The reception hall welcomes visitors with five marvellous boats, an introduction to the five marrative chapters of the museum tour: historic boats, the 19th century and the English, regattas on Lake Como, the class of powerful runabouts and the bolides of motorboat racing on Lake Como.
Visitors are enthralled by the Serie Laghi no. 8, a marvellous sailboat from 1920 which belonged to the countess explorer Carlangela Durini. There is also the eye-catching red hull of Laura I°, designed by Guido Abbate – the first boat to break the 200 kmh barrier – and the elegance of the perfectly conserved Colombo 007.
The oldest and best conserved Venetian gondola in the world is displayed in the Function Room. In 1859 Lombardy was liberated from Austrian dominion and annexed to the kingdom of Sardinia. The Arconatis, ardent patriots on the run from the Austrian police, took possession of the Lake Como area once more and settled in marvellous Villa Balbianello. Cusano Visconti commissioned the construction of this gondola by Venetian shipwrights and kept it in the dock of Villa Balbianello, thanks to his wife Giacomina Bassi, dear cousing of Gian Martino Arconati. This gondola is one of the many boats donated to the Museum by Count Monzino, the last owner of Villa Balbianello.
This room contains the boats driven by Carlo Leto di Priolo in his never-ending quest to break every speed record.
In the forerouond is the Pucico, built by the Vidoli boatyard to a design of Bagnato’s. Pucico, driven by Carlo Leto di Priolo, set the speed record for the 450 kg class on May 14th 1949 at ’Idroscalo di Milano. It was powered by an extremely powerful Maserati engine.
The other exhibits in this room are all the X Series bolides built by Angelo Molinari and motorized by Leto di Priolo.
Here we have the prestigious Riva, Taroni, Cranchi and Cadenazzi motorboats and the single-hulls which featured in motorboat races in the 1930s.
What stands out in this room is the elegant MTM, an explosive punt of the Italian Royal Navy.
The boatbuilding tradition on Lake Como had ancient roots and there was much cultural cross-pollination which contributed to making the lake a flagship for nautical excellence.
In 1625 a man by the name of Gramolin arrived from Venice, a master shipwright followed by a fair number of his workmen (called “Arsenalotti”), and they brought all their Venetian shipbuilding experience and know-how to Lake Como.
There are sources however, which claim the Venetians were already here as early as 1525 , summoned by the Sforza rulers of Milan and the French to counter the naval supremacy of the Spanish.
In 1790, Venetian Fernando Taroni founded the first specialized shipbuilding group in Carate Urio. Setting the precedent in his field, he influenced some of the most flourishing shipbuilders of Lake Como such as the Cranchi, Mostes, and Abbate.
This room has been dedicated to steamboats, most of which were built by Taroni’s boatyard. The elegant Lario captures tourist attention; it was named “The Prince” due to its posture on the waves. The Lario gained place of honor at the 1910 Bruxelles’ Universal Exposition.
The Supermar Taroni with its unique up-swept tail, reminiscent of a 1950’s Cadillac, distinguishes itself from other steamboats. It was designed by the creative genius of Geremia Ceretti, who was the first to use fiberglass on Lake Como.
The first recorded sailing race in Italy was held on Lake Como on August 2nd 1850. In 1872, the Società Regate Club, the oldest Italian sailing club, was founded on Lake Como.
This room houses the boats which played such an important role in regattas on Lake Como: the majestic English racers from the late 1800s, the One designs, Stars, Snipes and Dinghies.
The most striking of all is Cisko-Yu, an English Racer from 1896 which belonged to Carcano, the designer of the Moto Guzzi and the Star Merope which won the gold at the Olympics helmed by Agostino Straulino, the greatest Italian sailor of all time.
In the early 1800s increasing numbers of aristocratic families chose the shores of Lake Como for their country homes. Drawn by the mild climate, stunning landscape and gorgeous Como silks, this period also saw the arrival of the firsst English businessmen.
It was the English who imported their leisure boats which came to be known as Inglesina (or English boat), and were characterised by their particular elegance and new construction techniques.
These boats became all the rage among the owners of the luxurious villas on the lake with the result that the local boatyards converted part of their production capacity to the construction of Inglesine. The first to follow this trend were the Cranchi and Taroni boatyards.
In addition to the typical Inglesine, this room is also home to old rowboats used for tourism, sport, and, last but not least, smuggling.
Here you can admire one of the last Larian Gondolas, La Moltrasina.
Only seven Larian gondolas survive today, five of which are kept at the Museo Barca Lariana.
La Moltrasina is the best preserved and retains its original framework and planking.
The Larian gondolas were the most widespread cargo boats, used for daily deliveries to the markets and towns around the lake. They transported every kind of foodstuff: flour, wine, oil and even livestock.
The rectangular sail, called a Roman sail, typical of the boats of Lake Como, was hoisted on a mast situated in fron tof the hoops. It was as tall as the length of the boat and as wide as the boat itself, and extremely efficient in that it was powered solely by a tailwind.
Among the other boats in the room, not the impressive Franz XI, a taxi which served Villa Balbianello and a curious amphibious automobile from 1960.
Of glacial origin like a fjord, Lake Como often has steep shores which plunge straight into the water. The road on the eastern shore, called the Regina, was only built in the 18th century, while the road on the western shore was finished in the early 20th century.
For centuries, the water was the sole means of fast transport for people and goods.
The cultural heritage which the boats of Lake Como constitute is extraordinarily rich and precious, the result of centuries of experience, wars, commerce and local traditions.
In this area you can admire the typical Quatrass, the Barca di Pescarenico, the classic Batei and La Nav da pesca (fishing boat), of which this is the last remaining example.