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Map of Lake Como


View of Menaggio
by Brad Baum


Piazza at Menaggio


Harbour at Menaggio

Welcome to Menaggio
From Jesse's Journeys in Italy

Population: 3,129 (2004)
Official site: 
Menaggio
Wikipedia:
Menaggio
Map:
MapQuest

Visit our Lake District Portal

The pretty and tidy little lakeside town of Menaggio is about half way up the western side of Lago Como, accessible by car from Como at the south end of the lake, or Lugano in Switzerland, but also by ferry from Bellagio and Varenna.

The area was originally settled during the Bronze Age by the Gauls, but by 196 BC, they had been conquered by the Romans who subsequently established a defensive fort and colony where Menaggio now sits.  The town was linked to the southern territories and the areas north of the Alps by a major Roman highway, the Via Regina, which modern roads still follow today more or less.  Alas, not much is left of the long Roman occupation - a few sepulchres and inscriptions (Octavius was here!)

The history of Mennagio following the decline of the Roman Empire follows that of the region around Lake Como generally.  Because of its strategic location on the Via Regina, during medieval times, Menaggio was surrounded by walls (remnants of which still exist), castles, towers  and various other fortifications, which historical prospectors will enjoy discovering and clamboring over.

Much later in time, the citizens of Menaggio were actively involved in the Risorgimento, a process that in 1805 culminated in the annexation of the region of Lombardia by the Kingdom of Sardegna, ruled by King Vittorio Emanuele of neighbouring Piemonte. (A year later, Italy was more or less unified into the nation state it is today.)

Menaggio remained an important strategic through WW1 and WW2, and one can still find modern day fortifications dating from both wars in the immediate vicinity.  Mussolini, the Fascist dictator who allied Italy with Germany during World War 2 was eventually discredited.  He attempted to escape into Switzerland, whose border is just 18 kilometers north of Menaggio, but was caught by partisans and executed.

By the end of the 19th century, Menaggio, like other of the principal towns on Lake Como, had become a well-known "belle epoque" tourist retreat, attracting the very wealthy as well as those a little lower on the social ladder.  The wealthy built gorgeous lakeside villas, many of which have now been converted to comfortable, sometimes grand, lakeside hotels.

The heart of the "old" town gathered around Piazza Garibaldi close to Menaggio's harbour features mostly 19th century buildings in the Italian alpine style painted in muted tones.  The higher part of the town has a more medieval aspect featuring narrow alleys, steep stairs and stone buildings.  The old and "new", the  shops, restaurants, cafes, public squares and alleyways, the tree shaded lakeshore promenades  bordered by flowers, and the well-kept villas form a harmonious whole, rendering the town abundantly picturesque.

Don't let the town's quiet demeanor fool you.  There's lots to do in and around Menaggio.  Strollers can enjoy walks through the town and its numerous gardens.  Along the way you can take a look at some of Menaggio's lovely little churches: San Stefano (17th century), San Giusto and San Carlo accompanied by a beautiful bell tower that adds a dash of vertical uplift to the town.  The ruins of a medieval castle above the town is worth a visit.

Swimmers can head to The Lido, a modern building done in what some call the "rationalist" style, to plunge into the cool, fresh waters of Lake Como.  Water skiers can rent a power boat and skis; sailors a skiff.

There are of course local guides who will take you out on the lake (the northern stretches of Lake Como are spectacular). Outside of town (5 km  to the west) for duffers and pros alike, there is a highly-rated golf course, the Menaggio-Cadenabbia Golf Club, and north, south and east of town, hikers and trekkers will find a network of trails that lead to unimaginably beautiful places.  (Drop by the Tourist office in Piazza Garibaldi for trail maps.)

If you are staying in Menaggio and would like to undertake a day excursion or two, you might want to take the ferry to Varenna on the eastern shore, or to Bellagio which sits at the point where the south end of Lake Como forks into two long bays.   You can also climb a local bus to another of the area's major lakes, Lake Lugano.

So, Menaggio, peaceable and pretty, is a typical Lake District town, similar to others in many respects.  But, it has special and unique qualities, that are best appreciated, perhaps, in the late spring or early fall, before and after the annual influx of tourists.

By Vian Andrews, October 19th, 2006

Lombardia

4601′N 0914′E

Distances

Bellagio - 5 km;
Varenna - 5 km
Como - 37 km;
Lecco - 35 km;
Milan - 82 km;
Bergamo - 124 km;
Stresa - 131 km;
Verbania - 145 km;
Brescia - 173 km;
Cremona - 190 km

Directory

 
The Italian fascist dictator, Mussolini, was captured and shot to death in Menaggio on his way to Switzerland.


Menaggio Coat of Arms

 

 

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