What if I told you that Musso, one of the peaceful towns on Lake Como (Italy), has something to do with the cathedral in the city center?
To tell this story we have to come back to the 14th century and rediscover the village’s heritage: a castle, wars, the Medeghino’s enterprises, marble quarries and a botanic garden… let us try to put the pieces together.
The headland ‘Sasso di Musso’, a natural border dividing Musso from Dongo, is the marble quarries area. Since the first century AD, Romans have been exploiting the quarries to extract the valuable marble as proved by some artifacts’ finding. In the medieval age, the Musso marble has been used to build the Como cathedral’s dome, facade, and Broletto. It was a long way down from the Alto Lario (North Lake Como) to Como: the marble was first carried by wagons and then loaded on ships up to the city. Curiously, the cathedral’s restoration gave new life to the quarries, which reopen towards the end of the 18th century. Different companies managed the marble’s extraction during the years replacing the old handwork with new mechanic techniques. The authorities decided then to stop the works in the quarries in order to protect the remains of the Medeghino’s castle and the surrounding territory.
Who was this mysterious Medeghino and which role did he play in the village’s history? His real name was Gian Giacomo Medici and even though he did not have boundaries with the prestigious family from Florence, he was pretty famous in the Como area. As regards the surname ‘Medeghino’, we know that he probably earned it because of his low height.
The violent enterprises shared with bandits forced him to seek shelter on the Lake Como. The Medeghino finally succeeded in getting the Musso castle from the Duke of Milan after committing a murder for him. In the first half of the 15th century, he even ran a war-making short-term deal according to his interests. Thanks to his military engagement, he almost creates his personal realm, not recognized in the end by the Milan senate. At his death, his brother Pope Pio IV ordered to build up a monument in the Milan cathedral entirely realized using the Musso marble.
In this same area, you can find today the so-called ‘Giardino del Merlo’, a botanic garden overlooking the lake. Here, Mediterranean vegetation meets the alpine one to shape three main spaces: the main one with the plants sided by woods and natural growth. Giovanni Manzi firstly had the idea to develop the garden in the second half of the 18th century inspired by the Riviera Ligure and its cliffs. The ‘Giardino del Merlo’ association now takes care of the park and its plants, trying to recover it from the destruction due to the quarries. Walking through tunnels and caves, you can quite easily reach the peak and find the Sant’Eufemia church. Stunning views on the lake will sweeten the climb on a hot sunny day of summer.
If you would like to find out more about the village and its past, our advice is to visit the museum: there you can imagine the miners’ everyday working life through the old pictures and the reproductions. You can also see how the Medeghino’s castle looked like in the 15th century…precious memories for a precious village!
Photo credits: Nicole Della Torre
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