The Italian Lakes
NATO TPC F-2A air chart The Italian Lakes , showing Dongo and Mezzegra , on Lake Como , where Mussolini was captured and murdered by Italian Communists, Hôtel Casta Diva, Villa del Balbianello, where the opening scene of Casino Royale (2006) was filmed, and Villa La Gaeta where the closing scene of Casino Royale (2006) was filmed, and Villa d'Este Concours d'Elegance .
- In 1945 Mussolini was traveling in a German convoy north along the western shore of Lake Como. In the days previously he was undecided as to whether he should escape to Switzerland, only a few kilometers away, or negotiate with the Communist Partisans were were fighting with Italian forces loyal to Mussolini. As the convoy rounded the headland just before Dongo, it turned the corner and found the road blocked by rocks. Communist partisans manning the roadblock searched the wagons. Mussolini was dressed as a German soldier and had dropped his head forward as if asleep so that his helmet concealed his face. The Communist partisan asked
"What is the matter with him ?"
"He's drunk" answered one of the infantrymen
The Communist partisan stepped onto the truck and took at look at the drunk soldier: It was Mussolini. After his capture, he was moved up and down the shore of Lake Como as there was a danger of him being recaptured by forces loyal to him.
The location of the ambush when viewed from a northerly direction. This is the beauty of the modern availability of satellite photographs: One may obtain images which previously only Allied reconnaisance aircraft obtained. In 1945 there were no tunnels and the road followed the edge of the lake as it had done for centuries. At the sharp turn under the overhang, the Communist partisans had pulled boulders into the road to stop vehicles.
The approach to Dongo . A rocky promontory imposes upon the lake shore and the old road squeezes between it and the water. In the Sixties, a short tunnel was drilled and in 2003 a longer tunnel (lowermost photograph) was drilled. They both exit at the same place (middle photograph).
Satellite image of the approach to Dongo showing the old tunnel and the canopy which covers its approach. At the end of the canopy, there is an exit onto the course of the old road. Canopies are used throughout the Alps to prevent snow and rockfall from closing the road in winter.
Partisan's eyeview: Looking south to the prominence of rock around which Mussolini's convoy drove into the ambush. Dongo is behind the camera. The tunnels are a recent construction.
You can see the old road dissappearing to the left around the rock outcrop. The ambush was staged on the section of old road hidden behind those orange constructions to the left of frame. The old tunnel built in the 1960s is visible to the right of the ambush site. You can see all the way to its end. Half of the tunnel is canopy. At the end of the canopy, coming from the south, there is a void in the wall through which you pass onto the old road. On the right is the new tunnel which cuts off a much larger section of the mountain.
The bend in the road around which Mussolini's convoy came at the location where the ambush was set.
The 1960s tunnel canopy entrance from the south from the old road. The tunnel/canopy entrance is to the left of frame. This exit in the wall of the canopy was to allow access to the old road, upon which the camera is standing. The 1960s tunnel continues through the mountainside right of frame.
FROM THE SOUTH
Looking north: The convoy's eye-view of the bend in the road as it travelled north to Dongo
Looking out of the tunnel canopy exit onto the old road. The 1960s tunnel continues out of frame left.
The 1960s tunnel exit can be seen left of frame, with Dongo framed beyond it.
The approach to the 1960s tunnel canopy still on the old road. The old road continues under the canopy then out of the side of the canopy and around the mountain on the lake sure.
The old road looking north.
The old road goes right and the new 2003 tunnel goes left. In the bottom left of frame, the a photograph of the old road in the 1970s.
Looking south from the tunnel entrance away south to Mezzegra
The old road continues to the right. The modern 2003 tunnel goes left and makes a straight line through the mountainside.
The town of Dongo, just north of the road section where Mussolini was captured.
1945: Lago di Como, Dongo: The waterfront where the entourage of Mussolini was shot by Communist partisans.
You can see in this photograph the road where Mussolini's convoy was halted by the partisans just in the bottom left of frame.
Mussolini's entourage travelling with him were shot here on the harbor wall 1945-APR-08. The bullet marks are still visible on the metal railings (1996). The road around the shoreline to the point of the ambush continues around to the left of frame.
Mezzegra: Farmhouse de Maria, where Mussolini slept the night before he was murdered
- After being held at a farmhouse above Mezzegra, Mussolini appears to have been shot in front of the gates of the Villa Belmonte.
The circumstances surrounding Mussolini's death are the subject of mystery due to irregularities in the accounts given and the involvement of the English SOE An alternative explanation is that Mussolini was shot elsewhere and the bodies brought here.
There is a pleasant café where you can gain refreshment at the bottom of this road on the left where it rejoins the shoreline road.
Mezzegra : Approaching from the valley road, the alleged location of Mussolini's assassination is on the right. It is now (2003) marked by a small black cross.
To the distress of the owners of the Villa Belmonte, before the construction of the memorial markers, the gate posts of the Villa Belmonte used to acquire graffiti from the admirers of Il Duce whose ardour of admiration exceeded sense of aesthetics and their civility.
Villa Belmonte in the Sixties. The gates are the same. The marble cross was stolen. This is common: Various memorials have been placed at the location of the death of T.E. Lawrence but over the years, each one has been stolen by his disciples. The present memorial is bolted and epoxied into the wall.
The location of the assassination of Mussolini.
The location of the Villa Belmonte at San Guilinodi Mezzegra
For a comprehensive treatment of the movements of Mussolini during his last weeks see After the Battle volume No7 The Last Days of Mussolini. Each of the places where Mussolini stayed during the final few days of the war have been determined and located. This research was conducted in the mid-1970s when it was possible to speak to all the eye-witnesses.
Hôtel Casta Diva, at Blevio, Lake Como
- In Series 21 Episode 02, Top Gear staged a race between an Alfa Romeo 4C and Gibbs Quadski , from just east of Colico at the head of the Lake Como finishing at the Hôtel Casta Diva , on the SS583 just north of Como at Blevio . The Italian Lakes are spectacularly beautiful, but there is little to do except stay at good hôtels, dine well and admire the view. No great hardship. Jeremy Clarkson has the only device with which you could enjoy the Italian Lakes in the spirit in which these pages are written: The Gibbs Quadski, which will either navigate the mule tracks and tiny roads which run up and down the hillsides, cross the lake at will, or pull in at yet another hôtel or café. This particular episode really was like something out of James Bond, with Jeremy Clarkson racing one of the powerful hydrofoils which the Italians use as ferrys on the lakes. In fact , the the entire cast and crew of Top Gear were fined by the authorities for some transgression of local bye-laws relating to safety on the water in relation to the scene with the hydrofoil. I had no idea that the Italians had any laws relating to safety. It shows you the commitment that the Top Gear team had to achieving feats of entertainment. This is not the first time that the Italian police have stirred themselves to prosecute the Top Gear team: They were also prosecuted for 'working on a Sunday'.
Local laws prohibit lakeside landowners from allowing tree trunks to drop into the lake because any boat moving at speed does not benefit from collision with a 'submerged object' but the hydrofoils would be particularly badly damaged.
The Italian Lakes like anywhere in the Alps are a mass of winding valleys covered in small twisting roads (usually former mule tracks). Most of the valleys run north-south but with the Gibbs Quadski there comes the possibility of a Grand Enchaînements of the lakes, running east-west. Such a device would enable transit of impassible margins such as the great river deltas like the Mississipi, the Amazon, the Mekong or the Ganges.
- Ganges: In the flooded delta of the Ganges at the turn of the century, British officers used to hunt wild boar from horseback using a lance in the delta of the Ganges, which was a myriad of inter-twined banks and inlets covered in thick vegetation and teeming with game animals. A.E. Wardrop, who hunted wild boar with a lance from horseback with a dog called Baskerville, who was half-mastiff, half-foxhound, in the turn of the century India wrote of his adventures in Modern Pig-Sticking published by Macmillan, London, 1930, 2nd edition. http://www.pigsticking.com/
- Mekong: In the Mekong delta during the Vietnam war the US Army used SRN6 hovercraft to tranist areas where the PB-R and the shallow-draft moniters could not venture. Further, the great archipelagos such as Indonesia, where islands are separated by narrow tidal channels, could be tranisted on such a device as the Quadski. For adventures just such as this across Java, Komodo, Papua New Guinea see Sir David Attenborough's 1955 unsupported expedition by land sea and air. He published a report of his adventures in Zoo Quest for a Dragon including the Quest for the Paradise Birds by David Attenborough published by The Companion Book Club, London, 1959. Previous edition 1957. 1959 printing is expanded, and should be the edition you obtain.
Lake Como: Top Gear Series 21 Episode 02: From Colico to Como
Clarkson approaches the Hôtel Casta Diva on the Quadski
Hôtel Casta Diva from the camera helicopter
Clarkson enters the underground moorings / Bond villain lair on the Quadski
The waterfront of the Hôtel Casta Diva
Hôtel Casta Diva from the air.
Hôtel Casta Diva
- In Casino Royale (2006) The Villa del Balbianello at Lenno a few minutes south of Mezzegra at Lenno on the Western side of the lake, was used as the sanatorium .
Casino Royale (2006) Villa Balbianello, just south of Mezzegra
- Villa La Gaeta, San Siro north of Mennagio just after Nobiallo on the western side of the lake (SS 340) was used for the last scene where Bond shoots Mr White
A Riva docks at the Villa La Gaeta. This combination has to be the last word in luxury.
Ferruccio Lamborghini's Lamborghini-engined Riva hull #278 in front of the Villa La Gaeta
Casino Royale (2006) Villa La Geata, just north of Mennagio.
- Villa d'Este Concours d'Elegance on south-west shore of Lake Como at Cernobbia just north-west of Como itself. A young Gabrielle d'Annunzio once came to hear Franz Liszt give a recital by moonlight in the grounds of the Villa d'Este. When d'Annunzio built his last house, Vittoriale, he had copies of the eagle statues in the garden at the Villa d'Este made for his own garden.
Lake Como: Villa d'Este Concours d'Elegance - approach map Cernobbia
Oceans 12 (2004) 00:57:52: Lago di Como: A Riva Aquarama
George Clooney in his Riva on Lake Como
Oceans 12 Villa Erba
NATO TPC F-2A air chart The Italian Lakes , showing Dongo and Mezzegra , on Lake Como , where Mussolini was captured and murdered by Italian Communists, the Hôtel Casta Diva where Top Gear Series 21 Episode 02 was filmed, Villa del Balbianello, where the opening scene of Casino Royale (2006) was filmed, Villa La Gaeta where the closing scene of Casino Royale (2006) was filmed and Villa d'Este Concours d'Elegance .
A Berann relief map of The Italian Lakes, looking north.
LDS 1:300,000 Schweiz, section Italian Lakes. Lake Maggiore, center, Lake Como, right.
Map of the Alps from Hugh Merrick's Great Motor Highways of the Alps . The shaded zone marks the impassable backbone of the Alps which separates Italy from Mitteleuropa. The backbone is crossed only by the high passes.
NATO air chart ONC F2 Schweiz section Pennine Alps - transit Switzerland winter along the Pennine Alps, showing the backbone of the Alps and the divide of Switzerland at the Furkapass in winter.
LDS topographic 1:100,000 number 107 'Ticino-Tessin', section Lake Como and Lugano
- Something like seventy percent of the world's silks are woven in small workshops around Como. While France my be the most splendid land to drive through on wine hunting vacations and cheese hunting vacation, Italy has to be the premiere destination for cloth hunting vacations. Italy produces a wide variety of cotton shirt cloth in many colors and finishes. Their quality is of the finest and equals or exceeds that of the great shirtcloth producing factories of Lancashire, Yorkshire in the UK, which supply the Jermyn Street shirtmakers.
- The Swiss borders to the north are manned like all Swiss/Italian borders but are the low-pressure variety which you get on the edge of towns. These borders receive a lot of local traffic and the border guard tend not to check traffic although they might pick out foreign registered vehicles. One of the ways of getting around this is to get some license plates made up which look like local Swiss or Italian plates but which bear your own license number. The cops only glance at the plate and by the time they figure it out you have driven by. Cops are reluctant to run after a car gesticulating wildly because such a display of impotence degrades their dignity, to which they are very much attached. Once you have this 'false flag' plate you can joined a line of local traffic and be waved through with them. Remember that the automobile in front of you will set the mind-set of the cop who is waving you through. He is far more likely to wave through a dodgy automobile if it is preceded by three automobiles which display all the right symptoms for a wave-through. Border guards (like all cops) are very keen on questions and one of the questions they like to ask is "And where are you going in Switzerland, monsieur ?". With Switzerland always give an answer which is not in Switzerland, but just on the other side of Switzerland in the direction in which you are traveling. . For instance when entering at the border after Glaruns (coming from Merano) answer the question by telling them you are going to Milan (I). If you are entering at the border at Basel, answer that you are going to Chamonix (FR).
- The Swiss/Italian border on the Majola Pass which you cross when driving from St Moritz to Milano I rate as a 'medium' border. There is little local traffic and the cops are bored. A dangerous combination. There is a strong likelihood of being stopped and a medium likelihood of being hassled.
+ SEE ALSO
- Riva motor launches
- NORTH: The jump at the Verzasca Dam , in Goldeneye (1995)
- NORTH: Forno Glacier on the Majola Pass en route to St Moritz.
- NORTH: St Moritz
- NORTH: Ski - The Alps and Ski-Resorts
- EAST: Vittoriale, Gabrielle D'Annunzio's villa on Lake Garda . Composer Rimsky-Korsakov spent the summer of 1905 on Lake Garda. If any biographers of Rimsky-Korsakov know where he stayed then I would be grateful if they would contact me.#
- EAST: Merano
- EAST: Ski - Cortina D'Ampezzo
- WEST: Ski - Cervinia
- SOUTH: Venice
- SOUTH: Côte D'Azur
- Mussolini's rescue on the Gran Sasso
- Grenze - Borders
+ EXTERNAL LINKS
- Lakeside villas of Lake Como
- Villa d'Este Concours d'Elegance on south-west shore of Lake Como at Cernobbia just north of Como itself.
- William Walton lived at Ascona on Lake Maggiore with is mistress, a German Countess.
- - Mussolini's last days: First hand account and original photographs of a British Army servicemen.
- - - www.inilossum.us - Assassination of Mussolini at Dongo
- - - www.ilpostalista.it - Assassination of Mussolini at Dongo
- - - www.wikiwand.com - Assassination of Mussolini at Dongo
- After the Battle volume No7 The Last Days of Mussolini. Each of the places where Mussolini stayed during the final few days of the war have been determined and located. This research was conducted in the mid-1970s when it was possible to speak to all the eye-witnesses.
- The Pike by Lucy Hughes-Hallet published by Fourth Estate, 2013 - Comprehensive biography of d'Annunzio.
+ KARTE - MAPS
- LDS - 1:300,000 GENERAL KARTE DER SCHWEIZ
- LDS - 1:100,000 TICINO - TESSIN Number 107
- LDS - 1:100,000 SOTTO CENERI Number 48
- LDS - 1:100,000 SOPRA CENERI Number 43
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