Moltrasio, Lake Como

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Moltrasio, Lake Como
Published by K L Donegani in Places · 2 January 2021
Tags: MoltrasioLakeComoLombardy
Our header photo shows the shoreline of Moltrasio but this does not convey the sheer scale of the mountains surrounding the town or the expanse of Lake Como. With many thanks to Josh Donegani, this blog looks at the home-town of some of the Donegani migrants to the UK.

Moltrasio, Lake Como. Copyright: Josh Donegani, 2017

Moltrasio, Lake Como. Copyright Josh Donegani, 2017.

Lake Como looks idyllic in the summer sunshine but the winter months can be harsh, more so in the 1790s and the early ninetenth century when there were few made roads and little income for the farmers.  Whole families turned to the manufacture of goods (such as barometers, thermometers, picture and looking glass frames, jewellry) which could be carried by the young men who set off in the spring to sell their wares across Europe. The most common route out of the area was north via the small and treacherous mountain paths as the much improved Splügen Pass, designed by road engineer Carlo Donegani of Brescia, was not opened until 1823 and  was still a difficult crossing in the winter.

Historical depiction of crossng the Splügen Pass in winter. Unknown artist. Undated.

The parish church of San Martino and Sant'Agata may be of interest to those looking for the spiritual home and parish records of their Moltrasio-born Donegani ancestors. (Please note that some early-nineteenth century records are are missing from the registers held by the church). The earliest historical reference to what was then the small parish church is from the beginning of the thirteenth century. The church was significantly restored and extended during the 16th and 17th centuries and enhanced by a number of frescoes, paintings and relics.  

Moltrasio Church. Copyright Josh Donegani, 2017

Moltrasio Church Interior. Copyright Josh Donegani, 2017.

Memorial Plaque to Benefactors c. 1935, Copyright Josh Donegani, 2017.

In 1935 the church was further expanded and the external facade was rebuilt using local Moltrasio limestone. There is a plaque inside the church commemorating the benefactors who contributed to the cost of those works which includes "On. Guido Donegani", the CEO of the Montecatini chemical company and fascist supporter who was at that time a member of the Chamber of Deputies (On. being the abbreviation for Onorevole - Honourable in English).  Guido Donegani had family in Moltrasio, though he was born in Livorno, and owned Villa La Rose which is located to the north-east of Moltrasio town and was used as a holiday home by Winston Churchill in 1945.  

The plaque also lists an Andrea Donegana and the Donegana name is seen in the parish records for the town and in the street name, Via Paolo Donegana. The names Donegani and Donegana seen in Moltrasio are most likely to be toponymic surnames (family names derived from a place name) relating to the frazione (civil parish or ward) of Donegano in the comune of Moltrasio. {1}

1. We do not yet have an academic source for this but the site
provides text found on several Italian Internet sites. This site offers Cadoneghe near Padua and Valdoneghe, Lake Garda as other potential locations linked to these family names.

c..2020-2023 Karen L. Donegani
Photo: Moltrasio, Lake Como 2017, courtesy of Josh Donegani
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