It is no mistake that Bellagio is called the “pearl” of Lake Como. It is undoubtedly the most famous resort on the lake. For centuries, its scenic location has enchanted artists and writers, not only from Italy, but also from abroad. It is situated on the tip of a headland that divides the lake into the two legs of Como and Lecco.
The town strecthces along the coast and part of it goes up the slopes of the promontory.
Because of its location it has a great variety of views; indeed, it offers a good view of the whole lake. On the northern horizon one can see the Pre-Alps.
Some of the best views can be seen from the park of Villa Serbelloni and from the top of Monte San Primo. On a particularly clear day, one can make out the Alps, from Mont Blanc to the Ortles, and the Madonnina on top of the Duomo of Milan.
With its mild winter and pleasant summer, its historical town centre, its lush and varied flora, Bellagio is the ideal place for those who like calm and walks. For those who are more energetic, it also offers many sport and leisure activities.
During the summer there is whole range of water sports to choose from, while in the winter there are three ski-lifts on Monte San Primo.
The Romanesque churches are of considerable architectural interest. In the upper part of the town, next to a tower – the only remains of the ancient system of defence – one can see the basilica of San Giacomo, which was built by the Maestri Comacini.
There is also the Oratorio di San Giorgio and the ruins of the church of San Pietro Apostolo, which is incorporated in Villa Serbelloni.
Bellagio is famous for its villas and their parks. Here, along with the local-flora, there are rare and exotic plants in splendid Italian or English style gardens. The park of Villa Serbelloni is considered to be one of the most beautiful in Italy and it takes about two hours to visit all.
The following are some of the most beautiful villas in the area: Villa Melzi, Villa Poldi Pezzoli, Villa Giulia, and Villa Belmonte.
Bellagio offers a wide selection of trips and excursions that can be made on foot, by car or by boat.
One of the most famous destination is the park of Monte San Primo, which can be reached by car (14 km). From here it takes about three hours on foot to reach the summit. There is a scenic route which can be taken on the way back from Lecco to Varenna, the mountains from the Corni di Canzo to Legnone, Val Bregaglia and Valtellina.
There is a good ferry service, which stops off at the villages on the opposite shore of the lake. The fastest means of transport is the hy-drofoil, which serves the whole lake. There is also a car-ferry service which links Bellagio to Varenna and Cadenabbia. The gastronomic specialities of the area are varied and excellent: fish from the lake (agoni, trout and misultitt), polenta tocc and vuncia, and desserts, such as mataloc.
The Basilica of S. Giacomo
This Romanesque church was built in the 12th century. It has three naves with raised apses. Externally, it is decorated by double-lintelled arches.
Inside, there are some Romanesque sculptures and two four-teenth-century tables, from the Umbrian and Lombard schools.
There is also a sixteenth-century wooden altar. The bell tower is from the 16th century and was modified in the following centuries.
Now called Villa Gallarati Scotti, it was formerly of the Melzi Family. This building with neoclassical features was built between 1810 and 1815 and designed by G. Albertolli. It houses many works of art, including paintings and sculptures by Canova. One of the tombs in the chapel is by V. Vela.
The extensive park, which runs down to the edge of the lake, surrounds the villa. Among the trees, there are Egyptian, Etruscan-Roman, Renaissance and neoclassical Sculptures.
Villa Poldi Pezzoli
Villa Trivulzio, formerly Poldi Pezzoli, manifests typical eighteenth century neogothic features. The Romanesque church of Santa Maria is in the locality of Loppia. It belonged to a Benedectine monastery in the 16th century.
This was built in the 16th century and was practically remade in the following century. It has a big park that extends into the promontory in the lake.
At present the villa has the air of an eighteenth-century building. It is now owned by the Rockfeller Foundation. It incorporates a small Romanesque church with a small bell tower.