Mezzegra is a very small place but very interesting for a particular reason – it was where Mussolini was executed.
Mussolini began his last journey on 25 April 1945, travelling from Milan to Como with his mistress, Claretta Petacci. The next day, they reached Menaggio. On the 27th they were approaching Dongo when they were captured by Partisans, who took them to Mezzegra. There they spent their last night, in the house of the De Maria family on Via Reale in the hamlet of Bonzanigo. It is said that one or two rooms have been preserved exactly as they were that evening.
Next day, 28 April 1945 they were taken away in a car by the partisan leader known as Count Valerio, acting for the National Liberation Committee. He apparently convinced them that they were being rescued. However, the car stopped about a mile away in the Via XXIV Maggio in the Giulino district and both were shot, outside the gates of Villa Belmonte. A wooden black cross, which marks the spot, is inscribed with the words ‘Benito Mussolini’ and the date ’28 Aprile 1945’.
For those who would like to read more about this, there is a book called ‘One Afternoon at Mezzegra – The Story of Mussolini’s death’. It’s by Peter Whittle and is available from Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com. We tried to visit both the location where Mussolini and Clara spent their last night and the gate where they were shot, but somehow drove past one and then went in the wrong direction for the other. We found ourselves on a road in the ‘suburbs’ that got steeper and steeper, then panicked and turned round and drove away. Never mind. Next time. And while we’re there, we can call in to see the baroque Oratory of St Joseph.
But the most important religious building in the area is the parish church of S. Abbondio. Seen from the front, it has an elegant baroque facade next to a much older bell tower. Inside, there are frescoes by the artist known as Fiamminghino, and a refurbished painted vault.
Next to S. Abbondio is the district of Bonzanigo, where many houses have pictures painted on their walls, including one of an angel leaving the church. And on the opposite side of Bonzanigo, the Palazzo Brentano, now used partly as the town hall and partly as a residence, is noted for its painted vaults. Mezzegra also has its own bit of lakeside, which contains the Piazza Magnolia, the church of S. Gaetano and a public park. But it will always be best known as the place where Il Duce was shot.
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