Besides Como, there is another small city worth mentioning:
Lecco, on the EASTERN side of the lake
It appears quieter and ordinary looking, and yet has inspired a poignant story written in late 1800.
It was March 2022 when I departed from Florence and went through changing several regional trains, so the travel took a bit of the day: Bologna, Milan, Monza… then finally, passed the last tunnel and I found myself in Lecco!
I got suddenly hit by those two mountains opening onto the lake, like in one of the drawings in my Promessi Sposi book.
After all, it could not have been different, since riding the Manzonian wave was the main reason why I came.
Here is what I recall.
When I travel I always want to keep the same habits as if I were at home.
I work, go out, go shopping, cook, and if possible, watch a good movie.
The Grandi Cime Guest House is located in an ideal everyday area
and I gladly recommend it, because it is a great stay, everything clean, spacious and functional.
Before buying food, I take advantage of the light to explore the surroundings a bit, always with my eyes fixed on those rock walls with lights on their peaks (maybe for airplanes?).
Smart apartment builduings with no sign of garbage cans… bags are picked up daily, and sacks have to be transparent to verify what is being thrown away.
They are strict here with garbage collection.
At one point the top of a bell tower pops up. I follow it until I get to the church it belongs to.
Would you believe that it is Don Abbondio’s church, where at the end of the story Renzo and Lucia finally get married?
Too bad only for the haze, hopefully the sun will come out.
It’s early March, and my window is beside a beautiful mimosa tree in full bloom, with such a bright yellow breaking up the grayness.
Ok… let’s stop and rewind.
Who are Renzo and Lucia? A young couple wishing to get married.
And who is Don Abbondio? The priest who should celebrate the wedding, but refuses upon being threatened.
THE BETROTHED (I Promessi Sposi) a great classic novel of Italian literature
written by Alessandro Manzoni, and set in the 1600s Lombardy under Spanish rule.
It tells the story of a peasant couple who is forced to flee from their village because of the bullying of the local baron Don Rodrigo, who got a crush on the girl and want her for himself.
A story of courage (in those times the word of the humble was worth nothing) but also of trust in God’s rescue and provision, that reflects Manzoni’s deep inner change from Enlightenment to Faith.
My idea was to read only a few chapters just to refresh my memory about it; instead I got hooked by its thorough analysis of characters and differences in personalities and life choices.
I’m sure in the end my feelings will well reflect Lucia’s, treating the topic as example for life rather than reasoning throughout it like an intellectual would be accustomed to.
Though I wouldn’t stay in Lecco for longer than a weekend, my eyes and heart capture details enough to slow down and stop a million times to take pictures.
Of course, it has some important historical spots.
For example the theater, called Teatro della Società, inspired by La Scala in Milan; the acoustics are said to be exceptional.
Other points of interest are the Visconti Tower and the Basilica of St. Nicholas.
And it’s city of birth of Antonio Stoppani, considered the father of Italian geology and paleontology, as well as a patriot and free thinker.
For those who enjoy trekking, don’t miss the Wayfarer’s Trail!
At Palazzo delle Paure (the Fear Palace – so called because it was the former seat of the Customs House) I enter the tourist information office asking for a map.
Then I launch a daring question: do you say
Lake Como or… Lake Lecco?
Comes naturally for me to ask, as Lecco does not seem to me a “minor” town…
Prompt answer: Lake Como.
I ask why but they have no clear response, it has always been said so… I guess Como looks richer, surrounded by all those extraordinary mansions that newlyweds dream about.
Lecco is no doubt less smart, and may have always been a normal city evolved to modernity, passing from the poor houses of 1600 to nowadays’ concrete walls and bank buildings.
The strongest ATTRACTION here is the stunning breathtaking wiew on the lake
Tied to the lakefront there’s the Monument to the Fallen of the Great War, with a woman symbolizing the homeland, standing upright and looking upward, and at the base a sculpture of the stages of the soldier’s life (farewell to loved ones, battle, and so on), to which were later added the names of the Lecco people who perished in the second.
I stare at it, as usual it is very touching. It is MY land, MY people… in the end it’s me as well.
So close to the shore, I feel I could stay there forever…
I begin to walk till the Kennedy Bridge to go to the other side, but I feel tired and sit down.
The Kennedy Bridge marks the encounter of the great lake with the ADDA river
The bridge is right on the border of two very different locations: the restful lake, home to a few canoeists, ducks and swans, and the river attended by fishermen.
The lakeview is truly amazing; when I resume my walk, I decide to go and see a little chapel among the Manzonian sites, one of the best preserved in the area.
Believe me: I literally struggle with my smartphone… but how can you not want to take pictures? It’s kind of UNIQUE area.
The chapel preserves skulls and bones inside. It commemorates the victims of the plague of the 1600s, well described along the novel.
When I get on my way back, one more surprise!!
Some of the mist has cleared, presenting me with the incredible spectacle of the giant Resegone, the 9-peak mountain that Renzo sees after his escape to Milan.
Resegone, in the local dialect, means saw.
Totally uncommon type of mountain, isn’t ir?
A significant museum in Lecco is
the Villa where Alessandro MANZONI lived until his early teens
where he drew inspiration from the beautiful landscape for his writings.
It is reachable with a few steps from the train station.
I am heartened by learning he had been put to nurse and never saw his mother until the age of 20, and that later on went through many family and relational difficulties (nearly all his children died before him) finding solace in literature.
He moved from neoclassical tendencies, inspired by ancient art, to the Romantic movement.
And he became a strong Catholic believer while adopting liberal tendencies.
Manzoni was basically a keen observer of people and societies.
For example, for the character of the bullying Don Rodrigo, he drew inspiration from one of his ancestors, the first of the lineage who lived in the 1600s and had similar manners.
Through the novel he also condemns the abuse of rigor by judges under Spanish rule as well as those masses misled by superstitions and beliefs that are NOT JUSTIFYABLE as fruit of fear or because “customs of the time.”
I end my stay with a
walk in Pescarenico, from where our heroes fled
In Manzoni’s time it was a fishing village, today it is a ward of Lecco.
A festival is held there every summer, with fun activities, dance evenings and regattas.
It is the place featured in Farewell Mountains, the fateful evening when Lucia looks back and secretly weeps, grieving at being forced to leave her homeland without knowing if she will ever see it again.
That night the Griso had planned to kidnap her on Don Rodrigo’s orders, but found no one at home.
They were at Don Abbondio’s, trying to force him to accept a self-declared marriage.
But the situation had degenerated, and the fearful parish priest had begun shouting and ringing bells.
On their way back they were warned to go immediately to Friar Christopher, who then directed them to the escape boat.
Displaced. In an instant.
Along the river I was fascinated by the boats, the scenery, the mountains, and for the love of a swan that came close to me I even ventured onto a pier.
Among the houses, on the other hand, the river disappears, and women’s voices can be heard from inside those small windows at human height reinforced by bars, and what a curiosity to enter…
Lecco’s lakefront beats Como, doesn’t it seem to you too?
I got lost trying to capture the sensational charge of those shores, but in my eagerness I realized that I was not looking at reality, only the image of it filtered by the smartphone.
Tip: Before you take pictures, wait… look at those mountains WITH YOUR EYES, they are huge, and they are there right in front of you, they make an effect that no camera can ever replicate…
Tip 2: lake Como is NOT ONLY Como, and not necessarily best in Como area.
Perhaps you could consider Como for wedding, then come to Lecco to start honeymoon and enjoy nice trips to the Bellano Gorge, Varenna or Bellagio.
GRAZIE for reading!
My name is Patrizia and I enjoy travelling throughout my rich-in-treasure country. When it comes to lakes of the North, my heart pumps faster… 😍
Do you know of any other lake-novel link in Italy?
If the answer is SI, or if you simply liked this post, please, share or leave a comment.