The town of Menaggio sits halfway along the western shore of Lake Como. It forms part of the ‘golden triangle’ along with Bellagio and Varenna and has excellent ferry connections to both these towns. There is a beautiful tree-lined promenade ‘Lungo Lago’ to stroll along with benches placed intermittently, encouraging you to sit down and take in the spectacular views. The large piazza is also a great place sit and people watch whilst you sip a cappuccino or treat yourself to a heavenly ice-cream from the fantastic and well known gelataria there.
The Romans conquered Menaggio in 196 BC and thereafter the Via Regina road was built. Menaggio was once a walled city, the remnants of which can still be seen today. During the Ten Years War of the 12th century, Menaggio was destroyed and unfortunately, this mistake was to be made several times over in medieval times by the townsfolk; picking fights with the Spanish and the Austrians. Menaggio has always been an important trading centre as it has easy routes linking the Como valley to the Lugano valley and Switzerland.
As for sightseeing, Menaggio has some noteable churches which you should take the time to visit. The Church of Santa Marta which is located halfway along Via Calvi has a Roman memorial plaque of Lucio Minicio Exorato, a notable of the empire; above it the town-arms onn the facade. Inside the church there are some interesting paintings of the 17th century. The Santo Stefano church which sits at the end of Via Calvi across the road has three naves which were covered with frescoes painted by a local artist named Tagliaferri in the 1800’s. One of the most renowned frescoes is the one of the martyr Santo Stefano located in the vault of the apse. You will also see a copy of the painting by Bernardino Luino depicting Maria with Jesus and an angel (the original of which is in the Louvre, France). You can find this copy painting at the front of the left nave above the altar of the Madonna. 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).
The streets behind the Santo Stefano church lead you to the upper part of town where the castle once stood. The castle was destroyed in 1523 by the Signori delle Leghe Grigie but parts of the enormous perimeter castle walls still remain. The church of San Carlo can be found above the ruins of the ancient castle. The Spanish style bell tower of the San Carlo church can be seen from the centre of town, a reminder of the period of Spanish domination in the 15-16th century.
Just a nearby stroll from Menaggio will take you to the small village of Nobiallo, the church of Nobiallo still has its leaning Romanesque bell tower. Nearby is the route of the Ancient Regina Road, which winds from Nobiallo along the mountain slope to Acquaseria and Rezzonico.
Along the promenade in Menaggio you will find the sculpture by Francesco Somaini (6 August 1926 in Lomazzo – 19 November 2005 in Como), dedicated to the women silk weavers. 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. This sculpture was donated to the town of Menaggio by the Mantero family, owners of several silk mills, among the one on the river Senagra.
Menaggio has a great recreational resort in the summer; Lido di Menaggio. Here you will find a large outdoor swimming pool, beach area, restaurant, beach volleyball area, a small playground for the children and plenty of shaded areas to sit and have a drink out of the hot summer sun. There is an entry charge but you can stay there all day. There are plenty of hotels in the area to choose from, or you can hire an apartment or villa from one of the many holiday rental companies in the area (book in advance). However your holiday does not have to be expensive as Menaggio has a good and reasonably priced youth hostel.
Aside from the historical sights, you can do many other things such as play mini-golf at the Red Bay Restaurant down by the lakeside or alternatively for a more professional game of golf, you can take a trip up into the hillside just above Menaggio to the famous Menaggio & Cadenabbia Golf Club, which was founded in the early 1900’s by an English gentleman. There are also mountain-biking trails, boat excursions and walks to keep you amused. Menaggio is a great base for exploring the Val Menaggio and also the hills to the northwest.
During the summer, there are many events that take place in Menaggio, one of which is the Menaggio Guitar Festival which sees many international and famous guitarists travel to. Argentinian born Sergio Fabian Lavia; composer and musician and resident of Menaggio, is the artistic director of the Guitar Festival. Not to be missed!