Like Dongo, to which it is connected by both road and a two mile pedestrian and cycling path, Gravedona is a mixture of different elements – an old town rich in historic sights and a modern centre for both land based sports and sailing. Unlike Dongo, where the watersports area leading to the Centro Nautico is on the road out of town, many of the sporting facilities of Gravedona can be visited before you reach the town centre.
Within a short walk of each other are the communal lido, with its two swimming pools, and the sports centre with tennis courts, as well as football pitches. But the most important sporting facility, also located at this end of the promenade, is the ‘Aval-CDV’ sailing centre, next to the beach. This hires equipment for a range of boats, both monohull and catamarans; hosts serious, international sailing and windsurfing regattas and competitions and provides courses for learners, including an introduction to sailing for children.
The next thing you see if you approach from the south is that the old town occupies a semi-circular bay, with a long promenade. This position gives the visitor a view cross the Lake to Mount Legnone, with its peak covered in snow for many months, and to the Abbey of Piona. The promenade, according to Gravedona’s own publicity, ‘lights up during the nice summer nights becoming the pre-eminent meeting point of the territory, with live music in the bars…, events and performances’. It’s also the location of a market, which takes place on the first and third Mondays of each month, and sells wonderful local food.
The most celebrated religious site in Gravedona is the church of Santa Maria del Tiglio (Our Lady of the Lime-Tree), considered one of the great Romanesque monuments around Lake Como. Unfortunately, the Romanesque style has more to do with the shape of spaces than with decoration and the dominant pattern of black and white marble can seem rather severe. Many visitors will find the adjacent church of San Vincenzo, with its rich seventeenth and eighteenth century decoration, more appealing.
Two other churches in Gravedona worth visiting are Santa Maria del Grazie and SS. Gusmeo and Matteo. The first is a single hall with a sequence of five arches beautifully painted, with plain surfaces edged with abstract decoration on the higher parts and rich, figurative frescos below them. The other is most notable for a typically baroque, illusionist painting on the vault of the presbytery by Giovan Mauro della Rovere, called ‘Fiammenghino’. Guided tours of both churches are available in the summer.
The main secular monument in Gravedona is the Palazzo Gallio, with its two elegant renaissance loggias facing the Lake and majestic hall. The palace is the seat of the Comunita Montana (community of the mountain area) and not routinely open to visitors. But it is used for cultural events , including the annual ‘Pianomaster’ Festival.
Before reaching the Palazzo Gallio, you’ll come across the tourist office, located in a round building that looks like a converted fortification. It’s close to the Piazza Garibaldi and the ferry ‘pontile’. There you’ll find lots of information on all of the attractions and activities described above.
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