Category Archives: Destinations

Passo del Ghisallo

At 754 meters above sea level there’s a top loved by all cyclists who, in order to achieve this, must overcome a long series of switchbacks with continuous sprints uphill and  a path gradient of 9%, with peaks of 14% on the one hand, and 10% from the other side called Passo del Ghisallo.

Once on top you will find a sanctuary, that is the Santuario della Madonna del Ghisallo, a panoramic terrace, the cycling Museum, a restaurant and a convenient pay and display car park.

The two wheel lovers can’t miss the small shrine dedicated to the patron saint of the cyclists; here many professionals and big names in cycling have left small memories, memorabilia, autographed t-shirts and even bicycles that have been exhibited on the walls for years. Among the many there are also those of Bartali and Coppi, in addition to the hour record one of Moser  (1984).

Ghisallo

Through the years donations have become so many that at one point it has been necessary to find a different solution to the sanctuary, and so the Cycling Museum was build. It opened in 2006 and it occupies an area on 3 floors and can be visited at an additional charge.

On the terrace you can admire the monument dedicated to Coppi, Bartali and Fiorenzo Magni but not only that; from the balustrade you can enjoy a spectacular scenery: the tops of the mountains in Valtellina, the Grigna and one part of Lake Como.

Passo del Ghisallo dintorni Lago di Como

The bar, located just a few steps away, has got seating inside and a beer garden. There you can stop for a quick refreshment, enjoy an excellent ice cream, a drink, or a beer. If peckish you can taste the dishes of the House or its inviting snacks.

Finally, if you would like to take a walk into the woods you may reach Piano Rancio and get to Monte San Primo where lawns, paths and shelters allow you to relax or do some hiking.

Villa Monastero, one of the most beautiful villas of the Como Lake

At the beginning of the enchanting village of Varenna there is Villa Monastero, a beautiful building that holds artistic and architectural treasures, as well as an amazing gardens, and which is reflected in the calm waters of the lake

The History of Villa Monastero

Built on the ruins of a Cistercian monastery (based on the legend the nuns were transferred here because they were used to a “too joyous behaviour”), it was restored several times until it became a place of holidays between 1500 and 1600, with the acquisition by the family Mornico; among the whole building the little church was kept public to allow observants to use it.

Lelio Mornico, son of Paolo, who bought the property, made some changes and the villa was so called Leliana

Then it passed to other owners that brought several changes until finally Walter Erich Jacob Kees made those changes, both to the villa and the garden, who has given the property the aspect that it has now: He built up the 3 arches loggia, a dock in the northern area, the small temple, fountains, the kafee-haus, and he furnished the internal area.

Villa Monastero

He owned the property for a short period of time because the government confiscated it.

At the end the building passed in the hands of Marco de Marchi, who donated it, and everything was inside it, in public hands after his death.

Open to visitors during the 1940 it was then changed into a congress centre and in the 1954 one of the rooms was entitled to Enrico Fermi; in the 1977 it became part of the properties of the National Council of research and is now managed by the Lecco Province.

Visit to the Villa

Just passed the ticket office you have access to the beautiful park; walking on the boulevard you can admire the breath-taking view: the beautiful lake and the towns washed by its waters; in short you can admire there exotic plants, flowers, fountains and discover views before being in front of the entrance of the villa

Let’s go inside Villa Monastero

Crossing the threshold, the atrium floor gets your attention as it still is the original seventeenth-century floor wanted by Mornico; carefully observing the tiles you can admire its three-dimensional effect before staring at the imposing staircase made with the black marble of Varenna, the red and yellow one of Verona, the white one of Carrara and some peach blossoms. Here are proudly displayed the painted majolica panels depicting portraits of philosophers, musicians, artists and German scientists, as well as some large stuccos and two bronze lamps.

Villa Monastero

Among the rooms you can visit the south-east one (or room Kennedy), reserved for Carlotta Kees and characterized by some vintage furniture (chests of drawers, a clock, the candlesticks, the prie-dieu, the chair, the table and some paintings), the parlour placed on the side, the striking black room with its beautiful Varenna’s black marble fireplace and its Flemish tapestry, the red room with its neo-rococo furniture, the white marble fireplace and the eighteenth century tapestry, the Mornico  parlour, the master bedroom, the music room with two beautiful baby grand pianos, the living room with oriental furnishings and references to the Japanese style, as well as conference rooms and board ones.

What is astonishing is the bathroom, also called “bath of King Farouk “. Made in Pompeian style, with references to the Japanese style, it has a blue and pale blue tiled tub with steps, which are located next to marble obelisks. Embellished with panels depicting mermaids, merfolk and other elements that recall the marine life, it is preceded by a room with a toilet, a bidet, a coffee table, a wardrobe and an armchair.

Villa Monastero Re Faruk

Villa Monastero’s Garden

The visit to the gardens continues with ups and downs among palms, dragon trees, citrus trees, oleanders, rare and exotic plants; during the visit you can admire statues, fountains, artfully placed vases and temples; to rest, in addition to the comfortable benches scattered along the way, there is a small café that offers customers some seating overlooking the lake.

Villa Monastero Giardino

Visit the Villa: already from the start of the tour, just behind the ticket office, there are beautiful flowerbeds that offer amazing shows in springer time; Looking at right instead the view is fashinating watching the clear waters extending to Bellagio and more.

Vista da Villa Monastero

At a first stage we meet the little temple built by Kees, sculptures and fountains, then finally there is also the loggia.

The walking through the garden always gives surprise for the panorama and the botanic species alongside the boardwalk both on the left and right end side; the wonderful tour through plants flowers and fruits ends with visit to the Kaffe-Haus, view point on the amazing and unique panorama.

Accessibility

Within the area of Villa Monastero, people with moving problems is able to move safely and without any problem to the Museum Home; po get to the House there is the option of an electric shuttle while inside all the existing architectural barriers have been removed where possible to be substituted by elevators and ramps.

Villa Monastero gradini

The gardens are just partially accessible anyway because the second half of them are full of stairs and steps that make the access really difficult. Hide Keyboard

What to do and see in Argegno

Travelling along the Statale Regina, looking at the wonderful panorama offered by the lake, here is Argegno, nice village hiding very real pearls. In the centre of the town there is a comfortable parking where leaving the car and move to discover the beauties of the place.

But what can be seen in Argegno?

In a few steps it is possible to reach the centre where, around a fountain, there are restaurants, cafes and also a winery; meeting the place there is instead the historical area made of nice alleys, strict houses one placed on the other, porticos and suggestive glimpses.

The centre of Argegno

In the centre there is the Medieval Area, the oldest one, while in the upper area there is the most recent and modern town. In the lower area it is a jump in the past, walking down through Vicolo Mulini where, in the past, there was a small river, known as Roggia Molinara, that allowed to drive the waters of the Telo River to give energy to 4 mills to grind wheat and chestnuts.

Argegno

The mills, still existing, today are private houses.

In Argegno there are a lot of things to see; going towards the riverside there is the area of the factories and then it is possible to walk down to the Romanic Bridge still well preserved. From the bridge it is possible, over the road passing through the village, to enjoy the wonderful lake view where the blue waters contrast to the colours of the mountains around.

Argegno Ponte

Going forward in discovering the village it is possible to reach the mouth of the River Telo and to the small pier with 2 docks, were boats seem to be anxious to leave through the lake again. In the same area there is the beach club and the Church of the Santissima Trinità. From the space in front of the pier the panorama is really amazing; waters are all around the Isola Comacina and a piece of Sala Comacina can be seen.

Argegno

Turning back the other way around, to the centre of the village, the view is not the classic panorama of the village with houses one lying on the others, but due to the grade, they seems to climb on each other and looks like the typical panorama of the Liguria coasts.

Between the churches and the lakeside

Among the houses it appears the bell tower of the Santa Margherita Church, a little bit on the side and very scenic, closed to the cemetery around 200 metres at the south of the village. Inside the church there are 3 naves (the last one of which built back in the 800th) and polygonal apse. At the right end side there are the bell tower and the sacristy, not outside but inside the building.

Just outside one of these there is the Sculpture of Santa Margherita, further than paintings illustrating Santa Margherita, the Croix and Saint Thomas.

It is difficult to stop watching at the panorama appearing to whom look at this place, however also the Church of the Saint Trinity must be visited. In Neo Romanic style it was built in 1600 and sanctify in 1929 by Bishop Adolfo Pagani. On the front there are the mosaics of the 4 evangelists, of Saint Anna (Protector of Argegno), Saint Abbondio (protector of Como) and the rose window.

Argegno Chiesa SS Trinità

Inside the church, looking upside, it is possible to notice the roof which looks like a shed. Looking to the entrance instead the wonderful rose window with amazing colours is on top of the original pipe organ, already existing in the previous ancient church, sustained  by 2 marble holy water font.

A lot of sculpture can be admired within the church:  Virgin Maria, Saint Joseph, Saint Teresina, Saint Antony and the Sacred Heart. On the left hand side there is a restructured painting of the Nativity.

The area is not a quite space, in fact in front of the church there is the lido where in the summers a lot of people have meetings looking for fresh water to swim in. The Lido is perfect for everyone who wants to have an aperitif and taste something on the side of the waters of the Como Lake enjoying the panorama.

The Lido is not just a beach with swimming pool, but also a restaurant, a pub and a pizzeria where in the Friday nights music shows are usually offered.

Lido di Argegno

Walking up the stairway on the left hand side of the church and walking ahead, turning right, there is the cable car that gets people up to the Pigra Viewpoint, actually known as the “Terrace of the lake”.

A climb quiet and panoramic offering amazing views. The high gap from the cable car to the viewpoint is 650 meter and once on top the view will show the high numbers of villages like Laglio, Nesso, Argegno, Lezzeno, Bellagio, Varenna, Punta Balbianello, Comacina Island. But it is not enough because the mountains reflected in the lake can be now admired in a new perspective: the Gordona Rock, The San Primo Mountain, the Grigna, the Grignetta and the Pizzo dei Tre Signori become an amazing context.

Argegno Funivia Pigra

Once on the top, the view is really incredible, but a visit to the village is a must, to its characteristics glimpse, the nice houses with rock face among more modern homes, its fountains and the churches (Santa Margherita and San Rocco). For walking lovers walking from here it is possible to reach the Colonno Alp or the Monte Galbiga.

Argegno, even being a small village, is a real pearl to be visited. Once in your heart you will never be able to forget it.

What to see at the Angera Rock

The Angera Rock is a place full of charme and culture. It is a must to go there when visiting Angera. It is sitting in a panoramic place on the top of a rocky spur on the upper side of the Maggiore Lake.

Originally owned by Archiepiscopal Table it becomes property of the Visconti Family on 1384; in the 1449 is bought by Vitaliano Borromeo and is still now property of the family.

Visiting the Angera Rock

It is possible to reach the Angera Rock by car and parking at the small park in front of it. After having paid the ticket and just behind the ticket office there is the paved street that in few steps drive people just at the building.

On the left hand side there is the amazing panorama of the Maggiore Lake and Arona; on the right hand side there is the building, while just in front there is the bar.

Vista dalla Rocca di Angera

Just inside, in the big square, it is possible both to access directly to the Doll and Toys Museum or staying looking at the Romanesque covering of the sarcophagus dated back to the VII Century and the historical room with the Press.

Tinaia alla Rocca di Angera

The Dolls and Toys’ Museum

The Museum of Dolls and childhood fashion of the Angera Rock was desired by Princess Bona Borromeo back in 1988 and has grown thank to its assistants and benefactors.

What in the past was shown inside the Petit Musée du Costume in Tours (collected with love by Robert Pesché and his wife Madame Gisèle Pesché) is now exposed in these rooms, after the Petit Musée risked to lose everything due to the lack of financing.

In this Museum, organized in 12 rooms, it is possible to admire dolls coming from different ages and made of various materials. The goal of the Museum, through a linear time itinerary, is to show the changes of this kind of game during the years.

Museo della bambola e del giocattolo Rocca di Angera

The dolls, well dressed and with their annexed trousseau while making particular activities, are posed in specific cases one after the other. Bilingual panels illustrate the materials they are made of and the related characteristics. For example the ceramics is easy to work and to wash, and became building material due to its strength.

It is easy to stop astonished in front of the dolls with nice faces and well defined particulars. Small dolls well dressed represent the fashion of the relative age. Really impressive are the “Frozen Charlie”, fully made of shiny porcelain with their nice colours and without joints, or the French “Mannequin Dolls” with their original trousseaus.

Museo della bambola e del giocattolo Rocca di Angera

Furthermore in the Museum it is possible to see miniatures of furniture of the collection of Roberta della Seta Sommi Picenardi, and also the merry-go-round horses in the area with the Japanese dolls.

Most of the dolls are made of mix of materials: wood, porcelain, papier-mâché. There are also the nice wax dolls, typical from the second half of the 19th Century.

Some of them are really bizarre, like the ones that offer the possibility to open their bell to see their internal mechanism allowing them to walk, or to send kisses. Particular is the “Gibson Girl” doll, inspired to the character created by the designer Charles Dana Gibson.

And how to forget the old majolica from Europe and Far East.

Historical rooms and medieval garden

Looking around the rooms of the Angera Rock, it is possible to find some rooms that, through furniture and paintings tell people about stories and myths.

An example of what we mean is the Mythologic Room, where myths of Atlanta and Ippomene are the subjects of a painting made by Guido Reni. Another example is the one of Apollo and Marsia. In the Room of the Justice, with the paintings of the Master of Angera, there are represented the achievements of Ottone Visconti, archbishop of Milan, who fight against Napo della Torre who was defeated in Desio in the 1277.

Rocca d'Angera

Over the register there are 3 astronomical and astrological subjects.

To enjoy an amazing view it is necessary to go on top of the tower (if you suffer of acrophobia or claustrophobia the last meters could annoy): from here you it is possible to admire the Maggiore Lake and Arona, just in front of the Rock, other than the Alps and Prealps.

Obviously, visiting the Angera Rock, you can avoid to visit the Medieval Garden with the Garden of the Small Grasses, divided in small flowerbeds with odoriferous and medical grasses. Walking through the garden you can see the orchard and the small forest as well, just below the Rock which dominates the whole area.

Giardino Medievale Rocca di Angera

An afternoon at the Angera Rock means entering a fairy-tale atmosphere, like jumping in the past, enjoy amazing viewpoints. If at the end of the visit there is some more time available do not forget to visit the town: you will be really satisfied of it.

The Nameless Castle (Castello dell’Innominato)

The “Castello dell’Innominato” (Nameless Castle), also known as “Castello di Somasca” and “Rock of Vercurago”, landing on the Lake of Garlate, is one of the places to visit when someone wants to know the places where Alessandro Manzoni set his famous novel. Now it is just a little bit more than a rude, but can easily be reached and from its position there is a wonderful view of the lake.

How to get there

Getting there is quite easy and is possible reach it both by car, driving straight to Maggianico, or on foot through a nice panoramic track of about 15 minutes walking.

In this second case, it is necessary to get Vercurago, parking, and walking up to the San Girolamo Sanctuary. Once passed over the stairs enter the strict way with low declivity.

Walking ahead there is a new open space that allow to reach the “Chapel Street”, built up in the 1760, that drives to the Castel. Along the track, on the right side, there are 11 Chapels and in every one there is one  sculpture representing moments of the life of San Girolamo, while on the left side it is possible to seed lake views.

Strada verso il Castello dell'Innominato

The suggestion for the walk is to wear  comfortable shoes, since the track is made of little stones, the last part is dirt track and the castle is without floor; rest of the castle there are just some walls, while the floor is just made of grass.

Before getting the castle there is the “Saint Stairway”, built up in the 1837 bc is one of the ways to get to the Castle. At the starting of the way up there is this script: “Questa scala santa tra districati rovi e sterpi tracciava da solo compiendo l’ardua fatica S. Gerolamo Emiliani per accedere a la romita grotta dove con assidue vigilie preghiere ed aspre penitenze a l’anima preparava l’ascesa a la gloria del cielo

 Scala Santa Castello dell'Innominato

Already since the year 30s it was stated that walking up the stairway (please note: it is not allowed going down through the steps, but only going up) it is possible to obtain the indulgence, while in 1916 Pope Francesco allowed the indulgence just in certain conditions.

Going forward, walking with the stairs on the right, the Renaissance Church is reached, as well as a further Sanctuary (before passing through the gate, on the right, there is a way getting to the Hermitage and from here it is possible to get the Castle after a long series of steps). From an open space on the left side it is possible to stop and see the wonderful panorama.

Going ahead up on the cobblestones and through the trees, finally the Nameless Castle is reached. Before entering the Castle, from the grass space, the understanding lake can be admired.

Lago di Garlate

History of the “Nameless Castle”

The “Nameless Castle” was built up in the 12th Century; it was a Fortified Fortress, at first property of the Family Benaglio and then, in 1312, sold to the Family Della Torre.

For long time it had been the border between the Ducato di Milano and the Venice Republic until it was, in 1509, destroyed by the French troops.

Here, Francesco Bernardino Visconti, the man who inspired the character of the “Nameless” in the Romance “I Promessi Sposi” (The Betrothed) written by Alessandro Manzoni, lived for a period, even if its real residence was in Brignano D’Adda. The under staying village, identified as Malanotte, was the place where Alessandro Manzoni put the tavern and the headquarter of the “Bravi”.

Castello dell'Innominato

The Somaschi Fathers bought the lands in 1628 and built the Main House and the Sanctuary. They also built up the Sacromonte and the Chapels, with the aid of Architect Giuseppe Bovara, while in 1902, the tower was transformed in Chapel in honour of the Saint and it is here possible to admire a scene of Saint that gives  orphans things to eat.

On the right end side of the Castle  there is a chapel entitled to Saint Ambrogio; about this chapel there are information back to 1339. It was reconditioned in 1530; it is possible to look at it but not entering and is just used in some occasions. Looking through the bars, other than the benches, an apse dedicated to Saint Ambrogio can be seen.

Cappella di Sant'Ambrogio Castello dell'Innominato

What remain of the Nameless Castle, other than the Chapels, is part of the bastions, the external walls and the cross, that substitute the older one dedicated to the Saint. Just closed to the cross there is an inscription dedicated by the Alpines from Bergamo-Lecco-Como to P. Giovanni Battista Pigato, military Chaplain on the front Greek-Albanese-Russian, Julia Division.

Castello dell'Innominato

To go back to the village it is possible walk back again through the same trail or, just out of the castle, go to the left and walk down the steps. This way it is also possible, walking just few steps, reach the Heritage and finally get the gates sitting just closed to the Resurrection Church and finally to the Chapel Trail.

Piona Abbey, spirituality and culture on the Como Lake

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.

Abbazia di Piona

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.

Piona Abbey

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”.

Abbazia di Piona quadro misterioso

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.

Abbazia di Piona

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.

Piona, chapter room

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.

Abbazia Piona Grotta Lourdes

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.

Abbazia di Piona panorama

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.

Isola Madre, the Island loved by Flaubert

The Isola Madre, positioned at the center of the Borromeo Gulf, was once called Isola di San Vittore and later Isola Maggiore. It is the largest of the Borromean islands; It is 330 meters long and 220 meters wide. It attracts tourists eager to admire the splendid panorama of the lake, the historic villa characterized by sumptuous rooms but, above all, the carefully well-finished gardens.

Discovering the Gardens of the Isola Madre

Walking you can admire the beautiful exteriors designed at the end of the 18th century on the trail of an ancient orchard (which later became the olive grove and citrus grove) that remained almost unchanged despite the passage of time and you can also see plant specimens from around the world, some of which are very rare (an example is the Kashmir Cypress that has now reached the 200 years of life). This garden is one of the oldest botanical gardens in Italy. Here the star anise, cypress trees, camellias, azaleas, rhododendrons, magnolias, maples, orange trees, bananas, palm trees and many other varieties make a fine show and make the place unique and spectacular. The garden is also home to the well-known “scala dei morti”, covered by a splendid collection of wisteria.

Isola Madre

Although the view is amazing throughout the year, it is right in the spring season that the island gives the best, thanks to the blossoming of flowers and plants that come back to life after the winter torpor; it is therefore in summer that, who lands on the Isola Madre remembers with greater affection and wonder the scenarios they could enjoy.

Peacock, Isola Madre

Surprisingly, you can also see a variety of animal species which have found here a place of shelter as some colourful plumage parrots, peacocks, pheasants, ducks and bantams, just to name a few.

The palace

From the beginning the palace was built to be the summer residence of counts Borromeo. Inside, in addition to the beautiful furnishings from the historic houses of the family, there are tapestries, paintings and works of art of great value, dating back mostly to the 17th century; the collection of puppets is original and it is made even more interesting by the sets and backdrops of the little theatres dating back to 800. The Hall of Seasons or the one of the dolls, with a collection of 19th century dolls can’t be missed either.

Isola Madre, Garden

Flaubert was right by saying: “Isola Madre is the most voluptuous place I’ve ever seen in the world“.

 

What to do and see in Sirmione

Sirmione is a known and appreciated climate and thermal centre. It is a small wonder perched on the shores of Lake Garda. It is so admired and loved that it deserved a dedication by Catullus who called it “Pearl of the peninsulas and islands”. It also hosted  Maria Callas who, from 1950 to 1959 lived there with her husband Giovanni Battista Meneghini.

Sirmione between culture and spirituality

Situated on a peninsula that divides Desenzano and Peschiera, the city is situated at the end of a bridge, beyond which rises a Scalinger Castle. The Castle is a  13th-century building with 3 crenelated towers, a 47 metres high donjon which dominates the Lake and the large inner courtyard; in the Castle you can stroll on walkways and pass on drawbridges until you get to the dock yard. Here, if you climb up the 146 steps, you can reach the guard station.

Scaliger Castle Sirmione

Lovers of religious tourism, art and architecture should pay a visit to the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore (or Maria della Neve). This church dates from the 15th century and it has some 15th -16th century frescoes. Tourists can also see St. Anne’s Church and the Church of San Pietro in Mavino which dates back to the 8th century and it is characterized by a gabled structure.

Santa Maria Maggiore Sirmione

Walking along the narrow pedestrian streets you get lost in a world of colours and showcases. Here shopping is the mistress  among shops selling souvenirs and items for all budgets. You will also find boutiques where you can do some exclusive shopping and admire garments with the typical quality of the made in Italy.

Catullo  Caves

If you continue walking  through the irregular streets of the town, you will take a road that leads up to the Grotte di Catullo, the ruins of a Roman villa which can be visited for a fee. It is a perfect place for a dip in the culture and to enjoy a breathtaking view from its privileged position. You can spend a few hours walking among the ruins, olive trees and walkways and turn this time into a romantic moment if you have the good fortune to watch the sunset.

Between sport and relax

There are a lot of thing to see in Sirmione, and not only relating to history and spirituality.

If you want to admire the beautiful Lake you can take the Passeggiata delle Muse. This walk  leads up to the beach of Lido delle Bionde or the most famous Jamaica Beach, where however is necessary to pay attention to the rocks which are slippery and failing is quite  easy.

Jamaica Beach

As a matter of facts, among many things, Sirmione also offers beaches where to spend time relaxing and basking under the sun or it provides sports lovers the chance to enjoy windsurfing, sailing, fishing, boating. And for those who don’t love water sport there’s also a chance to play golf, go hiking and horseback riding.

Famous for its thermal baths, Sirmione offers residents and tourists 3 spas: Aquaria, Virgil and Catullus.

It is a real pearl which gives emotions and unforgettable experiences, leaving the memory of amazing landscapes and carefree days.

Comabbio Lake, nature, relax and birdwatching

Lake Comabbio is extremely small. It is only 4 km wide, 8 meters deep, and it takes its name from a village in the province of Varese; due to its  dimensions its surface freezes completely during winter. This makes it an ideal place to go ice-skating.

Only few towns mirror in these lake-waters: Comabbio, Mercallo, Ternate, Vergiate, Varano Borghi.

Lago di Comabbio

Surrounded by the mountains, today the lake is separated from Lake Varese with which once formed a whole, and it is a privileged observation point for all the birdwatching lovers who, easily will see and be surrounded by a great number o species of wonderful birds.

The villages around the Comabbio Lake

In Comabbio you can relax on the beautiful beach or enjoy the splendour of nature strolling along one of ecological trails; those who have a particular interest in the artistic and religious tourism, cannot miss the opportunity to visit the Church of San Giacomo, with its single nave and its nice wooden Tabernacle. After a break in this church, you can visit the sanctuary of Beata Vergine del Rosario.

Santuario Comabbio

Also in Mercallo, known as Mercallo dei Sassi for the erratic blocks in the area, you can take advantage of a beach to relax and sunbathe; the Church of St. John the Evangelist and the Chapel of the Magi will be of interest for the history, art and religion lovers while the trail around the lake side show amazing vies of the panorama and offer the opportunity of seeing a wide range of bird species.

San Giovanni Evangelista Mercallo

Vergiate is home to several churches: St. Gallen, Santa Maria Assunta, San Martino. As it is formed by the aggregation of 5 municipalities, it boasts an extensive territory in which it is possible to admire some remains from the Middle Ages, such as the Tower of Corgeno or the towers of Vergiate and Sesona.

A peculiarity of this small stretch of water is that  motor boats are banned. This allows a massive fish and floral species presence.

The Vezio castel, a balcony on Varenna

Vezio Castle, in Vezio, a charming village and hamlet of Perledo, is located near the beautiful and romantic Varenna; you get there climbing by car, which must be necessarily left in the small parking lot in front  of the town or, if you are trained, you can get there via a comfortable walk .

A vollage with a castle

The few inhabitants (about 50 divided into 20 families) and tourists can move only on foot. The car use is strictly prohibited, lucky for those who want to enjoy the view of the small and narrow streets that cross it, winding between stone houses that are ancient-looking and intimate; a series of narrow roads, ups and downs and steps lead down to the small local cemetery, and from there, continuing on a path in gravel, you arrive at the famous castle.

After passing the bar, the restaurant and the souvenir shop you find yourself in front of a cosy tower and some ruins that tell of an ancient history; no sumptuous rooms, furnishings and objects full of charm but only what’s left of an original castle dated 1100 that, among other things, offers a breathtaking view.

Castello di Vezio

After passing the ticket office you can visit the place  without haste; the first guest that welcomes visitors belongs to falconry and it is a large owl called Arthur, held at bay by a cage because of its aggressiveness and hostility.

The balcony of the Vezio Castel

Along the gravel driveway you reach the balcony that offers a spectacular view of Lake Como; going left, after a few steps, you come to the Garden of Olives where the other components of falconry are. Those who wish to enjoy their beauty can wait for the show.

View from Vezio

Continuing the visit, going past other walls, you reach the tower; a steep staircase leads you to a suspension bridge (of a few meters) that leads to the tower itself.

At least three ramps lead to the visit of weapons, armour and momentous items; the lion’s share, however, makes it the lariosauro (fossil reptile lived about 200 years ago in the underlying lake are exhibited here). Then, not without any effort, you get to the top of the tower where the scenery opens up at 360° on the lake.

Vezio Castle

We are opposite Bellagio and from here the two branches of the lake are clearly visible: the Lecco one on the left and lake Como on the right; on a clear day the view is unparalleled and Varenna helps to complete the picture and make it a unique view.

Leaving the tower, along the path on the left side, you will cross some gardens that lead to the entrance of the underground: the defensive outpost of Gen. Cadorna (1915 /18) placed right in front of Menaggio, place of a hypothetical first German descent. Continuing along the path, after a few steps you’ll end up back to the initial balcony, and then at the entrance.