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Giuseppe Garibaldi • Bellagio

Giuseppe Garibaldi • Bellagio

Did you know?
Sophia Loren is related to Benito Mussolini, Italian ruler from 1922-1943 (nicknamed “Il Duce”—“the Duke” before John Wayne; born Benito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini on 29 July 1883 in Dova di Predappio near Forli) Yes, Mussolini’s son Romano married Sophia Loren’s sister Anna Maria. Romano and Anna Maria’s daughter, Sophia’s niece, Alessandra Mussolini held a seat in the Italian Parliament for several years representing the conservative Alleanza Nazionale (National Alliance).

Alessandra Mussolini was one of the party’s leaders with former Italian Vice Prime Minister Gianfranco Fini. A former actress, Mussolini is also a member of the European Parliament and narrowly lost a bid to become Mayor of Napoli. (Photo of Sophia Loren from UPI. Visit Sophia Loren’s marvelous web site at

Famous Italian
Giuseppe Garibaldi was born on 4 July 1807 in Nizza (now Nice, France) when it was still part of Italy. Leading figure of Italy’s “Risorgimento”-- modern unification of Italy. He exhibited unusual courage since childhood. At only eight he rescued a woman who fell into a ditch and at age 13 saved friends from a shipwreck. He fought in Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay as a revolutionary for democratic causes and earned an international reputation as a brave warrior and brilliant strategist. Giuseppe Garibaldi, Giuseppe Mazzini, Camillo Benso di Cavour and King Vittorio Emmanuele II became partners to unify the nation from 1859-1861 and fully in 1870. He married Anna Maria Ribeiro da Silva. Garibaldi's enterprises in America, where he lived for four years, resulted in his nickname "hero of the two Worlds". His conquests as a general were spectacular. Garibaldi's popularity, skill at connecting with and inspiring the masses and his successful military actions are credited with the unification of modern Italy. After countless victories, he retired on the island of Caprera in Sardegna--Sardinia, where he died on 2 June 1882. Garibaldi purchased the entire island of Caprera in 1855 and visitors today can see his home, a museum and the patriot’s boat. Many towns in Italy have built monuments in honor of modern Italy’s founding father.

New word
Ciao is hello or good-bye with friends and family in Italian. Carlo Goldoni, the Italian Molière, penned many of his plays in his native Venetian dialect; in provincial language the word used is “schiao” which translates as “your servant”, a derivation of “esclavum”, for slave in Latin. An interesting evolution over the centuries from “I am your servant” to hello or goodbye. Ciao was first used in English text by Ernest Hemingway in “A Farewell to Arms” printed in 1929. The story takes place in Northern Italy during World War I. Ciao is not used for people you don’t know, with older people or in formal settings.

Place to visit Bellagio,
Lago di Como. When you are standing on the banks of Lake Como, it seems surreal and its beauty envelops you. The attraction of Italy is its “other-wordliness”. It’s no wonder George Lucas selected Lago di Como to film the final scenes of Star Wars at Villa del Balbianello. Winston Churchill enjoyed staying at Lake Como and spent a long painting holiday there in 1945 after he lost a re-election bid as Great Britain’s Prime Minister. George Clooney, Donatella Versace and other celebrities live near here. This paradisiacal setting is at the foot of the Alps with its splendid valleys and extraordinary landscapes. Pliny the Younger owned two villas at Lago di Como.

Villa Serbelloni and gardens were built at the site of one of these villas and since 1959 the glorious 50-acre estate has been owned and preserved by the Rockefeller Foundation. Truly a small slice of heaven. The gardens of the Villa are open only with guided tours at 10:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. Booking and tickets at Bellagio Tourist Office. Tel. 031.950204. Another unique adventure is Villa del Balbianello, built for Cardinal Angelo Maria Durini at the end of the 18th century, the Villa stands on the tip of a steep Dosso di Lavedo promontory, nicknamed “Gibraltar of the Lario”. Fodor’s says “This may be the most magical house in all of Italy.” George Lucas agreed and chose the venue to film the final romance scene of “Star Wars – Episode II” in the gardens overlooking Lake Como, opposite Bellagio. Today, the villa is a memorial to its last owner, the great explorer Guido Monzino (born in Milano 2 March 1928. Monzino led 21 difficult expeditions to plant the Italian flag at Mt. Everest in Tibet and Nepal, the Alps, in the Andes, in Africa, Greenland and in the Arctic at the North Pole. When Monzino died on 11 September 1988 he left the villa to Italy under supervision of the Fondo per L’ambiente Italiano with a stipulation that it be left exactly as it was when he lived there.) Guido Monzino's memorabilia from his expeditions are displayed at Villa del Balbianello. Call 0344.56110 or 031.950204 to arrange a tour.

Far Out. Tel. 39.031.951.743 located at Salita Mella 4, Bellagio, Como, Italy 22021. Don’t let the name fool you. As gastronomic delights go, the food at this warm and colorful café, only steps above the lakefront, is truly “far out”! Owners Ignazio Gnecchi and Adriano Della Valle provide excellent food and service. When you dine there, get ready for exciting flavor combinations such as Zuppa Cozze e Fagioli-- fresh black muscles with beans and a delectable sauce. Scrumptious pasta pomodoro, Spaghetti alla Carbonara (“in the style of the charcoal men” with eggs, pancetta—unsmoked bacon and pecorino Romano cheese) and eggplant. Alessandro from Calabria is a master in the kitchen. Mascarpone (a delightful cheese cooked with eggs, sugar and crème) with amaretto and zabaione (light whipped delight with eggs, sugar and Marsala) are recommended for dessert. This restaurant is a warm and comfortable. Very popular with the locals and tourists alike. Be sure to make a reservation. After dinner, walk up cobblestone steps to Gelateria del Borgo where Stefania and her son Nicolò serve the best, homemade gelati in town. Then for the finale at nearby Grand Hotel Serbelloni for a drink and to enjoy piano and violin music to top off your otherworldly experience in the lounge until 12:30am. 

Hotel Florence*** The sublime setting at this three (seems more like four) star property guarantees an enjoyable experience. The Ketzlar Family has owned this charming hotel for 100 years and their staff delivers outstanding service from check-in to check-out. Spectacular lake views. A spa at the hotel provides a variety of massages. Marvelous dining experience with fireplace, vaulted ceilings and creative pasta, fish and meat specialties. Excellent wine list. Piazza Mazzini 46, Bellagio, CO Como Italy 22021 Tel. 39.031.950342 FAX 39.031.951722 email |

Bellavista. Flagship of Vittorio Moretti’s Terre Moretti group. Bellavista is one of the most celebrated names in Italian winemaking. Founded as recently as 1977, Bellavista now releases just under 1,000,000 bottles a year. Located in Erbusco. 


A Tribute to Victor Vari, Santa Clara University’s Longest Serving Professor

By Caroline Vaughan  27 May 2004 “The Santa Clara”   Santa Clara University ’s newspaper

In the corner office of Bannan, an 84-year-old Italian professor clad in a pressed blue blazer and Dolce and Gabbana tortoise-shell rimmed glasses, reigns at his desk. With verb conjugation on their minds, Italian 1, 2, and 3 students who stroll in and out are greeted with a "Ciao!" as he readily retires his red pen, steps over his tweed hat, hook-shaped cane and matured leather briefcase to chat on his aging sofa across the room.

After 58 years of being a Santa Clara legend, Victor Vari has become synonymous with the university's Italian culture. As a native of San Francisco who spent his childhood in Italy, Vari's life-long struggle between the Italian and American culture ignited his passion for creating an appreciation among Americans for Italy and vice-versa.

It all began at age four, when Vari left California to return with his mother and grandparents to a life of luxury in Anagi, his grandparents' hometown in Italy, where he lived until the age of 16. "I always felt very American, Vari said. "I turned it into a fantasy that became bigger than life for me." At 16, he returned to a flat in North Beach, San Francisco, only to feel as though he belonged to a different race. Italians were considered uneducated, according to Vari.

Although he is recognized as an honorary member of Assisi and decorated as a knight of Italy for his work at bridging the two cultures, Vari understands that he can't single-handedly break down all the stereotypes that exist between Americans and Italians. But he realizes that "through the little things, I have done just a small part." And he is proud that now there is a growing respect for one another.

Victor Vari passed away in August of 2014.

Italy Heralded by Mauro Battocchi, former Consul General of Italy in San Francisco:
Take a moment to chill out on a glacial lake...


“When you write the story of two happy lovers, let the story be set on the banks of Lake Como.” Franz Liszt

Few places in the world hold the beauty of Lago di Como. Resting near the border of Italy and Switzerland, the blue jewel, with depths of 200 meters below sea level, is one of the deepest lakes in Europe. Ferries crisscross its triangular form, from the towns of Lecco and Como in the south, to Bellagioin the middle and Gravedona in the north.

Como has a long history since Roman times as an idllic refuge away from the hubbub of civilized life. Pliny the Younger, magistrate of ancient Rome, built villas on the gardened shores of Como two thousand years ago. Today, the lake still boasts magnificent estates such as Villa Carlotta and Villa del Balbianello.

For more views of the lake, check out the panoramas below.

Michaelangelo • FIAT

Michaelangelo • FIAT

Maria Montessori • Antinori

Maria Montessori • Antinori