Bellagio – Colico by boat

This is an excerpt from the book “Lake Como” by Enrico Massetti. You can buy the full book here.

Bellagio – Photo © Alex Molchan


This itinerary is a boat ride from Bellagio, to the nordernmost village on Lake Como: Colico. You can return from Colico to Milan with the train.


Bellagio lies at the top of the “Larian triangle,” on the peninsula that divides the Como branch from that of Lecco.

It is no mistake that Bellagio is called the “pearl” of Lake Como. It is undoubtedly the most famous resort on the lake. For centuries, its scenic location has enchanted artists and writers, not only from Italy but also from abroad. It is situated on the tip of a headland that divides the lake into the two legs of Como and Lecco.

The town stretches along the coast, and part of it goes up the slopes of the peninsula.

Because of its location, it has a great variety of views; indeed, it offers a good view of the whole lake. On the northern horizon, one can see the Pre-Alps.

Some of the best views can be seen from the park of Villa Serbelloni and the top of Monte San Primo. On an unusually bright day, one can make out the Alps, from Mont Blanc to the Ortles, and the Madonnina on top of the Duomo of Milan.


Both the historic center situated at a higher level dominated by the Romanesque Basilica Of San Giacomo (enlarged in the Baroque Age) and the more recent arcade lake-front are all preserved intact. Among the aristocratic villas let’s remember Villa Serbelloni, first castle, then country residence and transformed into a villa at the end of the 15th century. Later once again restructured in the 17th and turned into a hotel during the last decade of the 19th century, it is presently appointed headquarters of conventions and study tours.

The park – the lake’s most extensive- extends all over the entire peninsula to the small town’s mount with a splendid view onto the two branches of the Lake. Viewing the lake is the Neo-classical Villa Melzi, from the severe and elegant forms, realized between the 1808 and 1810 and based on Giacomo Albertelli’s project for the Count Francesco Melzi, vice-president, and Chancellor of the Kingdom of Italy.

Described by Stendhal, this noble residence as well had among its guests’ famous personalities: from the Emperors Francesco I and Ferdinand of Austria to the musician Liszt. Worthy of mention as well, Villa Trivulzio, built in the 18th century and restored a century later with its grand English-style park, and Villa Trotti, in its neo-Gothic remake with Moorish decorations and with rarities that enrich the park.

Where to stay in Bellagio

There are hotels, apartments, villas and condo hotels available, check it out and make a reservation here.


Then you reach Menaggio (located about halfway up the western shore and at the exit of the highway coming from Lugano) significant commercial and services center beside a well-known resort place to stay. At two kilometers, up the hill, you find the hamlet of Loveno. Here Villa Mylius Vigoni rises, restored by Gaetano Besia at the request of a German banker and Enrico Mylius in the first half of the 19th-century, characterized by an interesting English-style park that develops at its back, and today headquarters of the of the Italo-German Villa Vignoni center, principal place of meetings for seminars an conventions.


Varenna - photo © Cendali Gianpietro

From Menaggio, the boat crosses the Lake in about 15 minutes to land on the eastern bank, at Varena, terminus with Cadenabbia of the ferryboat service for vehicles, situated on a peninsula at the mouth of the Esino stream. The center, structured according to the design layout of Roman origin, and village fortified in the Middle Ages, still preserves town-planning and buildings of unique value.

Here, in the nearby church of San Giorgio of the 14th century, later re-elaborated in the 17th-18th century, two magnificent villas rise. Villa Isimbardi or dei Cipressi (of the Cypresses), 19th-century reconstruction of an older building, with suggestive terraces and rows of Cypresses, and Villa Monastero, directly in front over the waters of the Lake. The latter name comes from the original all-women monastery active here between the ‘200 and ‘500, transformed later in residence in the second half of the 16th century at the request of Paolo Mornico.

Fascinating not too far from Varenna, is Fumelatte (Milk River), the hamlet of the same name as its particular stream. It’s a very short and foaming course, springs back to life every year in the Spring from a mountain cave; it empties into the Lake after only 250 meters (it is the matter of fact the shortest in Italy), and even Leonardo da Vinci in the Atlantic Code mentioned it.

Where to stay in Varenna

There are hotels, apartments, B&Bs and guesthouses available, check it out and make a reservation here.

Bellano - photo © Cendali Gianpietro
Bellano – photo © Cendali Gianpietro


Resuming our course, always along this shore we reach Bellano. Upstream from the inhabited area, the suggestive ravine formed by the Pioverna is visitable. The boat, crossing the lake once again, enters the western shore. The northern features of the bank offer a landscape no longer characterized by the charm of the villas’ gardens. The settlement history is diverse. Here the villages were born first much in higher areas or halfway down the hillside, and only much later did they build along the bank. After the first landing at the hamlet of Acquaserie you pass in front of Santa Maria di Rezzonico, a small city dominated by the remains of the Castello della Torre, a little more than 200 meters of altitude, of which remain only the foundations of the wall and a 14th century crenelated Tower. The next landing place is out by the other side of the Lake at Pianello and immediately after that at Dongo. In Pianello you find a 19th-century mill that today hosts the Collection of the Larian Boat, with more than a hundred boats, implements, and accessories of the ‘700 and later.


Opposite the beautiful Piona peninsula after that we land at Gravedona, already an important center in the Romantic period, it later became chief town of the Community of the Tre Pievi – Three Parishes – (Sorico, Dongo, and Gravedona). Diverse reasons for architectonic interest, beginning with the church of Santa Maria del Tiglio (13th cent.), with two-colored borders on the exterior and an octagonal bell tower at the center of the facade. Then there is Palazzo Gallio, planed by Pellegrino Tibaldi for the Cardinal Tolomeo Gallio, begun in 1583 and later completed in 1620. After a departing a few minutes from Gravedona, we land at Domaso, crowed against the slopes of the Sasso Pelo, at the mouth of the Livio stream. During the Charlemagne Era, it was part of the famous Reichenau monastery on the Costanza Lake. Here too are some villas of the 19th and 20th cent., like Villa Camilla, site of the Town Hall.


To the south of Colico meriting a stop, Abbazia (Abbey) di Piona, with its beautiful view over the Lake. It is one of the significant complexes of interest for the typical Romanesque style of the Como tradition. Founded on the summit of the peninsula in the 13th century by the Benedictine monks of Cluny, after a period of decline the construction was restored at the beginning of the ‘900, and from 1937 belongs to the Cistercians of the Cosamari Abbey (Frosinone). To visit is also the Church of San Nicolao (12th cent.) rising on a pre-existing building, with the belfry, rebuilt in the 18th-century after the fall of the original, and the enclosure of the middle of the 13th cent. (recently restored), where Romantic and Gothic elements are found, surrounded by a lovely four-sided arcade in white and black marble.

Colico Photo © zuhairah


From Damaso, the journey continues onto the other shore towards Colico, essential communications center since antiquity due to the roads coming from Lecco, Chiavenna, and Sondrio. Precisely for this strategic position suffered invasions and devastations which, coupled with the frequent flooding caused by the Adda, provoked an almost total decrease in population at the end of the 17th century.

The reason for its come back was the reopening of the passage of the Stelvio, of the Maloja and the Spulga. The landscape is of particular interest, with the unique construction in schistose stone and, to the north of Colico, the rains of the Forte di Fuentes, star-shaped defensive bulwark, completed by the Spanish governor of the same name and demolished by Napoleon at the end of the 18th century.

Where to stay in Colico

There are hotels, apartments, B&Bs and guesthouses available, check it out and make a reservation here.

This is an excerpt from the book “Lake Como” by Enrico Massetti. You can buy the full book here.

William Dellorusso
Lombardia in Cucina: The Flavours of Lombardy

Milan-style risotto, pizzoccheri Valtellinesi, and pumpkin tortelli to start; casoeula, Milan-style cutlets, frogs stewed in tomato to follow, and to send, a slice of sbrisolona cake or panettone.
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Fifty years ago, a group of Italian scholars gathered to discuss a problem: how to preserve traditional Italian cooking. They formed the Italian Academy of Cuisine to document classic recipes from every region. The academy’s more than seven thousand associates spread out to villages everywhere, interviewing grandmothers and farmers at their stoves, transcribing their recipes—many of which had never been documented before. This is the culmination of that research, an astounding feat—2,000 recipes that represent the patrimony of Italian country cooking. Each recipe is labeled with its region of origin, and it’s not just the ingredients but also the techniques that change with the geography. Sprinkled throughout are historical recipes that provide fascinating views into the folk culture of the past. There are no fancy flourishes here, and no shortcuts; this is true salt-of-the-earth cooking. The book is an excellent everyday source for easily achievable recipes, with such simple dishes as White Bean and Escarole Soup, Polenta with Tomato Sauce, and Chicken with Lemon and Capers. For ease of use there are four different indexes. La Cucina is an essential reference for every cook’s library.

Milano in Cucina: The Flavours of Milan
The famous Risotto Alla Milanese gets its golden hue from the precious spice saffron. Legend has it that the dish came about when a Milanese painter decided to gild the risotto served at his wedding banquet with a harmless gold-colored dye. In Milan, they traditionally serve Risotto Alla Milanese with ossobuco (braised veal shank).
Traditionally made with raisins and candied citron, or with a creamy cream filling, the light, fluffy brioche-like bread called panettone may be tall or short, covered with chocolate or flavored with various liquors, but it’s always a symbol of the Christmas season.
With its hallmark domed shape, panettone graced Christmas tables in Milan since at least the 15th-century. Common knowledge claims its invention is from Milan. It is the most famous Christmas Lombardia food.

The Pax side of the Moon featuring Cesareo
Lombardia (Dicon tutti che sei mia) Quarantine Version - feat. Cesareo (Quarantine Version)

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