Travel to Nesso

Nesso, the beautiful medieval village on Lake Como

July 8, 2021 | By

Nesso is an Italian town of 1.203 inhabitants in the province of Como in Lombardy and is located on the eastern shore of the Como branch of the homonymous lake. The toponym is Celtic and means “mooring”. While referring to the same Celtic origin, other theories seek the origin in the divinity of Ness, linked to the waters.


Nesso is on the eastern shore of the Como branch and its position offers a spectacular panorama and a view directly on the gorge that allows the two rivers to flow into the lake. Halfway between Como and Bellagio, it is a place of undisputed beauty where nature is the absolute protagonist.

Nesso rises exactly on the point of union between the two streams Tud and Nosé which, from this fusion, create the homonymous and famous waterfall that makes this place incredible.

This spectacular natural gorge, born from the deep fracture in the rock, explodes in a waterfall with a jump of over 200 meters that divides the small village into two parts. Thanks to the presence of the Nesso ravine, one of the most terrifying and evocative in Italy, the picturesque village is now one of the favorite destinations for nature lovers.

The most ancient attestations of human existence in the territory of Nessus consist of an erratic boulder engraved with cupels and a stone ax datable to the Neolithic.

The first mention of the inhabited nucleus of Nesso dates back to 951 in a privilege in favor of the monastery of Santa Maria del Senatore of Pavia through which Berengar II granted the monastery his possessions of the “court of Nesso”, a privilege later confirmed by Federico Barbarossa in 1161.

There is very little documentation on the ancient parish church of Nesso, a rural parish church far from the main roads but which included ten villages, including some located on the other side of the Lario. It is certain that the Christianization of Nesso is, like that of all the inhabited centers of the lake, later than in other localities closer to the major roads, before the year one thousand it is cited as “manso” of the monastery of San Dionigi di Milan. The first mention of the parish is found in an 11th century swap deed.

Perhaps, it will be its poor accessibility or that vegetation so dense and impenetrable that it never gives way to man’s hand, the fact is that even Leonardo da Vinci, in the Codex Atlanticus, described this place as incredible.

But the village of Nesso also preserves among its picturesque streets an enchanting architectural heritage to discover, such as the church of Saints Peter and Paul and the church of San Martino a Careno.

Nesso and its ravine can be visited by land, thus reaching the village from the road that leads to the lake; in this stretch the ravine can be glimpsed, while the waterfall, even if noisy, is still hidden. Once you reach a long and steep stone staircase, which runs alongside the colorful houses that characterize the village, you arrive at the ancient Ponte della Civera from which you can admire the waterfall.

Nesso can also be admired from the water by boat, boat or canoe, a truly suggestive experience that shows the magnificence of nature that characterizes the entire territory.

In 1538, the village passed to Giovan Angelo Corio, and then became a fief of the Casnedi family from 1647 to 1787, the year in which the last male heir died and Nesso returned to the Royal Chamber of the Duchy of Milan.

There is no doubt that Nesso is an enchanting place where nature is the absolute protagonist of the surrounding landscape.

How far is Nesso from Lake Como?

The road distance between Como and Nesso is 18.7 km

Let’s start our visit of this lovely place!

Orrido di Nesso

Orrido di Nesso is a rocky canyon located in the municipality of the same name, in particular in the Coatesa hamlet, on the eastern shore of the Como branch of the Lario.

It is formed by the confluence of the waters of the Tuf and Nosee streams, which arise respectively in the homonymous valleys (Tuf and Nosee), which flow into Lake Como creating a waterfall.

The difference in height is about 200 meters between narrow and deep gorges shaped by the flow of water. The ravine can be seen from Piazza Castello or from the Civera bridge, of Roman origin, on the shore of the lake after having descended over 270 steps.

The visit starts directly from the provincial road: just a stone’s throw from the road is the viewpoint that allows you to observe the ravine from above. Crossing the provincial road, just take the cobbled road downhill to enter a maze of alleys and infinite steps that lead us to the lake.

A wonderful little square welcome us, but the strong point is to our left: passing under a portico we arrive at Ponte della Civera, one of the most popular and photographed places by tourists on the lake. Looking up, the ravine and its waterfalls reappear. To return to street level, we recommend “getting lost” in the alleys: it’s really worth it.

Since the 14th century, the strength of the waters of the ravine has been important for the development of the manufacturing industry with the construction of mills, paper mills, spinning mills, oil mills, hammers and presses. Two silk factories also harnessed the driving force of the waterfall.

Orrido di Nesso is mentioned in several historical books, including the Atlantic Codex by Leonardo da Vinci.

In literature, we remember the novel Falco della Rupe or the War of Musso by Gianbattista Bazzoni. The Ravine is the protagonist, in the 18th and 19th centuries in aquatints by the painters Federico and Carolina Lose.

Orrido di Nesso is the end point of a path between narrow and deep gorges, shaped by the incessant flow of the waters, where two streams converge: the Tuf and the Nosè, which, falling between the rocks, form a steep waterfall.

Civera Bridge

“Civera” Bridge in Nesso is a Romanesque bridge. It is located in the historic core of the village of Nesso and is one of the main attractions of this locality.

The bridge crosses the mouth of the Touf and Nosè streams after the famous ravine of Nesso dug by the waters that flow from Pian del Tivano.

You can pass under it with small boats, going up a few tens of meters towards the ravine. The show is remarkable especially in spring or after recent and abundant rains that enrich the waters of the streams.

The “Civera” bridge the gorge connecting the Coatesa hamlet with Riva del Castello, another hamlet of Nesso.

The Municipality of Nesso had an important history, in recent times the good economic level was achieved thanks to these impetuous waters: in fact, they provided energy for some paper mills and for two silk processing plants, as well as for mills, hammers and presses. The name of the municipality is also linked to water: it seems to derive from the Celtic divinity of water called “Ness”.

The bridge is also famous for being the set of various films. Civera Bridge, in fact, was also used in 1925 by the famous director Alfred Hitchcock as the background of his first film “The labyrinth of passions”.

The gorge offers an idyllic place where you can spend relaxing moments to immerse yourself in the silence of the place. It is advisable to see it in Spring when the waters flow abundantly or after a day of heavy rain.

However, the whole village of Nesso is worth a visit: it can be completely covered on foot through typical stairways.

Castle of Nesso

The Castle of Nesso, also known as San Lorenzo due to the nearby church, is a military structure in Nesso, in the province of Como. From the beginning it is not a feudal castle, but rather a consortium one.

It has always been managed by the entire population, in fact, historically there are no references to castellani, but it has been variously inhabited.

In the 19th century, the three crenelated turrets and the “dovetail” merlons (also known as Ghibelline merlons) were added, crowning the wall on the side facing the lake.

The Renaissance castle was destroyed in 1532 by Gian Giacomo Medici of Marignano, known as “il Medeghino”, in the years in which his raids were more and more frequent to the detriment of the coastal villages also of the Lariano Triangle.

The wall structure, preserved up to 15 meters high, is the residual part of a fortified structure built by the Comaschi in 1449, on the remains of a previous building.

The three crenelated turrets and the “dovetail” merlons (also called Ghibelline merlons), crowning the wall on the side facing the lake, were added in the 19th century.

Regarding the oldest medieval castle, the Latin poem by the Anonymous Cumano (XII century) recalls its conquest in 1124 by the Comaschi, who occupied the village of Nesso in the context of the ten-year war (1118-1127): Como si in fact it contrasted with Milan and all the villages that, in the Larian territory, had allied themselves against the emperor Frederick Barbarossa.

The memory of the castle and its inhabitants is preserved in some archival documents dated to the thirteenth and fifteenth centuries, collected and analyzed by Virginio Longoni in 1999. Among these, there is an interesting document dated 1468 in which the sale between private individuals of ” a house with two mills or grinding equipment, located in the area of ​​the castle of Nesso where the Molino della Valle del Castello appears”: the castle in question is the Renaissance one, of which traces remain today in the surviving wall, that the Comaschi in 1449 built over the oldest building, as a structure in support of the Ambrosian Republic (1447-1450).

The Renaissance castle was then destroyed in 1532 by Gian Giacomo Medici di Marignano, known as the Medeghino, in the years in which his raids were increasingly frequent to the detriment of the coastal villages, including the Lariano Triangle.

The remains of the castle, privately owned, are mentioned in the Census of the Castles of Lombardy published in 1991 by the Lombardy Region.

Still today, no investigations have been carried out on the surviving raised walls, nor excavations at the base of the remains.

Isola Comacina

Comacina Island is a strip of land (length 600 m, width 200 m, perimeter 2 km, surface 7.5 hectares) surrounded by Lake Como.

It is located in the municipality of Tremezzina, at the inlet on the western coast of the Como branch between Argegno and the Lavedo peninsula, in the waters in front of the Zoca de l’oli (oil basin): it is the northernmost territory of the Italy where, in a particularly mild climatic condition, the olive tree is grown and olive oil is produced.

By the inhabitants of Ossuccio, it is still called “el castell” (the castle). Isola Comacina is the only island on Lake Como, so you have to treat it like a real star: imagine an almost pristine archaeological park, with an area of ​​only six hectares (the island is about 600 meters long and just 200 meters wide. , we believe that on the lake itself there are much larger villas) but full of history and covered by a typically Mediterranean luxuriant vegetation.

The island is of glacial origin, its “father” is the Abduano glacier.

Today of the churches built between the 11th and 12th centuries – the Basilica of Sant’Eufemia, Santa Maria del Portico, San Pietro in Castello and those of Saints Faustino and Giovita – not much remains.

The only building still intact is the baroque church of San Giovanni which contains the remains of Roman and late Roman walls, part of the foundations of a Romanesque chapel and the remains of a 5th century baptistery.

According to a 2016 study, Comacina island whose events are narrated in Paolo Diacono’s Historia Langobardorum would not actually be this island, but a portion of territory between two confluent rivers, which could be identified with the current hamlet Head of the municipality of Olginate (LC).

It follows that the events of the Lombard period described here should be transferred to that locality. The confusion between the Comense island (this one) and the Comacina island (that of Paolo Diacono) dates back to the eighteenth-century scholars, and later became habitual.

As you will have understood, this island has always enclosed something very special for those who love art, so much so that it is said that it was the place of origin of Comacina art, which merging into the Lombard style contributed to generating the great vein of Romanesque.

Villa del Balbianello

Villa del Balbianello with its loggia overlooking the lake, the rocky dock and the enchanting terraced gardens overlooking the water, is one of the happiest examples where the hand of man has given grace to a nature that was already rich in it. The park appears even more amazing when it is realized that it rests on a rocky promontory with very little cultivation land, in a very particular climatic zone: it is exposed to cold winds in the part facing north, while in the south it is more sheltered and sunny. Thanks to this duplicity, alpine flora and Mediterranean vegetation coexist in a small space. A feature of the garden is also the conspicuous presence of vines.

From the tip of the small wooded peninsula of Lavedo, stretched sheer above the waters of the center of Lake Como, the Villa elegantly overlooks a wide panorama that makes it one of the most scenic residences of the Lario. The initiator of the Balbianello wonders was Cardinal Durini, a man of letters and patron of the arts, who at the end of the eighteenth century chose this corner of the lake to make it a retreat of delight and literary entertainment.

A vocation recovered in modern times by Guido Monzino, entrepreneur, collector and passionate traveller, who in 1974 made the Villa a refuge where to keep the memories of an adventurous life in order and taste that led him, the first Italian, to the summit of Everest. His daily life and fortunate deeds emerge from maps, travel tools, books, furnishings and precious as well as curious collections of ancient and primitive art objects: everything is still set up according to his will, like the relics of his well-known mountaineering enterprises , kept in the fascinating Museum of Expeditions.

By his will, in 1988 the Foundation took charge of the rigorous management of the Villa, preserving the spirit that lives again in the amazing garden that the FAI maintains with the same maniacal perfection. A path that ranges between daring pruning and romantic views, avenues flanked by statues, panoramic terraces, and copious blooms, culminating in the eighteenth-century Loggia that crowns the entire complex giving a double and aerial panorama.

The beauty and wonder of the Balbianello, which can also be accessed via the lake, were the key that prompted many Hollywood directors to set famous sagas here, such as those of Star Wars and 007.

Villa Carlotta

Villa Carlotta is a building located in the municipality of Tremezzina in the province of Como and located on the shores of Lake Como. The villa is famous both for the art collections kept inside and for the vast botanical garden that surrounds it, part of the Grandi Giardini Italiani circuit.

The construction of the villa, originally called Villa Clerici, was begun in 1690 at the behest of the Marquis Giorgio II Clerici, president of the Senate of Milan and member of a family of bankers and traders.

In 1801, the property was purchased by Gian Battista Sommariva, at the time President of the Government Committee of the Cisalpine Republic. An illustrious figure in Milan and art collector, in contact with the most illustrious artists of the period, Sommariva modified the interiors of the villa in order to enrich it with works from his collection, which made the villa known throughout Europe and a place of interest for characters like Stendhal, Lady Morgan and Flaubert.

In 1843, the villa was bought by Princess Marianne of Nassau, wife of Prince Albert of Prussia, who four years later, in 1847, gave it to her daughter Carlotta, hence the current name Villa Carlotta, when she married George II, Grand Duke of Saxony -Meiningen.

Following the outbreak of the First World War, the villa, as a property belonging to citizens of enemy states, was subject to a union and went through over a troubled decade which ended on May 12, 1927 when the Villa Carlotta ‘today he manages the villa and gardens.

The villa stands as a building of great grandeur, at the northern end of the municipality of Tremezzina, and its entrance overlooks the lake, the main access point to the villa at the time of its construction and up to the middle of the last century. Its position allows a view of the Bellagio peninsula and the mountains surrounding the lake. The construction of the villa dates back to the last decade of the seventeenth century, and is representative of the architecture of a villa on Lake Como in the Baroque period.

The construction looks like a building of great grandeur, but, compared to the canons of the time, also very sober. It is divided into three floors (two of which can now be visited).

The works of art on display are mainly found on the lower floor, while the upper one, equipped with an elegant gallery, shows the villa mainly from the residential point of view.

The terraced garden houses over 500 species of plants, favored in flowering by the mild climate. In the garden there are citrus pergolas, camellia hedges, 150 varieties of azaleas, rhododendrons, tropical plants, the valley of southern ferns, palms, cedars, the garden of bamboo and centuries-old conifers. The greenhouse used in winter for citrus fruits has been transformed into a museum of the ancient agricultural tools used in the villa.

Sanctuary of the Madonna del Ghisallo

Ghisallo is one of the best known places for cycling enthusiasts from all over the world, every year it is the destination of thousands of sportsmen who go up to here to visit the Sanctuary of the Madonna del Ghisallo and since 2006 the Museum of Cycling. The Ghisallo Sanctuary dates back to the century. XVII. Inside, there is a painting of the Blessed Virgin Mary, known as the Madonna del Ghisallo, proclaimed Patroness of Cyclists by Pope Pius XII in 1946.

Inside the Church,  it is possible to find the bicycles, jerseys and relics of the heroes who made this sport famous, each object transmits emotions, history, fatigue and glory to the visitor, a visit to the sanctuary never leaves both the sportsman and the visitor indifferent common.

The small space of the Sanctuary, the numerous relics collected over the years and the desire to give the right importance to this suggestive place, led to the opening of the Cycling Museum – Madonna del Ghisallo in the summer of 2006. Despite its majesty, the Ghisallo Museum is harmoniously inserted into the territory, without architectural barriers. Inside there is a unique collection of bicycles starting from the first models on the market to the present day, from wood to carbon.

We find multimedia sections, photos, videos, curiosities, period newspapers. The visitor is struck by the quantity of memorabilia linked to the samples of the past and the present that nobody wants to lose their memory and the memory. The Sanctuary of the Madonna del Ghisallo is located at the top of the pass of the same name and represents a fundamental stop for cycling lovers. The Ghisallo climb (from Bellagio) is traditionally covered by the Giro di Lombardia and has also been included several times in the Giro d’Italia track. Since 1949 the Madonna del Ghisallo has become the patron saint of cyclists.

The Sanctuary preserves numerous relics and curiosities related to the world of the pedal, including the jerseys and bicycles of the greatest champions in history: from Bartali to Coppi, to Merckx, Moser and Maria Canins.

Next to the Sanctuary there is the Cycling Museum, which is spread over three floors and also includes a multimedia collection of cycling material. Inside, there is a collection of pink shirts from the 1930s to the present day. On the outside of the square, a monument commemorates the couple Bartali and Coppi, who animated the cycling races of the past.

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