Located on that branch of the Lake of Como, which turns toward the south between two unbroken chains of mountains, home of the events told by Manzoni in "The Betrothed", Mandello del Lario has witnessed important historical events over the centuries.
The town is in fact located in an area rich in history, which has seen the succession of domination of some of the largest empires: Rome, the Holy Roman Empire, the Spanish Empire, the Napoleonic Empire and the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
A local historian, Vittorio Veneto's knight Vincenzo Zucchi, wrote a book entitled ‘Oppidum Mandelli’, which tells the history of the town in detail, from its origins to the present day.

Ancient History

Although there is no certain information on the origin of Mandello del Lario, it is assumed that the territory was inhabited already in pre-Roman times: some skeletons, ceramics and lithic objects found in Moregallo inside the “Grotta del Maiale” (Pig’s Cave) date back to the Copper Age; during the Iron Age (VII century BC) the Mandello territory, occupied since the first Celtic invasion, was a Gaul settlement. The remains that have been found (above all tombs, cups and fibulas) are now preserved in the Swiss National Museum of Zurich.
In 222 BC, after the victorious battle of Clastidium (today Casteggio, in the Oltrepò Pavese region) the Romans marched on the capital of the Insubri Gauls, Mediolanum (Milan), conquering it and thus beginning the colonization of the territory.
The hypothesis of the Roman origin of Mandello del Lario is confirmed by the fact that the lake village has a typically Roman layout, that is a rigid rectangular scheme similar to that of a Roman castrum; probably at the time the settlement served as a military defense, in a period in which the Roman Empire followed an expansionist policy towards the lands beyond the Alps.  

Middle Ages

In the feudal period, the village of Mandello del Lario became a rural county of Alto Milanese. The Counts of Mandello took the family name from the name of the village: the Di Mandello (or Mandelli) is a very old family, of primary Lombard nobility.
In 1117, during the war between Como and Milan, the Mandellesi sided with the Comaschi alongside Pope Urban II, against the Milanese who were supported by Emperor Henry IV; in 1126, during a war that lasted 10 years, the village of Mandello del Lario was looted and set on fire by the inhabitants of Lecco and Milan.
In 1154, Frederick I, on his way back to Germany after his first descent to Italy, entrusted the guardianship of the village and of the Tower of Maggiana (hamlet of Mandello) to Alcherio Bertola, rich lord of the place as well as loyalist of the imperial cause.
In 1160, when the Italian cities wanted to become independent from the empire and the municipalities were formed, Mandello del Lario was among the first villages of Lake Como to welcome the administrative novelty and became an independent town, with its own consuls, assemblies and magistrates.
The descendants of the "da Mandello" family occupied several prestigious positions in many Italian towns. Among these, Rubaconte da Mandello was chief magistrate of Bergamo in 1229 and of Florence in 1237. Dante Alighieri wrote about him in the Divine Comedy:

Targa Via Rubaconte Mandello


“As, on the way up to the mountaintop

crowned by the church, beyond the Rubaconte,

set high, above that so well-governed town”

(Purgatory, XII, 100-102)


Modern History 

In 1495, Ludovico Maria Sforza known as "il Moro", regent of the Milanese dukedom, annexed the fief of Mandello del Lario to his duchy and then entrusted it to Gaspare di San Severino. The phrase of Paolo Giovio, bishop of Nocera, written in the Latin of the High Middle Ages, dates back to this period:
"Mandellum oppidum positura, coelo, campis, ubertate nullis posferendum".
Mandello’s beauties are second to none.
In 1532, in the waters of Mandello del Lario there was a violent battle between the Sforzeschi, under the leadership of Colonel Vistarino, and the troops of the Marquisate of Musso led by Gian Giacomo Medici, known as “Il Medeghino”. During the clash, Gabriele de Medici, brother of Medeghino, was killed.

"Colonel Vistarino cunningly succeeded in attracting the Medeghino in an ambush between Mandello and Onno in which Gabriele de Medici, brother of the Medeghino and of the future Pope Pius IV, lost his life""

The marquisate of Musso is only one of the many pseudo states that contended the Larian territory in those centuries, alongside the important powers of the moment: the Spain of Charles V, the France of Francis I, the Serenissima of the powerful doges, the Grisons Swiss, the Milan of the last Sforza.
Between 1630 (the year of the famous plague described by Manzoni) and 1634, Mandello del Lario suffered the plague and the looting of foreign troops passing through its territory, among which are those of Duke of Rohan in 1634.
In 1629, Roberto Rusca in describing the landscape of Mandello del Lario wrote:
"A small river passes through (the 'rongia' is an artificial canal partly visible even today with its flow of water) and makes many wheels of millstones spin and makes iron and copper beat. "
In 1790, A.G. Della Torre di Rezzonico, talking about Mandello del Lario, wrote:
"The huge Torre dei Mandellesi, now defenseless, is ruined day by day ... it is certainly incredibly ancient ... in the small river that runs in front of you one can see a mill and workshops for the processing of copper and iron. There were also factories for the carding of the wool ". 
In 1797, the year of birth of the Cisalpine Republic and of the adoption of the tricolor flag, Mandello del Lario was the first Larian municipality on which the Italian flag waved. During the following centuries, Mandello del Lario grew more and more, especially after the construction of the coastal road (the current SP72), inaugurated in 1832 during the Austrian domination.
On May 22, 1848 the Mandellesi joined with many volunteers from Lecco who left for Valtellina with the precise aim of protecting the Stelvio pass; among the volunteers there were several members of the Pini family, that has been in Mandello del Lario since 1300. In the mid-nineteenth century, Mandello del Lario became a focal point of the Italian steel industry: in 1850, the "Badoni & Co of Castello, Mandello and Bellano" had its heyday. In 1850, Carlo Ferrario founded the company that is certainly the oldest industry of Mandello and that still today produces spindles for the twisting that for their high quality are known and exported all over the world. In the same period the Keller family, of Swiss origin, managed the homonymous factory, which later became "Vellutificio Redaelli". Also the Falck family operated in Mandello del Lario. Enrico Falck was later elected senator of the Italian Republic.
In 1800, there are testimonies of some of the biggest overflowing of the lake, a rare event recalled by the Mandellesi with a plaque placed in Piazza Italia.

Contemporary History

The famous "Moto Guzzi" was established in Mandello in February 1921. The designer Carlo Guzzi, of Milanese origin, built a prototype of motorbike with horizontal axis engine. The company became famous worldwide with its about 3,400 victories, making the name of Mandello del Lario famous all over the world not only for the prestigious motorcycles, but also for the Olympic and intercontinental victories of the "Moto Guzzi Rowers", and the victories in mountaineering and in many other sports of the many members of the Moto Guzzi After Work Clubs.
World War II (1939-1945) also affected the town of Mandello del Lario with the presence of foreign troops and tragic episodes in the town and on the Grigna Mountains. At the end of the conflict, the Mandellesi vigorously resumed their activities and the town became an important industrial center. In 1946, engineer Luigi Buzzi founded the "CEMB", which soon became a world leader in the production of balancing machines used in all fields of industry and in the aerospace sector. Also in 1946, engineer Arturo Gilardoni founded "Gilardoni SpA", which became an international leader in the design and production of X-ray and nuclear equipment, used in non-destructive industrial and food controls, in anti-terrorism security, in electro-medical equipment. and in the study of works of art. In 1956, Dr. Vittorino Gilardoni founded the "Gilardoni ing. Vittorio", acclaimed worldwide for the production - and above all the chroming - of cylinders for internal combustion engines.
In 1951, Mandello had a population of 6,550 inhabitants and, considering the ratio inhabitants / industries, it soon became the most productive town of the country. In the same year, the town was reached by the methane pipeline.
Even today Mandello del Lario preserves its industrial tradition and hosts numerous small and medium sized companies with a dynamic and vibrant personality, as well as large and internationally renowned companies, including those just mentioned.
For more information, see:
- "Oppidum Mandelli" by Vincenzo Zucchi, editions 1931, 1946, 1959, 1979, 1990, 1993;
- Numerous publications, articles and writings edited by the Municipal Archives of Local Heritage;
- "Adda fiume di confine: Contrabbando e spionaggio tra Olginate e la Valle S. Martino nella seconda metà del quattrocento” by G. Riva – G. Aldeghi;
- “Le comunicazioni nel bacino dell’Adda” by P. Pensa.