BEAUTIFUL LAKE COMO at the Base of the Italian Alps

BEAUTIFUL LAKE COMO at the Base of the Italian Alps

BEAUTIFUL LAKE COMO at the Base of the Italian Alps
View of Lake Como from Villa Vigoni, Menaggio, Italy

More than two hundred years ago, Heinrich Milius, son of a German banking family, came to Italy and established a successful business manufacturing silk in Milan. Like other wealthy Italian businessmen of the time, he built a summer home at Lake Como, one of the several large lakes filling the narrow valleys at the base of the Italian Alps. There Milius and his family could enjoy the cool fresh air and mountain scenery and walk in the surrounding gardens. A patron of the arts, he filled his home with elegant furniture and paintings and sculptures by the leading artists of the time.

Portraits of the Milius family

When Milius’ last descendant, Ignazio Vigoni, died in 1983, he bequeathed the family property to the Federal Republic of Germany, with the purpose of creating an intercultural meeting place. Today, the estate, Villa Vigoni, is a conference center dedicated to promoting cultural and scientific interests.


In early October, I spent two days at Villa Vigoni when my husband Art was attending a conference. While he was at his meetings, I explored the Villa gardens and the nearby village of Menaggio. The early fall weather was sunny and warm, perfect for walks down to the lake shore.

Cobblestone walkway to the village

Following a cobblestone path downhill, I passed the walled gardens of other hillside homes. Far below I could hear the rushing water of Fiume Senagra, the river that tumbles down the steep gorge from the mountains above. Rather strangely, the banks were covered with stands of bamboo, a plant that evidently grows quite happily in the northern Italian climate. Fall wildflowers bloomed along the rock walls lining the path from the villa to the town.

At the bottom of the gorge the Fiume Senegra rushes toward the lake.

Near the bottom of the gorge was a small waterfall before the river emptied into the lake. Like other towns along the shores of Lake Como, Menaggio is a vacation destination for tourists, with restaurants and hotels lining the main street.

Promenade in Menaggio

An elegant promenade along the lake is popular for strolling or bench sitting to enjoy the lake view. A monument honoring silk weavers has been erected at one end of the promenade. For families there is a playground for children, and a miniature golf course. Although there is a small swimming beach, the water in Lake Como is too cold most of the year for swimming.

Monument to the silk weavers by Francesco Somaini

Menaggio is a picturesque town. As one walks along its streets, one feels transported back to another century, when time moved more slowly and was marked by the church bells ringing out the hour.
For a short history of Menaggio, click HERE. Guided tours to Villa Vigoni and its extensive park are available every Thursday afternoon from March to October (except in August). They must be booked in advance.

Villa Vigoni

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