Wandering Through the Ancient Paths of Lecco
The province of Lecco in the Lombardy region of Italy lies on the eastern shores of Lake Como and is an array of ancient villas and parks decorating a mountainous background.
The city of Lecco grew rapidly beginning with the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century and eventually became one of the country’s most important industrial centers. Today it is the capital of a wealthy and productive province.
As you journey through this land you can travel along many paths and trails that intertwine to form a fascinating story; protected nature reserves, inhabited settlements dotting the landscape and epochs seen in the architecture, in particular that of the Romanesque. Various tour themes highlight the provincial art, history and terrain.
The province is composed of ancient villages and landscapes so captivating they influenced the brushstrokes of one Leonardo da Vinci.
The city of Lecco is fronted by lakeside promenades leading to the places made famous by Alessandro Manzoni in his literary masterpiece The Betrothed (I Promessi Sposi).
The proximity to Lake Como provides numerous seaside spots that are ideal for relaxing vacations, enjoying water sports or cultural visits to ancient towns and monuments. Varenna is certainly among these, with its pleasant sandy beaches and small harbors. The centerpiece of Varenna is without a doubt Villa Monastero, built over an ancient Cistercian Monastery perched over Lake Como’s center. The monastery is also surrounded by a stunning garden rich in exotic plants, while important international conventions and conferences are organized inside the villa itself.
A jewel from the Middle Ages, Vezio, with its castle, is an interesting example of military fortification, accessible via a cobbled path. Lying above Varenna, this ancient fortress offers a charming vista of the lake and the olive groves surrounding the castle. At Dervio, the scenery moves from the beaches of the fishermen’s quarter to the ancient castle that dates from the 14th century, while the 13th century Church of Santi Quirico and Giulitta lies in the oldest part of the town.
The Lariana Abbey is the location for the Silk Museum, where the local, centuries-old silk making tradition is narrated in detail. The Church of San Giorgio in Mandello del Lario is outstanding and represents a remarkable art gallery from Medieval times and can be visited upon request. Finally, the Guzzi Moto Museum in Mandello recounts the history of this locally-manufactured motorcycle.
The Abbey of Piona in Colico, an architectural gem and oasis for spirituality, is situated on a promontory that slopes down to the lake. The Abbey is a must-see, along with the Fuentes and Montecchio Forts that evidence the great military strategic importance of the area. The former was built during Spanish domination in the 17th century, while the latter was constructed during World War I. The Fuentes Fort now lies in ruins, the Montecchio Fort remains today a fine example of military technology.
Religion has long been of significance in Lecco Province, as can be seen in its numerous churches and sanctuaries. Important examples of Romanesque architecture contain extremely well-preserved and valuable frescoes, among these is the Church of San Pietro al Monte in Civate, one of the most significant Romanesque works in Lombardy.
Another of the most important religious sites is the Monastery of Santa Maria del Lavello in Calolziocorte, a 16th century religious complex made up of a convent, cloisters and the church.
Lecco offers numerous historical tours that take visitors on an in-depth exploration of the land. The ties between the city of Lecco and The Betrothed (I Promessi Sposi), the celebrated work by Alessandro Manzoni, has led to the creation of the Manzoni Tour, an interesting historical and cultural exploration of the places that provided the backdrop to the novel’s events, which take the visitor back to 16th century Renzo and Lucia. Among other places associated with the Manzoni Tour are Villa Manzoni, the writer’s summer residence, as well as the Civic Museum, the Pescarenico District, Don Abbondio’s church, Don Rodrigo’s house and the Olate and Acquate Districts, with the supposed House of Lucia.
It would be impossible not to mention the famous Wayfarer’s Path, an ancient commercial road that runs 25 miles from the Abbadia Lariana to the gates of Valtellina. This route, which can easily be done in stages, follows ancient mule tracks across fields, chestnut woods and olive groves, until it reaches Mount Albiga. The trail passes through some of the most enchanting villages on Lake Como’s eastern shores, particularly Mandello del Lario, Lierna, Varenna, Perledo and Bellano, well-known for its Orrido, a deep gorge and waterfall in the land formed by the Pioverna River.