Looking For Leonardo Da Vinci Part 2 – Il Ponte Vecchio

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I found out that Leonardo Da Vinci had spent some time in this area of Lake Como between 1483 and 1498. It was the same period when he was working in Milan on the  The Last Supper for the monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie. Da Vinci had been ‘sent’ by Lorenzo De Medici to Ludovico Sforza, the Duke of Milan, as a way to form an alliance with him.  In some sense, it makes me feel a bit sorry for Da Vinci, despite his great talent and mastery, he was a commodity used by the wealthy and powerful, but then again, it was the wellspring that made it all possible.

Looking for Leonardo da Vinci: Part 2,
Ponte Azzone Visconti
Adda River, Lecco, Italy

One of Da Vinci’s most famous works of art is the Mona Lisa or as the Italians call her, “la Gioconda”. Painted between 1503-1506 she has always been at the center of debate over who the model was, but no one has ever really been concerned, until recently, about the background setting.

Over Mona Lisa’s left shoulder there is a small, distinctive bridge with arcs, and a river that opens to a lake. Over her right shoulder there is a a jagged, shadowy mountain.


The stone bridge with its arcs passing over the river is speculated to be the Ponte Azzone Visconti which passes over the Adda River and opens out to the Garlate Lake. Although the mountain doesn’t have it’s distinctive pointed peak detail it is in the same position as would be our Ressegone. Da Vinici had declared regretting “never having completed a single work”, so perhaps he didn’t get around to finishing the detail on the peaks.

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According to the website ScopriLecco.it there are sketches by the master in his Codex of Windsor (part of the British Royal Collection) depicting landscapes of Lecco, Lake Como and the surrounding areas.

It’s nice to think he was inspired and the time spent here meant so much to him that he wanted to preserve it in one of his works.

Il Ponte Vecchio, Il Ponte Azzone Visconti

Commonly known as Ponte Vecchio, the old bridge, was built between 1336 and 1338. It was commissioned  by Lord of Milan,  Azzone Visconti and was considered to be a great feat of military engineering of the time. It served as a toll bridge, and was the only way to cross from the Milan side to the Lecco side. The collected fees were then divvied up by the noblemen of the two sides.

Today the bridge is a free, one way only traffic bridge. It is in much need of repair and it has been reinforced and modified in recent years. There is also talk of leaving it open to pedestrian traffic only.

How to get there

  • The Ponte Azzone Visconti is found in Lecco at the corner of Via Giovanni Amendola and Via Azzone Visconti.
  • It’s a 10 minute walk from the center, from Piazza Manzoni follow Via Azzone Visconti to the end.
  • If you are staying at the Riva Bella camp ground, follow the bike/walking path along towards Lecco center. You will see the bridge after the Isola Viscontea.

Tourists!  Please note – The currents at the base of its columns are extremely dangerous and form whirlpools that can suck you under! There have been several accidents in this area of the river. Do not swim to or jump from from the bridge!

See my previous post Looking for Leonardo Da Vinci  Part 1 – Self Propelling Ferry at Imbersago.



Ciao!I’m Celia. I help style-savvy travelers plan an unforgettable trip to Milan and Lake Como offering local knowledge and personalized, friendly guidance. I’d be happy to share my insider tips and help you save time planning your trip. [Learn more]    [Schedule a call]

About Author /

Originally from New York, Celia now spends her time between Milan and Lake Como sharing her discoveries and experiences living in Italy. Follow @CeliaAbernethy on Twitter

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