Piona Abbey is located on the territory of Colico, on the shore of Lake Como on the Lecco side, at the foot of Mount Legnoncino and Legnone.
Once you leave the parking lot you walk for few meters in a not very dense vegetation, on asphalt road and then you pass the statues of St. Benedict and St. Bernard, a small shop at the entrance to finally see the Church which was initially consecrated to the Blessed Virgin Mary and, later, to Saint Nicholas of Bari.
Various monastic orders spent their days here but by the 19th century the abbey passed to various families until 1937 when the last owner, the commander Pietro Rocca, sold the estate to the Cistercian Congregation of the Casamaria and later the villa.
On the door, decorated by the sculptor Giuseppe Abram, of the nice church you can admire the paintings depicting the story of St Benedict. Inside there is a single rectangular nave ending with an apse with a fresco barrel vault; the vault in front of the apse is the original one while the truss roof was rebuilt and restructured in 2014.
The Church is 27,60 meters length and 8 meters width and drive visitors to enter in intimacy with God; its severity, the lack of opulent decorations and its simplicity avoid distractions for the visitor who is at the meantime driven to an interior dialog with God.
Just at the entering, closed to the holy water font supported by 2 lions, there is a painting as nice as mysterious: near the depictions of the Via Crucis a painting by Girolamo Pergola is displayed. This work of art hides a mystery as three-dimensional objects, whose origin is not clear, appear in relief on it.
The painting show the Virgin Maria keeping a young Jesus in her arms. Jesus has is little arms opened in the same position he will have once on the Croix. At their foot, 2 soldiers stay on their knees offering them their swords, whose hilts are in relief, and in front of them a book with the words “Ego autem dico vobis: diligite inimicos vestros”.
On the right side there is a pagan urn with the remains of Festina.
In the presbytery the Ascension, the Blessing Christ and Apostles. A lot of the frescos unfortunately were ruined by the weather and cannot be clearly watched.
The square-shaped bell tower in stones, built up back in the XVII century, and the ruins of a small building (a medieval apse), now destroyed, complete the picture.
On the right end side of the church there is a door that allow entering the Monastery, dated back to the 13th century, whose east area gives access to the capitulary room: 2 inscriptions, one dated back to 1252 and the other to 1257, inform that it was built up by Bonaccorso de Canova in 2 different steps an all at his cost.
In the centre of the Monastery there are a tree and a water-well, metaphor for the Life Tree of the heaven and source of pleasures.
The irregular quadrangular-plan courtyard consists of 40 different capitals (and not distributed equally on 4 sides) in white marble, and arches with animals and leafs. The 11 column at west represent the college of the Apostle (except of Giuda after the betrayal), while the 10 at north represent the commandments. The 12 at east the Israel tribes and the 8 at south the resurrection.
The capitals overlook on a beautiful internal garden while, on a wall there’s a painted calendar showing rural scenes which depict the characteristics of the months and can be dated back to 12th/13th century. It has to be read from the right to the left; on the upper side are represented the jobs of the months, while on the lower side some martyrs.
Just next to it there are other murals representing dragons, snakes, human faces and scenes from the Bible.
Just above the door of the Church there is a fresco representing Saint Benedict whilst blessing; a further fresco, on the opposite side, represents the Saint escaping temptations, illustrated like a woman.
The nice chapter room of the Piona Abacy, within the superior is appointed, is sitting on the east side of the cloister; the wood benches and backrests were transferred from the San Zeno sacristy (Verona) and were made by the venetian school of the 18th century.
The sun on the roof is wonderful, same as the figures inlaid. A gravestone remembering that the rests of Cesare and Lidia Rocca are stored in this place with these words: Piona, revived in the name of God Piona “rinata nel nome di Dio eterna la memoria dei coniugi ing. Cesare Rocca e Lidia Maffioli. Caduti per la patria e qui i loro resti mortali devota custodisce”.
A few steps to the garden and there are the rests of the Santa Maria Chapel, dated back to 11th Century. Looking at it, it can be noted that it is not at the same level of the San Nicolò Church but is at a higher level.
The Garden and the Lourdes Cave
The gardens are home to a small cave dedicated to our Lady of Lourdes and a beautiful view of the Lake which makes it possible to enjoy, especially on sunny days, a beautiful landscape.
A bar offers a chance to have an excellent coffee, a soft drink or taste one of the delicious herbal liquor that can be purchased in the shop located at the entrance; here, you can also find ointments and creams made from herbs, sweets, honey and many other products of natural origin.
Visitors must have the chance to buy the Imperial drops, the result of a recipe handed down from 1700 which includes alcohol, water, herbs, natural flavours and saffron (as natural dye); the drops are useful as energetic drink or digestive. They soothe the pain, prevent tooth decay, cold sores, cold, rheumatisms, arthritis or car sickness.