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Map of Lake Como


Como harbour

Como at night from above

Looking through the windows:
A rainy day in Como

A lakeside Villa near Como
by Felice di Paoli

Welcome to Como
From Jesse's Journeys in Italy

Population: 83,016 (2004)
Official site:

Visit our Lake District Portal

A trip to Italy's Lake District will always include a stop-over in Como whether for a day or several.  It is the principal lakeside town - actually a small city - the place that gave its name to Lago di Como.

Como is just 40 kilometers north of Milan and it is a busy industrial center whose principal industry is the making of silks used by clothing manufacturers in Milan and other fashion centers.  One goes to Como for the first time looking for a lakeside escape and arrives at the outskirts of the city disappointed to find the industrial sprawl and suburbs.  But, take heart, Como has many pleasant surprises within its  ancient walls, and it is a useful gateway to other Lake District towns where escape is not only possible, but unavoidable!

For more of Como's history from pre-Roman times
Click here

Virtually all of the things that one wants to see are in the heart of Como's medieval precincts.  So, once you have arrived, make for Piazza Cavour which fronts the lake.  It is the perfect place to take in the beauty of the city's stunning natural surroundings, to catch a glimpse of some of Como's main attractions and to orient yourself for the rest of your stay.

Facing the facade is the Duomo - the Cathedral - which posesses a 14th century Gothic facade, but carries an 18th century dome; it is, in fact, an eclectic architectural work that features important elements from nearly all major historical periods.   Next to the cathedral is the Palazzo Broletto, the town's municipal hall in pink and grey striped stone, featuring a long, protective arcade. From Piazza Cavour, you can make your way to Piazza San Fidele which boasts its own architectural masterpiece, a 16th century basilica also dedicated to San Fidele.

Above San Fidele, following via Cantů, you will find one of the city's gates, the Porta Vittoria and an  imposing fortified tower.  There is another tower higher up, the Baradello, which you can reach by walking up the hill behind the ancient and austere Chiesa San Abbondio, whose cloisters offer a place where you can rest your weary legs, and which houses a few beautiful paintings, some dating to the 11th century.  Back down the hill is a third, equally stunning basilica, San Corpoforo, done in the Romanesque style.

Walking (or if you must, driving) west you can enjoy the promenade and marvel at the array of colorful boats in Como's lakeside harbour.  Eventually you will come to the domed, classically designed Tempio Voltiano and its grounds.  The impressive temple features marble columns and marble mosaic floors, but no god is worshipped here.  It is dedicated to native son, Alessandro Volta who invented the first reliable battery, and has given his name to our word "volt". The primitive battery apparatus he designed is on display in the main hall.

A little further on is the luxurious Villa dell Olmo, one of many fabulous villas built by wealthy aristocrats and commoners in years gone by.  The villa is surrounded by formal gardens and what the tourist brochures call a "wild park", but which is, in fact, too well-groomed these days to carry the designation.  It was a wild forest of elms, perhaps, when it was mentioned by Pliny the Younger when Como was a bustling Roman colony.

Back in Como, be sure to take time to prowl the old medieval streets of the city where you will find an amazing variety of stores and shops, cafes, restaurants, trattorias, hotels and B&Bs.  The products on sale in the shops range from the corny to the exquisite, and likewise the foods  that find their way to local menus encompass good, but standard Italian fare, but also the fabulous local cuisine and many international dishes.  The hotels and other places to stay in and near Como cover a wide spectrum: from lowly hostel to 4 star!

Above the city is the town of Brunate where you will be enfolded by the alps, and gain a breathtaking view of Como and the lakes, and find, like it or lump it, much cooler air.  It is accessible by road, but why not take the funicular - the inclined railway - which is a lot of fun, but which also provides spectacular views of the area that you can't get by any other means.  Hikers will enjoy the walk up a foot path on Monte Boletto behind Brunate, where the prospects make for even grander views.

If you want to make other excursions from Como - the drive being as wonderful as any destination - take a drive to Cernobbio, an old village with winding medieval streets and  picturesque houses.  The town was the location for the wonderful film  comedy, "A Month by the Lake".  Close by, be prepared to encounter the Villa D'Este, one of Europe's most opulent hotels.  Step inside the lobby (or stay a night) and immerse yourself in the luxuries of "la belle epoch".

Up the road from Cernobbio is Toriggia, where you will find another splendid villa, the Villa Passalacqua, where the composer Vincenzo Bellini enjoyed staying in his day. You will understand why when you see it!

Further north as you get to Bellagio, you will catch a glimpse of Isola Comacina, Lake Como's only island.  You can access it by ferry almost any day of the year, but if you are in the area in late June, make the crossing on St. John's Day and join the mass being held in the ruins of the ancient basilica of San Eufemia, which is followed by a procession of locals in medieval costume, and later a colorful display of fireworks.

Other lakeside towns that should be on your "must see" list include Tremezzo and Varenna.  You will enjoy the lakeside promenade in Tremezzo where you can see a few more luxury villas, or stay in one of several that have been converted into hotels.  You can also board a   ferry to either Varenna or Bellagio, the so called pearl of the lake, or both.

Varenna is considered by many to be the most picturesque town on Lake Como.  You'll need good legs to tour this town, which sits on a steep slope.  However, the winding streets lined with pretty houses whose small balconies are draped with flowers from spring through late autumn, are worth exploring.  Downhill, along the water's edge, take time to see Villa Cipressi whose gardens cascade down to the lake, and Villa Monastero, whose dreamy elegance will impress you greatly.

Returning to Como you will undoubtedly feel relaxed and refreshed.  Como, the Lake, the nearby towns and villages posess a kind of pleasant and appealing simplicity that make for a romantic and refreshing escape.  It is a simplicity, however, which is skin deep: the underlying complexities of the town's culture, the character of its history and  the magnificent ecologies of its landscape peek through everywhere...and subliminally enrich the experience at every turn.

By Vian Andrews, October 9th, 2006


45°49′N 09°05′E


Lecco - 28 km;
Bellagio - 30 km;
Varenna - 35 km
Milan - 50 km;
Bergamo - 92 km
Stresa - 99 km;;
Verbania - 113 km;
Brescia - 141 km;
Cremona - 157 km



Duomo at Como

Como Coat of Arms


Contributions: Tell us about your trip to Como.  What were your favorite places to visit, stay, and dine.  Contribute
In 1902, American businessman, William Rockefeller purchased the statue that used to grace Como's main piazza.  The statue now stands in the Bronx Zoo.
Mussolini, Italy's dictator before and during the first years of World War II,  passed through Como while trying to escape to Switzerland.  He was captured by partisans just north of Como at the village of Giulino di Mezzegra Mussolini and shot to death.