With easy access by ferry from Varenna or Bellagio, a half day in Menaggio is worth the journey. Here’s what to see in a quick trip to the mid-lake town.
Arrival in Menaggio
If you’re based in either Varenna or Bellagio, a half day in Menaggio is time well spent. Getting there couldn’t be easier with a direct ferry between operating between the three towns.
When arriving in Menaggio, the Old Town is about 10 minutes walking distance from the ferry terminal. Though it may be a bit unclear which way to go , we broadly followed the water in the direction of a church steeple and then it was fairly easy to find the town centre.
My immediate reaction was that Menaggio is not as pretty as its cousins, Varenna and Bellagio. Though in saying that, it’s still a pretty Italian town perched on a beautiful lake with mountain views! The town would make a much more quiet destination than Bellagio and is the best town for access to the Swiss lake town of Lucerne. You can visit the town by direct bus from Menaggio.
Once we found the Old Town centre, we officially started our visit at Piazza Giuseppe Garibaldi. What better way to start our sunny May morning than by enjoying coffees at a nearby cafe called Cafè Del Pess. A cute shopping street, Via Calvi, runs off of the piazza but we would return there later in the afternoon. From the cafe, we continued along the waterfront to take in the lake views.
Continuing north along the lake, we strolled the length of Viale Benedetto Castelli, which continues about 700m around the bend to Lido Menaggio. This would be the place to be during the summer but we were way too early in the season for there to be much activity. This is also the area for water sports during the summer months.
Menaggio’s weekly market
Looking for some food, we headed to the Conad on Via Roma. But of course it was closed since we arrived between 12:30pm – 3:30pm! After many trips to Italy, the operating hours still tend to surprise me!
Fortunately, we found a small market on Via Stoppani (a few streets over from the Conad) that sold food and also lots of clothing and accessories. We almost missed this market as well. It’s open on Fridays and runs from 8am to 2pm.
Menaggio’s Old Town
By now we were getting really hungry so we finished the loop around Menaggio, heading to the Old Town area. It’s a set of a handful of short streets with a variety of restaurants and tourist shops. The selection was very minimal compared to our experience in Bellagio two days prior. But when in a small Italian town, one must pop in and out of all the shops! It’s also ridiculously quaint as you can see in the photo below.
Where to eat
During our visit, there were a few restaurants operating in the Old Town area. Most appeared to be family type restaurants specialising in pizza and the usual trattorias. With towns this small, my approach is to check out the menus and the vibes at a few restaurants prior to picking one.
We finally settled on a spot called Restaurante Pizzeria, which serves, you guessed it, pizzas. Set on the Piazza Giuseppe Garibaldi, the outdoor tables have a nice view, but the food itself could have been better. I give negative marks to any pizza with mushrooms that obviously come from a can! They also had an issue with card payments with their machine being down. We had to scramble to find an ATM that was working so we could get cash out.
Tip – always carry some cash in case you have difficulty paying. This has happened to me more than once while travelling in Italy.
Returning to Varenna
We took the ferry back to Varenna after our half day in Menaggio. Since it wasn’t a busy time of the year, we purchased the tickets when we returned to the ferry terminal in advance of the next departure.
Tip – In high season, buy return tickets to save time standing in the ticket queue, which can take some time with the crowds.
Have you visited Menaggio? What were some of your highlights? I’d love to hear from you, so leave me a comment below.