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An excellent way to see Lecco and Lake Como is from above atop the bell and clock tower Campanile di San Nicolò. This is Lecco’s top tourist attraction but is not always open. Hopefully, you will be lucky enough to get the opportunity to see it. Reservations can be made in advance. Its a 400-step climb to the top.
I visited the tower on a clear winter day and got some incredible pictures of the lake and surrounding urban and natural landscape. See more photos below. (All photos by Celia Abernethy)
Saint Nicolas is the patron saint of Lecco. The San Nicolo cathedral is located above Piazza Cermenati, on the lakeshore- just follow the large stone staircase leading to the church.
Standing next to the cathedral of Lecco, the Basilica di San Nicolò, the bell tower reaches 96 meters high and has a 400-step climb to the top. Affectionately nicknamed Matitone, the Big Pencil, it is the second tallest free-standing bell tower in Italy and one of the tallest in Europe.
Construction work began in 1882 by architect Enrico Gattinoni. Work was interrupted due to lack of funds and was completed twenty years later by Giovanni Ceruti.
During medieval times, Lecco was a fortified, walled city. The tower was built on the base of a military cannon station.
The tower bells tolled for the first time on Christmas night of 1904. Each of the 9 bells was forged in Valtellina and transported by special train to Lecco. In all, the bells weigh-in at a total of 9 tons!
Visitors enjoy a panoramic view of the city and the eastern branch of Lake Como stretching out towards the Swiss Alps.
The Climb to the top of Matitone
Insider travel tip: Some of the passageway is tight, so it’s best to leave your backpacks and bags at the coat-check. There are lockers at the entrance inside the tower.
The climb starts with an iron spiral staircase and then leads to a stone staircase that hugs the wall of the tower. There are several points where the guide stops to talk about the history and construction. The pauses are long enough to catch your breath and rest a moment.
There is another iron spiral staircase to get to the bell chamber. The bell-chamber is open and has spectacular views. Plug your ears when the bells ring!
The upper terrace offers a 360° bird’s eye view of Lecco and Lake Como.
NOTE: To get to the upper terrace you must climb an iron ladder. It’s not for everyone, some people stayed behind on the lower terrace.
Visiting the bell tower of Lecco
The bell tower is operated by volunteers and is open the second and fourth Sunday of each month. During summer months (June to August) opening times are more frequent. Groups can book appointments for special openings.
All visits are limited to groups of 13 people every 20 minutes and are accompanied by a guide. Guides speak Italian and audio guides in different languages are available.
Reservations must be made in advance online: www.campaniledilecco.it
Price: Admission is by donation. I liked it so much I gave 10 euro but you are free to give what you want.
I visited on a winter afternoon at sunset and the light and the views were spectacular. You can even see the Christmas lights below too.