«È Pescarenico una terricciola, sulla riva sinistra dell’Adda, o vogliam dire del lago, poco discosto dal ponte: un gruppetto di case, abitate la più parte da pescatori, e addobbate qua e là di tramagli e di reti tese ad asciugare.»
Alessandro Manzoni, I promessi sposi.
Alessandro Manzoni mentioned Pescarenico in his most famous work, “The Betrothed” and, thanks to the story of Renzo and Lucia and the ingenious pen of their creator this Lecco’s district, in Northern Italy, has become famous.
Manzoni wrote that the monastery of the Capuchins, in which Fra Cristoforo and Fra Galdino lived, was located there, and Lucia would run away from here by boat to escape Don Rodrigo,with famous and heart rending “Farewell, ye mountains, source of waters!”, which Lucia cries in her heart as she leaves Lecco by boat along Adda, looking at her beloved and dear country.
This is also home to the fishmonger that would meet Agnese and Lucia in Monza and give them the news about their hometown.
The great writer described it in a few words as “a group of houses, inhabited for the most part by fishermen, and adorned here and there with nets hung out to dry“.
Of course the district certainly has changed, but the Manzonian atmosphere survives still today, brought back to life by each visitor who comes here in search of those famous words.
Pescarenico, the only place in Lecco explicitly mentioned by Alessandro Manzoni in his work, was a fishing hamlet also in its origin and today still retains the charm of the past, with its narrow streets around the central square and the boats along Adda’s shore.
Estabilished in the 16th century, it constituted a village whose inhabitants were granted the right to fish in the river stretch, rich in fish fauna.
The fishing boats were pulled ashore into the landing near Era Square, which was the neighborhood square.
In 1576 in the presence of the Spanish governor Mendoza, knight of Sant’Jago and governor of the plain of Lecco, a Capuchin convent was built to fulfill their request to have another convent in addition to their in Bergamo, Domaso and Como.
According to the historian Cesare Cantù the governor himself “went around with the basin to collect alms for that building. And the custom was perpetuated that each year the parishes of the territory, to the rogations and to Saint Francis, were to processionally to the convent to make an offer, and to hear the mass sung by the provost of Lecco; until one of these, who said little with the friars, interrupted the custom“.
Next to the convent was the convent church, dedicated, like the convent, to St. Francis.
The complex was entrusted to the Franciscan friars, who used it as accommodation for the confreres. With the arrival of Napoleon Bonaparte, in 1810 the convent was suppressed and the church was restored, especially in the facade, attributed to the architect Giuseppe Bovara, and dedicated to San Materno, later associated with Lucia, presumably in homage to Manzoni himself.
Among the documents of the Duchy of Milan, Pescarenico is part of the municipality of Lecco since 1757.
Pescarenico is still today home to fishermen who make their livelihood from the River Adda and Lake Garlate, and who supply the restaurants of the lovely waterfront town with local fish, often served with polenta.
And, with a bit of imagination, you also might meet Renzo and Lucia on their way towards the mouth of the Bione river, the flowing creek near Pescarenico, ready to take the boat to escape from Don Rodrigo.