Lezzeno is a village near Bellagio on the western shore of Lake Como with around 2,000 inhabitants. Unwinding along 4½ miles of the narrow lake road, Lezzeno is made up of 17 distinct hamlets that stretch from the lake up the tree-covered mountains, using every available horizontal or terraced space for its traditional houses, lush gardens and scarce parking. The village boasts fantastic lake views, overlooking Lake Como’s only island Isola Comacina and the promontory that is home to the stunning 18th century Villa Balbianello. A closer look in the village’s hidden corners will reveal some clues about the area’s prominence as a center for artisanal crafts – such as boat building, wire mesh manufacturing and Missoltini, a fresh water fish similar to shad that is dried in the sun and grilled.

The rich history of this region harks back to ancient times, with archaeological evidence of activities related to agriculture and water transport in this area during Roman times. Throughout the Middle Ages until the unification of Italy, Lezzeno endured the same fate as many of the country’s other commune, becoming embroiled in the territorial spats of nearby principalities and caught in the crossfire of European invaders, sometimes siding with the winners and sometimes with the losers. Lezzeno was decidedly on the side of the losers during the Ten Years’ War between Milan and Como in the 12th century, when Germany’s Emperor Barbarossa and his allies burned the village to the ground (as evidenced in charred timbers found during the Palazzo’s recent renovations). The ruins of a tower above the hamlet of Rozzo was just one of the many towers along this side of the lake erected to keep watch for approaching enemy ships (as indeed was the tower of our own Palazzo del Vice Re). In the late 16th century, the courthouse in Lezzeno was the scene of many sensational witchcraft trials. Legend has it that a coven of witches in Lezzeno placed a powerful spell on the young men of Lenno, making them burn with love to the point of death. From the 16th to the 18th century, Lezzeno was under Spanish rule (when the Palazzo is believed to have been home to the Spanish Viceroy), before being taken by the Austrians, Napoleon’s Empire and then the Austrians again until finally Italy became unified in the 19th century.

Today, the area is known for its great scenic beauty, blending the verdant green of the woods with the turquoise waters of the lake and the bright hues of the geraniums, oleander and hyacinths with the relentless blue of the sky to great effect. This natural beauty is best enjoyed along one of the many hiking paths, from the old Roman road Strada Regia to the mountain lanes farmers used to bring the cows to higher pastures in summer. Or take to the water, either in a rented boat, a private water taxi, the public hydrofoil or with one of the local watersports companies for a spot of waterskiing, paddle boarding or wakeboarding. The area has plenty to discover, from the local park just in front of the Palazzo del Vice Re – Villa Citterio – to the lake’s characteristic towns and villages, accessible by bus or hydrofoil. The Como-Bellagio bus stop is just outside the hamlet of Pescaù and the fast hydrofoil boats leave from the landing in the center of the hamlet of Rizzo.

Guests of the Palazzo can leave their cars in the large public parking lot just outside and take the public transport services available in the direct vicinity. The hamlet where the Palazzo is located has an Alimentari (grocery store) and a household goods store, please kindly note that most shops close from 1 to 4 p.m.! For coffee, guests will enjoy mixing with the locals at Bar La Cope; you can enjoy a good aperitivo at Stappa Tappo in Sostra, near Hotel Aurora or for something a bit more stylish, the recently renovated Bar Tita next to the Ittiturismo restaurant near the end of town closest to Bellagio is a great choice. Lezzeno is off the beaten tourist path, giving guests a great feel for authentic Lake Como life – and although little English is spoken here, the locals are very willing to help. Just use some basic Italian and some clever gestures and body language, and you’ll be sure to make yourselves understood!