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Historical Hamlet of Borgo

Historical Hamlet of Borgo

The hamlet of Borgo represents one of the first inhabited centres of Bellagio and the historical centre of the town.

The Historical Hamlet is known for its cobbled streets, elegant buildings and the Park of Villa Serbelloni, an 18th century terraced garden with a view of the lake, but also for the Tower of the Arts, which houses exhibitions and shows, and the Romanesque Church of San Giacomo.

In the historical hamlet of Borgo it is possible to admire different points of interest:

  • the Stone column with flood indications;
  • the Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni (built as a private villa in 1852 for the Frizzoni family. It became a hotel in 1872 under the name of Grand Hotel Bellagio and when included in its property also Villa Serbelloni in the early 1900s absorbed the name keeping it still today);
  • the Memorial plaque dedicated to Teresio Olivelli (gold medal for military value);
  • the park of Villa Serbelloni;
  • the Tower of the Arts (the tower which is the only remnant of the ancient medieval defense system of Bellagio is currently home to an exhibition center);
  • the Fountain in Church Square;
  • the ancient Serbelloni Climb (full of colorful shops);
  • the Municipality of Bellagio and the Library;
  • The Gothic Villa (built in neo-Gothic style towards the end of the 19th century as an Anglican church and then converted into apartments towards the middle of the 20th century);
  • the Plate in memory of Tommaso Marinetti (poet and creator of Futurism).
Itinerary to the discovery of the hamlet of Borgo
  • Duration of the itinerary: Approximately 1 hour
  • Starting point: IAT office

The village of Bellagio extends from 229 mt. above sea level up to 1686 mt. altitude of the top of Monte San Primo and is divided into several hamlets. With this itinerary we intend to introduce the hamlet of Borgo, one of the first inhabited centres of Bellagio and the historical centre of the town.
Let’s start our visit from the tourist office of Bellagio located in this long and narrow Mazzini Square lapped by the waters of the lake and flanked by a series of porticos enlarged in the eighteenth century to expand the space dedicated to the market taking place near the shore. Turn left and at the end of the porticos, in front of the pier n. 1, you will notice a historic dark stone column with an inscription: height of the lake 1829, and under another date: 1868. Unfortunately, there were later unmarked floods. From here, following the road on the right, we begin to climb in order to reach the square of the Church of S. Giacomo, stopping to admire, just after the curve on the left, the entrance of the Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni built as a private villa in 1852 for the Frizzoni family. It became a hotel in 1872 under the name of Grand Hotel Bellagio and when included in its property also Villa Serbelloni in the early 1900s absorbed the name keeping it even today.

Before reaching the top of the climb we suggest you to follow the road which turns left and leads to the extreme point of the village, called Punta Spartivento. The view you can enjoy is one of the most beautiful of the lake. The Punta Spartivento divides Lake Como into three branches: Lecco on the right, Como on the left and in the middle the northern part of the lake, all framed by the beautiful chain of mountains of Como wonderfully described by Alessandro Manzoni in his masterpiece “The Betrothed”.

From here you return, following the same road, until you reach the Church of S. Giacomo in the upper part of the village.
This is one of the best examples of Lombard Romanesque art. Its construction dates back to the end of the eleventh century and the beginning of the twelfth century. In 1904 it was declared a national monument by ministerial decree.
The lower part of the bell tower, where there is a plaque in memory of the fallen of the First World War, according to the most reliable opinion, was pre-existing to the church; it was one of the towers of the defensive system of the Borgo towards north. The church was leaned against it, and the tower that reached the height of the roof was transformed into a bell tower. In the eighteenth century the bell tower was raised in the form now visible. In 1990 it underwent its last restoration.

After visiting the church of San Giacomo we stop in the square where on the wall of the Bar Sport, once a monastery, we can see on the right another commemorative plaque dedicated to Teresio Olivelli who was born in this house. He was a gold medalist for military valour, a fearless Alpine artillery officer, and the founder of the clandestine newspaper “Il Ribelle”. Deported to the Nazi extermination camps in Hersbruck, he gave unlimited help and protection to his companions until his death. In 2018 he was proclaimed blessed.
Now we turn our backs on the bar: looking upwards we can see, at the top of the promontory, a very small part of Villa Serbelloni, owned since 1959 by the Rockefeller Foundation of New York, which is used as a Study and Conference Center. The park can be visited with guided tours, from mid March to early November, every day except Monday and in case of bad weather, departing at 11:00 am and 3:30 pm from the medieval tower at the right corner of the church square, where it is possible to buy tickets.
The tower, which is the only remnant of the ancient medieval defensive system of Bellagio, is currently home to an exhibition center. For information:

Still remaining in the square it is possible to admire the beauty of the granite fountain in the center. It was built in 1897 and placed in the garden of the Gothic Villa, by the Englishman Mr. Pical, owner of the Villa Bornè, to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the reign of Queen Victoria. The transfer of the fountain to the square seems to have taken place between 1908-1910.
In 1949 the statue of the Pilgrim Mother passed through Bellagio and, for the occasion, the fountain was embellished with a statue of the Madonna and Child in place of the star that previously decorated its top.
We now begin to climb up Garibaldi street which crosses the heart of the hamlet flanked by shops of all kinds.
Almost at the end of this road we will notice, on the right, a wide staircase: the Serbelloni Climb also full of colorful shops. The Bellagini family still call it “Il Fossato” in memory of the fact that in the Middle Ages there was a moat used to defend the old hamlet.
The wall on the right, in fact, was part of the ancient medieval defensive system with three gates to the hamlet: one at the top just where we are now and where once there was a drawbridge, one at the lake still highlighted by the passage under the small porch and one near the current bell tower. We continue straight on until we meet, on the right, an elegant building, now the seat of the Municipality of Bellagio, with the fresco of the town’s coat of arms.

Next to it there is the church dedicated to San Giorgio dating back to the XI-XII century, which is the same period as the church of San Giacomo. The side walls built with stone ashlars, the conch windows and the small portal represent the style of that period. The apse and altar, originally facing east, were moved to the opposite side and the entrance was opened towards the road. Inside the statue of the Madonna della cintura and note the unique bell tower on horseback of the Climb Genazzini. Going down a few steps, passing under the bell tower you will notice on the right the ex Municipal Library, now Council Chamber, built in 1914 in Art Nouveau style by Domenico Vitali’s sons and dedicated to him. We go back in front of the church and before going down following the road that goes towards the lake crossing the Municipal Park we notice, in front of us on the right, a particular Villa, the Gothic Villa already mentioned, built in neo-Gothic style towards the end of the nineteenth century as an Anglican church and then transformed into apartments in the middle of the twentieth century.

Let’s now head towards the park where you can see a tower at the bottom left which once contained the mechanism for the water operation of the lift of the Hotel Grand Bretagne and renowned hotel school, owned by the region until the sale in 2000 to a private company.
Following the lakeside promenade to the left you can reach the beautiful garden of Villa Melzi open from late March to early November with continuous opening hours every day from 9:30 am to 6:30 pm (the ticket office closes at 6:00 pm). We return to our steps and head towards the center where, right on the wall of the Hotel Splendide, you will notice a strange-shaped plaque in memory of the death of Filippo Tommaso Marinetti poet and creator of Futurism here in 1944. We continue in the same direction to notice, a little further on, the beginning of the Climb Serbelloni. A few steps and, to the right on the wall, we will find a plaque placed in 1961, on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the birth of the Hungarian composer Franz Liszt (1811-1886), in memory of the months he spent in 1837 in Bellagio.
We pass through the portico, the ancient gateway to the village, to find ourselves again at the starting point, that is on Mazzini Square, noting on the left the first hotel opened in Bellagio in 1825 called previously Genazzini and now Metropole.

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