Also known as the “Pearl of Lake Como”, Bellagio stands on a promontory that divides the lake into two branches: the Como branch on the left and the Lecco branch on the right. The small village has preserved all its ancient characteristics, with narrow streets that lead down to the lakeshore. Italian Traditions tells you what to see in Bellagio and a bit of its history.
What to see in Bellagio: some advice
Among the various attractions, Bellagio is particularly known for the elegant Villa Melzi, with its beautiful landscaped gardens, and for Villa Serbelloni, with its Park open to the public, which has become a luxury hotel. From the lakeshore you can catch a boat that connects the town to Lecco, so, also, enjoying a pleasant cruise on Lake Como. Among the various attractions related to the large body of water there is also the possibility to drive a seaplane for a day, obviously flanked by a qualified instructor. Among the sacred buildings of the village the archpriest church of San Giovanni Battista stands out along with the Basilica of San Giacomo and the Church of San Giorgio, which is next to the Town Hall. Nearby is the Sanctuary of the Madonna del Ghisallo, particularly popular with cyclists along their routes. That of Ghisallo, in fact, is a route that reaches up to Valmadrera.
The history of Bellagio
Bellagio was mentioned for the first time in some medieval documents dating back to 835, even if the origins of the name are controversial. It probably derives from the Latin “bilacus” or “bislacus”, which refers precisely to the two branches of the lake where it rises, or from “bell’agio” or “bella lago”. The first to inhabit the territory of Bellagio were the Insubri, then followed by the Gauls of Belloveso, which reached as far as Como and Milan. Then it was the turn of the Roman consul Marcus Claudius Marcello to defeat the Gallo-Insubri by imposing the dominion of Rome also to this corner of Lombardy. The Roman troops used to pass through here on their way to the north, stopping where today Villa Serbelloni stands. Also in Roman times, Bellagio was visited by two important figures: Virgilio and Plinio il Giovane. The first, one of the greatest Latin poets, lived in Bellagio, which he described in his “Georgiche”, while the latter stayed in a villa on top of the hill overlooking Bellagio.
What to see in Bellagio: the villas
If you are wondering what to see in Bellagio, obviously you cannot miss its villas. Villa Serbelloni dominates the village of Bellagio, and is currently owned by the Rockefeller Foundation of New York. Its construction dates back to 1375, being built on the site that previously housed the “Tragoedia”, the villa of Pliny the Younger. The building, renovated many times throughout its history, boasts beautiful gardens characterized by groves of old trees, exotic plants, rose and flower gardens. From there it is possible, following some paths, to reach the Convent of the Capuchins and the Sfondrata, another noble residence dating back to the 1700s. The artistic and architectural elements of greater importance of the villa are due to Alessandro Serbelloni, who embellished it with works of art of the 18th and 19th centuries. After the Serbelloni family, the villa belonged to Princess Ella Thurn und Taxis, who left it as a legacy to the Rockefeller Foundation.
Villa Melzi d’Eril is located on the Lungolago, on the road that connects Bellagio to Como. Once the destination of the writer Stendhal, the villa is inhabited today, so it cannot be visited, but the splendid park is open to the public and boasts the presence of some ancient Etruscan and Egyptian archaeological finds. You can also visit the small museum next to the Villa, which houses archaeological collections, paintings and sculptures. Among the sculptures there is a head attributed to Michelangelo.