Visit Menaggio, Lake Como for 2020/21 with SNO®
The Menaggini have much to be proud of their home town: on Como’s western shore, this is one of the sunniest spots on the lakeside and has a deliciously mild climate year-round.
Its promenade might well be the prettiest in all Italy, decked in flowers, moored with multicoloured boats and punctuated with vibrantly painted villas. And (if your mind’s eye’s not already popping), that’s before we get to the centre, with its Medieval buildings, quaint piazzas and cobbled streets.
And THAT’S before we mention the backdrop – an army of mighty peaks, swathed in pines and stretching to Switzerland. It’s no shocker, then, that this has become one of the most loved bases for Lake Como’s visitors – helped by a horde of activities, the affordability of accommodation (no need to fork out a fortune on your own villa if you don’t want to) and terrific transport links (ferry, buses, even the Trombetta Express noddy train…).
The Parco Val Sanagra behind Menaggio is a dream for hikers with walks through lovely Lombardy landscape. One of our favourite routes sets off from Piazza Garibaldi, then goes across the Piamuro meadow, along the Sanagra river and its ancient mills then through some woods to the Rogolone oak – said to be one of (if not THE) oldest trees on the continent (also a smashing spot for a picnic).
For a walk of lake views and historic hamlets, head down to Griante and do parts or all of the Greenway of Lake Como. It follows parts of an ancient Roman road all the way to Colonno, where you’ll see chapels, charming piazzas, Medieval bridges and more.
Menaggio’s ferry links open up more opportunity around Lake Como, from the fascinating old hamlets on the Bellagio peninsular to the famous old mules track, The Wayfarers Path from Varenna. Sticking to the western side, a bus ride or drive down to Argegno gives you access to funicular, which lands you on the slopes surrounding Pigra for some seriously scenic stepping.
Spend many months in Menaggio (pronounce it: Men-arr-zh-o) and you’d still be finding new adventures, so a week or weekend should have no shortage of things to see and do.
The Lido di Menaggio’s a top spot, with two pools and a sandy beach to enjoy the lake from.
This is also one of the best parts of the lake for shopping, and you can easily hop on the ferry to Bellagio and Varenna for more.
Golfers have definitely come to the right place: the Menaggio & Cadenabbia golf club (par 70, 6023 yards) has over a hundred years of history and throws in a good few tests in the form of narrow fairways, steep sections and distracting lake views. On a smaller scale, Menaggio also has mini golf on the lakefront off Viale Benedetto Castelli.
For rock climbers, Falesia Menaggio is a popular limestone route looking back over the lake from 200m up top.
When it comes to water sports, there’s fishing (though you will need a licence), while divers can take the ferry over to the eastern shore for the Centro Sub Nettuno. To the north, Dongo and Domaso are top spots for windsurfing and kitesurfing.
Boating is probably the most popular activity, letting you see the western shore – and beyond – from the water. While the ferries give you direct access to Bellagio (on the peninsular where the lake forks to the south) and Varenna (over on the east coast), private boats let you explore at your leisure, stopping when and where you please. Hire is usually available near where Via Mylius meets the lakefront, and ranges from the classic Italian-made motor boats (often no licence needed) to skippered sailboats. You could also hire rowing boats from the hostel last time we checked.
Menaggio’s central location and top-notch transport links make it brilliant for bike rides. Whether you fancy the undulating hills along the lakeside or challenging climbs up mountain roads, this place has you covered.
The chance to circumnavigate Lake Como – or ride parts of the lakeside road – is hard to resist when you see the views and villages you’ll pass along the way. Most cyclists go clockwise from Menaggio which puts you closer to the water - avoiding weekends is the best way to experience minimal traffic.
There’s a lovely old train track that once linked lakes Como and Lugano - it starts off at Cardano (get here by car or bus from Menaggio) and takes you over to Porlezza for a seriously scenic ride taking in two lakes. A longer route called I Tre Laghi combines a trio of Italy’s greatest lakes: Como, Lugano and Maggiore.
Seasoned riders have to take the ferry over to Bellagio for the iconic Madonna de Ghissallo and Muro di Sormano routes – the former takes you to a shrine dedicated to cycling while the latter has teeth-gritting gradients up to 25%. It’s possible to do one after the other for some serious legwork.
Mountain bikers will find the best trails up the lake around Dongo and Domaso, but closer to home there’s a cracking loop over to Rifugio Venini for seasoned riders, and the Mont Tremezzo peak is a dream to zoom down – get the funicular up from Argegno or for real kudos, tackle the climb…
Menaggio’s mix of cafes and restaurants should keep every palate pleased. First things first, gelato - head to Edo on Piazza Garibaldi, choose your flavour and enjoy it on the square as the world goes by.
For pizza, we like to head up Via Como where just after the first zigzag turn, Pizzeria Lugano is a no-frills restaurant serving tasty wood fired pizzas (they do takeaways too). Ristorante Chez Mario is up in the hills and a charming spot for classic Italian fare (try Mario’s homemade limoncello), while Il Ristorante di Paolo has a lovely lakeside location.
If you fancy a change from Italian, Ni Sushi does brilliant Japanese food. For fine dining, pop down the lake to Tremezzo, where La Darsena, La Terrazza and Al Veluu are three excellent establishments.
We like the chianti and cocktails (and lake views, and bar snacks…) at Del Pess on Piazza GG, while Bar Al Paladar de la Memoria on Via Carlo Camozzi is a quiet spot for pizzas and beer. Near where the ferry sets off, Bar Tana does happy hour drinks and snacks, shows live sports and hosts karaoke evenings. Divino 13 on Via Enrico Caronti is a cute wine bar with a good food menu (their cheese selection always goes down a treat with local vino). If you can’t bear to leave the lakeside, Lido Menaggio’s lounge bar is open until 11 most evenings – sink back into an armchair, soak up the views of the lake and sip away at a chilled aperol. You’ll also find some super cafes – like Rock and Roll Café – when it calls for a coffee.
The airports nearest to Menaggio are Milan Malpensa, Milan Linate and Bergamo. If you’re flying from the UK, the flight takes about 2 hours. Most holidays come with airport transfers included, but if you’d rather have your own wheels, you’ll find car hire companies at your airport.
The other option to reach Lake Como is train travel: Malpensa airport has its own rail station while Linate and Bergamo have buses connecting to Milan’s rail stations. The lake’s train stations are down in Como, which has bus connections to Menaggio.
Not much remains of this former castello, which was built in the 10th century up on the highest point of Menaggio (for its strategic position on the Via Regina trading route). Wars in the 15th and 16thcenturies tore down most of the structure, leaving just parts of the perimeter walls, tower ruins and entrance. Still, it gives a great sense of the area’s history.
Built in 1614, the main feature of this hilltop church is its Spanish belfry, which harks back to the Spanish domination here in the 15th and 16th centuries. See if you can spot it from the town.
This parish church is steeple-deep in history, though its Romanesque structures no longer exist, and the current building faces a different way to the original. What you can see is art in abundance: The three naves are doused with frescoes by local artist Tagliaferri and you can also see paintings by Castelli (another local) in the presbytery. Most famously, there’s a copy of the Madonna painting by Bernardino Luino above the alter (the original is now in the Louvre). Don’t miss the altar itself, which is covered in 17th century stuccoes.
Sculpted by Francesco Somaini between the years of 1982 and 1990, this striking structure is made of marble and dedicated to the workers who gave Como it’s booming silk trade. It was commissioned by the Mantero family, who owned a lot of silk mills in the region.
This marks the centre of the old town of Menaggio, a set of 19th century buildings just off the lakeside, with mountains poking up behind them. There are restaurants, bars and geleterias – take your pick, grab a seat and watch the world go by.
This 19th century building sits in the hamlet of Loveno and has some seriously good lake views. Its surrounding park is well worth exploring, spanning 20 acres and landscaped like an amphitheatre by Giuseppe Balzaretto around 1860. Previous owners have shared a passion for arts, and as well as offering guided tours of the regal residence, the villa often hosts seminars and cultural events.
Notable features of the Chiesa di of Santa Marta include a Roman memorial plaque on the outside, and 17th century artwork indoors.
This lido has a golden sand beach and two lakeside pools (one 25m, the other for children – swimming caps are a must in both). There’s also a beach volley court, which can be rented by the hour. When it comes to refreshments, the Snack Bar serves ice creams, fruits and nibbles and the Restaurant specialises in pizzas and burgers. In the evenings, you can buy cocktails from the Lounge Bar – all right on the banks of beautiful Lake Como. Entrance was 6-7 Euros last time we checked.
Cadenabbia (3.8km): 10-minute drive/bus or 50-minute walk from Menaggio
Tremezzo (4.7km): 10-15 minute drive/bus or 1 hour walk from Menaggio