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Summer in Menaggio

It’s summer! Piazza Garibaldi , the heart of Menaggio, with its cafés and restaurants, pulsates with life. The splendid lakeside promenade, where in the afternoon a light Breva blows, invites you to take a nice walk while enjoying an ice cream. The evenings are often animated by musical events, art exhibitions and small craft markets.

Piazza Garibaldi the heart of the town of Menaggio
Piazza Garibaldi at Menaggio

Menaggio is an ideal place to rent a motor boat or a kayak. Those who come with their own boat can dock at a convenient tourist pier and visit the town. Guided kayak tours are organized from Menaggio to the picturesque fishing village of Nobiallo and from there to the beautiful villa la Gaeta, a residence in the form of a medieval-Renaissance castle. Here some scenes of the 007 series “Casino Royale” were shot.

Try eating a dish of polenta on the balcony of the Rifugio Menaggio while enjoying the spectacular view of Lake Como. The refuge, which is located on the southern slopes of Monte Grona at a height of 1400 m, can be reached from Breglia in approx. 1.45. Avoid walking up during the hottest hours of the day! From the refuge you can reach the Alpine farm houses of Rescanscia and Nesdale, where you can buy local cheese during the summer months.

View from the trail leading to Rifugio Menaggio

By bike you can follow the route that leads from Menaggio to the Northern end of the lake following the disused segments of the former state road 340 and the new cycle and pedestrian paths along the lake. The itinerary is a succession of rocky promontories, inlets, fishing villages, beaches and sites of historical and artistic interest. Some small stretches are to be covered paying attention as in promiscuity with the vehicular traffic of the state road. For families we recommend the cycle / pedestrian path from Dongo to Gravedona or the one from Domaso to Sorico.

Kite surfers at the beach of Cremia
Beach at Cremia

Thanks to its central location Menaggio is an excellent base to discover Lake Como. Here are some ideas to explore the area.

A week to discover the lake

Monday – discover the Centre Lake area

Buy the day ticket, at the local Navigazione ticket office, for the central lake area. It allows you to hop on and off the boats (including the ferries) that run between Menaggio, Varenna, Bellagio, Cadenabbia, Villa Carlotta, Tremezzo and Lenno. Start the day with a visit of Villa Carlotta built in 1690 with its beautiful park with rare plants and trees of many kinds. Inside the villa is a museum with a prominent art collection. After your visit of Villa Carlotta follow the lakeside promenade of Tremezzo, as far as Bolvedro (30 min.). Along the way is the sumptuous Grand Hotel Tremezzo (1910), the Sampietro porticoes, under which there are restaurants and cafés, and the beautiful Olivelli Park with its grand fountain. Once you have reached the early 18th century Villa la Quite with its magnificent Italian garden, you retrace your steps to the landing stage of Tremezzo to head off to Bellagio situated at the extreme tip of the promontory that divides the lake into two branches. At the tourist office you can ask for the leaflet with historical itinerary through the town. About 1 km south of the boat dock is villa Melzi built in 1808. The beautiful park that surrounds the villa is the first example of English style garden on Lake Como. Take the boat or ferry to Varenna, with its colourful houses dominated by the Castello di Vezio. From the boat dock follow the charming lake side walk that leads to the heart of the village with its narrow cobble stone streets and important sites such as the medieval church of San Giorgio, Villa Monastero and Villa Cipressi. You can visit the beautiful gardens of both villas with a joined ticket. Castello di Vezio, from where you enjoy a wonderful view of the Central Lake area, can be reached from near the ferry dock in about 30 min (uphill).

Tuesday: Discover Lenno

You can reach the town Lenno by bus line C10. In the morning there is a nice market on the lake side. In the piazza XI Febbraio stand the parish church S Stefano with its interesting crypt and the splendid Romanesque Baptistery of S. Giovanni. Lenno lies around the beautiful bay called “Baia di Venere,” formed by the peninsula Lavedo where one of the most famous villas of the lake, the Villa Balbianello stands. It was built in the late 1700s on order of Cardinal Durini. The villa, is open from 10.00 till 18.00. last entry to the gardens at 17.15 last guided visit of the inside of the villa at 16.30 . Book on-line!
From Lenno you can walk to the Santuario della Madonna del Soccorso (45 min one way) along the famous lane with the 14 chapels dedicated to the rosary, with life size statues out of terracotta of the 17th century, due to its artistic and historical importance it was declared Heritage of Humanity.. Back by bus C10 to Menaggio.

Wednesday: Discover the Northern part of lake.

Catch the bus line C10 direction Colico from Menaggio, piazza Roma to Dongo. Get off the bus in Piazza Parracchini. On 27 April 1945 Mussolini and some of his ministers were brought here after being captured on the road between Musso and Dongo by the local partisans. These facts are remembered in the local End of the War Museum in Palazzo Manzi. dedicated to the end of the Second World War (open from 10.00 till 13.00 and from 15.00 till 18.00). From Palazzo Manzi, built in 1824, walk along via del Mercato to piazza Rubini in order to enter the historical centre where you find the Romanesque church of S. Maria in Martinico. From here along l’Antica Strada Regina you reach Barbignano, one of the oldest parts of Dongo. Turn back to Palazzo Manzi and along via Roma and via Tre Pievi walk to the Franciscan Monastary of the Madonna delle Lacrime of the 16th century. About 50 m further, along via Bellesini, you reach the parish church of S. Stefano. The church is of ancient origins but rebuilt in the 18th century and adorned with frescoes by artists of European fame such as Carlo Scotti and Giulio Quaglio. Behind the church a lovely lake side walk (1 h ). connecting Dongo with Gravedona starts with beautiful views of the northern lake area. At Gravedona visit the beautiful Romanesque church S. Maria del Tiglio, one of the most important Romanesque buildings of the province. Walk to the centre and follow the indications for “castello” the oldest part of Gravedona. Every first and third Wednesday there is a market in Piazza Trieste. Follow the lake side promenade passing by a series of restaurants and cafés and then walk along the uphill leading road that ends onto the state road. You pass the magnificent Palazzo Gallio with its towers and loggia built in the 15th century as the residence of Cardinal Tolomeo Gallio. Back to Menaggio by boat or bus line C10.

Thursday: discover Bellano and the Abbey of Piona

Take the boat from Menaggio to Bellano is an important centre situated on the eastern shore of the lake, around the mouth of the river Pioverna, at the beginning of the Valsassina valley. Every Thursday morning there is a market in the town. In the piazza in the historical centre stands the parish church of SS. Nazaro, Celso and Giorgio with frescos of the 15th century. Early gothic style, its front is striped in layers of black and white stone, with a large terracotta rose window. In the same piazza stands the church S. Marta where inside you can see a full size wooden sculptural group of nine figures depicting the Deposition.
On the side of the parish church you will find the pathway leading up to the Orrido, a site not to miss. It is a the deep gorge formed by the river Pioverna and can be visited thanks to stairways and foot bridges hewn in the rocks that allow to admire the power of the water from close-by.
From Bellano take the boat to the Abbey of Piona (there are only a few boats per day to the Abbey so check your time table) The Abbey stands in a wonderful position on the eastern shore of the lake at the end of the Olgiasca peninsula, overlooking the small inner lake of Piona. The Abbey is of great historical and artistic interest. The church of the abbey (of the XI century) was built according to the typical model of the small Romanesque buildings of the Como area. The stunning cloister at the side of the church built between 1252 and 1275, is a combination of Romanesque and gothic style. It is surrounded by refined columns and decorated with paintings of different periods. The Abbey is kept by the Cistercian Monks who distil excellent liqueurs and herbs infusions. From the boat dock the abbey can be reached on foot. in 5 minutes. Back by boat.

Friday: lake side between Cremia and Musso and the boat museum

Cremia can be reached with bus line C10 from Menaggio. Get off the bus at bus stop S. Vito
If you are travelling by car you can park at the parking space above the Restaurant La Baia at the hamlet S. Vito. From the bus stop head towards the Romanesque church of S. Vito, characterized by two bell towers. From here walk down to the lake and enter the lake side walk. You skirt some small beaches from where you can enjoy a marvellous view of Monte Legnone, the highest peak of the lake (2610 m) on the other side of the lake.
At Pianello del Lario you pass close to the sixteenth century parish church of San Martino which is linked to the history of Don Guanello. It is here that the Saint worked as a parish administrator between 1881 and 1890. The presbytery of the church was frescoed by Isidoro Bianchi.
In the area of Pianello del Lario called Calozzo there is the Lariana Boat Museum (tel. +39 0344 87235). It is located in the premises of an old spinning mill; fishing boats, transport boats, as well as historical examples of the 20th-century motorboat industry are on display.
Just past the pier of Musso, you reach the old harbour with the characteristic fishermen’s houses. Slightly beyond the harbour the lake side path ends.
From the public boat dock, go up the steep ramp that leads to the state road. The village of Musso is situated at the foot of an imposing rocky spur called Sasso di Musso. Here in 1522 Gian Giacomo Medici known as “Il Medeghino” built a castle and exercised his violent power for almost a decade on most of the lake. Along the state road you can reach the Civic Museum (tel. +39 0344 82162), which features the main activities of the village over the centuries: marble quarries, silkworm breeding and related activities (there were eight spinning mills in Musso). Musso is connected with the C10 bus line and by boat during the summer months.

Saturday: discover Como

Take the bus line C10 from Menaggio to Como. Get off at the bus station in piazza Matteotti. Como’s centre, located inside the antique medieval walls, is rich in monuments and artworks. In the piazza of Duomo (cathedral) you find the Broletto, the antique town hall built in 1200 and the town’s bell tower. The Duomo was built between the end of 1300 and the mid 1700’s and is a fusion of different architectural styles. The façade statues are astonishing. Behind the Duomo is the ex Casa del Fascio masterpiece of the rationalist architect Giuseppe Terragni considered the symbol of modern architecture. Como also hosts real gems of the Romanesque period such as the church of S. Fedele. Near the lake stands the neoclassic Voltiano temple erected in 1927 for the centennial of the death of Alessandro Volta, the inventor of the battery, born in Como. Follow the itinerary through the Como’s historic center. Every Saturday there is a lively market along the city walls. We recommend the walk from Piazza Cavour to the gardens of Villa Olmo in order to admire the beautiful neoclassical villas on the lake shore. A ride with the funicular from Como to Brunate gives you an extraordinary view of the town. Return to Menaggio by boat. The splendid two hour boat trip from Como to Menaggio gives you the opportunity to admire the landscape and the beautiful villas that face this branch of the lake and difficult to see from the road.

Sunday: discover Argeno and the cable car (funivia) to Pigra

Take bus C10 to Argegno. Argegno is a small, picturesque town situated at the mouth of the Telo stream, at the beginning of the Intelvi Valley that connects Lake Como with Lake Lugano. The town is divided into two parts: the lake side promenade and the historic centre. Along the first, there is a succession of cafés and restaurants where you can relax overlooking the lake. The second part is perched on a rocky spur and is characterized by narrow alleyways and stone houses. Between the two parts of the town lies the small central square “Piazza Roma” and an elegant small medieval bridge (XII century ). From here, in about 40 minutes, you can walk up to the small 16th-century Church of St. Anna by following the track on the left side (south) of the Telo stream. At the end of the path, a short flight of steps leads to the grassy yard where the small Sanctuary stands, and from where you have a beautiful view of the lake.
The cable car station is located at the northern end of the town Argegno. The climb by cable car to Pigra, a small mountain village on a green plateau, affords splendid views of the lake and surrounding hills. Back by boat from Argegno to Menaggio.