have been good news, except for the fact that he was succeeded by his son, John the Crazy (good to see the kids carrying on the family business, though).

In contrast, a house near the centre of Griante was visited many times by Achille Ratti, who went on to become Pope Pius XI, known as the Alpine Pope. Unlike us, he apparently used to complete the walk up to S Martino to pray on the mountain. Obviously he was more used to resisting temptation than we were.

Go to map of [post=30]

Need a hotel in Cadenabbia? Check our [post=94]
Need a hotel in Griante? Check our [post=99]