National Geographic : 1968 Jul
price. Gold, works of art, precious stones, rich tapestries, and beautifully made suits of armor fell into the hands of the simple sailors of Gravedona, who experienced a prosperity they had never dreamed of. Frederick never forgave them. When a peace treaty was being arranged between the Lombard League and the Emperor, Barbarossa is reported to have exploded: "Pardon to everyone except the perfidious people of Gravedona!" And in Dongo, only a few kilometers from Gravedona, another ruler met a much more personal tragedy. Benito Mussolini, at tempting to flee to Switzerland in a German lorry, was captured in the piazza with his companion, Claretta Petacci. The next day they were shot in the little village of Mezzegra, near Tremezzo. A simple cross, bearing the name Claretta Petacci and the date April 28, 1945, marks the spot. There is no mention of Mussolini -only a scrawled "Duce" on a nearby stone wall. Queen's Legacy: a Road and a Crown Como's eastern shore is also dotted with resorts. Varenna, a favorite with tourists (page 94), is equally attractive to historians, for here in the sixth century lived Queen Theodolinda, once the possessor of the Iron Crown of Lombardy, certainly one of the most history-laden royal diadems in the world. The beautiful queen, daughter of a King of Bavaria, was married to Flavius, King of the Lombards. But after only a year of marriage, Flavius died. The Lombards, devoted to their queen, offered to accept as king any prince she might marry. She chose Agilulf, Duke of Turin, and in a few years converted him to Christianity. The Pope, St. Gregory the Great, was delighted. He had always regarded Agilulf as a threat to the independence of the papacy. Now the Piedmontese was safely in the fold. In gratitude, Gregory sent Theodolinda a circlet of iron brought by the Empress Helena from Jerusalem to Rome. According to tradition, it was wrought from a nail used at the Crucifixion. The iron relic later was placed in a gold crown of Byzantine times and today rests in the cathedral at Monza, near Milan. Vic tor Emmanuel III wore it when he assumed the throne in 1900. Theodolinda has left Lake Como another legacy which is more important than her crown. Built under her direction, the Strada Regina-the Queen's Way-linked the villages along the western shore. Today's fine highway follows much the same path and makes it possible to circle the entire lake in an easy day's drive. Lake Como, its shore dwellers like to say, is shaped like a man striding westward, his front foot in Como and the other in Lecco. Between the two legs is a promontory of great beauty, and at its tip is La Punta Spartivento-The Point That Divides the Wind. Here lies Bellagio, a favorite retreat in the time of the Caesars, and a mecca for travelers today (pages 58-9). Pliny the Younger Afloat by castle walls, the author's twins, Donnali and Brian, drift in the warm waters of Lake Garda at Sirmione. The Scaligeri, lords of nearby Verona, built the crenelated battlements in the 13th century. Begging for a swim, a youngster tugs at his mother's skirt by Sirmione's shore. Here at the tip of a peninsula, bathers dive amid rocks worn by the "fair lake, whose water quaffs the light of heaven.. ." Thus the Roman poet Catullus, who lived at Sirmione in the first century B.c ., sang of Garda.