La Pesa Vegia
Bellano (Lecco, Lombardy region)
An emotional 4 centuries-old tradition to relive an episode from the time of the Spanish domination over Northern Italy, featuring history and folklore, sacred and profane, tradition and reenactment in an event which keeps all its charm and magic intact also thanks to the unique atmosphere of a beautiful village nestled along the Como Lake, the one made worldwide famous by Alessandro Manzoni's novel “The Bethored…”
Geographical, cultural and historical context
Bellano lies along the eastern branch of Lake Como (also known as “Lario”), in an enchanting and suggestive landscape near the other lake gems Bellagio, Menaggio and Varenna, about 25 km from Lecco, 56 km from Como, and 75 km from Milan, in the Lombardy region of northern Italy. Bellano, once called by the Italian novelist Antonio Balbiani (1838-1889) the “little Manchester on the Lario” due to the widespread and flourishing textile industry, is located at the mouth of the river Pioverna, at the northern outlet of the Valsassina alpine valley, between the lake itself and the Grigna mountain massif. The old town features the gothic-style Church of Santi Nazario e Celso with beautiful frescos and wooden statues, and several historical architectures from the Middle Ages and the Baroque Age, including houses, courtyards, stone stairs and alleys.
Well worth a visit are also the surroundings with picturesque hamlets and beautiful “must-sees”, like the elegant Baroque-style Our Lady of Sorrows sanctuary, built in 1704, and the renowned “Orrido di Bellano”, a natural gorge (a small canyon) formed over 15 million years ago by the turbulent waters of the river Pioverna, which carved out imposing caverns and suggestive waterfalls. The territory offers also lakeside parks and gardens, scenery waterfront walks, lovely beaches, sports facilities and panoramic trekking paths leading in the nearby Valsassina.
Event description and programme
Every year Bellano celebrates the Epiphany and an event from the town's history occurred in the early 17th century, when Lombardy was under the Spanish rule, and the Epiphany itself was honoured according to the period tastes and customs. In 1605 the local governor, the Spanish general and statesman Pedro Henriquez d'Azevedo y Alvarez de Toledo, Count of Fuentes de Valdepero (1525-1610 AD), issued an ordinance to restore the old system of local weights and measures (hence the name "Pesa Vegia", "old weight"), repealing his own previous reform aimed to introduce a new weights system (“Pesa Nova”), that was heavily opposed by the local merchants and craftsmen.
A delegation of citizens from Bellano dared to set sail for Como with the request for the Governor to keep in force the traditional weights units. The delegates succeeded and decided to sail immediately back to Bellano, where they landed on the evening of January 5, and found their fellow citizens gathered around a bonfire on the pier anxiously waiting for the outcome. As the vessel approached the harbour the people shouted from the banks “Pesa vegia o Pesa nova?” “Pesa Vegia” was the answer from the delegates. A burst of joy welcomed the good news and the whole town poured to the docks to celebrate together, and since it was the eve of Epiphany, the people started spontaneously to reenact the arrival of the Magi weaving through the old town in a joyful torch-light procession.
Since then, both events have been always celebrated together for over four centuries thanks to the passionate involvement of the whole citizenship. The today rich programme includes antiques and crafts markets, the reenactment of the landing of the delegates, the reading of the ordinance by the Governor from the town hall balcony, the procession of the Magi, the Living Nativity scene, the castle of Herod, as well as dance and theatre shows, music performances, local cuisine, the weights race in the downtown and finally a great bonfire on the pier.
Please contact the Organizers for confirmation and further details.
Info & Contact
La Pesa Vegia official website
Infoline: +39 3385264555
Bellano Town Council
Address: Via Vittorio Veneto, 23 - 23822 Bellano (Lecco)
Tel.: +39 0341 821124 - Fax: +39 0341 820850
Bellano Tourism Office - "Bellano si colora"
Tel.: +39 3351752102
Image: La Pesa Vegia
Text: Bellano Town Council, Wikipedia, Eastern Lake Como portal, L’Italo-Americano Newspaper, Lake Como Italy Travel Guide.
Bellano on Google Maps:
Video reportage from the event:
Highlights from the 2017 edition:
More video reportages:
Visiting the charming Bellano: