We visited so many delightful towns, villas and gardens during our Lake Como stay but I still haven’t written about one of the most famous – Bellagio known as the “Pearl Of Lake Como” for good reason!
We have been here a couple of times (back in 2009 and in April this year). Situated on the promontory that separates the 2 inverted “Y” shaped arms of the lake, Bellagio enjoys a delightful situation. There are expansive views of the lake and mountains in all directions. It enjoys road access down to Lecco in the south and onto Bergamo (with its airport) in the south east. Roads also go down to Milan and its air and road links in the south west. The lake ferries shuttle you between Menaggio (our home base), Varenna and Bellagio at regular intervals and the views on approach are delightful.
Our latest visit was relatively short as we were keen to go further up the lake to the Abbazia di Piona (see here). However we still had time to wander around the pretty streets, many of them lined with shops selling a myriad of souvenirs! The staircase of Serbelloni Hill is in the heart of the town and is crammed full of boutiques and craft shops. Originally there was a moat here to protect the fortified village in medieval times. As the peninsula is gently undulating here, the streets are not quite as steep or narrow as those in Varenna (see here, here and here).
I was on a mission to find some silk scarves as the Como region is famous for its silk production. Once manufactured in the lakeside area, silk is now generally imported though I did see a recent television programme, which highlighted the silk industry and the revival of artisanal silk production in the area. The silk scarves and ties are all made in the area, even if the raw materials are imported. As you would expect, the scarves are exquisitely made with Italian flair and style. I got rather carried away in Azalea but I must add the customer service was wonderful and there was no pressure to buy. However after having got what seemed like half of the shop’s wares out on the counter, I did feel it would be rude to walk away empty handed! So I didn’t!!
Further up the hill you reach the Via Garibaldi. In medieval times there was a drawbridge at this point, which was the entrance to the fortified village. Turning right you come across the charming Romanesque Chiesa di San Giorgio, which dates back to 1120. A quiet and tranquil place, the church is a peaceful contrast to the hustle and bustle down lakeside. It has a solitary bell tower overlooking a small side street.
If you turn left at Via Garibaldi you reach the larger church of San Giacomo. This basilica dates from the 11th and 12th centuries and contains many beautiful artworks including mosaics, an altar and a piece called “A Deposition Of Christ” by the Perugino school. We walked round the exterior but time constraints meant the interior will have to wait for another time.
After our stroll round town we wandered back down to the lake in search of some refreshments. You are spoilt for choice with the many cafes and restaurants jostling for space and customers by the lake. There are also some beautiful walking spots and equally gorgeous gardens. It is not difficult to see what drew the composer Franz Liszt to Bellagio in the 19th century. He stayed here with his partner, Countess d’Agoult, from 1836 to 1837 and there is a commemorative headstone to this interlude up in the village. Their daughter Cosima married the composer Richard Wagner. In a letter to a friend Liszt wrote, “When you write the story of two happy lovers, set them on the shores of Lake Como”. More of Bellagio’s charms to follow next week. Ciao for now!
Copyright © 2016 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved