Gravedona on Lake Como, Italy – Part Two

What to see and do in Gravedona on Lake Como, Italy – Part Two

Livo, town in the mountains above Lake Como, Italy

As you read in the previous post, Gravedona is a most interesting location on Lake Como. Part Two of Gravedona is actually going above the town and into the mountains, to hidden locations and out-of-the way spots which few tourists see.

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Sant’Eusebio e Vittore in Peglio

This church stands on its own overlooking the valley and the lake. You can walk around the entire church perimeter for wonderful panoramic views, these are the most dramatic on a rainy day when the clouds sit low and hug the mountains.

Inside the church you will find an interesting array of frescos, paintings, and statues. Notice how some of the Saints, especially around the altar, have a 3 dimensional look with an entire arm protruding from the painting. But most interesting are the large paintings within the altar depicting salvation and hell. The famous paintings are by Giovanni Mauro della Rovere in the 17th century. The devil swallowing people on the left wall is most notable. Personally I was not able to look at the painting of hell on the right for very long as the images are gruesome to say the least – certainly would scare anyone into confession as I am sure was the intention.

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Again, this is another hard church to visit as the days and times are odd.

When to visit the Sant’Eusebio e Vittore church in Peglio from July 3rd to August 31st on Wednesdays from 10AM-12:30PM and 3:30PM-6:30PM and Monday, Saturday, and Sunday from 3PM-6PM.  (Based on information from Summer 2010)

* The church attendants are happy to not only answer questions but give the history of the church and explain the paintings as well.

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San Giacomo Vecchia in Livo

Livo is a village of stone houses in a valley among the mountains! Livo is an interesting town to take a walk through. Most of the houses look abandoned but people still live in the town. I honestly wonder how they survive the winters…

But the jewel of the town is a bit outside the town and on the edge of the valley, the church of San Giacomo Vecchia. Vecchia means old, as the church was built in the 16th century and the “new” church was built directly in town in the 17th century. Gotta love the irony there!

San Giacomo Vecchia is a in a fairytale location. There is a small cemetery bellow the church, still visited and attended to by the locals as you will see from the fresh flowers on the graves. Walk through the path between the trees and you come out onto a little green slope with what appears to be a rather dull church, but just wait until you enter. The frescos in this church are magnificent. Take the time to look at each and every painting, done by different artists. I love the stripes on the vaulted ceiling as well.

After visiting the church you might be lucky to find a troop of goats in the fields across the way, as I found one day.

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When to visit the San Giacomo Vecchia church (based on information from Summer 2010):  From July 3rd to August 31st the church is open on Wednesdays from 10AM-12:30PM and 3:30PM-6:30PM and Mondays, Saturdays, and Sundays from 3PM-6PM.

* The church attendants are happy to not only answer questions but give the history of the church and explain the paintings as well.

Side Note:  I tried to visit the church of San Giacomo in Livo, the “new” church and believe it is only open during services as it is still in use by the townspeople.

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I highly recommend taking the time to see these churches if you are an art history lover, religious, or even just curious. If you have extra days and are looking to see sights beyond the tourist route, make these stops!

To see more photographs of these hidden churches in the Lake Como area visit my photography site, Monica Goslin Photography.

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How to reach these sights:

– You can drive which again, involves a lot of guts and a good driver and at least two backseat drivers to act as extra eyeballs. The road up is very windy, so those who get car sick will get car sick (no way around it on this road).

– You can also take the bus, although you have to check the timetable for the schedule.

Travel tips for Bellagio, Italy

Travel tips for Bellagio, Italy – beautiful town on Lake Como

Bellagio, Italy on Lake Como by Monica Goslin

Bellagio, one of the best known towns on Lake Como where ladies can buy beautiful straw handbags and men can buy silk ties. Bellagio is also home to the Rockefeller Foundation and close by are The Gardens of the Villa Melzi.

What to see and do in Bellagio, Italy:

1 – Shopping – Bellagio is another ritzy town on Lake Como but with a smaller scope than Como. Walk along the lake to find stores selling beautiful hats, colorful straw bags, and gorgeous scarves. Make your way up the different cobble stone paths (steep steps so comfortable shoes are advised!). You will find various small art galleries, purse/bag stores, antique shops, hand painted pottery, and kitchenware made out of olive tree wood. ~ For silk products and straw bags I recommend the Saraceno store: there is one shop on the main shopping street across from the people ferry stops, and a Saraceno outlet store up the stairs across from the Hotel Metropolo.

2 – Basilica of San Giacomo – The Basilica was constructed between 1075 and 1125 and sits at the top of the town.

3 – Rockefeller Foundation – The Rockefeller Foundation has conferences and also prestigious residencies for scholars (residencies are available for one month to no more then 20 scholars/artists at a time). The foundation has been in Bellagio since 1960. You can take a tour of the grounds (which involves a lot of walking up hill), and although you can not tour the house you do get a glimpse of the villa and the gardens are gorgeous. I have been on the Rockefeller Foundation tour two different times and actually had a different walking route each time so saw new things! The tour guides are very knowledgeable and always eager to answer questions.

To make a tour: Buy tickets in advance. The ticket office is on the right side of the plaza by the Basilica of San Giacomo in an old stone tower. Tours are available from April to the 2nd of November from 11 am to 4pm. There are no tours on Mondays. Buy tickets in advance as only groups of 20-30 people are allowed at a time. Tickets are 8.50 euros and the tours last about an hour and a half.

4 – Walk along the lake and have a gelato! – This is an essential activity while visiting Lake Como in the Spring or Summer; I make sure to have gelato at least once a day while traveling in Italy in the summer!

5 – Villa Melzi – If you walk along the lake, away from the ferries, you will reach the gardens of the Villa Melzi which you can enter for a ticket price of 6 euros and 4 euros for students. (Gardens are open from the 28th of March to the 30th of October). The villa was built between 1808 and 1810 for Francesco Melzi d’Eril who was nominated the Duke of Lodi by Napoleon, and later became the Chancellor of the Empire.

Overall Bellagio, Italy is a beautiful town and a wonderful day trip!

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To see more photos of Bellagio and other towns on Lake Como, Italy click here for Monica Goslin Photography.

For framed photos, canvas prints, and photo books on Lake Como click here for The Monica Store.

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How to get to Bellagio, Italy:

The best way is by ferry from Menaggio, Varenna or Cadenabbia; ferries are frequent and provide a leisurely ride with of course spectacular views the whole way! You can get a hydrofoil boat from Como but it is quite a long way. And of course you can drive, although the road between Bellagio and Como is narrow with lots of curves; so you spend most of the time hoping you make it to your destination and driving with white knuckles.

Travel tips for Lake Como, Italy

View of Bellagio, Italy.

I have had the opportunity to visit Lake Como, Italy many times. Lake Como is a truly breathtaking area with mountains plunging right into the lake, grand villas right on the water, fishing towns, hiking trails, and small mountain valley towns.

>For canvas prints and framed photos of Lake Como, Italy click here to visit The Monica Store and select a travel photo print today!

Below is a general overview of the area – for more in-depth info see links to more detailed posts below. For information and tips on driving around Lake Como, Italy click here (driving tips at bottom of post).

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Bellagio, one of the best known towns on the lake where ladies can buy straw handbags and men can buy silk scarves. Bellagio is also home to the Rockefeller Foundation and you have a tour of the grounds and perhaps a glimpse of the villa which is off limits unless you are one of the lucky few researchers that is given the opportunity to stay there. The gardens of the Villa Melzi are close to Bellagio and provide amazing views of the lake and leave one feeling guilty for not spending more time in one’s own garden and making it look just as spectacular.

>To read more travel tips including where to shop in Bellagio, Italy click here.

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Varenna is a town that also has an amazing villa and gardens, the Villa Monastero; these are gardens that I visit over and over again and I keep taking the same photographs over and over again because the novelty of the view, the statues, the gardens… never wears off. Climb to the top of the hill, just above Varenna, and you will find castle ruins that now have towers you can climb up, a falconer, statues, and sculptures, and of course panoramic views of Lake Como.

>Read more travel tips about Varenna on Lake Como, Italy including tips on how to get to the castle and ticket price info for Villa Monastero.

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Como is also a main city on the Lake. Como is another ritzy shopping location and a city full of bicycles. The Duomo (Cathedral) in Como is impressive, but remember, during the summer months if you want to visit the Cathedral, ladies must have their shoulders covered or else you will join the other women waiting outside for their friends or families to finish their visit to the Cathedral – not something you want to miss.

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There are other towns on Lake Como that are just as noteworthy, such as Menaggio which has a pleasant walkway along the lake and some of the best gelato! Tremezzo also has a nice walkway along the water. Sala Comacina is a town with its own island! Out in the lake, just in front of Sala Comacina, is a small island which can be reached by boat to see ruins and a small white church.

Rezzonico is an adorably picturesque town with a castle that is actually privately owned and lived in but you can still stand outside the castle walls, look up at the stone tower, and stare in awe while thinking “someone lives there!” Going down steep steps between houses and arriving at the waterfront in Rezzonico is a must see, as the pastel colored houses with shuddered windows, laundry on the balconies, and stone benches is a postcard image.

**To see more photos and buy prints of Italian towns on Lake Como, Italy visit Monica Goslin Photography now.

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Gravedona is a town with a 13th century church, Santa Maria that must be visited. One of the most amazing finds for me this summer was the Santa Maria degli Angeli church, just above Gravedona. This church has extraordinary paintings and frescos on every inch, and they are so detailed. The church is actually being restored. The cloister right next to the church is another treasure of worn frescos, a small courtyard, brick columns, and wooden beams.

>Read more about the Italian town of Gravedona on Lake Como, Italy click here for part one on Gravedona.

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Aside from the lake side towns there a small mountain towns as well, such as Barna which has a charming plaza and hidden courtyards. Breglia is a town that is not far from Menaggio and it is a starting point for many hiking trails. Monte Grona, which over looks Menaggio, is one such hike from Breglia and the views from the rocky mountain top are breath taking.

Bellano is a town that juts out in to the lake on a flat marshy piece of land and is also the location of a gorge and waterfall. From Bellano one can drive up into the mountains and into a valley with towns that are popular in the winter for skiing. Cremeno is one of these valley towns and it actually has a Swiss-like feel since the houses have steep wide roofs. Just before leaving the valley and descending into Lecco, there is the town of Ballabio which is at the foot of a mountain that you can drive up on a steep road with hairpin curves, 18 of them in fact, until you reach what you think is the top of the mountain only to find more villages and another starting point for hiking.

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And then there is the Italian portion of Lake Lugano . This past summer I visited a few towns on the Italian side of Lake Lugano that were picture perfect, Castello and Oria. Castello is a town built from the ruins of a castle, which makes for an interesting exploration of a narrow cobblestone paths, numerous small courtyards, and towering houses with thick walls. Oria, a town next to Castello, is built on a steep portion of the mountain and one finds steps leading from house to house.

> Read more about towns to see on Lake Lugano by clicking here.

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So the new Italy photographs added to The Monica Store this month (October 2009) encompass glimpses into of the above mentioned places. Enjoy browsing the photos and choose one as a poster or canvas print today!

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For information about Lake Como and all of Northern Italy’s major lakes click here for italylakes.net