“That branch of Lake of Como that turns at midday….” Alessandro Manzoni, the famous Italian writer, begun the novel “The Betrothed” with these words. And it may be is the best description for a such a truly unique place.
The lake, shared by the municipalities of Como and Lecco, has been attracting people since the Roman Era: Pliny the Elder, Pliny the Younger, Winston Churchill, Vincenzo Bellini, Lord Byron, Alfred Hitchcock, the directors of movies like 007 – Casino Royale and Star Wars – The Phantom Menace, just to give you an idea of this impressive location, rewarded by UNESCO as World Heritage in 2003.
Sneak a peek at Villa Olmo
Also known by the name of Lario, the lake area has a lot of cities and villages on its coasts: the biggest is Como, an important town of the Risorgimento (the historical period of the Italian independence), with beautiful churches like the Cathedral (with the annexed Palazzo del Broletto, the ancient office of municipality), Santa Caterina, Santa Margherita, San Marco and San Nazzaro, built in the Middle Ages, and the neoclassical Villa Olmo, owned by the Odescalchi’s family (the same property of Bracciano’s Castle, near Rome).
Another valuable place is the funicular from Como to Brunate, which offers a wonderful panoramic view of the whole area.
Heading to the West, we find Cernobbio and Moltrasio, with many neoclassical mansions like Villa d’Este and Villa Erba. Then there’s the Lavedo peninsula with the gulf of Venus and Villa Balbianello, one of jewels of the area, rewarded by the FAI (Italian Environmental Fund).
On to the north part of the lake, there is Rezzonico, where Benito Mussolini was captured at the end of the Second World War, and Gravedona with the unique Romanesque church of Santa Maria del Tiglio.
In the middle of the lake there’s also a small island, Comacina, totally abandoned after the rebellion of the local people against Milan, in 1127.
Heading to the north some more, we meet Varenna, where the roads fall straight into the lake and small pebble beaches. Leaving from here is a ferry service to Bellagio, probably the most beautiful and famous village of the area, placed on the promontory that divides the three branches of the lake.
It is also possible to travel on the two-centuries-old steamboat Concordia on the route from Bellagio to the other destinations.
The whole area is a good place for the hiking lovers: the mountains of Grigna have plenty of interesting paths.
Try the Italian dried missulit
Do not forget to taste the local food: the smoked trout, the eel and fish soup, the dried missulit (local fish) with the polenta and the asparagus, the cheese (taleggio and ricotta), and the salumi are all to die for. And for dessert, the “resta de comm’” and the Miascia, a cake made by cooking stale bread, butter and honey.