Visit Cadenabbia, Lake Como for 2023/24 with SNO®
Most storybooks can’t hold a candle to Cadenabbia’s history: Roman settlers, pirate hideaways, castle sieges, princess’ villas and visits from Victorian greats (including HRH, no less). Then there’s its location, bang on the middle of Como’s western shore, glimmering waters stretching ahead, Dolomite cliffs teetering behind…
Mix the past and panoramas with a gorgeously mild climate and add a dash of dolce far niente - it’s no wonder great artistic minds found inspiration here: among others, creatives who came to Cadenabbia include Verdi, the Shelleys and Longfellow, who waxed lyrical about this ‘sweet vision’ on the lakeside.
Location-wise, this village is nigh on perfect for exploring Lake Como a pied: it’s on the fabulous 10km Greenway trail, which follows the path of an ancient Roman road linking hamlets on the west coast – each as delightful as the next with old chapels, Medieval bridges and grand villas (not to mention stonking lake views).
Cadenabbia’s also on the ferry network, with easy access over the water to Bellagio and Varenna – both brimming with brilliant walks. Bellagio has paths linking old fishing villages and olive groves, while anyone in Varenna HAS to hike the Wayfarer’s path, on old mule tracks above the lake.
Don’t forget the village itself, famously home to the pilgrim’s trail to San Martino which leads from the centre, up a cobbled path to a chapel on the cliff edge. The views up top can’t be beaten and the hike takes about an hour.
Cadenabbia di Griante (pronounce it: Cad-e-nar-bee-a dee Gree-ant-ay)
is excellently equipped for exploring Lake Como: you can hop on the ferry to visit Bellagio and Varenna and take buses up and down the lake to see what Domaso, Como and the villages between them have to offer. Further afield, there’s public transport to Lake Maggiore taking under an hour, and to Milan taking around two.
That said, there’s ample seeing, doing and relaxing to be had in Cadenabbia itself. Loll by the lakeside at the Lido or Ponte dei Ronconi public beach, take to the tennis courts or head to the Golf Club Menaggio Cadenabbia for a round on the historic 18-hole course.
You’ll struggle to find a Cadenabbia restaurant that doesn’t come with a corking view: Cucina della Marianna does a different set menu each day of the week, all featuring classic family recipes. If you prefer a la carte dining, we like Belle Isole which has everything from seafood to pizzas to curry. Iron Gate’s another popular spot, serving pizzas, pastas and salads with good wines and beers. Ristorante Rodrigo specialises in pizzas and pasta and does good gluten free alternatives (just save room for their desserts). For tea and cake, don’t miss Bar Victoria. All of the above look out to the lake, and if you book a table just before sunset, you’re in for a treat.
The fact that Cadenabbia is part of the ferry network is a big perk for cyclists, giving you easy access over to Bellagio for its iconic Madonna de Ghissallo and Muro di Sormano bike routes. Two stars of the Giro Lombardia, they can be done independently or linked – the first features the legendary shrine to cycling, while the second’s best known for its fist-clenching gradients.
A ten-minute or so drive up to Cardano (in the hills behind Menaggio) takes you to the beginning of a route along old railway track, which ends up on the edge of Lake Lugano. If you have a decent amount of pedal power left in you, continue along Lugano past San Mamete and cross the border to Switzerland for a taste of two lakes AND two countries.
The loop of the lake is an endurance tester you won’t have to commute for - most cyclists prefer riding clockwise which puts you closer to the water. Of course, you don’t have to do the full circuit if you fancy a shorter stint – thankfully the roads on this side of the lake don’t tend to see too much traffic (weekdays outside of July and August tend to be especially quiet).
When it comes to mountain biking, there are off-road routes galore. Hop on the funicular from Argegno to the peak of Mount Tremezzo then ride down past WW1 trenches back to the lake (or do the climb up for leg burning zig zags but unquenchable pride).
Cadenabbia’s too deliciously chilled to have a crazy nightlife – which is exactly what people love about it. The Lido does throw a disco on summer weekends, but otherwise it’s all about good vino, a cocktail or two and dizzying views.
If you like a bit of culture with your claret, Bar Victoria puts on a Tenor night (usually on a Tuesday) where a singer serenades you as you sit and sip. The Iron Gate’s our favourite waterside watering hole for an aperol spritz (or wine, or beer) and there’s also the balcony bar of the Grand Hotel Cadenabbia for sophisticated sipping.
Cadenabbia’s closest airport is Milan Malpensa, and Milan Linate and Bergamo airports aren’t much further (about 40 minutes more driving time). The flight time from the UK is roughly 2 hours. Often your transfers will come with the rest of your holiday, but if you prefer to drive there are hire companies based by the airports.
An alternative to road travel after your flight is taking the train: Milan Malpensa airport has its own rail station or if you’re flying into Linate or Bergamo, there are buses for the main stations in Milan. Trains from here take you to Como city, which has buses serving Cadenabbia.
Probably Lake Como’s most famous church, this hilltop shrine is officially named ‘Santuario Della Madonna delle Grazie di San Martino’. The oldest parts of the building date back to the Roman era, and were thought to have been a military watch tower and house. The legend goes that around 1550, a shepherd girl discovered a statue of the Virgin Mary in a cave (which may or may not have cured her from being deaf and dumb, depending on the storyteller). Though taken down to the lakeside so more people could see it, the statue miraculously moved to this spot on the hillside, prompting the building of a church. The church has been added to and restored numerous times since. Legend aside, the views from up here are spectacular and the path up, dotted with smaller shrines, is a treat to tred.
Musician and publisher Guilio Ricordi commissioned the building of Margherita in 1853. It’s perhaps best known for having hosted musical greats such as Verdi, who composed parts of La Traviata here. This is a private villa, but it’s well worth getting an eyeful of it from the lake and main road – in the circular room at the front, you can’t help but picture Verdi tinkling away at the spinet and illustrious guests gathered for private concerts…
Villa Carlotta was built in the late 17th century by marquis Giorgio Clerici from Milan, who wanted to create an elegant building, looking out to the Dolomite rockface and Bellagio peninsular. Over the centuries, subsequent owners – politicians and Prussian royals – have installed magnificent paintings and beautiful botanical gardens. These days, a museum shows the incredible art collection (pieces by Vanova, Thorvaldsen, Magno and Hayez) as well as Princess Carlotta’s bedroom (the villa was a gift for her wedding in 1850) with its original Baroque furniture.
Beach bar, restaurant and nightclub rolled into one seriously pretty spot overlooking the water. Split your time between the pool (and its loungers), sandy beach and shady garden in the daytime, and if you’re here at the weekend, stay late to let your hair down at the lakeside disco.
Tremezzo (900m): 1-minute drive, 3 minute bus or 10 minute walk from Cadenabbia
Lenno (3.9km): 5-10 minute bus/drive or 50 minute walk from Cadenabbia