Mon, 4 Dec 2006
In mountain bike
Il Romanico nel Ceresio
Length of the itinerary: around 30 km (by car)
Main Stops: San Lucio, Gottro, Porlezza, San Mamete in Valsolda.
This itinerary follows a perhaps unusual route, which is however extremely interesting, in particular for those who love Lombard art. The route descends from the mountains towards the lake, in the beautiful district of the mountains above Como, squeezed between the Lepontine Alps and the large basins of Lake Lugano and Lake Como: here, five major valleys meet in a trapezium shape, in an area rich in vegetation and irrigated by many streams. Due to its border position, the area of Ceresio, which includes the districts described above, has naturally been a land of communication and passage for merchants, pilgrims, and crusaders in the middle ages. In passing they left important signs and encouraged the development of a unique religious architecture, distinguished by the
The itinerary starts on the peaks of San Lucio, on the border between Italy and Switzerland, where we find an ancient sanctuary dating back to the 13th century, dedicated to the local patron saint, protector of the poor. Next to the building is a small lake, that the faithful say turns red on the anniversary of the Saint's martyrdom, although it seems that the event originates from the colour that the lake weed acquires in the height of summer.
Going down into Italian territory we enter Val Menaggio and then go on to Carlazzo, a beautiful town on the lakeside of Lake Piano, a small lake with a precious natural environment, protected by the Lombard regional Council. Here at Gottro, in a marvellous panoramic position, stands the
Church of San Giorgio
. The small building, which probably dates back to the 12th century, shows an evident Romanesque style, even if it was renovated in the 15th century. Next to the church, meanwhile, stands a bell tower dating back to the 11th century, also Romanesque in style.
Leaving behind us Gottro we go towards Lake Lugano, and come to Porlezza. In this small but characteristic town we find the
Church of San Maurizio (PHOTO)
, a building with a curious history. According to legend, the church, which is now found in an isolated position on the slopes of Monte Galbiga, originally stood in the centre of the old town of Porlezza; a landslide is said to have destroyed the old town and left standing only the church tower and a local woman, so the town was rebuilt on a different site. Subsequent reconstructions have found, however, that when the landslide effectively happened the town was already situated in its present position. An unusual fact about the history of the Church of San Maurizio is that it remained for centuries almost hidden, until in 1966 renovation works were begun which made it possible, today, to appreciate the original elements of this Romanesque complex such as the bell tower and the oratory.
Leaving Porlezza behind us, we lastly head towards Valsolda, along the northern shores of the lake. From Valsolda we continue to the characteristic hamlet of San Mamete, where we can admire the church's
Romanesque bell tower