*Duration of the visit to the Museum of Navigation Instruments: about 30/60 minutes.
Points of interest and locations included in the itinerary
From the tourist office of Bellagio, located in Mazzini Square, we reach the upper part of the town along the picturesque staircase “Salita Mella” (ascent Mella), located right in front of the pier, once known as the via dei Fiori (street of flowers).
Historical picture of the centre of Bellagio. Salita Mella
At the end of the climb turn right along the lively Garibaldi Street until you reach the Town Hall of Bellagio, an elegant yellow building next to the Romanesque church of San Giorgio (XI century). Right in front of it there is a staircase that, going up first slowly and then going down, will lead you, in about 15 minutes, in the heart of the characteristic hamlet of Pescallo, known as a fishing village and place where the fish market was once held. Around the beginning of the thirteenth century, the village of Pescallo was one of the three towns in Como able to offer the largest amount of fish at the market of Como. Let’s cross this small village that overlooks the branch of Lecco and stop for a moment in the square to admire the wonderful view of this part of the lake framed by mountains, in the background the rocky Grigna (2,409 mt.), rich in iron.
In the second square, a very characteristic corner of this hamlet, you will discover the tiny Church of SS. Biagio and Andrea, surrounded by houses.
Aerial view of the hamlet of Pescallo
We now follow the carriage road climbing along pretty private gardens and a field used for floriculture, one of the most important activities, after tourism, of Bellagio, where there are many family businesses operating in this field and producing mainly outdoor plants sold in Italy and Europe.
Once we reach the main road that goes towards Lecco, we turn left and follow the sidewalk that runs along a large plot of land planted with olive trees. The cultivation of olive trees on Lake Como dates back to Roman times. This tree is perfectly acclimatized and grows luxuriantly on the beautiful hills, so much so that it gave its name to the village where we are, Oliverio. Lake Como is now the northernmost place in Europe where olive oil is produced, even the wood is processed to produce various objects, typical of local craftsmanship.
At the end of the sidewalk, on the left, we will notice a beautiful villa; it was built in 1624 by order of the protophysicist Eudemio Camozio who called it Villa Camuzia. At the end of the eighteenth century the Count Pietro Venini, from Bellagio, completely restructured it and called it, in honor of his wife, Villa Giulia. The house, of neoclassical cadences, is arranged on three floors with the lower one decorated with ashlar; from the central body protrude two wings. Count Venini bought various lands surrounding the villa and had the part of the lawn dug right in front of it to create a grassy channel, called “Vialone” (avenue), which allows you to see and access the two branches of the lake.
Villa Giulia, ex Villa Camuzia
We, now, are going to walk right down this wide avenue in all its length.
If, for any reason, it should not be possible to cross the Vialone or if you prefer to extend this route a little, we recommend that you continue along the state road for another 50 meters then take the first road on the right that passes through the hamlet of Regatola. On the wall of the first house on the left you will notice a plaque in memory of the short stay of the illustrious scientist from Como Alessandro Volta (Como, 1745 – 1827), inventor of the pile (1799), and the poet Giuseppe Parini. In the narrow initial part you will find on your right some steps downhill that make you cross the heart of Regatola; a pretty hamlet survived intact to the passage of time.
Both the Vialone and this road connect with the main road to Como.
We cross the road very carefully and, before turning left, to descend towards the hamlet of Guggiate, we stop near the entrance of Hotel Silvio to admire the spectacle of this part of the lake enclosed by a beautiful frame of cypresses.
Turning your back to the lake, on the right, you will notice on the hill a Mausoleum built by the architect Balzaretto in the nineteenth century for Giacomo Poldi Pezzoli; here is also buried one of the descendants of the Gonzaga family of Mantua, friend of the owners. This monument is located in the private park of the present Villa Gerli, located by the lake. Beyond the wrought iron gate, on the right, there is a beautiful centuries-old tree called Liquidambar (Species: Styracyflua, Family: Hamamelidaceae).
Mausoleum built by the architect Balzaretto
Continue to the left and until you reach the small square in the hamlet of Guggiate where you will notice the oratory of S. Andrea, flanked by an enormous palace, surrounded by walls and with an elegant portal, built in the 17th century by the Ciceri family. From this small square there are many small streets that lead to the hinterland of the province of Bellagio, towards other hamlets.
Return to the main road and cross the Perlo river and turn right to reach the hamlet of S. Giovanni. At the end of the road you will notice, on the left, an old tower house with sundial where is located the Museum of Navigation Tools, recently opened in Bellagio thanks to the passion of the collector and traveler Gianni Gini. Inside there are more than two hundred precious objects that, in past centuries, have allowed man to orient himself in the sea and navigate towards new worlds. Among the most interesting instruments of this collection, we remember eighteenth-century Venetian-made telescopes, compasses, sundials from various eras, a rich series of marine chronometers and a beautiful brass planetarium. The museum is open during the summer season from 10.00 to 13.00 and during the afternoon only by appointment. Entrance fee. For further information call +39 031 950309.
Let’s now follow the cobbled road and enter the heart of the hamlet of San Giovanni to descend towards the lake. On the right there is the church of the same name, once the head of the parish and focal point of religious life in Bellagio. Little is known about the history of this building, certainly was the first church built on the ground of Bellagio. Of course it was already present in the tenth century, but no trace has remained as evidence of that period even if it is assumed that the oratory today, south of the parish church, was built on the foundations of the old building. The new archpriest of S. Giovanni Battista was built in 1584 and partly in 1685. The current appearance is due to the changes made in the second half of the ‘700. The baroque facade is flanked by a bell tower with five bells that give a magnificent concert in natural SI2. Inside, the most interesting work that we can still admire today is an altarpiece depicting “Christ risen between saints and donors”, painted by Gaudenzio Ferrari in the sixteenth century, and an Immaculate of the school of Bernini. The church is open only on Saturday at 6:00 pm and Sunday morning at 10:00 am for the celebration of mass. The artificial cave that can be seen in the square is dedicated to the Holy Mother of Lourdes and it was built in the fifties by Don Giulio Botta, archpriest of San Giovanni.
Aerial view of the hamlet of S. Giovanni – Bellagio
Bellagio Sight from the hamlet of S. Giovanni
In the pier in front of the church there are often anchored the typical boats of Lake Como called Lucie that take their name from the main character of Alessandro Manzoni’s masterpiece “I Promessi Sposi” (The Betrothed), set on Lake Como. The boat is surmounted by three arches that allow you to cover it to shelter in case of bad weather or scorching sun.
L’edificio moderno, di colore rosa, che notate in riva al lago sulla sinistra è la scuola di canottaggio che può vantare ben 6 campioni del mondo sino ad oggi. È un punto di ritrovo per tutti i giovani che vogliono cimentarsi in questo sport.
Let’s retrace our steps, following the same road until Guggiate. Halfway up the hill, we descend along the first road on the left that leads to Hamlet of Loppia where, on the right, you will find the staircase that leads to the Vialone of Villa Giulia. Beyond the wall, you can see the Romanesque church of Santa Maria of Loppia (end of the 10th century), once with a small cloister destroyed during the construction of the Vialone; now it is part of the Gerli property whose beautiful villa on the lake shore, on the left, you can admire. It was built by the Taverna family in the second half of the eighteenth century and then it passed to the Poldi Pezzoli that expanded it by adding the two wings by the architect Giuseppe Balzaretto. By inheritance it passed to Prince Trivulzio and in 1941 it was purchased by Count Gerli who took care, in particular, of the restoration of the church of Santa Maria of Loppia.
In the pier you can still see a rare example of a Gondola Lariana, a sailing boat used until the end of the nineteenth century for the transport of goods and animals.
This hamlet was also a small fishing village and still retains the flavor of the past.
Church of S. Maria of Loppia – Bellagio
Rare example of Gondola Lariana
From here we suggest you return to the center of the village through the beautiful romantic garden of Villa Melzi. The villa was built by Francesco Melzi D’Eril, vice-president of the Cisalpine Republic; still today it is private property of the descendants of this illustrious family. The park is famous for its azaleas and rhododendrons blooming in spring, but it is fascinating at any time of year. We remind you that the entrance is chargeable; the ticket is valid for the whole day and it allows you to visit the neoclassical family chapel and the small museum.
If you have already visited it, then follow the asphalt road which, first going up and then down, takes you back to the lakeside near the main entrance of Villa Melzi. From there, in a few minutes, you can return to the center of the village of Bellagio following the walk to the lake, called Lungo Lario Europa.
Aerial view of Villa Melzi