The pretty lakeside town of Menaggio was our base for our few days’ stay on Lake Como. We’d been here once before, when we stopped off for a late afternoon aperitivo at the Cafe Centrale (bar of the Hotel Du Lac) and were so enchanted that we vowed to come back (see Aperitivo Hour at Hotel Du Lac)! On that occasion we were en route back to our hotel in the city of Como. Although the latter is more lively and well worth visiting in its own right, the little towns that dot the central part of the lake are exquisitely pretty and provide wonderful bases for a lakeside holiday.
Menaggio is on the western shore, which is more accessible to Milan Malpensa Airport than the eastern side (although there is a car ferry from Menaggio across to Varenna on the other side). Taxi fares start from around 160 Euro one way though of course you can hire a rental car. We organised a private car transfer on arrival and a taxi via our hotel for the return journey. It takes about one and a quarter hours drive to get to Menaggio from the airport, though I’d allow a bit longer if you’re driving yourself as our drivers seemed to be auditioning for a Formula 1 team judging by the speed they went!
Since we were there early season in April, some of the hotels were still closed for maintenance and renovations and our original choice (a small family run hotel) was unavailable. Our home from home was therefore the imposing Grand Hotel Menaggio, situated on the lake adjacent to the ferry quay. Despite the unusually cool and sometimes rainy weather we had amazing views from our lakeside room balcony! On our first night a huge storm rolled in from the mountains but the lake still looked impressive albeit a little hazy.
The Grand Hotel was very comfortable and had the elegant style of a bygone era. The breakfast room took full advantage of the superb location with wonderful views across the lake. It is however (like many of the larger hotels on the western side of Lake Como) favoured by tour groups of a certain age and this is reflected in the menu choices which were rather on the “safe” side. However the staff were friendly and helpful and location wise it was hard to beat! We simply used the hotel as a bed and breakfast base, ate out during the day and went into town in the evenings to enjoy aperitivos and a meal at one of the local restaurants!
A short walk round the back of the hotel and along the street leads you to the pretty little harbour and the adjacent town square. The Hotel Du Lac, we were pleased to see, was still in business and we ate out here one night. We also discovered another “aperitivo” joint, the Cafe Del Pess on the other side of the square and this seemed to be favoured by the locals (taking nothing away from Hotel Du Lac!).
We soon discovered why – the sun lingered by the side of the cafe longer than the other places and in the cool evening air the little sun trap was very welcome. We managed to get an upgrade to the sun side of the cafe by the end of our visit when the waitress had got to know us!
Once the sun had come out we enjoyed several walks round the town. As well as the delightful stroll around the harbour and lake promenade, there are several narrow cobbled streets leading to the back part of Menaggio and we often strolled round after breakfast or before dinner.
Regular ferries connect Menaggio with all the other lakeside towns and there is also a fast boat up to Colico in the north and down to Como in the south. A local bus runs regularly to and from Lugano in neighbouring Switzerland, although we didn’t have enough time to do that trip on this visit. Although a relatively small town, Menaggio has several charming restaurants and we managed to visit most of them! I’ll be doing a Menaggio Eating Out Guide next week. In the meantime “Salute”!
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