Lecco in the seventeenth century was a fortified village with its own castle.This is the scene in which The Betrothed by Alessandro Manzoni takes place.
Alessandro Manzoni, after taking a nature photography of the territory painting the lake Como, the mountains and the Adda river, continues with a description of Lecco, “the largest of these villages”, describing it a village who sets out to become a city.
In the seventeenth century, historic period when The Betrothed is set, Lecco was a fortified village under Spanish domination and had a castle, built in the fourteenth century by the Visconti family of Milan, by the will of Azzone Visconti. Of the mighty castle and fortified village today remains visible only the Viscontea Tower (Torre Viscontea in Piazza XX Settembre) and part of the walls with the town walls (vallo delle mura near Via Bovara), where the Palace of the Spanish governors was built (now Lecco’s Public Library), and near the Basilica of St. Nicholas (Basilica di San Nicolò) where you can see the round bastion on which the high bell tower was erected, known as “matitone” (“big pencil”).
The writer then painted us Lecco’s surrounding territory with roads and paths, with small towns placed on the banks of Adda river, always embedded in the spectacular natural environment Lecco offers embraced by mountains and mirrored in the lake.
Cover image: illustration darft for the edition of The Betrothed dated 1840 Library Braidense
Lecco, the largest of these villages, and which gives its name to the district, is situated at no great distance from the bridge, upon the margin of the lake; nay, often, at the rising of the waters, is partly embosomed within the lake itself; a large town at the present day, and likely soon to become a city. (…) From village to village, from the heights down to the margin of the lake, there are innumerable roads and paths: these vary in their character; at times precipitous, at others level; now sunk and buried between two ivy-clad walls, from whose depth you can behold nothing but the sky, or some lofty mountain peak; then crossing high and level tracts, around the edges of which they sometimes wind, occasionally projecting beyond the face of the mountain, supported by prominent masses resembling bastions, whence the eye wanders over the most varied and delicious landscape. On the one side you behold the blue lake, with its boundaries broken by various promontories and necks of land, and reflecting the inverted images of the objects on its banks; on the other, the Adda, which, flowing beneath the arches of the bridge, expands into a small lake, then contracts again, and holds on its clear serpentining course to the distant horizon: above, are the ponderous masses of the shapeless rocks; beneath, the richly cultivated acclivity, the fair landscape, the bridge; in front, the opposite shore of the lake, and beyond this, the mountain, which bounds the view.