City of Como: What to visit

Perfect for a cultural trip out of town

What to visit in Como in one day

As soon as you set foot in the beautiful city of Como, you immediately get lost in observing the valuable monuments, the charming historic center and the suggestive views of the Lario and the delicate slopes that surround it. Discovered and conquered by the Romans almost two centuries before Christ, Como is the city of light, of the streets of the silk, of the cafes under the arcades and its fame is today undisputed in Italy as well as abroad.

From the Volta Temple to Gate Tower, offers the many visitors an opportunity to surround yourself with colours, perfumes, art and history, being able to admire works and buildings in many different styles, from the medieval to the neoclassical, from the Renaissance to the Lombard-Gothic. Finding your way around its streets and tourist attractions is very simple, and this makes it easy to visit within 24 hours, perfect for a cultural trip out of town.

City of Como: what to visit
Piazza Cavour - Como

Piazza Cavour – The old port and fountain of New York

Let's start from Piazza Cavour, the first historical area that can be reached coming from Como Nord Lago station. Today it is the epicenter of the city's cultural events, where craft or food markets are often held, but it once had a different profile and housed a commercial port, with shops and arcades that dominated the internal sides of the square.

The current area was built at the turn of the 19th century, when the port was filled in, and the shops were replaced by tall buildings, such as those that now house the hotels Metropole-Suisse And Barchetta Excelsior.

A curious anecdote concerns a beautiful woman fountain which in 1872 went to embellish the center of the square. Not receiving the favor of the citizens, who complained about the excessive nudity in the women carved on the friezes and the consumption of water, the structure was removed and sold in 1902 to a private individual, who brought it to the New York zoological garden of the Bronx, where it still stands today. Ironically, since 1968, the fountain is recognized as Official symbol of New York City!

Not having any river outlet, the shore of Como has always suffered the moments of flooding of the lake, undergoing numerous floods, already reported in documents dating back to the fifteenth century. On some occasions, Piazza Cavour became completely navigable. The risk of exposure to rising waters remains alive today.

Cathedral square in Como

Piazza Duomo – The Broletto, the Cathedral and the frog

Moving inland, turning away from the lake, we reach Piazza Duomo, the beating heart of the city. At the entrance to the square the eye falls on Broletto, the ancient town hall dating back to 1215. Its original Gothic-Romanesque style was "renovated" in the 15th century during the Renaissance period, giving it the appearance of a typical court building.

The annex civic tower it was once equipped with a bell that the Municipality rang to call citizens to meetings. The interior of the building today is home to art exhibitions, congresses and events of various kinds.

Literally attached to the Broletto, stands the Como Cathedral, which with its Gothic-Renaissance elegance dominates the urban architecture of the city. It is considered one of the most representative religious buildings in Northern Italy, and its uniqueness and beauty are a legacy of the almost 4 centuries it took to build it, from 1396 to 1740.

Numerous sculptural decorations can be seen on the imposing facade covered with spiers and pinnacles, including the two aedicules dedicated to Latin writers Pliny the Elder And Pliny the Younger, both citizens of Como.

The Northern Gate is curiously called "Gate of the Frog", recalling a decoration depicting a frog jumping out of the pond. It is still not clear why, among the various figures of saints, angels, monsters, griffins and butterflies represented, it was a frog that became established in tradition. In the 1800s, rumors began to circulate that the frog indicated a hidden treasure, so much so that in 1852 excavations were carried out to look for it, without success. Since 1912, the frog has been headless, hit by a mad man's hammer. Despite this, it continues to achieve great success, especially among tourists, who caress it because it is said to bring good luck.

Inside the Cathedral, the monumental is appreciated wooden altar dedicated to Sant'Abbondio, as well as tapestries Renaissance of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

Piazza Giuseppe Verdi – The “Piccola Scala” and the Casa del Fascio

If we move behind the Duomo, we reach another area of historical interest, namely Giuseppe Verdi Square, surrounded by architectural jewels that connect different centuries and styles.

First of all, the Social Theater of Como, a casket of rare beauty that has always been a cultural center of attraction for the major interpreters of classical music and opera. Inaugurated in 1813, it is also known by the name of “Small Scale”, since it housed the Teatro alla Scala, after the 1943 bombing made the prestigious Milanese hall unusable. Thanks to this collaboration, the best artists of the time performed in Como.

Open over 300 days a year, the Teatro Sociale is home to many activities: in addition to prose and dance performances and seasons of operas and concerts, it is populated by theater and dance schools, animated by children and teenagers of all ages .

To the east of the square, beyond the level crossing, stands out one of the greatest examples of Italian rationalist architecture, the ex House of Fascio Of Joseph Terragni. A rigorous geometric layout and absolute formal simplification are the main characteristics of this building which was built in 1936 as the city headquarters of the national fascist party, used for population control and youth education. Today it is the headquarters of the financial police.

If we look north we can observe the remains of the Panther Tower, a fifteenth-century remnant belonging to the historic family from which it takes its name, and to close an ideal circle, to the west, the imposing mass of the Cathedral.

From our position we can better appreciate the elevation of the dome, an admirable work by Filippo Juvarra, which gives the cathedral an overall height of no less than 75 metres.

San Fedele Square, Como

Piazza San Fedele – A step back in time

Returning to the main square and leaving the Cathedral on our left, we continue straight along the beautiful Via Vittorio Emanuele, which has always been the way of commerce. At the time home to small houses with shops, today it has numerous shops with the most modern clothing and accessories chains.

Following the natural course of the road we arrive at San Fedele Square, the ancient heart of the walled city, certainly one of the most fascinating places to visit.

Already in the Roman period it was a center of important trading and was the seat of the grain market (Mercatum Blava) with shops and arcades. In the early Middle Ages and in the municipal period, the square was also a strategic place from a religious point of view, as evidenced by the presence of the Basilica of San Fedele, a splendid complex that historical sources date back to around 1100, even though it was certainly started much earlier. Among the ancient churches of Como, San Fedele is the most interesting from an architectural point of view, with a structure that, overall and in detail, offers no equal in the entire national territory.

Today the basilica and the square in front of it are one of the most evocative tourist destinations, a lively pedestrian space in which to breathe history, with its Renaissance-era houses with exposed wood and herringbone brickwork.

Porta Torre and Piazza Vittoria

Porta Torre and Piazza Vittoria – From Barbarossa to Garibaldi

Leaving the square taking Via Natta, we continue towards the edge of the historic center, represented by the majestic Gate Tower, the famous medieval entrance to the city.

40 meters high, it is an example of military architecture of the Romanesque tradition, with four orders of arches that once corresponded to the four floors of the tower, on top of which a bell was originally placed which rang to communicate any dangers to the inhabitants.

We cross the tower and, having reached the opposite side, turning our gaze to our right, we notice the remains of thick medieval walls, which in the past constituted a complex defensive system erected by theGerman emperor Frederick Barbarossa to defend the city from attacks by nearby Milan, once a bitter enemy of Como.

For this reason, the historic center of Como is also called "Walled City” and today the 70% of the original perimeter is still existing and well integrated into today's urban layout.

Before us draws Victoria Square, the large area located just outside the city walls, which houses the statue of the hero of two worlds Giuseppe Garibaldi, inaugurated in 1909 on the occasion of the thirtieth anniversary of the liberation, and erected on the site of the surrender of the Austrians after the Five days of 1848.

Looking at old photos dating back to the early 1900s, you can see the tram line that crossed the square and entered Como from Porta Torre, and in the center a large open space now occupied by the gardens adjacent to the Como Court building.

The Basilica of Sant'Abbondio – The ancient Cathedral

As we have already seen so far, Como is a city rich in religious testimonies: Basilicas, monasteries, churches and small churches tell us about its millenary history, in which moments of splendor and growth have alternated with centuries of wars and battles.

Moving slightly away from the city walls, crossing the ring road, we reach the Basilica of Sant'Abbondio, a clear example of this historical legacy, a building of considerable value and value that rises under the Monte Croce.

A significant representative of Romanesque-Lombard architecture and a masterpiece by the masters of Como, it was erected in place of the early Christian church dedicated to the SS. Peter and Paul, where it is said that the third Bishop of Como Amanzio had brought the relics of the two apostles.

In the 9th century the basilica was consecrated to Amanzio's successor, Bishop Abbondio, today the patron saint of Como, and remained the city's cathedral until 1013 when this title was transferred to the church of Santa Maria Maggiore, which was later demolished to make way for the cathedral.

Inside, the apse houses a cycle of frescoes from the 1300s that tell the story of Christ in twenty scenes, and the perimeter of the early Christian church is marked on the current floor by bands of black marble.

The medieval monastery close to the basilica was purchased in 1968 by the municipality and today, after careful restoration, it houses the Faculty of Law of the University of Insubria.

Alessandro Volta – The mayor of Como

Volta square

Returning to the historic center, looking at the ancient walls, we notice the presence of a second tower, called Gattoni Tower, site in 1930 of the first electric substation which supplied the current for lighting the city.

It is no coincidence that the first scientific experiments took place inside it Alessandro Volta, the famous scholar who created the pile and discovered methane gas, as well as the most illustrious citizen of Como in the modern era.

The link between the figure of the great scientist and the city on Lake Como has never seen a break in the last two and a half centuries, and the evidence of this relationship outlines an itinerary that embraces the heart of the city. Just beyond the tower, we take the street named after him, which takes us back inside the walls. Along the road, having reached number 62, we notice a plaque with the inscription “This was the ancestral home of Alessandro Volta”.

We are in front of the birthplace of the scientist, which today presents itself as an imposing palace, subjected to significant modifications by the heirs. Volta died in this house in 1827, and the mausoleum that houses his body, declared a national monument, can now be visited in the district of Camnago Volta, just outside Como.

Voltian Time Alessandro Volta Como

The Mafalda di Savoia lakefront – Between science and nature

From Piazza Volta we return to overlook the Lario, ready to continue our visit through the many beauties that can be found there hide along its banks.

Keeping the lake to our right, we walk along the Mafalda di Savoia lakefront (named in honor of the princess of Italy) surrounded by green trees and refreshed by the gentle lake breeze.

Volta Temple

The neoclassical temple-shaped building that stands at the end of the avenue is a museum that once again celebrates the physical Alessandro Volta, built in 1927 on the occasion of the first centenary of the death of the inventor of the battery.

Surely the most iconic of the many Como monuments dedicated to the scientist, the Volta Temple welcomes visitors with two splendid statues placed at the entrance, representing Faith and Science. Inside, a large circular room almost 12 meters in diameter preserves the original appliances and devices used by the scientist in his experiments, as well as letters, publications and awards bestowed on him.

In front of the building you draw the Temple garden, a park that offers the possibility of indulging in a pleasant coolness, sheltered from hot summer days, and where the presence of an old locomotive certainly catches the eye.

It is in fact the FS 851 locomotive, which has been in the park since 2006, a tribute to these amazing machines, which from the early 1900s served in Italy until the end of the steam traction era in the 1970s.

Another monument in honor of the scientist, recently built, is found, think about it, in the middle of the lake! Traveling along the Piero Caldirola breakwater, accessible from the lakefront, one will have the sensation of plowing through the waters of the Lario, giving us the opportunity to admire the skyline of Como in all its romantic beauty, especially during an evening stroll, when the lights of the cities are reflected in the waters of the lake, painting an impressionistic picture.

At the top of the dam is the Life Electric, a work created in 2015 by the archistar Daniel Libeskind, 16 meters high and which shines in the middle of the lake. Fusing energetic and scientific elements with natural ones, the structure plays with sinuous shapes that recall the electric voltage between the two poles of a battery.

Aero Club Como

Viale Giancarlo Puecher – A stadium and a hangar

War Memorial

Continuing our walk on the shores of the lake, we surround the Voltian time and we immediately notice the rise of an imposing structure, the War Memorial. Built in 1933 by the famous rationalist architect from Como, Giuseppe Terragni, based on the sketch made in 1914 by Antonio Sant'Elia (who had imagined a futuristic power station there), the monument consists of a 30-metre high tower covered with precious Karst stones, symbol of the places where the Great War was fought.

Inside, the crypt houses the names of the Como fallen soldiers engraved, and by climbing the numerous steps that lead from the crypt to the last terrace, one can enjoy a broad panorama over the city.

Como Stadium – Giuseppe Sinigaglia

A little further on we notice an imposing structure with bleachers standing on our left: we are in front of the stadium Joseph Sinigaglia, since 1927 the home of the Como football club. Built at the behest of Benito Mussolini, its construction represents one of the first examples of rationalist architecture in Italy and is named after the rowing champion who died in the First World War.

From the outset, the facility's vocation was absolutely multi-sports, with artistic gymnastics courses, but also boxing, weightlifting, marathons and horse racing. It was also a velodrome, and the ring that was at the edge of the field was equipped with one of the most demanding parabolic curves in Europe.

The current capacity of the stadium is 13,600 spectators, but in the season in which Como reached Serie A (2002/03) it came to hold up to 18,000.

In the unforgettable events linked to Sinigaglia, there is larrival of Pope Karol Wojtyla's helicopter in May 1996 on the occasion of the Pope's visit to the city, and among the singers who performed when the stadium was used for concerts were the Deep Purple, Young people hey Pooh.

Como Plane Club

Opposite the stadium stands the Yacht Club Como, whose sailing school, born in 1950, was the first school organized in Italy. Among the sporting achievements, the company includes two participations in the Olympics and several world and European titles.

Continuing along the avenue we come to a large area, where it will be easy to find seaplanes moored to the shore. We are in fact in the place where the only certified seaplane base currently operating in Italy stands, the International Seaplane Base of Como.

In 1913, less than three years after the first flight of a seaplane, one of the first seaplane rallies in history took place in Como, the "Gran Premio dei Laghi", attended by the most important European pilots.

The French Roland Garros won it, generally remembered for the prestigious tennis tournament dedicated to him, but who was actually a French aviator, aviation pioneer and fighter pilot during the First World War.

The manager of the activity is theAero Club Como, the most important seaplane flying organization in Europe, as well as the oldest in the world, as certified by the Guinness World Records obtained in 2013.

Villa Olmo Como

The Lino Gelpi walk – Surrounded by timeless beauty

Immediately after the seaplane stopover, we find one of the most loved places by the people of Como and one of the most appreciated by tourists. It's about the Lino Gelpi walk, a road built in the 1960s, which stretches for over a kilometre, skirting the lake on one side and a series of charming historic villas on the other. This path was created by clearing the gardens of these houses, which originally had direct access to the lake, creating a pedestrian street with a view that is priceless everywhere.

Villa Saporiti

Most of the houses date back to the 18th century, during the period of Hapsburg domination, and the first one you come across is Villa Saporiti, also known as “The Rotunda” due to the convex profile drawn by the central element of the facade.

Its internal rooms hosted numerous historical figures, including General Napoleon Bonaparte and Prince Ferdinand I of Austria.

Villa Gallia

Saporiti derives from the name of the last owner, before the sale to the Province of Como. Next, peering through the gates, we make out Villa Gallia, the oldest, dating back to 1600.

The building stands on the ruins of the villa museum of the humanist Paolo Giovio, and its appearance is the result of heavy renovations, which took place especially after the war when the building was purchased by the Province of Como, which had to intervene with a substantial restoration cause of the damage caused by the Germans during the world war. Today it is home to administrative offices.

Villa Olmo

The final destination of this relaxing walk is in one of the most beautiful villas in the entire Como area, the surprising Villa Olmo, in its marvelous lines of neoclassical architecture. Commissioned at the end of the 18th century, it was immediately able to capture the fascinated gaze of the many tourists who visit the buildings and to please the citizens who decide to spend a few hours in the shady quiet of its park.

The layout of the facade has remained intact until today, drawing lines sober and elegant at the same time. Its rooms have seen the passage of characters of the caliber of Ugo Foscolo and Guseppe Garibaldi, as well as Napoleone Buonaparte again. The Italian garden overlooking the lake is decorated with statues of pagan gods, a neoclassical temple and an elegant stone balustrade.

In 1925 the property was sold to the Municipality of Como which currently uses it to organize art exhibitions, often of great interest.

Viale Geno – the bank changes, but the beauty remains

If we turn our gaze towards the lake from Villa Olmo, we notice a choreographic fountain on the opposite bank, the final destination of our visit. So let's retrace the road, enjoying the panorama of gentle lines and pastel colors that never ceases to fill our eyes.

After having gone beyond Piazza Cavour, we continue in an easterly direction, furrowing the Lungo Lario Trieste. Located between the North Milan station and the funicular, what is today an area full of bars and restaurants, was once the shore of the laundresses (complete with a public wash house) which only took on its tourist vocation after the Second World War.

The Brunate – Como funicular

At the end of this pleasant stretch enlivened by charming restaurants, we arrive in front of the funicular station which leads to Brunate. If you have a few hours left to spend admiring the beauties of this area, then we strongly advise you to buy a ticket.

Opened in 1894, through a route of about 1km with a height difference of 500 metres, the funicular takes us to the entrance of a pleasant holiday resort, nicknamed the "Balcony of the Alps” for its enchanting panoramic points. Starting from the town centre, a steep walk is rewarded with a visit to the Voltian Lighthouse (further homage of the city to its most famous citizen) than with its 29 meters high, dominates the lake, painting a picture that well frames the proverbial exclusive beauty of the Como area.

If you wish, if you continue beyond the lighthouse, equipped however with trekking shoes, you can take a long path which, following the Dorsale del Triangolo Lariano, leads to the top of the Monte Bollettone. From here, on clear days, the view ranges from the Gran Paradiso to the north, to Monviso and the Lombard plain to the south.

Returning to the shore

After the funicular, we enter the final stretch of our route, Avenue Geno. It is a very sunny avenue, which thanks to a large pedestrian area completely open onto the lake, is a candidate as the perfect destination to enjoy the romantic sunsets offered by the Lario. Some large cedars lead us towards Villa Geno, a beautiful 19th-century residence in neoclassical style, which is hidden just behind the fountain that could be seen on the opposite side from Villa Olmo, and which from here shows itself in all its beauty with an imposing jet of 30 meters.

The beauty and capacity of its rooms make the residence perfect for setting up wedding banquets, gala dinners and conferences of all kinds, thanks to the presence of the most modern technical equipment, designed to meet the different needs of users.

Here we are at the end of this short journey through the beauties and history of one of the most romantic and evocative cities in all of Northern Italy. But it is only the beginning of the discovery of this marvelous territory, which along the entire iconic inverted Y profile of the Lake Como, hides chests of rare beauty, all to be discovered.