Merate - Villa Belgioioso
The province of Lecco lies at the eastern shore of Lake Como; to the imposing corner of the mountains, Lecco present a gentle spectacle of villas in the midst of centuries-old grounds.
The city grew rapidly starting from the 18th century with the Industrial Revolution, becoming one of the most important Italian industrial centres, and is today the capital of a wealth, productive province.
The city enjoys an almost unique position, surrounded by fantastic, fairy tale countryside. Barricaded between rugged mountains, the wide basin is dominated by the Grigne spur, San Martino and the unmistakable crest of Resegone, the mountains so loved by artists like Manzoni and Stendhal. Lecco is essentially a modern centre which numbers several interesting monuments both ancient, such as the Visconti bridge and tower, and modern, like the buildings of Mario Cereghini and Mino Fiocchi. Its fame is closely tied to its literary mentions in the novel “I Promessi Sposi,” Alessandro Manzoni’s masterpiece.
A journey of discovery of this land can follow the various threads that form a multicoloured, precious weft: nature and its protection, the inhabited settlements that dot the landscape, the architectural phases with particular regard to the Romanesque period. Various themed itineraries are provided that promote a profound knowledge of the art, history and nature.
Ancient villages immersed in landscapes so seductive they influenced the renowed brush strokes of Leonardo da Vinci: this is the province of Lecco.
The city of Lecco, alongside promenades along the shores of the lake, offers the chance to follow routes made famous by Manzoni that tradition holds are where events in “I Promessi Sposi” occurred. The proximity to Lake Como provides numerous seaside spots that are ideal for relaxing holidays and water sports, but also cultural visits to towns rich in history and ancient monuments.
Varenna is one of these, with its pleasant stony and sandy beaches, and small harbours where you can take boat excursions along the Lario. The town is located on a headland at the foot of the San Defendente mountain: a favoured position that gives a fine view of the area. The centerpiece of Varenna is without doubt Villa Monastero, built over an ancient Cistercian monastery, which enjoys a wonderful panorama of the centre of the Lario as well as being surrounded by a stunning garden rich in exotic plants. Inside the villa, moreover, important conventions and conferences are organized with international standing. A real treasure is Vezio, a small medieval town and its castle, an interesting example of military fortification that can be reached by a cobbled path. Lying above Varenna, this ancient fortress offers a pleasing panorama of the lake and the olive groves that surround the castle. At Dervio, the scenery moves from the beaches of the fishermen’s quarter to the ancient castle, dating from the 14th century, while the church of Santi Quirico e Giulitta lies in the oldest part of the town and dates from the 13th century. Abbadia Lariana, in addition to its grassy shore by the lake, is the location for the fascinating Silk Throwing Museum, where the story is told of the centuries old local tradition of weaving and silk processing. The church of San Giorgio a Mandello del Lario is outstanding and represents a remarkable art gallery from the medieval world, and can be visited on request: the Moto Guzzi Museum in Mandello tells the story of the locally manufactured motor bike.
The Abbey of Piona in Colico, an architectural jewel and oasis of peace and spirituality situated on a promontory which slopes down to the lake, is not to be missed, along with the Fuentes and Montecchio forts which bear witness to the great military strategic importance of the area. The former was built during Spanish domination in the 17th century and today only ruins remain, while the latter was constructed during the Great War and even today stands as a fine example of military technology.
The religious nature of the people of Lecco can be seen in the numerous churches and sanctuaries scattered across the entire territory, which are important examples of Romanesque architecture with extremely well preserved and valuable frescos. Among these is the church of San Pietro al Monte in Civate, of the most significant example of Romanesque architecture in Lombardy, with a marvellous panorama. It can be reached only after an hour’s work along a mule trail. .
Among the most important religious sites, the Monastery of Santa Maria del Lavello di Caloziocorte deserves mention, a religious complex that still incorporate the convent, cloisters and church dating from the 16th century.
The province of Lecco isn’t just about the lakes. Leaving the shore some kilometres behind, in fact, the enchanting mountain countryside of Valsassina emerges. It’s an area dotted with small, fascinating towns amid an oasis of peace and quiet that holds on to the ways and customs of the past and where time seems to have stood still.
Heading south, the verdant Brianza is encountered, where there is much evidence to its glorious past in the villas of the nobility that embellish its countryside, traversed by the river Adda which encouraged the development of various masterpieces of engineering, such as the Dams and the Bridge of Padeno d’Adda.
The strong links between the city of Lecco and “I Promessi Sposi,” the celebrated work by Alessandro Manzoni, has led to the creation of the Manzoni tour, an interesting historical and cultural journey to the places in the city that provided the backdrop to the events in the novel and which take the visitor back to the atmosphere of the 16th century at the time of Renzo and Lucia. Among the places associated with Manzoni of greatest interest, the Villa Manzoni stands out, the summer residence of the writer and the city’s museum, the Pescarenico district where the convent where Fra Cristofor lives is found, the Olate and Acquate districts with the house where Lucia is assumed to have lived, Don Abbondio’s church and Don Rodrigo’s house. Moving away from the centre of the city, it is possible to reach the Chiuso district and visit the Rocca dell’Innominato.
The province of Lecco is synonymous with tourism. The land is so rich in natural environments for all tastes and offers various options for those who love nature, sport and, more generally, outdoor tourism.
The Grigne and Resegone mountains, on whose summits some of the most famous climbers in history have trained, are the ideal spot for lovers of hard trekking and climbing.
Innumerable pathways provide evocative routes through open country for the less expert. Valsassina, for example, is the ideal summer destination for those who wish to spend their days on peaceful, healthy walks with the family, while in the winter, when the snow falls in abundance, it is transformed into a paradise for skiers with pistes and all the usual equipment, Among these, the Piani di Bobbio and Artavaggio and the Piani delle Betulle stand out.
It would be impossible not to mention the celebrated “Sentiero del Viandante” (walkway of the wayfarer), an ancient commercial road that runs for 40 kilometres 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, passing through some of the most evocative villages on the eastern shores of the lake, such as Mandello del Lario, Lierna, Varenna, Perledo and Bellano, which is famous for the “Orrido” , a deep gash in the land made by the River Pioverna which forms a beautiful waterfall.
Those who like sport and the outdoors should not forget the Lake. The shores at Lecco offer a wide range of aquatic sports, from the classic ones like canoeing and sailing to windsurfing and kite-surfing.
Bike lovers too will find a vast range of routes for every level of expertise. Mountain bikers, for example, can try their hand at the spectacular and tough routes around the lake, while the road of Brianza, with its ups and downs, are perfect testing grounds for lovers of road cycling. Breathtaking routes and absolute tranquillity make even the toughest stretches a pleasure.
Mention must also be made of the so-called extreme sports. Monte Conizzolo, for example, is a Mecca for lovers of paragliding from all over the world.
In the territory around Lecco, gourmets can find at least three schools of cuisine, three very particular and different food cultures, depending on which geographic area they belong to: lake, mountain or valley.
In the valleys and mountains, the cuisine is simple, based mainly on yellow polenta, ‘taragna’ or ‘vuncia,’ which accompanies tasty dishes of game or rustic slice beef dishes with casera cheese, produced in two forms: fatty or semi-skimmed. In Valsassina, the best known product is taleggio, but other dairy products should not be ignored, such as goat’s cheese, ricotta and burro di pascolo.
In the Brianzola area, hearty specialities prevail such as savoy cabbage (“cazzoeula,” “casoela” etc), tripe or ‘”foiolo,” polent and birds, sausages and beans and, of course, all the products from our delicatessen such as “filzette,” a type of long, thin, salami and small game. But there’s also the original “rustisciada,” a typical Brianzola dish made from pork loin and sausages browned with onion. Then there’s rabbit, cooked with special, traditional sauces: savoury stewed California rump stake, which takes its name from an old farmstead on the road between Viganò and Monza.
Fish is the undisputed king of the cuisine of the Lake. Risotto with fillets of perch is the “national disk” of Lario, but other specialities preserve the memory of a simple, folk gastronomy. The “misultitt,” by now Italianised as missoltini, lake shad caught between May and June, dried in the sun and pressed with salt in the wooden containers know as “missolte.”
Among the desserts are “miascia,” made with cornmeal and raisins, locally produced honey and dried fruit, while in Valsassina there are the traditional “caviadini” biscuits made with pastry and sugar beans.
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