gondolaThe highlight of this short holiday week was a visit to an extraordinary museum on the banks of the Lago di Como housing a large collection of all the sorts of boats that have sailed on the lake over several centuries. Our host and guide was Gianalberto Zanoletti, the man who created the museum and gathered its collection together. Our fellow guests were the mayors of many of the commune from around the lake and the surrounding mountains. Through the kindness of a neighbour, we were able to tag onto their visit. The sad fact is that the museum is currently closed, permanently. Zanoletti bought up an old silk factory on the lakeside (a huge old mulberry bush in the courtyard bears testament to that period) and gradually extended the collection and display through the buildings. But as Europe’s health and safety and fire regulations became more advanced, Zanoletti was unable to keep pace and regretfully found himself obliged to close the museum. To re-open it would require a massive investment – hence the visiting mayors, for Zanoletti hopes to convince them, collectively, that they should save this priceless piece of their common cultural heritage. A few facts and figures about the collection should give you the idea: almost 200 punts and gondolas, including the oldest surviving intact Venetian gondola (built on the lake); some fifty fishing and hunting boats; smugglers’ boats (once very common on the lake and now extremely rare); over one hundred outboard motorboats, including the ‘Lesco’, that once in the 1960s held the world water speed record; twenty vaporetti, including two from the lake of St Moritz; almost 100 tourism speedboats, including the largest historical collection of ‘Riva’; forty onboard speedboats, including ‘Laura’, that, incredibly, set the world speed record at 226 kph in 1953 already; eighty yachts, including the Star Merope, that won the Olympic gold medal in Helsinki in 1952; transport and steamboats; and so on, and on, and on. It is extraordinary to think that all of this was created through the passion of one man but, as Zanoletti warned, once he was gone the museum and its collection could so very easily be dispersed.