Lake Como: The Lariana Boat Collection
Visit this museum to travel in time up to the ancient life on the Lake
by Virginia Louise Merlini
In the small lakeside village of Pianello del Lario is a unique treasure that awaits discovery and enjoyment. Here, sleeping on the banks of the beautiful Lake Como, is a defunct 19th century silk mill rededicated by a group of enthusiasts to the preservation of the history and accomplishment of life, commerce, and recreation on the lake.
The Museo della Barca Lariana – the museum for boats of the lake – was founded in 1982 by friends who, four years earlier, solidified their loyalties by establishing an association dedicated to all things nautical that illustrated life on the lake. La Raccolta della Barca Lariana or The Lariana Boat Collection generated enough interest and donations that a museum was opened to house the growing collection, and both please and entice public interest.
The museum was a grand success and it was open with regular visiting hours for eighteen years. Because of considerations such as the costs of protecting and maintaining the collection, and keeping enough staff on for regular visiting hours the museum was closed in 2000. However, there are plans afoot to open it again this summer. In the meantime, the large museum is currently open for private tours. The collection is well worth the price and time of a visit! In September 2016, my cousin Flavia Rizzi arranged a tour of the museum for me through our cousin Mario Calzoni who is the caretaker of the museum. Lucky, lucky me!
The collection is astonishing and includes over 600 boats representing traditional fishing boats, boats of commerce used for the transport of legal and illegal goods, motor boats, sailboats, and boats used for recreation. There are even Venetian style gondolas built especially to accommodate the demands of the waters and winds of Lake Como. The oldest gondola was built on Lake Como in the 18th century by the famous Venetian artisan Ferdinando Taroni. The area so inspired Taroni that he moved his shipbuilding company from Venice to Carate Urio on Lake Como in 1790. He used metal manufactured in nearby Premana in the mountains of the Val Varrone for the ships he built on the lake.
The Museo della Barca Lariana, also, houses boat hulls, many of which were built on Lake Como, and engines – both inboard and outboard – including many still working Pianello FB engines. These engines are Fabio Buzzi creations made by his company – FB Design. Buzzi is a Lecco native born in 1943 and he has been designing engines and racing hulls, and winning competitions for decades. His latest accomplishment is a 2016 speed record for a non-stop race from Montecarlo to Venice in a boat with a hull and engine of his design that are used for rescue and maritime operations.
I hope these few photos from my tour of the museum stimulate your interest and please you. Lake Como is, for me, the most beautiful lake in Italy. Its’ lovely vistas and deep, cool waters were longed for by my Italian-American family who only left its shores reluctantly keeping forever intact their identity as lake dwellers. The rigor of their loyalty was tribal. My grandparents never assimilated, refusing even to learn the language of the country in which they raised children and lived for over sixty years, and that now claims their bones.
This museum speaks to Lake Como’s place in the hearts of the lake dwellers and to its function in sustaining the lives of the people who lived and still live here. The lake offers many things to the people – food, a reliable fresh water supply, electricity generated by the rushing torrents and rivers that empty into it, efficiency of travel, recreation, work, fertile lands created by it tides and seasons, and beauty. The Museo della Barca Lariana holds the nautical tools used by the people for all purposes. These tools are beautiful in both their form and function. They please the eye and the endeavor! Come to the Museum! Call for a private tour. Mario Calzoni speaks English!
Museo della Barca Lariana
Via Statale, 139
22010 Pianello del Lario (Como)
From a US phone: 001-39-03-448-7235
From an Italian phone: 03-448-7235
Virginia Louise Merlini