Italy is the land of artists, poets, sailors and saints. However, it is also one of the most beautiful lands in the world because of the art that makes its cities true jewels to visit, the result of ancient history. The landscapes frame the architectural beauty and are varied and spectacular: they range from the Dolomites to the rolling hills of Tuscany to the green valleys and long coastline full of enchanting beaches and bays. Then there are the lakes, alpine or pre-alpine, such as the iconic Lake Como, also known as the Lario, also famous for being the setting for one of the most famous novels in Italian literature, "I Promessi Sposi ).
Lake Como is a prealpine lake basin that occupies part of the provinces of Lecco and Como and is divided into three branches: Como, Lecco and Colico. It represents the deepest lake in Italy and covers 146 km²: it is characterized by a curious Y shape and is fed by dozens of outfalls, first and foremost the Mera and Adda rivers.
The territory of Lake Como is nothing short of enchanting, so much so that since Roman times Roman nobles went there to spend a few days relaxing, paving the way for an elite form of tourism, being today a destination for the international jet set. Between mountains like the Legnone, hills, alpine valleys and picturesque lake shores, it is not surprising that a few years ago the famous newspaper "The Huffington Post "called it the most beautiful lake on the planet.
Putting history aside for a moment, like every lake Lake Como also has its own legend and monster, just like Loch Ness in Scotland. The phantom monster of the lake is said to be called Lariosaurus; it is an extinct aquatic reptile that lived about 245 million years ago, whose characteristic features were its front legs, which are presumed to be fin-like, while its hind legs would retain the original five-toed structure, probably webbed. Those who say they saw "Larrie" (Nessie's Italian cousin) claimed that the monster was more than 10 meters long. For fans of mystery stories and legends, it is possible to observe the skeleton of Lariosaurus Balsami located in a room inside the Lecco Museum of Natural History.
Lake Como was born, between the northern regions and the Padana Plain, from the continuous and secular erosion of a glacier that reached even the Brianza. The strategic position of the territory has made it a coveted prey for many peoples, from the Gauls to the Romans, to whom we owe the construction of the road that connected Rezia to Larius.
Then the Longobards took over and changed the name of this road into "Strada della Regina" (Queen's Road), in reference to their sovereign Teodolinda. Being located in a place where it was easy to reach the Spluga pass, one of the most important passes of the Alps, and the Maloja pass, a Swiss road pass, was a fundamental place for the dominations of other civilizations, such as the Franks.
In the eleventh century the city of Como became an autonomous municipality, until it fell under the dominion first of the Visconti and then of the Sforza: the latter dedicated themselves to the enlargement of the bed of the river Adda and to the realization of the important Paderno canal, useful to better reach Milan. In fact, it should not be forgotten that around Lake Como there are still marble quarries where Milan's most famous stonemasons used to stock up to build the Duomo. After the passage of the Spaniards, the Austrians and the French, Como became part of the Duchy of Milan, and was later annexed to the Kingdom of Italy.
There are many things to see during a vacation on Lake Como, including villages and villas, including Villa Melzi in Bellagio, located at the foot of the promontory that separates the Como branch from Lecco. The nineteenth-century residence, in neoclassical style, has inspired in the course of its history characters such as the composer Liszt, Stendhal and even Napoleon Bonaparte. The park surrounding the villa is certainly the most beautiful part, with flower beds, trees and exotic plants that frame the small bridge, the temple overlooking the lake and the remains of the Lazzaretto. It is impossible to go to Bellagio without reaching the Balcony of Civenna, with a breathtaking view of the lake.
In Lenno, a small hamlet of Tremezzina, there is instead the Villa del Balbianello, now FAI property wanted by Cardinal Angelo Maria Durini in the '700, stands in one of the most picturesque positions of the entire Lake Como.
Villa Carlotta, in Tremezzina, dates back to the late '600 and inside you can admire a series of paintings, including "The Last Kiss of Romeo and Juliet" by Hayez, as well as sculptures by Canova. The garden of Villa Carlotta is a true botanical paradise, including romantic tunnels of citrus trees, rhododendrons, azaleas, camellias and roses, along with a beautiful Bamboo Garden.
During a vacation on Lake Como you can not fail to visit Ossuccio, a village of pre-Roman origin whose main symbol is the Romanesque bell tower of the Church of Santa Maria Maddalena. From Ossuccio you can easily reach the Comacina Island, a strip of land surrounded by the lake, about 600 meters long and just 200 wide, covered mostly by lush Mediterranean vegetation.
Walking along the many paths of the island, which allow you to reach the Church of San Giovanni, you can admire the artistic beauties of the villages in front and the remarkable panoramic views, among the vivid colors of the vegetation that culminates in the mountain peaks. In Ossuccio there is also the Sacro Monte of Ossuccio, a devotional path declared Patrimony of UNESCO that goes up above the village, in the heart of the bush, among chapels dedicated to the stations of the Via Crucis. There are 14 chapels, decorated in Baroque style with frescoes and sculptures, which line the path through the woods to the Sanctuary of the Beata Vergine del Soccorso.
Then we recommend a visit to Lecco, even if only to visit the places related to Manzoni's novel "I Promessi Sposi" (The Betrothed), from Lucia's house in the Olate district to the Church of SS. Valeria and Vitale, which is said to have been the parish of the famous Don Abbondio.
From Como instead, where you can visit the Duomo of the end of the 1300s built in the Como style and the ancient Palazzo del Broletto of 1215, you can take a funicular to the Balcone Lariano of Brunate which, from a height of 1084 meters, offers one of the most beautiful views of Lake Como and even Monte Rosa and Monviso.
Getting to know an area you are visiting for the first time also means learning more about its traditions, folklore and gastronomic heritage. For example, organizing a trip in the summer you can participate in events such as the historical commemoration "Como Medievale", which recalls the jubilation with which Frederick Barbarossa was welcomed in the city for having agreed to help in the fight against Milan.
Very scenic is then the Festival of St. John or Lumaghitt Ossuccio, especially for the grandiose fireworks display that seems to literally set fire to the island Comacina, with the dark lake Como dotted with the lights of the boats.
As for the typical dishes of the territory of Lake Como, we can not fail to mention first of all the polenta Toc prepared with butter and cheese and accompanied with mushrooms or meat. Speaking of cheeses, we recommend tasting Zincarlin, Quartirolo lombardo and taleggio, preferably accompanied by salami.
Impossible not to feast on fish from the lake, such as mixed fried fish, perch, bleak and whitefish; then there are the Missoltini, fish fillets first dried and then fried or au gratin. Among the typical desserts of the Como area there are Paradell fruit fritters and Cutizza, a sort of fried cake enriched with fruit. In any case at the base of the cooking of the territory of Lake Como there is the extra virgin olive oil of the Lombard lakes, a real delicacy with a velvety aspect and an aromatic taste.
Infine, vale la pena citare l' artigianato tipico del Lago di Como e a tal proposito non si può dimenticare Como e la sua tradizione nella lavorazione della seta: risale al 1400 e si pensa che quasi il 95% della seta italiana è prodotta a Como. Via libera quindi all'acquisto di cravatte, sciarpe e foulard, per ricordare questo soggiorno al Lago davvero speciale.
In alternativa si possono acquistare modelli in legno della Lucia Manzoniana , una delle barche più antiche del lago, costruita interamente in legno, ribattezzata dal Manzoni ne "I Promessi Sposi".