The elegant and bustling town of Como is the primary and commercial center for Lake Como. Grand villas, palazzi, and churches show the city’s splendor, while intriguing lanes and colorful piazzas show off its charm. Situated on the lakeshore, it has a marina and a hydroplane “airport” along with its ferry port. Stroll on the promenade and enjoy the views. The city is a cultural hub with plenty of things to do, concerts, shows and museums to explore. Of course, if you prefer to swim in the lake, enjoy the water sports, or take a hike in the hills, they’re all right there!
What to Do in Como
Como is the silk center of Italy, so don’t miss the Silk Museum, which highlights this tradition. The Tempio Voltiano is a neoclassical monument to Alessandro Volta, Como physicist who invented the modern battery, among other accomplishments in electrical current. The Civic Art Gallery (Pinacoteca Civica) is housed in Palazzo Volpi and contains a hefty arrangement of paintings, sculptures, a lapidary collection, modern art and abstracts. The History Museum Giuseppe Garibaldi is dedicated to the history of the Risorgimento -the unification of Italy under the Savoy dynasty- and has an impressive collection of uniforms, weapons, furnishings and manuscripts related to that movement, along with textiles, ceramics and other displays related to the history of Lake Como over the past few centuries. The Archeological Museum contains a wealth of artifacts from the Bronza Age, Iron Age, Magna Grecia, Roman era and Egyptian culture.
Como’s crowning jewel is its Duomo, a stellar cathedral that was started in 1396 and constructed over the course of four centuries! It has a lovely blend of styles through those years, including Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque. Frescoes, paintings, stained glass and sculptures decorate the vast interior. The Broletto is a building dating to 1215 with a Gothic facade in marble, now the home of the Town Hall and the civic theater, which hosts exhibits. The charming Piazza San Fedele retains its medieval character, and is dedicated to Como’s patron saint.
A must during any visit is the Como-Brunate funicolare, a steeply inclined railcar ride that takes you up to the village of Brunate, where you’ll have gorgeous sweeping views of the lake, the mountains and the plains of Lombardy beyond.
Take the funny Funicolare to get in Brunate. Once there you can enjoy a splendid view and see the entire western Alps, the Po Valley and the Apennines. There are several panoramic points like the Belvedere, the large churchyard of S. Andrea, the rotunda of the Marenghi park in S. Maurizio and the overhanging Faro. There are also numerous monuments of historical and artistic interest. We mention the Voltiano Lighthouse, the parish church, the villas and many possible excursion destinations. Among the trekking itineraries we remember the so-called ridge of the Lariano Triangle, route at high altitude that connects Brunate to Bellagio.
The parish church of Brunate is dedicated to the patron saint Sant’Andrea Apostolo. The first records date back to the fourteenth century. Inside there are frescoes by the Recchis made at the end of the seventeenth century. In the vault the patrons of Sant’Andrea and San Maurizio are depicted. In the medallions below you can see Sant’Ignazio di Loyola, San Michele Arcangelo, San Bartolomeo and Blessed Maddalena Albrici. Inside the church there is an altar dedicated to the Blessed Maddalena Albrici, under which her relics are kept. In the church is also preserved a pipe organ of 1827. It was built by the Prestinari brothers of Magenta reusing the phonic material of a previous Serassi organ from 1774.
The historic center of Brunate is characterized by narrow alleyways that climb up the slope. In it there are ancient buildings, stone portals and several courts. The most important are the court of the Castle, one of the oldest places in Brunate, and the court of the Jews, dating back to the 14th century.
In Brunate we find the Voltiano Lighthouse. It is a 29-meter octagonal tower built in 1927 on the summit of Monte Tre Croci on the occasion of the centenary of the death of Alessandro Volta. The lighthouse, starting from sunset until dawn, alternately emits green, white and red light. On the coast of the mountain of Brunate we find the hermitage of San Donato erected by the Franciscans in the fifteenth century. The convent still exists. For five centuries it has dominated the city with its severe bulk. It is no longer a place of prayer because it is desecrated since Maria Theresa of Austria suppressed numerous convents.
Where to stay
Como is a destination in itself, but it’s also a good base for exploring Lake Como. Because it’s a bigger town, Como is somewhat cheaper to stay in than many of the other towns along Lake Como.
It also tends to offer less expensive dining options. So it’s a good choice if you’re traveling on a budget. Transport connections are good, but the town is located at the far end of the lake, which means that it might take you several hours to get to some of the main sights of Lake Como.