The ancient Abbey of Piona stands in a magnificent location at the end of a small peninsula overlooking Lake Como. Dating back to the 7th century it was consecrated in 1138, becoming an important center not only for spiritual, but also economic and cultural activities in the whole area. Surrounded by a large park with orchard, in the abbey the monks of Piona continue the ancient traditions with the production of honey, medicinal herbs and the famous distilled liqueurs, continuing to be with its centuries-old history the great attraction of the town of Colico.
The architectural complex of the Priory of Piona, stands on the tip of the Olgiasca peninsula, in the upper lake of Como, from where you can enjoy the amazing view of the western coast of Lake Como and an environment characterized by absolute peace and tranquility.
The place, populated since ancient times by Ligurians, Celts and Romans, became an important Lombard stronghold at the end of the 6th century. In 616 Agrippino, Bishop of Como, founded an oratory here dedicated to the martyr Santa Giustina, as evidenced by a marble stone with inscription located under the arcades of the abbey. The monks of the Cluniac abbey of S. Pietro in Vallate are established there, building a "grangia", a medieval structure destined to preserve the seeds and the products obtained from the work of the monks in the lands annexed to the abbeys.
The monks then built a larger church, dedicated to St. Mary, in Romanesque style that was consecrated in 1138. The church, later enlarged and dedicated to the new patron Saint Nicholas, presents in the apse the cycle of frescoes depicting the "Christ Pantocreator "with the twelve apostles on each side. In 1252 Ser Bonacorso De Canova of Gravedona, prior of the monastery, had the artistic work of greatest importance of the structure realized at his expense: the cloister. Completed in 1252, even today it allows you to admire the decorations of the peduncles and capitals, depicting plants and animals among a great variety of geometric patterns and anthropomorphic figures typical of the Romanesque style. On the walls are visible several wall paintings dating back to 1200 and the 1400 among which the interesting "Cycle of the months" stands out.
Like all the Benedictine abbeys, its importance was not only spiritual, but it was also a vital center of economic, scientific and cultural activities for the entire population that lived between the lake and the mountain in the Lombardy pre-Alpine area; however, as it practically happened throughout the rest of Europe, its importance gradually diminished starting from the fifteenth century, losing its economic and administrative autonomy and being transformed into commendium, a process of decline that culminated with the suppression of orders monastic by will of Napoleonic France at the end of the 18th century.
The structure and surrounding land therefore, throughout the 1800s up to the beginning of the last century, became the private property of various families until, in 1937, the last owner, the commendatore Pietro Rocca, donated it to the Cistercian monks of Casamarani, who brought the abbey back to its ancient religious mission. Today, as before, the days of the monks are marked by the motto "Ora et labora", with prayer, study and manual work to alternate. The traditional production of herbal teas, honey, cosmetic creams and liqueurs made from herbs distilled according to ancient recipes thus help the Cistercian monks to meet the expenses of the complex and to support the works in the land of mission.