World renowned tourist destination and thousands of people flock here to explore the impressive Lake Como and the surrounding natural landscape. The city itself has a multitude of historical buildings, fine restaurants and important museums. Surrounding the lake, there is a plethora of beautiful towns and villages such as Cernobbio, Menaggio and Bellagio.
Como is a commune in the northern region of Italy with a current population of 84,000. Como is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful and picturesque places in Lombardy and the commune itself is often overshadowed by the majestic Lake Como that stretches from the northern edge of the city.
Como has been populated since the Bronze Age by Celtic tribes and during the first century BC it became part of the Roman Empire. Due to its location at the edge of the immense Lake Como, the city has always played an important role in Lombardy and was a centre of commerce and trade during the Middle Ages. During this time of development a defensive network was constructed including a series of watch towers – you can still see one of the towers today (The Baradello). After French and Austrian conquests, Como was eventually incorporated into the Kingdom of Italy in 1859.
Its proximity to Lake Como and to the Alps has made Como a tourist destination, and the city contains numerous works of art, churches, gardens, museums, theatres, parks, and palaces: the Duomo, seat of the Diocese of Como; the Basilica of Sant’Abbondio; the Villa Olmo; the public gardens with the Tempio Voltiano; the Teatro Sociale; the Broletto or the city’s medieval town hall; and the 20th-century Casa del Fascio.
With 215,320 overnight guests in 2013, Como was the fourth-most visited city in Lombardy after Milan, Bergamo, and Brescia. In 2018, Como surpassed Bergamo becoming the third most visited city in Lombardy with 1.4 million arrivals.
Como was the birthplace of many historical figures, including the poet Caecilius mentioned by Catullus in the first century BCE, writers Pliny the Elder and Pliny the Younger, Pope Innocent XI, scientist Alessandro Volta, and Cosima Liszt, second wife of Richard Wagner and long-term director of the Bayreuth Festival, and Antonio Sant’Elia, (1888–1916) Futurist architect and pioneer of the modern movement.
- Como Cathedral: Construction began in 1396 on the site of the previous Romanesque church of Santa Maria Maggiore. The façade was built in 1457, with the characteristic rose window and a portal flanked by two Renaissance statues of the famous comaschi Pliny the Elder and Pliny the Younger. The construction was finished in 1740. The interior is on the Latin cross plan, with Gothic nave and two aisles divided by piers, while the transept wing and the relative apses are from the Renaissance age. It includes a carved 16th century choir and tapestries on cartoons by Giuseppe Arcimboldi. The dome is a rococo structure by Filippo Juvarra. Other artworks include 16th–17th century tapestries and 16th century paintings by Bernardino Luini and Gaudenzio Ferrari.
- San Fedele, a Romanesque church erected around 1120 over a pre-existing central plan edifice. The original bell tower was rebuilt in modern times. The main feature is the famous Door of St. Fedele, carved with medieval decorations.
- Sant’Agostino, built by the Cistercians in the early 14th century, heavily renovated in the 20th. The interior and adjoining cloister have 15th–17th century frescoes, but most of the decoration is Baroque.
- Basilica of Sant’Abbondio, a Romanesque structure consecrated in 1095 by Pope Urban II. The interior, with a nave and four aisles, contains paintings dating to the 11th century and frescoes from the 14th.
- San Carpoforo (11th century, apse and crypt from 12th century). According to tradition, it was founded re-using a former temple of the God Mercury to house the remains of Saint Carpophorus and other local martyrs.
Secular buildings and monuments
- The ancient town hall, known as the Broletto
- Casa del Fascio, possibly Giuseppe Terragni‘s most famous work. It has been described as an early “landmark of modern European architecture”.
- Monumento ai caduti (war memorial) by Giuseppe Terragni
- Teatro Sociale by Giuseppe Cusi in 1813
- Villa Olmo, built from 1797 in neoclassicist style by the Odescalchi family. It housed Napoleon, Ugo Foscolo, Prince Metternich, Archduke Franz Ferdinand I, Giuseppe Garibaldi, and other eminent figures. It is now a seat of exhibitions.
- Monumental Fountain also known as “Volta’s Fountain”, a monument to Volta’s battery; it was designed by architect Carlo Cattaneo and painter Mario Radice and is a 9 m-high (30 ft) cement combination of alternating spheres and rings. It is in the center of Camerlata square.
- Ancient walls (medieval)
- the Tempio Voltiano, a museum dedicated to Alessandro Volta, a famous Comasco engineer, physicist, and inventor
- the Life Electric, a modern sculpture made by Daniel Libeskind
- Castello Baradello, a small medieval castle overlooking the town and which is all that remains of the fortress constructed by Barbarossa c. 1158
The cathedral in Como is undoubtedly the most impressive building in the city and is renowned for its beautiful architecture.
This church is dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary and was constructed in the 14th century.
It features a Gothic design and was not wholly completed until the 18th century.
The front façade features a plethora of ornate stone work, stone statues and is topped with a series of small decorative towers.
The interior is lavishly decorated and one of the main features is the central dome – this is covered with gold artwork and some simply beautiful decoration.
Como Archaeological Museum
This museum is actually housed in the Palazzo Giovio and features a fantastic range of artefacts that have been found throughout the Como region.
These artefacts and finds date as far back as the ancient Greek times and present a truly interesting look at the history of Como and its inhabitants throughout the years.
Basilica di Sant’Abbondio
The Basilica of Saint Addondio is located a little out of the city centre, but it is a majestic church that is worthy of a visit.
The original church was created in the 11th century and the current Romanesque church was created over it by the Benedictines.
The front of the church is quite plain and features simple stonework and a huge main doorway
Take the Funicular up to Brunate
Brunate is a small town that is located high up in the mountains surrounding Lake Como.
If you travel to the eastern edge of the lake near the city of Como you can take a fantastic funicular train that scales the mountain and stops at Brunate.
When you reach the top the views from this town are simply magnificent and you can see both the city of Como and the Lake in all their glory.
There are several terraces and restaurants that offer stunning views and give you a place to relax and take in the clear mountain air.
Take a boat ride on Lake Como
There is possibly no better way to explore Lake Como and see the beautiful landscape the encompasses this body of water than to take a boat ride from Como itself.
There is a wide range of tour companies and boat operators that provide trips on the lake.
You can take one way boat rides from Como to visit some of the coastal towns such as Cernobbio and Bellagio, or alternatively you can take a scenic boat ride that simply travels on the lake while a guide points out different landmarks and explains the history of this region.
Which either type of ride you choose, you are sure to see the majesty of Lake Como up close and personal.
The economy of Como, until the end of the 1980s, was traditionally based on industry; in particular, the city was world-famous for its silk manufacturers, but since the mid 1990s increasing competition from China has significantly reduced profit margins and many small and mid-sized firms have gone out of business. As a consequence manufacturing is no longer the economic driver, and the city has been absorbed into Milan’s metropolitan area where it mainly provides workers to the service industry sector.