LAKE COMO — Como

The town of Como is famous for its production of fine silk products such as designer scarves and handkerchiefs. The town is found on the shores of Lake Como at the tip of its southwestern branch. There are plenty of things to do in this lovely lakeside town including taking many pleasant walks around the lakeside from here, sitting and watching the world go by from one of the many cafes as well as exploring some of the cobbled streets in the medieval quarter for a step back into the history of the town. Como is over 400 years old and has magnificent churches and historic monuments and there is a small old town to explore. In the centre of the medieval quarter is Piazza San Fedele with its historic buildings and Basilica San Fedele. Nearby is Via Cantù where you will see the remaining tower of Porta Vittoria which is part of the old city walls. The town is also the birthplace of some notable historic figures such as writers Pliny the Elder and the Younger, Pope Innocent X1 and the scientist, Alessandro Volta.

The sights found here are:
Museo didattico della Seta
Basilica Sant Abbondio
Pinacoteca Civica
Basilica San Fedele
Museo Archeologico P Giovio
Museo Storico Garibaldi
Museo Don Luigi Guanella
Duomo
Teatro Sociale
Broletto
Casa del Fascio
Tempio Voltiano
Villa Olmo
Funicolare
Lake Como Boat Cruises

Museo didattico della Seta
The Educational Silk Museum displays machines objects, documents, samples and instruments of the textile industry that made Como known as the ‘City of Silk’. The main hall is dedicated to the art of silkworm breeding and from here you go to the Weaving Room which is dedicated to the control and measurement of yarns and fabrics. The next place you visit is the Chemical Laboratory which shows the art of dye-printing and you end up in the room devoted to the special finishing of textiles.
For more information about the museum visit the website at: http://www.museosetacomo.com/eng_home.php

Basilica Sant Abbondio

Basilica Sant Abbondio
The church that you see today was built on the site of a 5th century church dedicated to St Peter and St Paul for the purpose of housing relics of these saints. The church was rebuilt by the Benedictines between 1050 and 1095 in the Romanesque style and dedicated to St Abundius. The structure of the original 5th century church can be seen today in the black and pale marble stones in the pavement which were discovered during the 1863 restoration. Some of the more notable things about the church are the external decoration of the choir windows, the Romanesque bas-reliefs and the cycle of mid-14th century frescoes in the apse.

Traveller's Tip

Climb the hill behind the church where you can go to the top of Baradello Tower for lovely views over Lake Como.

Pinacoteca Civica
The Town Picture-Gallery which is housed in the Palazzo Volpi has a collection of Early Medieval and Romanesque sculptures, a collection of paintings executed from the 14th to the 20th centuries, examples of glass window decoration and miniatures and a modern art section with sculptures, paintings and futurist architectural drownings. It is open from Tuesday to Saturday from 9.30am until 12.30pm and then from 2pm until 5pm. On Sundays and public holidays it is open from 10am until 1pm. On Wednesdays from September 15 to July 15 it is open from 9.30am until 5pm. It costs €3.
For more information about the museum visit the website at: http://museicivici.comune.como.it/index.php?page=pinacoteca-civica (in Italian only)

Basilica San Fedele

Basilica San Fedele
The Romanesque Basilica of San Fedele is located on the square of the same name and is found at the heart of Como’s walled Old Town. This square was a centre of trade and a grain market in medieval times and contains many 400 year-old buildings including the basilica. The building of this basilica began in the 7th century and it was dedicated to St Eufemia. In 964 the relics of San Fedele, a Roman officer who converted to Christianity and was martyred for it were moved here. After this the church underwent a renovation that wasn’t completed until around 1120. The church has undergone numerous renovations since then and the facade you see today is a reconstruction. The interior is in the design of a Latin cross, divided into three naves separated by pillars which support the galleries and it contains many paintings and frescoes. Of special note is the series of medieval frescoes painted on the wall representing The Trinity; St. Anne with the Madonna and Child; The Beheading of San Fedele Madonna Praying and St John Baptist and St Bartholomew. The marble arch of the altar contains the relics of San Fedele.

Museo Archeologico P Giovio
The Archaeological Museum P Giovio is part of the civic museums of Como and it is housed in a former palace dating from the late Middle Ages. You can see some frescoes on the floor of the building that date from the 18th century. One section of the museum houses the archaeological remains found in Como displayed in chronological order and the other section is dedicated to the Roman time in Como. There are other collections as well including Egyptian antiquities, gems, coins, Greek vases amongst others. It is open from Tuesday to Saturday from 9.30am until 12.30pm and then from 2pm until 5pm. On Sundays and public holidays it is open from 10am until 1pm. On Wednesdays from September 15 to July 15 it is open from 9.30am until 5pm. It costs €3.
For more information about the museum visit the website at: http://museicivici.comune.como.it/index.php?page=archeologico (in Italian only)

Museo Storico Garibaldi
The Historical Museum Giuseppe Garibaldi is housed in Palazzo Olginati, which dates from the 15th century. The palace as well as all its furnishings was donated to the city to be used as a museum in 1866. It houses both temporary and permanent exhibitions of costumes, textiles, ceramics, weapons, manuscripts and medals. The museum is divided into two main sections — the Renaissance period and the contemporary collection. It is open the same hours and has the same admission prices as the Archaeological museum and it is also part of the civic museums of Como.
For more information about the museum visit the website at: http://museicivici.comune.como.it/index.php?page=museo-storico (in Italian only)

Museo Don Luigi Guanella
This museum is dedicated to Don Luigi Guanella who was born in 1842 and devoted his life to charity work. He entered the seminary when he was 12 years old and was ordained in 1866. Don Luigi Guanella founded two religious orders — the Servants of Charity and the Daughters of St Mary of Providence which still exist today. Because of his devotion to others Father Guanella was beatified in 1964. The museum is open every day but you will need to make a reservation at museodonguanella@guanelliani.it. Every Sunday there are guided tours at 10.45am and admission is free though a small donation is welcome.

Duomo

Duomo
This is the Roman Catholic cathedral of Como and is one of the most important buildings in this area. It is described as being the last Gothic cathedral built in Italy and work on it began in 1396 on the ruins of the Roman Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore. Building of the cathedral took over 300 years and finished in 1740. The building has a Latin cross plan, divided into three aisles by cruciform pillars with several arches. There are several treasures inside including the altar dedicated to St Abbondio found on the right aisle and the tapestries from cartoons by Arcimboldo. The two lions which guard the holy water date from the 12th century. The cathedral contains many architectural styles but the main ones are the Gothic facade and the Renaissance wings and apses.

Teatro Sociale
This theatre was built between 1811 and 1813 on the site of a destroyed castle known as Torre Rotonda. The theatre has a Neo-Classic facade and the area immediately in front of the building is decorated with six large Corinthian columns. The inside of the building contains a lovely painted ceiling by Speluzzi. Many famous singers have performed here including Paganini, Giuditta Pasta and Francesco Tamagno and in 1944 it replaced La Scala in Milan when it was damaged during WW2.

Broletto

Broletto
The Broletto was originally used as the town hall and then later as a theatre and a communal archive. These days it is used for exhibitions and public events. This building dating from 1215 is a mixture of Gothic and Romanesque styles of architecture and the facade of the building is made of marble. The building is flanked by a stone tower. Both the tower and the rest of the building are dedicated to St Abbondio who was the patron saint of the city of Como.

Casa del Fascio

Casa del Fascio
This interesting-looking building was the former headquarters of the National Fascist Party in Como but now houses the local Guardia di Finanaza police force. It is possibly the most famous work of the Italian rationalist architect, Guiseppe Terragni and has always been of interest to students of architecture.

Tempio Voltiano

Tempio Voltiano
This museum is dedicated to Alessandro Volta who was an Italian physicist known especially for the invention of the battery in 1800. The building itself dates from 1927 and was built to celebrate the centenary of the death of Volta. The museum houses a collection of scientific instruments as well as personal belongings and awards of Volta. The museum is notable for the fact that the facade of the museum was found on the 10,000 lire note before Italy started using the euro. It is found in Lungo Lario Marconi at the northeast end of the Public Gardens and is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10am until 12pm and then from 2pm until 4pm in summer and to 3pm in winter. It costs €3. Next to this museum is the War Memorial which is one of the tallest structures near the water. It is worth a look.
For more information about the museum visit the website at: http://museicivici.comune.como.it/index.php?page=tempio-voltiano (in Italian only)

Villa Olmo

Villa Olmo
Construction on this villa began in 1797 for the Marquiss Innocenzo Odescalchi as a summer retreat. The villa was built beside the lake and named after a tree that was planted in the garden but is no longer around. In 1924 it was bought by the city and today it hosts conferences and other events and is open to the public during expositions. The gardens are open daily.

Funicolare

Funicolare
The funicolare (funicular) connects the centre of Como with Brunate which is a small picturesque village 750 metres above sea level. The Funicular has been in operation since 1894 and the entrance is located at Piazza Alcide de Gasperi which is less than a five minute walk from the Como Bus Station along Via Torno. The journey takes about 7 minutes and the view is spectacular. From Brunate you can walk to San Maurizio and visit the famous Volta Lighthouse built in 1927. It will cost you around €3.50 but the views from here over the lake and nearby towns is worth it.
For more information about the funicular visit the website at: http://www.funicolarecomo.it

Lake Como Boat Cruises

Lake Como Boat Cruises
From the boat dock in Como you can take many trips by boat around the lake. Some of these trips are slow which is great for sightseeing or if you just want to get to one of the many towns along the shores of the lake there are faster boats. One interesting trip is to Isola Comacina which is the only island in Lake Como. Today it is mostly uninhabited but over time it has played an important part in the history of this area. It has changed owners over time and in 1919 the island was given to King Albert 1 of Belgium but in 1920 it was returned. There are some interesting places to visit on the island including the Romanesque Church of St Bartholomew, the 15th century church of St John and the beautiful ruins of the Roman Basilica of St Eufemia. You can buy tickets for the boat cruises around the lake from the kiosk on the lake front.
For more information about the boat cruises visit the website at: http://www.comoeilsuolago.it/eng/navigazioneorariE.htm

Traveller's Tip

A good time to visit Isola Comacina is on the day of the Festival of Small Floating Luminaries (Sagra dei Lumaghitt) which celebrates St Giovanni and is held on the 24 June. You will see magnificent illuminations on Lake Como and mass is celebrated in the ruins of the Basilica of St Eufemia.