Le Chic En Rose

Diaries of an independent traveller

After our lovely cruise on board the gorgeous old Milano (see here) we set off to explore the ancient Abbazia di Piona. Highly recommended by our tour guide, Julia, (from our day out in St Moritz), it is not as well known as other places on Lake Como and on this particular April afternoon we more or less had the place to ourselves. In fact as we wandered up the thick wooded path in the direction of the abbey we did begin to wonder if we were coming to the right place. It was so quiet and still you could hear a pin drop – a lovely mild spring day though still brisk enough for winter clothes with the wind chill.


Not a soul was around when we got to the gates and we were a little unsure whether to go inside. There was a notice with signs about appropriate dress – common sense such as covering your shoulders out of respect in the warmer months (scarves always come in handy when travelling!). Apart from observing the appropriate dress decorum, there were no other restrictions and entrance was free. Irrespective of anyone’s religious views, Piona is a gorgeous spot – so tranquil and peaceful by the lake with beautifully maintained gardens, a lovely old church and ancient cloisters.


Piona Abbey is set on the Olgiasca Hill at the foot of Mount Legnone near the northern tip of Lake Como. Sources say that that a monastic community first lived there in the 7th century. Some of  the ruins behind today’s church of the Blessed Virgin and San Nicola belong to the original buildings. Towards the end of the 11th century the abbey was involved in the Cluniac Reformation when monks from the mother abbey in Cluny (Eastern France) moved to help restore monastic life in failing communities elsewhere.  Eventually from the beginning of the 19th century, the abbey passed into the ownership of a series of local families before being bequeathed by the Rocca family along with the Piona Estate to the monks of the Cistercian Congregation of Casamari.


Today you can stroll through the beautiful grounds with stunning vistas of Lake Como in the background, explore the old cloisters and visit the abbey church. The orchards were starting to blossom and the scents and perfumes were lovely.



The monks’ shop is only open a couple of times a day (from memory once in the morning and once in the afternoon) and well worth a visit if you have time. There are a myriad of beverages distilled from the abundance of flowers and herbs growing in the mountains – we came away with the San Bernardo Elixir (27 %  proof – I bargained Monsieur down from 40%!) and guaranteed to blow more than a few cobwebs away. It tastes a bit like schnapps mixed with licorice and has come in very useful this past few months with Perth’s especially (by our standards) cold winter! The shop also sells a good selection of other items such as books, hand-made soaps and herbal sachets – would have loved to have brought some of the toiletries back with me as well as the liquor and books but probably wouldn’t have got them through Australian customs.


We were mindful of getting back down to the lake to catch the last ferry of the day. The Milano came round the corner as promised having been up to Colico (the northern lake terminus) and back! We were the only passengers getting on and off at Piona and the quay was manned by an elderly gentleman who waited in his car between ferries.



Although we only spent about an hour looking round Piona it was a wonderful interlude and well worth making the trip up from our base in the central part of the lake.



Piona Abbey

Copyright © 2016 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

21 thoughts on “Abbazia di Piona – The Abbey By The Lake

  1. Paul S says:

    It looks beautiful and peaceful; without the crowds that throng mid-lake!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes that definitely sums it up – it was so peaceful and tranquil and apart from 1 other family who must have driven there (there is a road up to the abbey too) we didn’t see anyone except a couple of monks. We were there in April but even then the mid lake area was getting busy. The northern end of the lake is lovely and Piona a real gem 🙂


  2. What a beautiful and special place Rosemary, love the picture with the snowy peaks in the background. How lucky you were to have it all to yourselves too, I bet in summer it is a different story. The sound of that drink is enough for goosebumps!!! 40% sounds like rocket fuel!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Piona is a very special place Joy – the locals know about it but not necessarily the tourists! I don’t know how busy it would get in summer – probably more so than in April when we went but even then not so many people venture up to the northern part of Lake Como. The views from Piona and the surroundings were idyllic! Yes 40% would have been rather strong to say the least (we didn’t sample it!). Think a wee nip if you’d been out all day up a snowy mountain is the idea!! From what I can recall St Bernard looks after travellers in the mountain passes – the liquor we got was the San Bernardo. We just have it if we’ve had a cold or feeling under the weather in a very small shot glass (27%) – you sleep like a log afterwards!!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Sounds just the thing Rosemary to get a good night’s sleep with a cold!!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Definitely works like a charm Joy! 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

  3. It looks like you had the place to yourself ! I couldn’t help but laugh at the tiny law mower 🙂 How cute ! It’s always the problem when you travel.. difficult to bring back perishable product and especially in Australia, as they are really strict !

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes we were quite taken with the tiny lawn mower Gin – we weren’t too sure if it was cutting the grass or just helping to keep it flat and pristine (like an iron for a lawn!). We more or less had the place to ourselves – not sure how busy it ever gets probably more so in the summer months. Yes they are really strict here in Australia – there were some lovely lavender and herbal sachets but am sure they would not have been customs friendly!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. haha ! maybe it trims a little bit and avoid using the big one. Day to day maintenance is the secret for a wonderful grass 😀

        In the uk I’ve heard they are quite fussy but I’ve always managed to go back to the UK from Belgium with many sausages and stinky cheeses :p

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I think they are called lawn robots! Yes I thought the Uk was very fussy too with what you could bring in. I can always get European chocolate through customs so I’m happy about that – I declare and it’s always ok! 🙂


          1. It’s like when I moved to the UK, I thought I wouldn’t be able to bring my plant with me so I left it with my grand mother. Then in the eurotunnel shuttle, they didn’t even check the car !

            Liked by 1 person

  4. Looks like you’ve had a lovely day! 😃


    1. Yes we did thanks it was very special! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. restlessjo says:

    It’s a lovely place, Rosemay. Glad you managed to get it posted despite the computer’s best efforts. 🙂 What is it about cloisters? Aren’t they beautiful? Wishing you a happy week ahead!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes cloisters always draw me in for some reason Jo and so glad I got the post up! Computer seems back on track – fingers crossed! Thanks hope you’re having a lovely week too 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. vinneve says:

    Another beautiful places! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It was a lovely place to visit! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  7. You had such a marvellous trip! How many days you spent in Italy?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Johanna – it was wonderful. We had 6 days there before flying to Berlin. Still to write up that part of the trip!

      Liked by 1 person

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