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.
With an evocative walk along the west shore of lake Como you can admire many neoclassical villas built between the eighteenth and the nineteenth century. In 1959, the local government created a “romantic promenade” offering citizens and tourists a wonderful itinerary rich of beautiful sights and elegant buildings.
Villa Carminati, designed in 1787 by architect Felice Soave, is a small and elegant villa with double open gallery and decorated with statues and little angels.
Villa Saporiti, now headquarters of the Provincial Administration, also known as “la Rotonda” for its shape, was built on the project of Leopoldo Pollack and decorated with various sea deities.
Villa Gallia, also property of Como’s Provincial Administration, was built in 1614 by abbot Marco Gallio in the place where Museo Gioviano (XVI century) was situated. The museum was erected by Paolo Giovio to host his personal collection of paintings, the one of Uomini Illustri (Illustrious Men), now at Pinacoteca Civica. The building is simple and characterised by a portico with three arches.
All villas are surrounded by lush gardens. Further, Villa Parravicini Revel is well recognizable thanks to its neoclassical and majestic structure, with Italian garden, while Villa Volonté has two symmetrical wings, with frontons decorated with bas-relieves and statues, and connected through a veranda.
At the end of the walk stands the famous neoclassical Villa Olmo, architect Simone Cantoni’s masterpiece, and erected by marquis Innocenzo Odescalchi. Villa Olmo was first property of the Raimondi family and later the Visconti di Modrone family that transformed and enriched it before donating it to the Municipality of Como in 1924. Villa Olmo, with its beautiful Italian garden in front and its English garden in the back, is now home to crowd-pulling art exhibitions.
The habit of Lake Como villas dates back to Romans and it is strictly linked with the history of tourism around the lake.
The hills surrounding the current location of Como were inhabited, since at least the Bronze Age, by a Celtic tribe known as the Orobii. Remains of settlements are still present on the wood-covered hills to the southwest of town.
Around the first century BC, the territory became subject to the Romans. The town center was situated on the nearby hills, but it was then moved to its current location by order of Julius Caesar, who had the swamp near the southern tip of the lake drained and laid the plan of the walled city in the typical Roman grid of perpendicular streets. The newly founded town was named Novum Comum and had the status of municipium. In September 2018, Culture Minister Alberto Bonisoli announced the discovery of several hundred gold coins in the basement of the former Cressoni Theater (Teatro Cressoni) in a two-handled soapstone amphora, coins struck by emperors Honorius, Valentinian III, Leo I the Thracian, Antonio and Libius Severus dating to 474 AD.
In 774, the town surrendered to invading Franks led by Charlemagne, and became a center of commercial exchange.
In 1127, Como lost a decade-long war with the nearby town of Milan. A few decades later, with the help of Frederick Barbarossa, the Comaschi were able to avenge their defeat when Milan was destroyed in 1162. Frederick promoted the construction of several defensive towers around the city limits, of which only one, the Baradello, remains.
Subsequently, the history of Como followed that of the Duchy of Milan, through the French invasion and the Spanish domination, until 1714, when the territory was taken by the Austrians. Napoleon descended into Lombardy in 1796 and ruled it until 1815, when the Austrian rule was resumed after the Congress of Vienna. In 1859, with the arrival of Giuseppe Garibaldi, the town became part of the newly formed Kingdom of Italy under the House of Savoy.
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.
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. A significant number of residents are employed in the nearby industrial areas of the Swiss towns of Lugano and Mendrisio, primarily in the industrial sector, health care services and in the hospitality industry; the 30 km (19 mi) commute is beneficial as wages in Switzerland are notably higher. For these reasons, tourism has become increasingly important for the local economy since the late 1990s, when local small businesses have gradually been replaced by bars, restaurants and hotels. The city and the lake have been chosen as the filming location for various recent popular feature films, and this, together with the increasing presence of celebrities such as Matt Bellamy who have bought lakeside properties, has heightened the city's attractiveness and given a further boost to international tourism; since the early 2000s the city has become a popular "must see" tourist destination.
Situated at the southern tip of the south-west arm of Lake Como, the city is located 40 kilometres (25 mi) north of Milan; the city proper borders Switzerland and the communes of Blevio, Brunate, Capiago Intimiano, Casnate con Bernate, Cernobbio, Grandate, Lipomo, Maslianico, Montano Lucino, San Fermo della Battaglia, Senna Comasco, Tavernerio, and Torno, and the Swiss towns of Chiasso and Vacallo. Nearby major cities are Varese, Lecco, and Lugano.
The city of Como has seen its population count increase until it peaked at almost 100,000 inhabitants in the 1970s, when manufacturing, especially the silk industry, was in its boom years. As production began to decline, the population decreased by almost 20,000 people until the start of the 21st century, when the city saw its population grow again by more than six thousand, mainly because of immigration from Asia, Eastern Europe and North Africa. As of 31 December 2016, the population was 84,326 people.
Museo Archeologico "P. Giovio" – archeological museum
Garibaldi Museum (Como) – a museum dedicated to Giuseppe Garibaldi
Tempio Voltiano – a museum devoted to Alessandro Volta's work
Villa Olmo – various exhibitions
Museo Didattico Della Seta – educational silk museum
Museo Liceo classico "A. Volta" – scientific museum
Pinacoteca Civica – paintings and artworks from Carolingian to modern era housed in the 17th-century Palazzo Volpi
Polenta is a popular dish in Como, and was traditionally eaten for meals in winter time. It is obtained by mixing and cooking corn flour and buckwheat. It is usually served with meat, game, cheese and sometimes fish; in fact, Polenta e Misultin (Alosa agone) is served in the restaurants in the Lake Como area.
A traditional dish is the Risotto con Filetti di Pesce Persico or simply Risotto al Pesce Persico (European perch filet risotto), a fish grown in Lake Como, prepared with white wine, onion, butter and wheat.
Como has been for many years the most important center for silk production in the world, boasts a long tradition in this sector and holds the title of "world capital of silk". It is said that it all began thanks to Mr. Pietro Boldoni of Bellano and we are talking about 1510. He was the first to open a silk industry in Como. And to further testify to the importance of the sector for the Lake Como area, there are the Silk Museum (in Como) and the Civic Museum Setificio Monti (in Abbadia Lariana). Two must-see places if you are interested in getting to know this fascinating world up close. In any case, whether you buy a tie, a foulard, a scarf or a dress, if it is made of silk you will have bought the souvenir par excellence in these parts!
The city of Como is on the shores of Lake Como.
The lake is shaped like an inverted 'Y', with two 'legs' starting at Como in the south-west and Lecco in the south-east, which join together half-way up, and the lake continues up to Lecco, Varenna and next Colico in the north. The first few kilometres of the legs at the southern end of the lake are relatively flat, but Lake Como becomes more mountainous as you head northwards into the Alps. Some of the nearby peaks go slightly above the tree-line so the views are really impressive. In the winter, there is skiing in the nearby valleys.
The area around Lake Como is pretty characteristic. It has a kind of flair and sense of history that tends to impress its visitors in a sense deeper than only from a touristic point of view. It has been appreciated for its beauty and uniqueness for ages, and even as early as the Roman times.
Several boats and hydrofoils a day travel all the way up the lake from Como to Colico stopping at most of the towns en route. The distances are long, so you shouldn't expect to visit more than 2-3 villages in a day. For example, the regular ferry takes around 2 hours to go from Como to Bellaggio. There are fast services that travel faster, stop at fewer places and cost more. Less frequent boat/hydrofoils travel down the eastern leg between Bellagio and Lecco.
There are additional frequent services between the 'triangle' of towns in the centre of the lake - Menaggio, Bellagio & Varenna.
The Servizio Ferroviario Regionale (Regional Railway Service) connects Como by train to other major cities in Lombardy. Services are provided by Trenord through two main stations: Como San Giovanni and Como Nord Lago. There are five more urban stations (Albate-Camerlata, Albate-Trecallo, Como Borghi, Como Camerlata and Grandate-Breccia).
Como San Giovanni is also a stop on the main north–south line between Milan Centrale and Zürich HB and Basel SBB. Intercity and EuroCity trains stop at this station, which makes Como very accessible from the European express train network.
The Como to Brunate funicular connects the center of Como with Brunate, a small village (1,800 inhabitants) on a mountain at 715 m (2,346 ft) above sea level.
Some material from Wikipedia, and the Como Tourist Information Office.