Holidays to Cadenabbia, a scenic hamlet on the western shores of Lake Como, offer dramatic views across the water, opulent villas and lavish gardens.
Across the water from Bellagio, on the mid-western shore of Lake Como, Cadenabbia is part of the commune of Griante. It's been a popular destination for Britons since the 19th century - in 1891 it became the site of one of the first Anglican churches in Italy. And like many towns on the lake, it's a showcase of lavish villas and beautifully faded grandeur.
The name Cadenabbia comes from 'Ca' dei Nauli', meaning House of the Boatman - because, many years ago, it was home to a tavern where many boatmen stopped to rest while transporting goods from Lecco and Como to towns around the lake. Nowadays, this little community is known for its incredible views, beautiful scenery and quiet atmosphere, making it a peaceful base for exploring the lake.
Land and water
Mary Shelley and Queen Victoria are only a couple of the famous names to visit Cadenabbia. Of an evening, you could follow in their footsteps by wandering the beautiful lakeside promenade, to take in the dramatic views across the water. By day, explore the hillside gardens of the Villa Carlotta. Cadenabbia itself is home to the Grand Hotel and a couple of shops - but it's a short walk along the lakeshore to Tremezzo and Griante, around 45 minutes' walk (or an easy bus ride) to the larger town of Menaggio, and just a 10-minute boat ride over to lively Bellagio. You can catch boats to pretty much anywhere on Lake Como, including bustling Como town and the impossibly beautiful Villa Balbianello.
Out and about
• Boat trips
• Lakeside promenade
• Outdoor pool
• Historic villas
• Local ferries
Things to See and Do in Cadenabbia
Lido di Cadenabbia Beach Bar
The Lido di Cadenabbia is a popular beach bar right on the lakefront, with spectacular views across Lake Como. With its large swimming pool and garden area, you’ll find it easy to unwind and soak up the sunshine. Bar service is available for refreshing drinks and cocktails, and the restaurant dishes up fantastic pasta, gnocchi and seafood.
Try the pools
Since Cadenabbia is a small communinty, it’s not known for having spacious beaches. That said, both the Hotel Grand Cadenabbia and the Britannia Excelsior have excellent outdoor swimming pools, surrounded by loungers and parasols for relaxing in the sunshine.
If you’re happy to go a little further afield for a great beach, Menaggio and Bellagio both have beach clubs that are worth the trip. With man-made beaches, sun loungers, bars, restaurants and music, along with stunning views of the lake, you'll find it easy to get into the holiday spirit.
There’s no weekly market in Cadenabbia, so head up the coast to Menaggio to pick up a holiday bargain. The market is held on the second and fourth Friday each month, from around 9am to 1pm. A craft market also runs each Friday from 6pm to 10pm. In Lenno, 4km south of Cadenabbia, the lake’s largest market is held each Tuesday morning.
Shops in Cadenabbia are limited to a few convenience stores, and a traditional gift shop on the front. For a wider variety of shops, head to a nearby town such as Menaggio or Bellagio. And since many shops close in the middle of the day for a siesta, they tend to stay open until later in the evening.
For a great selection of traditional shops, gifts and well-known designer brands, take a ferry to Como town. Or to treat yourself to something really special, head to Milan, where designers including Dior, Louis Vuitton and Prada line the streets. It's the fashion capital of Europe, so you'll be spoilt for choice.
There’s nothing more relaxing than an evening stroll along the waterfront. Get yourself an ice cream from the local gelateria and watch the lights twinkling on the lake. Looking for a base for the evening? The Britannia Excelsior’s lakefront bar is ideal for a few drinks next to the water, with a great atmosphere and refreshing cocktails
Villa Carlotta frequently holds events and festivals throughout the summer months, including concerts and opera recitals. The villa is right next to Cadenabbia, just a couple of minutes' walk from the Grand Hotel, and can make for a memorable evening. For a lively bar atmosphere, head to the Vecchia Torre Bar, which often hosts karaoke and live music on Friday evenings. Bisbino Café is near Villa Carlotta and offers live music, DJs and karaoke throughout the week.
The area around Cadenabbia is home to a few lovely restaurants that line the waterfront, with fresh fish and pasta in abundance - so it won't be hard to find the perfect spot to watch the sunset. If you want a bit more choice, you can scout out a few authentic Italians in the larger town of Griante, or wander down the promenade to Tremezzo.
Mouthwatering menu at Risto Bar Company Vecchia Maiolica
Next door to the Hotel Britannia Excelsior is Risto Bar Company Vecchia Maiolica, a small place with painted frescoes on the walls and outdoor seating overlooking the water. You can pick from a menu of risottos, pizzas and pastas and finish with some gorgeous gelato.
Tea and scones at Bar Victoria
For tea served in a tea pot and covered with a cosy, head to Bar Victoria. This retro café, full of fun decorations and bathroom walls covered in amusing quotes, juts out over the lake and serves up lunches and light snacks, their speciality being homemade English scones. The pistachio ice cream is also a good choice.
Charming chefs at La Cucina della Marianna
With a terrace overlooking the water, La Cucina della Marianna creates beautiful dishes from a choice of set menus, which focus on either meat, fish or generational recipes (called 'Grandma's Menu'). The chef greets and speaks to his guests about the ingredients of each dish, as well as recommending wines for each individual course.
The lakeside path in Cadenabbia is a popular choice for a post-dinner stroll - just mind your step, as the path narrows in places. Or you can head inland towards Griante with its winding alleys and mews that have been left unaltered throughout the centuries.
There are both passenger and car ferries, plus hydrofoils and smaller water taxis, that operate numerous times a day around the centre part of the lake between Menaggio, Bellagio, Cadenabbia and Tremezzo, as well as Varenna. The trip over to Bellagio takes just 10 minutes.
The nearest station to Cadenabbia is across the lake in Varenna. Hop on a ferry or jump on a bus to the station, and from there you can be in Milan in an hour. Trains depart every hour or so.
You can catch a bus from Cadenabbia to both Tremezzo and Menaggio in as little as 10 minutes. From Menaggio, you can pick from an array of bus connections that will take you to various other resorts around the lake.
Most people enjoy a gentle walk along the lakeside promenade in Cadenabbia, testing out the waterfront cafés and restaurants as they go, and admiring the lovely landscapes and views. However, if you crave vews from higher up, some of our favourite rambles are through the fields and woods behind the village and up the slope to Griante, where the church of San Martino offers superb views over Bellagio and the Villas Monastero and Cipressi in Varenna.
San Martino Church
This short hike winds past several historic churches and chapels, and eventually leads up to the tiny Church of San Martino, perched on the rocks overlooking the centre of the lake. Inside the church you’ll find an ancient wooden statue of St Mary, which was found during the 17th century and moved to the church in respect of a local legend that said she wanted to be laid to rest there.
The Greenway del Lario
Take a gentle walk along the Antica Strada Regina (the ‘old royal road’) to visit the centres of the ancient towns and villages that line the lakeside. Along the way, there are plenty of restaurants and cafés to stop at for a drink or ice cream, so you really can take your time. The path runs from Cadenabbia to Colonno – and make sure you keep an eye out for the Greenway del Lario discs set into the pavement.
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