Menaggio – a great base on the lake

Menaggio is an unassuming little town in a prime geographical location for visiting Lake Como and exploring the surrounding area, including a foray into Switzerland. The buildings are traditional and painted in ochre hues which naturally blend into the landscape. Sit anywhere in the square or on the promenade and you can meditate on the beauty of your surroundings; the sky, the mountains, the lake, the town itself.

Cafes and restaurants abound and a typical day in Menaggio can comprise a relaxing series of pleasant walks, a little shopping, and sitting in the sun, punctuated by visits to cafes and restaurants for morning coffee, lunch, afternoon coffee and gelato, “apero” and finally dinner.

For morning coffee or breakfast simply go to the Piazza Garibaldi and choose from the excellent options there. For breakfast I can recommend Maritotso (in the corner, off to the right of the square) for chocolate brioche, and on the ground floor of the Hotel du Lac, the Caffe Centrale (free wifi – just ask) or Café del Pess (opposite) for a continental breakfast. You will enjoy friendly service and good plain food for a fair price, especially considering the glorious surroundings.

At lunch or dinner time the Ristorante Osteria just off the Piazza Garibaldi offers above average, hearty, traditional food at a reasonable price, while Il Restorante di Paolo (Hotel Garni Corona) on the square, has a tempting and varied menu with slightly higher prices reflecting its location and the gorgeous view of the lake. A simple lunch can be had at Chic and Freak, just up the road (43 Via IV Novembre) which is a nice bar with good, simple food and snacks as well as a small terrace, and very reasonable prices. This bar is especially convenient if you are on your way to or from the ferry terminal. It is located opposite the bank, Intesa Sanpaolo, and is next door to Happy Holiday Solutions.

Chic and Freak can also be recommended for “apero” while you are in Menaggio, as can Fusi Sfusi on Via Enrico Caronti. To find Fusi Sfusi walk away from the Piazza Garibaldi with your back to the lake, turn left at the top of the road (near the church) and then right on to Via Enrico Caronti. It is a little bit out of the way but is frequented by locals and offers amazing value. Wine is served with snacks and the hospitality feels genuine.

If you feel like a pizza, either for lunch or dinner, I suggest you try Pizzeria Lugano at 8 Via Como. It is a short walk up the hill (in the hairpin bend) as you turn right at the bank Intesa Sanpoalo. The walk will only take the average person about 3 minutes from the bank. This small pizzeria offers amazing pizzas at equally amazing prices.

As you explore Menaggio you will be tempted to stop for coffee here and gelato there, especially in the central piazza area. Personally, I have had only positive experiences at the local cafes; they all make a great cup of coffee and who can complain about gelato? (Although I know the Italians are true connoisseurs when it comes to this national treasure!) Of course, you can take your custom to the large hotels and enjoy the service and facilities they offer their clients. However, I think it is important to support local businesses and have a range of experiences when travelling.

Between your strolling around, shopping and sampling local delicacies in Menaggio don’t forget to visit the Tourist Information Office on Piazza Garibaldi and pick up some information so that you can plan the rest of your stay. Whether you wish to play golf, go sailing, water-skiing or swimming, it’s all on the doorstep. Activities also include riding, hiking and mountain-biking, not to mention the villas and gardens that you can visit while in the area. The list is extensive and you will surely need to return to the Lake in order to enjoy all it has to offer. Make sure you pick up a ferry timetable and information on the bus service too. At that point you will no doubt feel the need to sit down in one of the cafes again and finalize the itinerary for your visit. Enjoy!

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