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Historical walk through the town

Hike

Menaggio has various historical monuments which recall its importance throughout the ages. It was a town of note in ancient times because of its privileged geographical position, at the point where the Via Regina (road bordering the western side of the lake) met the road leading through the Val Menaggio to Lugano and the valley of Ticino. This circular walk, which starts in Piazza Garibaldi, allows you to discover Menaggio’s main sites. It leads up to Castello, the medieval part of the town, mainly along streets closed to traffic.

In case there are children walking with you, the tourist office suggests the amusing puzzle tour you can do together with this itinerary. This way discovering Menaggio also becomes fun for families.

Description

Our itinerary starts in Piazza Garibaldi where the Menaggio tourist office is located.

Take Via Calvi and, half way up the street on the right, you find the church S.Marta. To be observed with attention are the historical bas-reliefs placed outside this small church. One of them is the Roman memorial plaque of Minicio Exorato, an important imperial official of the first century AD. It was found in the lake in front of the Roman walls of Santa Maria, and transferred here in the first half of the sixteenth century by the humanist Francesco Calvi from Menaggio who believed he had found the origin of the town’s toponym in the name Minicio. Another important find is a 15th-century stone arch key with the bas-relief depiction of the castle of Menaggio, which has become the municipal coat of arms.  Inside the church there are some interesting paintings of the 17th century. An original medieval font is located at the entrance to the church

At the end of Via Calvi is the parish church of S.Stefano of very ancient origins whose original Roman structures have howevere been lost; in fact the orientation itself is in the opposite direction of its primitive setting with  the entrance located on the old Roman road the Antica Strada Regina that passed on the back of the current building. Let’s go inside, the side doors are always open during the day.
The church has three naves which, in 1899, were covered with frescoes by a local artist named Tagliaferri. Quite noteworthy is the one of the martyr Santo Stefano located in the vault of the apse. In the presbytery, two works by the painter Castelli from Menaggio. Above the altar of the Madonna, at the front of the left nave, you find a copy of a painting by Bernardino Luino depicting Maria with Jesus and an angel also called the Madonna di Menaggio; the original work is now at the Louvre. The altar is surrounded by copper medallions representing scenes from the Madonna’s life. In the middle of the right nave there is a large painting of San Giorgio but the artist is unknown. The altar of “Il Sacro Cuore” is embellished with stuccoes of the 17th century by the “maestri intelvesi” (famous sculptors and craftsmen of the Val d’Intelvi who passed their experience from father to son and worked all over Europe).

When you come out of the church you turn right into Via Caronti, then at the end of the street turn right into Via Leoni. After 30 m turn left into Via Castellino da Castello. Just at the beginning of the street you see one of the panels that reconstruct the events that led to the capture and shooting of Mussolini and his fascist leaders. On 25 April 1945, Mussolini, after having refused to negotiate his surrender with the National Liberation Committee
Alta Italia, left Milan and took the road to the lake. After a stop in Menaggio, he joined with his faithful a German military column in retreat towards the Alpine passes that was stopped by a partisan block between Musso and Dongo.

The climb to Castello, in the upper part of the town, begins along via Castellino da Castello. The kids are busy counting the steps for their quizzes so they won’t complain. Along the ascent,  one has the opportunity to observe valuable portals. At the corner with Via Strecioum we see the birthplace of Fr. Gabriele Malagrida, a Jesuit from Menaggio, martyred in Lisbon in 1761 under the despotic regime of Pombal.

We are entering the medieval part of Menaggio. It is probable that the Menaggio castle had its origins between the eighth and the tenth century. The site was particularly strategic and its primary function was to control the transit on the Via Regina from above at the point where the route forked towards the Upper Lake and Lake Lugano. The fortress was almost impregnable but after centuries it was still destroyed during the occupation of the Rhaetian militias in 1523. The “Castello” of today gives only a faint idea of how it was in the middle ages. However, it retains the imposing perimeter walls that can be admired in several points The houses in the upper part of Via Castellini da Castello follow the original contours of the castle.

You walk through narrow cobbled stone streets which hide some interesting medieval finds. On the facade of house number 54 there are two medieval bas-reliefs of the XI century, a winged feline and a bust.

On the ruins of the ancient castle you find the church S.Carlo. The church was built in 1614 by Cinzio Calvi  so that it could serve as a tomb for him and his wife Caterina Camozzi. Characteristic of the church of S. Carlo is the elegant sailing bell tower in Spanish style a reminder of the period of Spanish domination in the 15-16th century. The bell tower can be seen from the centre of town.

When you reach the end of the street you continue to the left and follow Via N. Sauro. After only 20 m you pick up the street, just before a small parking lot, that runs right below the walls of the castle. Just past another small car park, you pick up Via Fabbri. At the beginning of the street, on the left, on the top of a gate, there is a sculpture of the 12th century representing the head of the bull of San Luca . Then a bit further down on the left there is a fountain called “Del Salvatore”. Above it there is a bust in relief of the 12th century  interpreted as Jesus Christ holding a rounded object.

At the end of Via Fabbri you end up again in Via Castellino da Castello which you follow down to the right for ca. 10 m and then you pick up Via Strecioum to the left. At the end of the street continue a few meters and you come to one of the most picturesque bridges over the river Sanagra called il ponte di Caravaggio. Here you find yourself on a stretch of the “Antica Strada Regina”, an important transit route built by the Romans, as it allowed a connection between the Po Valley and the region north of the Alps. At the center of the bridge, in a niche, you can admire a bas-relief by Vannuccini (1965), which represents San Giovanni Nepomuceno, patron of bridges and on the right the chapel dedicated to the Madonna di Caravaggio.

Turn back and then left into Via Loveno and left again into Via Leoni which you follow to the end. Cross Via Lusardi, passing in front of the little church San Rocco, built in 1772,  dedicated to the protector from the scourge of the plague.

Pick up Via Roma which leads along the entrance of the Lido of Menaggio built in 1934 with its big beach and swimming pool. The building is an excellent example of the Rationalist style.

The walk continues along Lungo Lago Benedetto Castelli. Here you find the monument by Francesco Somaini, dedicated to the women silk weavers, donated to the town of Menaggio by the Mantero family, owners of several silk mills, among the one on the river Sanagra. It is made of Carrara Marble and represents a hymn to the weaving culture of Como, in which work, art and management ability are melted and mixed, following the centuries old tradition which has made Como one of the silk capitals of the world.

You continue your way on the lovely lake side promenade where you can enjoy the beauty of the landscape which has made the fortune of the area. You pass the Grand Hotel Victoria built in 1885 and then you’ll find yourself back in Piazza Garibaldi.

Directions & Parking

Map directions →