Centrally located between Como and the Alto Lago, at the confluence of the road for Ceresio, Menaggio has always been an active tourist and commercial centre.
There are numerous reception structures and facilities: lido, golf course, minigolf, tourist port, swimming-pool, exercise trails and youth hostel. On the beautiful promenade along the lake front the Monumento alla Tessitrice stands amidst the palms and the flowerbeds.
The heart of the town is the historic centre, with the pedestrian zone around the lake surrounded by bars, restaurants and boutiques. Public offices, textile factories and a modern hospital make Menaggio a small metropolis, with traces of its mediaeval past in the remains of the castle and the sculptures adorning the old houses.
The villas and mansions are mostly located in the picturesque Loveno district: Villa Govone, Massimo D'Azeglio's house (now Calabi Limentani) and the complex of Villa Vigoni-Mylius and Villa Garovaglio-Rizzi, both very old but renovated in the nineteenth century, and rich in neo-classical works of art (Thorvaldsen, Pompeo Marchesi); they now belong to the German Federal Republic, which runs a European cultural centre here.
Facing each other in the historic centre are the churches of S. Stefano and S. Marta. The parish church of S. Stefano, seventeenth-century but with very ancient origins, contains a copy of a Madonna by Luini which was given to the Austrian governor Firmian in exchange for the transfer of the Magistrates' court from Tremezzo to Menaggio, and is now in the Louvre. The church of S. Marta, or of the Crocifisso, also mediaeval but rebuilt, bears on the facade the Roman headstone of Lucio Minicio Exorato (rediscovered at S. Maria Rezzonico), to whom the origin of the place-name is attributed.
Overlooking the town from the hilltop are the church of S. Carlo, erected in a Spanish style with a characteristic double gabled bell-tower by the Calvi family in an outburst of Counter-Reformation zeal, and the little church of S. Giusto or dell'Assunta, already recorded in the sixteenth century.
The suburbs also have their own churches: the parish church of SS. Lorenzo e Agnese in Lovena, rebuilt in the eighteenth century, contains a precious scagliola altar-frontal and the beautiful sixteenth-century altarpiece of the Madonna dei Sette Dolori. Close to a prestigious Golf Club in the Croce district, the old parish church of SS. Pietro e Paolo, rebuilt in the nineteenth, contains paintings from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, while that of SS. Bartolomeo e Nicola in Nobiallo has a Romanesque hanging bell-tower.
Not far along the characteristic Antica Via Regina is the Santuario della Madonna della Pace, built to commemorate the Peace of the Pyrenees between France and Spain in 1658, housing a Marian bas-relief which is held to have shed real tears.
It is worth taking a walk through each of these districts, both for themselves and for the splendid views; they are all well-served by public transport, with excellent reception structures.
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