Amongst hills, lakes, castles and pleasure villas: the Walk of the Graces

Stage 1 – From the church of S. Eufemia to the Quarter of Villincino

Chiesa di S. Eufemia

Church of S. Eufemia (St. Euphemia)


Location: the church of S. Eufemia overlooks the square of the same name, in the hamlet of Incino.

Paving: Piazza S. Eufemia is mainly paved with stone slabs. In the portion of the square in front of the church of S. Eufemia, a variation of the paving (stone cubes surrounded by a cobbled strip) highlights the area once occupied by the Early Medieval baptistery dedicated to St. John the Baptist. The wide low step which precedes the bell tower and the façade is paved in stone.

Architectural barriers: to access Piazza S. Eufemia from the large sidewalk which borders onto the western side of the square, separating it from via Licinio, one must pass through the openings between the chains supported by pillars which enclose it. A wide low step, which precedes the bell tower and the façade of the church, at the height of the main entrance, becomes a slightly inclined ramp.

Access: access to the church of S. Eufemia is by the main portal in Piazza S. Eufemia, which leads into an enclosed area (the so-called bussola) with a front door.

Services: parking available in nearby Piazza Vittorio Veneto and adjacent areas; automated teller machine in via Volta – corner of via Mazzini; Chemist in Piazza Vittorio Veneto.

Leisure and Food: bars, cafes and restaurants in the area.

Other information: the church is generally open for visits. Click here for Mass times


(Silvia Fasana)

The church of S. Eufemia is one of the oldest parish churches of the entire diocese of Milan. It is thought to have been founded as far back as the 5th century. In the following centuries it underwent several expansions and renovations; in particular, at the end of the 11th century the church was refurbished in Romanesque style, and, between the end of the 16th century and the beginning of the next, its front section was extended to adjoin the bell tower.

A parchment from the year 891, preserved in the Capitular Archive of Monza, confirms that – already back then – S. Eufemia was a prestigious centre of monastic life. Over the centuries, however, the church fell more and more into ruin, so much so that Saint Charles Borromeo ordered that the title of parish church be transferred to the church of S. Maria di Villincino (St. Mary of Villincino), thus decreeing the end of its religious importance.

The small simple façade of the church is partially occupied by the imposing 32.7 metres high bell tower, which originally stood detached from it. Erected around the 11th century, probably in order to act, too, as a watchtower to help defend the entire Parish, it has now become the symbol of the city of Erba. This square shaped tower was built with small square polished stones, together with a large amount of salvaged building materials from Roman times: one may recognize, especially at the bottom, parts of Roman altars and Latin inscriptions and epigraphs. It is marked by cornices of hanging arches; the three upper orders are opened with single, double and triple lancet windows.

The most important element of the façade, probably rebuilt in the 17th century, is the portal, on the same plane as the bell tower. The niche of the tympanum hosts a copy (the original is inside the church) of a precious fragment of a white marble Romanesque sculpture, arguably dating back to the 13th century, found during the works for the refurbishment of the presbytery in 1970. It represents a male figure, possibly The Redeemer, holding a book; it is flanked by two trees on the foliage of which two trees are perched.

To the right of the entrance portal, through low window you can take a glimpse of a small chapel set up in memory of the 77 victims (mostly women and children) of the bombing of the city by the Allied troops on September 30 and October 1, 1944.

The single nave interior is on a rectangular plan, with a chapel along the right side, and is covered by a trussed timber roof, redone in 1928. Walled inside the right wall, next to the entrance, there is an exquisite rectangular Musso marble Romanesque font with small human heads in relief, engraved with the date MCCXII (1212) and the letters R.A.ME.F.FI., which were interpreted as: «Reverendus Abbas me fecit fieri».

The side chapel on the right is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and was commissioned by the Parravicini family; it is enclosed by a wrought iron gate. The altar is embellished by an altar frontal made in scagliola stone, the centre of which is dominated by Saint Bernardine of Siena’s trigram indicating Christ (IHS), where the shape of the H recalls, too, the M of Mary. Above the altar stone you can find a Late Middle Ages fresco depicting the Madonna and Child with Saints Bartholomew (patron of the Parravicinis), John the Baptist (a link with the old Baptistery?) and two donors.

However, the most notable work to be found in the church is a large 16th century wooden Crucifix carrying a painting of the figure of Christ, resembling the style of Giotto. At the end of the arms of the cross there are three pictures came to light during the restoration of 1983, depicting: on the left, Our Lady of Sorrows; on the right, St. John; at the top, the Holy Trinity.

Under the chancel area, originally raised above the nave, there was a crypt with three naves and three bays, with vaulted ceilings, illuminated by an oculus which can still be seen today, although it has been walled in. The crypt hosted an altar dedicated to St. Maternus.

Inside the presbytery, the original precious fragment of a white marble Romanesque sculpture of The Redeemer, under the altar stone, is worthy of mention, as is the gilded wood altarpiece above the altar, dating back to the late 16th century. It consists of a small temple-shaped structure enriched with wooden statuettes (the stolen originals have been replaced by copies) representing, in the lower end, from left to right, Saint Catherine of Alexandria, Saint Peter, Saint Paul and Saint Euphemia, surmounted by Christ at the column at the centre, flanked by St. John the Baptist and a Bishop Saint; the Virgin Mary is represented at the top.


S. Eufemia Pastoral Community Piazza Prepositurale, Erba; tel. 031.641070;;

Read here to learn more about the church of S. Eufemia:

Pastoral Community of S. Eufemia in Erba website – Church of S. Eufemia

Municipality of Erba website – Church of S. Eufemia

Wikipedia – Church of S. Eufemia

Lombardia Beni Culturali website – Church of S. Eufemia

Larian Triangle tourism website – Church of S. Eufemia

For further information you may also refer to:

A. Marieni et al., La chiesa plebana di Sant’Eufemia ad Erba. Dalle origini ai recenti restauri, Comunità pastorale Sant’Eufemia – Parrocchia Santa Maria Nascente, Erba 2014.

Battistero di S. Giovanni: pianta dell'edificio scomparso

Baptistery of S. Giovanni (St. John)*

* building totally or partially in ruins


(Silvia Fasana)

In the portion of the square in front of the church of S. Eufemia, a variation of the paving (stone cubes surrounded by a cobbled strip) highlights the area once occupied by the Early Medieval baptistery dedicated to St. John the Baptist, the basic plan of which was recovered during archaeological excavations carried out in 1994 under the direction of prof. Sauro Gelichi of Pisa University and dr. Isabella Nobile of Como Civic Museums. The Baptistery dates back to the 5th century, and was originally a small room built according to a square plan, with two entrances – one from the east and one from the west –, and with the baptismal font, consisting of an octagonal pool, at its centre. In the 8th and 9th centuries it was renovated with the addition of a rectangular apse in the east and the inclusion of an altar in order to allow it to be used as a chapel, namely the chapel of St. John of Incino. In the 12th to 14th centuries, the building was once again restructured, with the laying of new flooring and the transformation of the baptismal font, which became circular. The Baptistery, now unsafe, was demolished around the end of the 16th century, at the time when the title of Parish was transferred from the church S. Eufemia to that of S. Maria Nascente (Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary) in Villincino.

The finding of several graves between the Baptistery apse and the church shows that the area was used as a cemetery.

(Drawn from the descriptive panels inside the church of S. Eufemia)


S. Eufemia Pastoral Community Piazza Prepositurale, Erba; tel. 031.641070;;

For further information you may also refer to:

S.Gelichi, I. Nobile De Agostini (a cura di), Il battistero di San Giovanni di Incino, Erba, 2001.

Piazza del Mercato di Incino

Piazza del Mercato di Incino (Incino Market Square)


Location: Piazza Vittorio Veneto, more commonly known by its old name of “Piazza del Mercato (Market Square)” of Incino is located approx. 100 metres away from piazza S. Eufemia.

Paving: the square is paved with porphyry cubes and stone slab strips.

Architectural barriers: the square is in a slightly raised position with respect to the adjacent streets; to access the square one must climb the concrete tiled sidewalk which borders it.

Services: parking available in Piazza Vittorio Veneto and adjacent areas; automated teller machine in via Volta – corner of via Mazzini; Chemist in Piazza Vittorio Veneto.

Leisure and Food: bars, cafes and restaurants in the area.


(Silvia Fasana)

Piazza Vittorio Veneto is more commonly known by its old name of Incino “Market Square”, as it is here that the market was held since at least the 15th century. At the centre of the square stands the large nine-arch porticoed building built in 1827-28 according to a plan by engineer Piero Corti of Pomerio, which resumed the design of the typical old porticoes of the Brianza area under which sellers could exhibit their goods out of the rain and tether animals to the rings which are still visible on the columns.

In the past Incino was – rather forcedly – identified with the Roman “Licinii Forum”, indicated by Pliny, together with Bergamo, as the seat of the Orobi Gauls. Recent studies, however, put this hypothesis in doubt, or even deny it. Still, Incino was an important centre in Roman times, as attested by the numerous discoveries made in the last century in this very square, including some tombs and a Roman sarcophagus.

Market Square is the setting for the traditional feast of the Masigott, which is celebrated on the third Sunday of October and named after the typical Erba cake prepared by the community to celebrate the time of harvest. The feast dates back to the second half of the 16th century, when Saint Charles Borromeo, the archbishop of Milan, transferred the title of Provost Church from the nearby church of S. Eufemia to S. Maria Nascente in Villincino, ruling that the clergy of the latter, in homage to the former mother church (from then onwards downgraded to the status of mere subsidiary), was to come here in a procession every third Sunday of October, to celebrate solemn religious services. The religious feast was gradually accompanied by the profane dimension linked to the myths and traditions of the harvest, until they became inseparable. Stalls, dances and songs, shows and all the typical apparatus of folk feasts animate the square, and the previous evening a large propitiatory bonfire is held.

(Drawn from G. Mauri, Alla scoperta di Erba e dintorni. Itinerario N. 1, Comune di Erba)


Municipality of Erba Piazza Prepositurale 1, Erba; Tel. 031.615111;;

Panorama della Valle Bova

Valle Bova (The Bova Valley)

This point of interest is not located along the itinerary. The vantage point for the view can be found in via Diaz.


(Silvia Fasana)

When looking northwards from the Pian d’Erba (Erba Plain) towards the first spurs of the PreAlps, one can clearly notice a rather steep valley rift, the Bova valley, wedged among the foothills of mounts Bolettone, Puscio and Panigàa. The environment is one of wild beauty, still well preserved, and of considerable naturalistic and scenic value.

The valley is excavated within Mesozoic sedimentary formations of marine origin, where you can frequently find fossil organisms, particularly Ammonites. It is named after the the river Bova, which runs right through it, fed by a number of perennial springs mostly located on the western slope of Mount Panigàa, and by waters flowing from numerous small valleys which furrow the foothills of the surrounding mountains.

During the last impressive Quaternary glacial expansion, the valley was entirely occupied by ice, except for the highest part, above 850 metres, as witnessed by the presence of moraine material which the glacier transported and then abandoned on the mountain slopes, consisting of sand, pebbles and blocks of granite, ghiandone, serpentine, and gneiss, all of which are rocks of alpine origin.

The main characteristic of this valley is that it is divided in the middle by an imposing rocky wall, consisting mainly of white limestone with lenses of flint (Maiolica limestone). Originally, the river overcame this rocky rampart by means of a waterfall, but the flow of water over thousands of years cut deeply into the rock, digging a deep and narrow gorge.

In this there is the imposing entrance of the cave called Buco del Piombo, one of the best-known in the whole of Lombardy, and a true outdoor natural museum with many interesting features.

From a geological perspective the Buco del Piombo is almost entirely dug into the limestone called Maiolica, a sedimentary formation of marine origin deposited on the bottom of an ancient ocean during the last period of the Mesozoic Era, the Cretaceous period (spanning the time interval from 140 to 65 millions of years ago). It is a white compact and well stratified limestone, which has inclusions of flint. The name of the cave probably derives from the fact that the rock – originally white – is covered with a patina of leaden-grey colour, due to the alteration of the limestone.

The formation of this cavity is linked to karst phenomena, caused by the “corrosive” action of rainwater – made aggressive by the presence of dissolved carbon dioxide – on the easily breakable and erodible limestone rocks which are the geological backbone of the Larian Triangle. This incessant work led, over millions of years, to the formation of a maze of tunnels that run beneath the plateau of the Alpe del Viceré. These tunnels collectively constitute the “Alpe del Viceré – Buco del Piombo” karst complex, which has not been fully explored yet. The entrance to the Buco del Piombo is impressive and spectacular both for its dimension and for the wild environment surrounding it. Comparable in size to the Duomo of Milan, it is 45m high and 38m wide, and is occupied for the most part by a blanket of debris, the residue of an old infilling, and by the ruins of a fortification dating back to the 6th century.

The interior of the cave is a very special environment, too: the surface waters from the walls and ceiling contain calcareous mineral salts which deposit themselves giving origin to stalactites, stalagmites and complicated smooth concretions. The cave is colonized by a characteristic microfauna, consisting typically of cave-dwelling forms, i.e. closely adapted to this environment, including Planarians, small Crustaceans, Myriapods, and, among the insects, some Springtails and Ground Beetles.

One of the main reasons for the Buco del Piombo’s fame is linked to the discovery of the so called “Banco degli Orsi”, a significant heap of bones of the Ursus spelaeus, a plantigrade mammal extinct around 18.000-20.000 years ago during the last glacial advance. But man, too, has left its traces in this cave over the centuries. During the Middle and Upper Paleolithic, groups of nomadic hunters visited the valley and certainly ventured into the cave, too, as witnessed by the discovery of some flint tools. Moreover, on several occasions fragments of ceramics and other materials from Roman times (4th-6th century AD) and the Middle Ages – when the cave was fortified by the construction of a large building that blocked the entrance – have been found in the vestibule. Popular tradition has it that in 1160 the people of Erba withdrew to the cave after winning the battle of Carcano against Barbarossa; and it seems that the noble knight Guelfo Parravicini did the same in 1316 to draw up his will. The cave has been popular with researchers and visitors, including Queen Margherita of Savoy, ever since the 19th century.

In 2007, the Lombardy Regional Council recognized the Buco del Piombo as a “Site of Archaeological and Environmental Interest”; in the same year, it also declared the Bova Valley a “Partial Nature Reserve of Geological, Hydro-geological and Landscape Interest”, entrusting its management to the Municipality of Erba, with the aim of protecting the natural and landscape features of the area, and regulate and control the use of the territory for scientific and educational-recreational purposes.


Municipality of Erba Piazza Prepositurale 1, Erba; Tel. 031.615404;;

Buco del Piombo Museum via Cantù 15, Erba; Tel. 031.629599, 338.3053323; e-mail:

Read here to learn more about the Bova Valley Nature Reserve:

Municipality of Erba website – Bova Valley Nature Reserve, da cui si può scaricare un dossier completo sulla Riserva e il suo ambiente.

Read here to learn more about the Buco del Piombo:

Buco del Piombo Museum website

AA.VV. Il Buco del Piombo. Un castello in una grotta, SAP, Mantova 2004.




(Silvia Fasana)

«Villincino – a hamlet of the former Municipality of Incino until 1908, which later became part of the “new” Erba – was called a castle, albeit actually being a fortified village. It was probably built around the end of the 10th century, at the time of the Magyar invasions, when all villages built walls to defend themselves from the continuous raids. Villincino was the home and property of the rich and noble Carpani family, who played a very important role in the history of the Piano d’Erba (Erba Plain). It was a village of considerable importance between the 11th and 12th centuries, when, together with Incino, Erba, Merone, Casletto, Nibionno, Canzo, Albese, and many other villages of the area, was part of a vast feud owned by the counts Dal Verme. In the 13th century it became involved in the battle between the Visconti and Torriani families for the lordship of Milan and it is in this period that it was destroyed twice: in 1278 by the supporters of the Viscontis, who were victorious after the Battle of Desio, and in 1285 at the hands of the Torrianis, who had a brief recovery. The village was then left to itself and no longer found the old fervour of life. It became the quiet home of noble families», such as the Casatis, the Guenzatis, the Rivoltas.

(Drawn from G. Mauri, La via dei castelli. Itinerario N. 3, Comune di Erba)


Municipality of Erba Piazza Prepositurale 1, Erba; Tel. 031.615111;;

Read here to learn more about the hamlet of Villincino:

Municipality of Erba website – Villincino Castle

Larian Triangle tourism website – Hamlet of Villincino

Ville di delizia a Erba: il viale dei cipressi di Villa Majnoni

Le ville di delizia (The pleasure villas)


(Silvia Fasana)

«The whole of Upper Brianza is scattered with aristocratic homes, the so-called “ville di delizia (pleasure villas)”, surrounded by superb parks, more or less in view of the lakes, full of history, literary references, anecdotes and curiosities.

There are several reasons for the blossoming of architecture of this kind, the most important of which is, of course, the beauty of this area, which prompted nobles and wealthy bourgeois to build their country houses here; moreover, the area was close to Milan in times when even short journeys were real adventures. However, other reasons, connected to history and custom, offer an explanation in greater detail of why this particular area of Brianza experienced this boom in domestic architecture.

In the last decades of the 19th century, Palazzo Carpani started to be used a summer residence by the Viceroys: Archduke Ferdinand of Habsburg, while acting as governor of the Duchy of Milan, was the first to choose to stay in Pusiano. Apparently he, too, followed the fashion that brought Milanese noblemen here, attracted by snow grouse hunting, a practice which took place with meets and rituals similar to those of British fox hunting.

The Archduke was later imitated by Viceroy Eugene, Napoleon’s stepson, whose presence at the villa of Pusiano was more frequent, and who bought the Alp above Erba that still bears his name (Alpe del Viceré), where he sent his beloved horses on holiday. At the return of the Austrians, the Pusiano villa continued to be one of the country residences of the Viceroys Ranieri of Hapsburg, albeit more sporadically.

Over time, it was only natural that the area became particularly popular as a location for lavish summer homes, thanks to the three courts with all the social life that went with them.

Even after the formation of the kingdom of Italy, Upper Brianza continued to remain an exclusive resort for nobles and bourgeois. Erba had its own famous racecourse, which competed with the one in Milan. The Savoy royal family in full, who came from the Palace of Monza, attended summer and autumn horse racing: local villas, which in the meantime had become even more numerous due to the continued fashion, rivalled each other as hosts during the sojourns of King Umberto and Queen Margherita. All of that ended with the three shots fired by anarchist Bresci on 29 July 1900 which killed the sovereign: the court definitively abandoned Monza, the great social season of this area ended once and for all, and villas returned to be only country dwellings for affluent families, thus beginning their long, very slow decline».

(Freely drawn from S. Fasana, G. Mauri, A. Molteni, Il Pian d’Erba e i laghi Briantei, Bellavite Editore, Missaglia 1998)

Chiesa Prepositurale di S. Maria Nascente

Provost Church of S. Maria Nascente (the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin)


Location: the provost church of S. Maria Nascente overlooks Piazza Prepositurale, in front of Villa Majnoni d’Intignano, Erba’s Town Hall.

Paving: Piazza Prepositurale is mainly paved with small stone cubes, with two narrow stone slab strips on the sides; in front of the church entrance there is a rectangular area paved with slab stones. The pronaos steps are made stone; the floor under the pronaos is paved with stone slabs, as is the floor of the enclosed inner entrance hall (the so-called bussola). The interior of the church is paved with stone tiles.

Architectural barriers: access to the pronaos is by two small steps (however, on the left there is a ramp with a handrail on the right). The square is separated from via Gerolamo Majnoni by a series of 13 small approx. 80 cm. high square iron pillars, placed at a distance of about 2 metres from each other.

Access: access to the church is normally though the large entrance overlooking Piazza Prepositurale – which used to be the main entrance until 1975 – that leads into an enclosed area (the bussola) with a door on the right.

Services: parking available in the area; automated teller machines and Chemist in Corso XXV Aprile; Municipal Offices in Villa Majnoni d’Intignano, in Piazza Prepositurale.

Leisure and Food: bars and cafes in Corso XXV Aprile and side-streets.

Other information: the church is generally open for visits. Click here for Mass times:


(Silvia Fasana)

Already mentioned in the 13th century by Goffredo da Bussero under the name of S. Maria Bella, the church of S. Maria di Villincino (as it was referred to in documents) became a provost church in the second half of the 16th century by order of St. Charles Borromeo, who, while visiting the Pieve d’Incino, ordered its restoration and enlargement and raised it to the high church of the Parish in lieu of the old parish church of S. Eufemia. Refurbished in the 18th 19th centuries, again extended in the early part of the 20th century, it underwent a last radical refurbishment in 1975 according to a plan by the architect Fulvio Cappelletti, which resulted in the change of its orientation.

The façade, built in the mid-nineteenth century, when the church was extended towards the square, is in late neoclassical style and is preceded by a portico with four sandstone columns.

The central portal, made in embossed copper, is divided into panels representing Scenes from the life of the Virgin Mary and is the work of Maffeo Ferrari (1964), as are the two doors on the sides of the pronaos. Two stones with Roman inscriptions can still be found walled into the left external wall, where what was once the altar dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosary stood, but which was made the main altar of the church after the more recent alterations: of these stones, the first is a memento to the «Lymphae et Vires», i.e. saps and strengths, vital energies of nature, deities inherited from pre-Roman cults, and the second remembers the rural god Silvanus, who was responsible for the preservation and fertility of crops and herds.

The interior of the church has – at least between the 18th century and 1975 – an east-west orientation, with the single nave on-axis with the façade overlooking the square and two side chapels – the 18th century chapel of Our Lady of the Rosary on the left, and the early 20th century chapel dedicated to St. Charles Borromeo on the right.

Following the 1975 extension, the church changed its orientation to north-south (probably the original one), and the chapel which was previously dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosary now hosts the high altar, behind which, in a niche, a wooden statue of Our Lady of the Rosary is preserved.

In what is now the chapel on the left, the 18th century wooden statue of St. Charles deserves a mention. Below it are the remains of Saint Verecunda Martyr, inserted into a wax sculpture that reproduces the appearance of the Saint, venerated by the people of Erba and invoked against drought. In the same chapel, on the right wall, there is a statue of The birth of the Blessed Virgin, to whom the church is dedicated. In the former presbytery, now the first side chapel on the right, you can still find the 18th century polychrome marble altar, while the second chapel on the right hosts the 18th century baptismal font with the wooden cover typical of Lombard religious art.

(Freely drawn from G. Mauri, Alla scoperta di Erba e dintorni. Itinerario N. 1, Comune di Erba)


S. Eufemia Pastoral Community Piazza Prepositurale, Erba; tel. 031.641070;;

Monumento ai caduti di Erba

Erba War Memorial


Location: Erba War Memorial is on the slope of the hill shouldering Erba called “il Ronco dei Corti”.

Paving: the staircase steps have a stone rise and a cobbled tread; the panoramic terrace has a grass surface, with two orthogonal tracks paved with stone slabs which show the cardinal directions, drawing a cross.

Architectural barriers: the Memorial appears as a great, rather steep, staircase.

Access: the base of the Memorial’s staircase is at the beginning of Corso Bartesaghi. It is possible to access the memorial chapel and the terrace from the Licinium Theatre (via Crotto Rosa) entrances; however, they are usually closed.

Services: parking available in the area; automated teller machines and Chemist in Corso XXV Aprile; Municipal Offices in Villa Majnoni d’Intignano, in Piazza Prepositurale.

Leisure and Food: bars and cafes in Corso XXV Aprile and side-streets.


(Silvia Fasana)

Erba War Memorial was designed in 1926 by rationalist architect Giuseppe Terragni in memory of the fallen of the First World War and built between 1928 and 1931 in a stunning panoramic position overlooking the city and the countryside; it was inaugurated on May 29, 1932.

«Just a few days after the inauguration, Terragni wrote to Pietro Maria Bardi: “It is not the definitive statement of rationalism; however, is the first modern War Memorial to have been built in Italy”».

It appears as a monumental stone staircase facing the town’s main street (Corso XXV Aprile), and over an incline of about twenty-five metres along the slope of the hill shouldering Erba called “il Ronco dei Corti”. This staircase, flanked by two rows of tall slender cypress trees, and made up four linear flights of wide low steps separated by three landings, leads to a memorial chapel, the curvilinear cornice of which carries the inscription: «To those who were, to those who are, to those who will be». Inside the memorial chapel, beside the altar, two mortars and a defused bomb have been placed; originally, this space was occupied by a high relief bronze panel by Lucio Fontana portraying Victory. One night in 1936, the panel, not dear to the city authorities, was removed by order of the podestà (mayor), stored for a period of time in a town hall attic, and then melted down for its bronze.

Two flights of stairs climb around the chapel in a semicircle and rise to the panoramic terrace above, against the backdrop of a semicircular stone plinth opened by arched portals. The terrace, on which a First World War cannon has been placed, runs into the grass behind it. When it was built, the Memorial created a new access to the Licinium open air Theatre – a classical style construction commissioned by Alberto and Federico Airoldi of Erba which was completed a few years earlier, in 1928, according to the plan of Fermo Bassi and Giacomo Pozzoli – and is a kind of continuation and completion of it.

«Terragni’s monument reflects the Licinium’s garden not only as far as the connection between curved and straight lines is concerned, but with regard to the relationship between marks engraved in the ground and elevated structures, in an ongoing paragon between nature and classicism».

«The architecture is simple, unadorned, austere in its composition as it is in the choice of materials and colour effects, in a beautiful relationship and contrast between the hardness of the stone and the softness and shine of the green, whether be it of the grass, or trees that surround the monument and mark its inclusion in the landscape».

«In his War Memorial project Giuseppe Terragni interprets the characteristic landscape of the Erba district of Brianza, capturing the most significant aspects and enhancing them in a composition of great charm. The theme that Terragni elaborates here is indeed the ascension, from beneath to above, where the emblematic use of the stair becomes an opportunity to represent, not only symbolically, the connection between the life of the community, with its urban space, and the place of remembrance».

«The work of Terragni deviates greatly from the greater number of post-War commemorative monuments to the fallen, prompting the opinionated reaction of top artists. The designer does not give in to the rhetoric of directly celebrating the events, but is content with the language of simplicity, which people generally can understand, using elements of the place that are reflected in the surrounding landscape, to which the entire composition and the space thus organized inevitably refer».

(Freely drawn from

Read here to learn more about Erba War Memorial:

Lombardia Beni Culturali” website – Erba War Memorial

Wikipedia – Erba War Memorial

Municipality of Erba website – War Memorial

“Alta Brianza” website – War Memorial

For further information you may also refer to:

L. Cavadini, Il Razionalismo Lariano. Como, 1926-1944, Electa, Milano 1989.

L. Cavadini, Architettura razionalista nel territorio comasco, Provincia di Como, Como 2004.

Teatro Licinium

The Licinium Theatre


Location: the Licinium Theatre is on the slope of the hill shouldering Erba called “il Ronco dei Corti”.

Access: there are two entrances to the area occupied by the Licinium Theatre. Both are from via Crotto Rosa: the first is up a steep flight of steps, the other is from a flat boulevard starting at number 2 of via Crotto Rosa.

Services: parking available in the area of Corso Bartesaghi, Corso XXV Aprile and Piazza Prepositurale; automated teller machines and Chemist in Corso XXV Aprile; Municipal Offices in Villa Majnoni d’Intignano, in Piazza Prepositurale.

Leisure and Food: bars and cafes in via Corso XXV Aprile and side-streets.


(Silvia Fasana)

During the Nineteen Twenties, at a time when open-air theatres were becoming popular – thanks also to the interest of the famous poet and novelist Gabriele D’Annunzio – the brothers Alberto and Federico Airoldi set about creating something novel in Erba capable of drawing the attention of tourists and vacationers. The Airoldi brothers, who were originally from Milan, had moved to the Quarter of Upper Erba. They had shown a great passion for theatre since they were children. Alberto, a writer and poet, had the intuition that the area of the public park adjacent to the “Crotto Rosa” Hotel could be a fascinating backdrop for classical performances. This is what he wrote: «There had to be something to attract people to this charming countryside of hills and lakes, which is really unique and worthy of being numbered among the most picturesque and interesting surroundings in Italy, and so the idea of an open-air theatre was born…».

The Airoldis submitted their proposal to the municipal authorities, who, in the summer of 1923, erected a wooden stage and a pavilion to be used as a changing room. The theatre was inaugurated on 12th July 1924. In 1926 The Passion of Christ, which drew inspiration from the religious drama of the Middle Ages, was represented for the first time. Although in March 1928 a blizzard caused the stage to collapse, the two brothers did not lose heart and decided to rebuild it. The project was entrusted to the engineers Fermo Bassi and Giacomo Pozzoli, who did not ask any fee for this work. To enhance the natural beauty of the setting, the new theatre was to draw inspiration from the architectural dictates of classical arenas, which, by the way, was also in line with the cult of the Roman Age imposed by Fascism. Bassi and Pozzoli conceived a circular stage surrounded by columns and enclosed by a small staircase.

The works were completed in July with a total cost of 40 thousand Lira, mostly covered by the Airoldis. The construction site was often visited by rationalist architect Giuseppe Terragni, who at that time was working on the plan for the adjacent War Memorial. The theatre was called Licinium, after the name of consul Licinius who ruled the ancient Roman colony which gave origin to Erba. The opening took place on August 11th with the staging of the play L’Amore dei tre Re (The Love of the Three Kings) by Sem Benelli. For six nights starting from August 14th it was the turn of The Passion of Christ, which, already back then, showed the characteristics that would render it unique, such as the Calvary reconstructed at the back of the audience, on a staircase carved out of stone.

Throughout its history, the Licinium has experienced moments of great fame and splendour: among them the highly celebrated representations of the “Passion” and shows by big names of Italian theatre, including successful directors and stage designers such as Otello Sforza, or actors like Memo Benassi, Renzo Ricci, Evi Maltagliati, Laura Adani, Salvo Randone, Rina Morelli, Paolo Stoppa. In 1993 a small group of enthusiasts founded the “Accademia dei Licini”, a society aimed at rekindling the interest in the long and prestigious history of the Licinium Theatre. In 2010 the “Accademia” decided to dedicate the entire programme to the works of William Shakespeare, making the Licinium the only “open-air” Shakespearian theatre in Italy. Various reasons led to the abandonment of this project; at present, the theatre, which was restored in 2014, hosts artistic and cultural events.

(Freely drawn from M. Colombo, Teatro Licinium. Una storia che continua, Accademia dei Licini, Erba 2009 and from information available on the “Accademia dei Licini” website,

Read here to learn more about the Licinium Theatre:

Municipality of Erba website – Licinium Theatre

Licinium Theatre” href=”” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener noreferrer”>“Alta Brianza” website – Licinium Theatre

“Accademia dei Licini” website – Licinium Theatre, Historical Notes

For further information you may also refer to:

M. Colombo, Licinium. Un teatro una storia, Nuoveparole, Como 1991.

M. Colombo, Teatro Licinium. Una storia che continua, Accademia dei Licini, Erba 2009.

Panorama dei laghi di Alserio e Pusiano

Lake Alserio

This point of interest is not located along the itinerary. The vantage point for the view can be found in via Crotto Rosa.


(Silvia Fasana)

Nestled between green hills, in an area fortunately not affected by massive and uncontrolled urbanization, Lake Alserio has maintained a wild charm, unusual for an angle of Brianza. Originally it formed a single body of water with Lake Pusiano, in a natural basin formed by an ice tongue from the north; the two basins were then separated from the accumulation of alluvial deposits transported by the river Lambro at the exit of the Valassina valley. It is fed mainly by springs and occasional small seasonal streams; the effluent is a tributary of the River Lambro.

From the naturalistic point of view the area is of considerable importance for the presence of a mosaic of different environments, characterized by a variety of local plant and animal species: from the lake, surrounded by a dense grove of reeds, to the fen, the woods, the cultivated meadows. In particular, some rare and interesting plants, normally to be found at higher altitudes (“microthermal relicts”) have been reported in swampy areas, due to the particularly humid microclimate of the areas close to the lake.

However, the main naturalistic interest for the area surrounding Lake Alserio is linked to the presence of a great variety of resident and migratory birds. Among aquatic species the great crested grebe, the moorhen, the common coot, the pochard, the teal, the northern shoveler, the garganey and the mallard; the cane thicket attracts of course the warbler, the reed warbler, the reed bunting, the Savi’s warbler, the water rail, the spotted crake, the little bittern and the grey heron. Up to thirty years ago, there were reports of the presence of the otter, a mammal closely related to freshwater, but which unfortunately has now disappeared from the province of Como and most of Italy.

The eastern shore of the lake is without doubt its best preserved part: for this reason in 1984 it was declared “Riserva Naturale Orientata (Oriented Nature Reserve)” by the Lombardy Regional Council. The management of this Reserve was entrusted to the Consorzio Parco della Valle del Lambro (Consortium of the Lambro Valley Park), as the entire Lake Alserio is part of the Lambro Valley Park. The protected area includes a flat strip crossed by the effluent and mostly occupied by marsh vegetation and cultivated meadows, and, south, by the slope of the Buerga – Monguzzo’s hill – covered by a wood dominated by ash trees and hornbeams. In 2003 Lake Alserio was identified as Site of Community Importance (SCI).


Lambro Valley Regional Park via Vittorio Veneto 19, Triuggio (MB); Tel. 0362.970961;;

For further information you may also refer to:

S. Fasana, G. Mauri, A. Molteni, Il Pian d’Erba e i laghi Briantei, Bellavite Editore, Missaglia 1998.

Il lago di Pusiano da Erba

Lake Pusiano

This point of interest is not located along the itinerary. The vantage point for the view can be found in via Crotto Rosa.


(Silvia Fasana)

It is the «sweet Eupili» sung by Parini (who was born on its banks, in the village of Bosisio,) the «glittering Eupili» cherished by Ugo Foscolo when deeply in love, watery mirror depicted by the intense brushwork of Giovanni Segantini in “Ave Maria on the Lake”. It is Lake Pusiano, the most celebrated among the lakes of Brianza, perhaps for the gentle landscape in which it is inserted. Like all lakes in Brianza, it has the typical characteristics of a glacial basin. At the time of its formation, it formed a single body of water with Lake Alserio in a natural basin south of the town of Erba formed by an ice tongue coming from the north. The two basins were then separated from the accumulation of alluvial deposits transported by the river Lambro at the exit of the Valassina valley.

Although it is the deepest lake in Brianza, it is not particularly deep, with a maximum depth of approx. 24 metres. Lake Pusiano is fed mainly by the Lambrone, an artificial diversion of the original course of the river Lambro, which flows from Erba into the lake near the reed grove of Lido Moiana. The exit of the emissary receives the waters of Lake Alserio and some minor streams in Ponte Nuovo, thus reconstituting the Lambro a few hundred yards downstream.

The shores have maintained their natural appearance despite the presence of numerous villages along them , and all the different types of freshwater humid riparian environments are still present. The white and yellow water-lilies which in the summer colour the surface of the lake with their florescence had already been noticed by Stendhal, who at the end of August of 1818 made a short trip to Brianza, described in his diary “Voyage dans la Brianza avec Giuseppe Vismara”: «Our boat skirted the southern side of the lake. Among the reeds we picked some nice white flowers, and a yellow one that has something Egyptian about it». The water-marsh birds, which use the body of water and reed areas as feeding and breeding areas, are noticeable both for their numbers and insouciance. In particular, one can observe dabbling ducks such as mallards, teals, and gadwalls, and diving ducks such as pochards and tufted ducks, as well as coots and grebes.

One can not speak of Lake Pusiano without mentioning one of its biggest attractions, the small privately owned Isola dei Cipressi (Cypress Island), with its characteristic oval shape, located at a short distance from the shore to the south-west of Pusiano. Traces of pile-dwelling settlements have been found not only on the Island, but in the hamlets of Comarcia and Pascolo di Bosisio, too, since 1856.

The waters of Lake Pusiano, too, have unfortunately suffered from the increasing urbanization of the surrounding area, especially in the 70s and 80s of the last century, with the consequent increase of sewage and pollution. Thanks to an intense coordination between the administrations of the seven riverside Municipalities, the collection of residential and industrial waste-water and the capillary monitoring of the status of the waters is currently under way. Lake Pusiano is included within the boundaries of the Lambro Valley Regional Nature Park established in 1983, and in 2003 it was identified as a Site of Community Importance (SCI), therefore it is a protected area in all respects.


Lambro Valley Regional Park via Vittorio Veneto 19, Triuggio (MB); Tel. 0362.970961;;

For the econavigation of Lake Pusiano

Pro Loco Bosisio tel. 338.1394577;;

Read here to learn more about Lake Pusiano:

Lake Pusiano tourism website

Read here to learn more about Cypress Island:

Cypress Island website

For further information you may also refer to:

S. Fasana, G. Mauri, A. Molteni, Il Pian d’Erba e i laghi Briantei, Bellavite Editore, Missaglia 1998.

Area del Castello

Erba Castle*

* building totally or partially in ruins


(Silvia Fasana)

Erba castle was probably built between the 10th and 11th century, in a strategic position to control the Pian d’Erba and the Brianza lakes. The first owners were the Ghibelline family of the De Herba or Erba, who later transferred it to the Parravicinis of Parravicino.

The people of Erba Castle had an important moment of glory in 1160 during the Battle of Tassera between Frederick Barbarossa and the Milanese. It was when the fortunes of the battle were becoming favourable to the imperial forces and their allies that the inhabitants of Erba and Orsenigo, rebelling against their masters Parravicini, rushed to the rescue of the Milanese, offering their decisive contribution and forcing Barbarossa to flee.

Historian Angelo Bassi from Erba wrote: «For this aid, Milan granted Erba the citizenship of Milan, an honour subsequently renewed by all governments that ruled Milan until the French invasion of 1796; for this reason Erba preserves the coat of arms and flag of the Municipality of Milan, i.e. a red cross on a white background».

During the battles between the Torriani and Visconti families, in 1278 the castle was besieged and temporarily conquered by Cassone della Torre, who had laid siege to the castle as revenge against the people of Erba castle who had became allies with his opponent, Archbishop Ottone Visconti, in the Battle of Desio in 1277.

In 1404 Giovanni da Carcano, an ally of the Viscontis, held prisoner in the castle two members of the Rusca family, Franchino and Ottone, until the peace between Milan and Como was concluded; a few years later, in 1407, when the castle was taken by leader Pandolfo Malatesta, Giovanni Visconti ordered it to be besieged by another famous man of arms of the time, Facino Cane.

The destruction of the castle is to be dated between the middle of the 5th and the middle of the 6th century; in 1560 it was already a heap of ruins.

In the 19th century, the Valaperta family purchased the ownership of the place as a summer residence, and erected two circular towers on the side of the park which overlooks the valley called “Pravalle”, to commemorate the formal glories of the castle.

(Freely drawn from G. Mauri, La via dei castelli. Itinerario N. 3, Comune di Erba)

Virtual tour of the Villa Le due Torrette park, where Erba castle once stood

Villa Amalia

Villa Amalia


Location: the main entrance to Villa Amalia’s park, which is enclosed by a large wrought iron gate, is in Piazza San Giovanni Battista De La Salle, to the right of the façade of the church of S. Maria degli Angeli. A second entrance, which is used by the “Carlo Porta” State High School, is located to the left of the façade of the church.

Paving: the forecourt overlooked by the second entrance to the Villa is cobbled, as is the pathway leading to it and the pathway leading to the main entrance. There are lawns and trees and stone seats opposite the forecourt and along the sides of the pathways.

Architectural barriers:

Services: parking available in the area.

Leisure and food:


(Silvia Fasana)

Until the end of the 18th century the great Franciscan friary (of the order of the Observant friars at first, and, from 1594 onwards, of the “Riformati”) of Santa Maria degli Angeli (St. Mary of the Angels), which was built between 1480 and 1489 on land donated by Galdo and Leone Carpani, stood here. In 1599 it was chosen by the order as a wool mill for the manufacture of fabrics for the robes of the friars of the entire Reformed Province of Milan.

After its suppression in 1798, it was bought at a Cisalpine Republic auction by Milanese lawyer Rocco Marliani, against the fierce opposition of the people of Erba “alta”, who strongly objected to the ventilated hypothesis that the entire complex, including the church, was to be completely demolished. However, a solution was found: the plan for the conversion of the friary into a villa was entrusted to architect Leopoldo Pollack, a friend of Marliani’s (who designed, amongst other things, the Villa Reale in Milan, Villa Antona Traversi in Meda, Villa Saporiti in Como and Villa Carcano in Anzano del Parco). Inaugurated in 1801, the villa was dedicated by Marliani to his wife Amalia. The Marlianis owned Villa Amalia until 1828: in those years the villa had its moment of greatest splendour and guests included sculptors Giuseppe Franchi and Antonio Canova, painters Giuseppe Bassi and Andrea Appiani, and poets Vincenzo Monti, Giovanni Torti, and Carlo Porta. In particular, Ugo Foscolo stayed there several times and Villa Amalia was the place where his tormented love for the beautiful Maddalena Marliani Bignami first begun. She was the daughter of Rocco and Amalia Marliani, and was immortalized by the poet in the final canto of “Le Grazie (The Graces)”.

The mansion was first transferred from the Marianis to the Mariettis, a family of bankers, and then to the Marquises Stampa di Soncino; the counts Ammann bought the property from the latter, and then passed it on by way of inheritance to counts Padulli, who sold it to the Chiesa family of Chiasso. From the Chiesas it was then transferred to the religious order of the Brothers of the Christian Schools; since 1963 it has been owned by the Province of Como and is the home to the “Carlo Porta” State High School (specializing in languages and human sciences).

Despite the numerous transfers of ownership and the changes made to the building due to the different aesthetic and practical needs of its various inhabitants, the exterior of Villa Amalia, excluding the outbuildings and the various services, has reached us in its original neoclassical style.

The access to the villa is from the court of honour which Pollack obtained by using the basic structure of the former friary’s cloister. In one of the two wings of the building you can still see the portico called “of the Capuchin”, in memory of the friary. The porch is decorated with five lunettes depicting mythological scenes (Diana and Endymion, Bacchus and Ariadne) and episodes of the Odyssey (Ulysses guest of the sorceress Circe; Ulysses at the court of Alcinous with Nausicaa; Ulysses embraces Penelope at last) attributed to Giuseppe Bossi (approx. 1806).

From the court of honour a short staircase leads to the entrance of the villa: above the French windows of the entrance there is a beautiful frieze with Grape harvester puttis. The entrance hall to the villa has a gothic revival and neo-Rococo style decoration, thought to be the work of Luigi Scrosati, which Massimilano Stampa wanted as a replacement to the original neoclassical hall of the Marlianis. On the ceiling there is a simulated continuous balcony, behind which there are glimpses of gothic architecture and from which some characters appear to lean out, «in the manner of scenic fiction and “trompe-l’oeil”».

Access to the Library is to the left of the entrance. The entrance also leads to the “Sala Impero” (Empire Room), the only virtually intact environment of the Empire style original furnishings. It is also called “Aurora Room”, after the famous painting by Giuseppe Bossi mounted on the ceiling. Aurora is portrayed as a winged woman who overcomes the darkness of the night, depicted as a female figure, covered by a dark cloak.

A neoclassical decoration, possibly the work of Giuseppe Bossi, runs along the four walls. On each wall there is a medallion: the figure portrayed above the large fireplace mirror is probably Amalia Marliani with her daughter Maddalena Marliani Bignami on the opposite wall, while the other two medallions depict the Lion rampant, i.e. the coat of arms of the Marlianis. The overdoors were painted at the end of the 19th century by painter Felice Zennaro and represent Geometry, Industry, Painting, Music, Poetry, and Sculpture.

To the right of the “Aurora Room” you find the Yellow Room (of eclectic taste, with a beautiful stucco ceiling, a beautiful pseudo-Rococo mirror, an inlaid étagère, and an early 19th century table with chairs), the Red Room (again stucco-decorated, with a rich chandelier, an elegant commode of the Maggiolini circle, and chairs, armchairs and sofa of romantic taste), and the Corner Sitting-room (with oriental-style furnishings and five oval medallions representing genre scenes painted by Ignazio Manzoni towards 1850).

To the left of the “Aurora Room” you find the Reading Room (characterized by a ceiling painted in neo-Gothic style, attributed to painter Scrosati, with medallions portraying the ancestors of the Stampa di Soncino family), and the Dining Room (with refined stuccos, a beautiful wrought iron chandelier, and original 19th century furnishings).

From the “Aurora Room” you may access the park through the pronaos with beautiful Ionic columns. The pronaos interior is decorated with neoclassical bas-reliefs, possibly the work of Bossi, which depict scenes of Spring, Summer and Autumn. The Fountain of Puttino is the one right opposite to the pronaos, while the Fountain of the Dolphins is the one farther away.

The park hosts, too, a beautiful statue of the Goddess Prudence, a legacy of the neoclassical period, around which in the last century stood a small elegant temple.

A bust of Giuseppe Parini, the work of neoclassical sculptor Giuseppe Franchi, is placed inside a niche. The Marlianis commissioned this sculpture to honour the great poet from Bosisio, an intimate friend of theirs. In the early part of the 19th century, any visitor who happened to walk the Park drive hosting the monument to Parini, might crush the gravel with his foot and set off an underground organ. The organ would then start to play seemingly enchanted music referred to the verses of the Ode “All’Inclita Nice (To the Illustrious Nice)” carved in the stone beneath the bust of the poet.

The park gained its current appearance in the second half of the last century, due to the work of the gardeners of Marquises Stampa di Soncino, who spent a fortune to transform it into a an extremely rich and varied “botanical garden” which includes: pines, beeches, fir trees, magnolias, the inevitable Olea fragrans, rhododendrons, azaleas, camellias, hydrangeas, cedars, cypresses, oaks, sycamores, lime trees, laurels, a giant sequoia, and auracaria, which taper away to the north into the original features of the wood.

Next to the park gate of the villa, to the left side of the church, a sign board, part of the “The stars of Lake Como” project promoted by the Chamber of Commerce and the Province of Como, informs the reader that some scenes of the 1974 movie “Allonsanfan” by brothers Paolo and Vittorio Taviani, and starring Marcello Mastroianni and Lea Massari, were shot at Villa Amalia.

(Freely drawn from G. Mauri, Alla scoperta della Vecchia Erba. Itinerario N. 2, Comune di Erba)


In order to visit Villa Amalia and the church of S. Maria degli Angeli you need to send a request in writing to Amministrazione Provinciale di Como (Como Provincial Authority), Settore Fabbricati, Tel. 031.230313; Fax 031.230444.

Read here to learn more about Villa Amalia:

Municipality of Erba website – Villa Amalia

Lake Pusiano tourism website – Villa Amalia

Download number 2-2005 of the “Natura e Civiltà” magazine, published by the “Gruppo Naturalistico della Brianza” (Naturalistic Association of the Brianza area), which includes a summary of the work on Villa Amalia carried out by the Istituto Professionale Agro Ambientale (Agri-environmental College) San Vincenzo of Albese con Cassano: Gruppo Naturalistico della Brianza website

Download the brochure on Villa Amalia and on the church of S. Maria degli Angeli published by the students of the “Carlo Porta” State High School of Erba on the occasion of the FAI (Italian National Trust) Spring Days 2013: “Carlo Porta” State High School website

Download the brochure on the “Le stelle del lago di Como (Stars of Lake Como)” project, promoted by the Chamber of Commerce and the Province of Como: Como Chamber of Commerce website

Browse Villa Amalia’s photo gallery: “Carlo Porta” State High School website

For further information you may also refer to:

Tornerà a fiorire Villa Amalia, Istituto San Vincenzo, Erba 2005.

Chiesa di S. Maria degli Angeli Interno

Church of S. Maria degli Angeli (St. Mary of the Angels)


Location: the church of S. Maria degli Angeli is located next to Villa Amalia, in Piazza San Giovanni Battista De La Salle.

Paving: the forecourt overlooked by the entrance to the church is cobbled, as is the pathway leading to it and the pathway leading to the main entrance. There are lawns and trees and stone seats opposite the forecourt and along the sides of the pathways.

The steps preceding the entrance are paved in stone. At the top of the steps there is a stone landing. The interior of the church, after a stone strip, has a beautiful terracotta tile floor.

Architectural barriers:/ to access the portal one must climb 9 semicircular stone steps, followed by a landing. To access the church one must cross a low stone threshold.

Access: the access to the church is from the entrance overlooking Piazza San Giovanni Battista De La Salle, which leads into an enclosed area (the so-called bussola) with two side doors.

Services: parking available in the area.

Leisure and Food:

Other information: the church is normally closed, except on special occasions such as the great feast of Saint Anthony (mid-January).


(Silvia Fasana)

The church of S. Maria degli Angeli (St. Mary of the Angels) is the only part which remained almost intact of the former Franciscan friary erected between 1480 and 1489 on land donated by Galdo and Leone Carpani. The church was consecrated on January 21, 1498 by Franciscan mons. Guglielmo, Bishop of Segone in Corsica, and, originally, it had the typical structure of 15th century Franciscan churches. Once the adjacent friary was suppressed and the neoclassical Villa Amalia was built in its place, it became the chapel of the latter.

The current appearance of the church dates back both to the adaptation works to the former friary commissioned by lawyer Marliani to Leopoldo Pollack in the years 1798-1801 and the later ones carried out by the various owners of Villa Amalia.

The simple gabled façade, surmounted by a beautiful rose window, was completely repainted around 1850 in neo-Gothic style; its sides, within the niches painted “en trompe l’oeil”, portray Saint Roch (top left), St. Peter (bottom left), Saint Anthony the Abbot (top right) and Saint Paul (bottom right).

The interior has a single nave, and is covered by a trussed timber roof. The signs of the arches of the chapels walled in during the restructuring carried out by Pollack are still visible on the side walls. Along the right wall, from the entrance downwards, you will find the funeral monument of Massimiliano Giovanni Rinaldo Stampa with a bas-relief (Angel with trumpet) attributed to the school of Canova and that of Count Alberto Amman; they are followed by a fresco dated 1496 depicting a Madonna and Child with Angel Musicians, under which one can note the fragment of a Crucifixion and the 18th century altar dedicated to St. Anthony, with a statue of the Saint which probably came from the suppressed Abbey of Sant’Antonio Abate (St. Anthony the Abbot) in Mevate (“lower” Erba). An elegant Renaissance pulpit which Marquis Massimiliano Stampa ordered to be transferred here from the suppressed Chiaravalle Abbey protrudes from the left wall, near the presbytery.

A triumphal arch opens the wall occupied by a large fresco of the Crucifixion surrounded by other related episodes contained in the Gospels (the Gethsemane and the Crowning with thorn on the left, and the Incredulity of St. Thomas and the Ascension to the right). It was inspired by a similar one made by Bernardino Luini in 1529 for the church of S. Maria degli Angeli in Lugano. In the 18th century the central part of the fresco was mutilated to allow the insertion of the new high altar, which is still on site: the tabernacle with the small gilded wood temple was built by the Torricelli brothers from Lugano in 1738. The apse was repainted in 1850 in neo-Gothic style (like the façade) with a “trompe l’oeil” simulating a tent.

The church of S. Maria degli Angeli carefully preserved the relic of the hand of St. Antoninus, martyr, received as donation in 1498. Tradition has it that in the 15th century a finger detached from the relic (perhaps stolen or otherwise removed) ended up in the Franciscan friary of the Reformed Order of the Friars Minor of Santa Croce in Como; once found and taken back to Erba, the finger is supposed to have reattached itself to the rest of the hand.

The church of Santa Maria degli Angeli is also known as the Church of S. Antonio (St. Anthony), because every January 17 a great feast dedicated to the saint, protector of animals, is celebrated on its churchyard. In the past the feast was celebrated in front of the old Abbey of Saint Anthony in Mevate d’Erba, but, after the suppression of this abbey, it migrated to Santa Maria degli Angeli. The consequent circus and the first movie shows, which attracted people from all over Brianza, have been replaced by the funfair and dozens of stalls, ending with the «Gran falò del purcel (Great Bonfire of the Pig)», where fire is set to a papier-mâché pig.

(Freely drawn from G. Mauri, Alla scoperta della Vecchia Erba. Itinerario N. 2, Comune di Erba)


In order to visit Villa Amalia and the church of S. Maria degli Angeli you need to send a request in writing to Amministrazione Provinciale di Como (Como Provincial Authority), Settore Fabbricati, Tel. 031.230313; Fax 031.230444.

Download the brochure on Villa Amalia and on the church of S. Maria degli Angeli published by the students of the “Carlo Porta” State High School of Erba on the occasion of the FAI (Italian National Trust) Spring Days 2013: “Carlo Porta” State High School website

Civico Museo di Erba

Erba Civic Museum


Location: Erba Civic Museum is located in the left wing of Villa Ceriani in Crevenna, in via Ugo Foscolo 27.

Paving: the entrance hall of the villa is paved with stone slabs, as is the portion of floor under the entrance portico; the inner courtyard of the Villa is pebbled; the garden staircase is cobbled and the pathway leading to the entrance of the Museum is pebbled. The interior of the Museum is paved with tiles.

Architectural barriers: to access Erba Civic Museum one must climb the staircase (consisting of 17 steps, followed by a landing, and a further 16 steps to the left) which links the courtyard to the garden on the back of the villa. The museum exhibition is basically displayed on one floor, with a few minor exceptions: one must walk down three steps from the Prehistory room to the cave bear room, climb three steps to return to the entrance hall from the Ammonites room, and climb a further step (please be careful!) to access the room with the finds not originating from the Larian Triangle.

Access: the access to the Museum is from the upper part of the park of Villa Ceriani.

Services: parking available in the area.

Leisure and Food: cafes and a pizzeria in the area.

Other information: for opening times, browse the Municipality of Erba website


(Silvia Fasana)

Erba Civic Museum was established in 1961,and occupied some rooms of Villa Majnoni until 1977, when it was transferred to Villa Ceriani (also known as the Municipal Villa of Crevenna or Villa San Giuseppe), its current prestigious venue. In 1999 the structure underwent a radical change, with the creation of new theme tours in accordance with modern principles of state-of-the-art museology. The Museum was created as an intermediate institution between the larger museums of Como and Lecco, and constantly networks with them. It plays an important role in the area of Upper Brianza and the Larian Triangle not only for the preservation of local archaeological and palaeontological finds, but for the protection of the territory’s historical and cultural heritage and the diffusion of knowledge about such heritage.

The seven rooms of the Erba Museum offer a welcome opportunity to learn about the main stages of the history and prehistory of the area.

The material from Upper Brianza and the Larian Triangle was placed in the different sections following a reverse chronological order. This choice was made to simulate the classic situation of the archaeologist when operating on an excavation area: he finds the most recent evidence first, and then, by going deeper, gradually submerges into the past. A series of objects that act as the symbols of each section are displayed in the entrance hall: the 15th century Visconti coat of arms, the Roman era altar, the Ammonite fossil from the Turati Alp representing the different geologic eras.

The first two rooms are devoted to the Modern age: here you will find a fresco by Andrea Gentilino (1490) depicting Our Lady of the Milk between Saint Roch and Saint Sebastian, from the former Abbey of St. Anthony in Mevate; a large map from the time of Maria Theresa of Austria, and the wooden pulpit of the parish church of S. Eufemia of Incino.

With a further step back in time you reach the room dedicated to the Middle Ages, which houses the most important piece of the collection: a Lombard spatha (sword) with a beautiful hilt decorated with inlaid silver (a goldsmith technique particularly widespread in the Early Middle Ages), which was found in Parravicino d’Erba in 1961. Among the main exhibits present in the Late Antiquity and Roman Age are the burial relics found in different locations in the area (Albavilla, Erba, Tavernerio, Onno, Proserpio, Valbrona, Lasnigo, Caslino d’Erba). Particularly worthy of note are the funerary urn of Caninia Optata, discovered in the sacristy walls of the church of S. Eufemia of Incino, and three armlets, ancient bronze bracelets with snake-head terminals, from Lezza Ponte Lambro. The display cases dedicated to Prehistory and Protohistory host funerary relics from three tombs found in Canzo, dating back to the Copper Age – Bronze Age, a pile-dwelling pole found in Lake Pusiano; some arrowheads of Neo-Eneolithic appearance found in the Bova Valley; Mesolithic materials found during the excavation carried out in the 80s of the last century on Mount Cornizzolo by the “Paolo Giovio” Museum of Como; ceramic fragments, bone awls and flint arrowheads found in the excavation of the Bronze Age settlement on the north shore of Lake Segrino.

The last two rooms house palaeontological finds that represent the oldest fauna of this area, including some of the remains of the cave bear (Ursus spelaeus), recovered in the Buco del Piombo cave. This Mammal, which became extinct around 18.000-20.000 years ago during the last glacial advance, used to spend the long period of hibernation inside natural caves, consuming the fat reserves accumulated during the favourable season, and sometimes passing from sleep to death; it is for this reason that abundant remains of this animal are found in caves. Worthy of note, too, is the interesting collection of Ammonites, fossil marine mollusks with their characteristic planospiral shell, coming from the Turati Alp, above Albavilla. These animal remains preserved in stone are the testimony of even more remote periods, when the area around Erba was covered by the sea, before the formation of the Alps. A succession of rocky outcrops near Alp Turati is in fact very fossiliferous, and dates back to the Jurassic period (202 to 140 million years ago): it was discovered in the mid-nineteenth century and became quickly famous thanks to the large collections of Abbot Antonio Stoppani, an eminent naturalist of the time. From that moment onwards Alp Turati has been the subject of numerous studies, culminating in a series of excavations carried out by the Department of Earth Sciences of the University of Milan in the years 1998 – 2000 and promoted by Erba Museum.

Another room exhibits items not coming from the Larian Triangle, including Egyptian and Oriental Art objects.

The courtyard of the Museum hosts a number of sarcophagi with their lids, granite millstones, and of particular interest, two “masso-avello”, i.e. a tub-shaped tomb carved into erratic boulders. These burials, most likely intended for persons of higher rank, are a peculiarity of the area from Como to Ticino, from Brianza to Valtellina. Although their date is still uncertain, as until now they have always been found desecrated and without burial relics, they are thought to be from the 5th – 7th century AD, between the fall of the Western Roman Empire and the occupation of the territory around Lake Como by the Lombards after the surrender of the Byzantines, as the fortifications of the Comacina Island testify. The two specimens preserved in Erba come from Fraino di Asso and from Magreglio, respectively.


Erba Civic Museum presso Villa Ceriani, via Ugo Foscolo 27, Erba; Tel. 031.3355341;

It is possible to check the dates and times available for guided tours at the following address: To book a tour please contact the museum by phone or e-mail.

Read here to learn more about Erba Civic Museum:

Municipality of Erba website – Erba Civic Museum

Lake Pusiano tourism website – Erba Civic Museum