Como, suspended between natural beauty and science

Tempio Voltiano in Como (c) Kvitka Fabian/
Tempio Voltiano in Como (c) Kvitka Fabian/
Custodian of numerous works of art, including churches, gardens, museums, theaters, parks and palaces, Como is an attractive city strategically located between Lake Como and the Alps. The perfect destination for a trip out of town.

Just an hour’s train ride from Milan, located on the southwest side of Lake Como, Como is a small city where the main attractions are within easy reach of each other. The city, as well as for its beauty, is known for being the birthplace of many prestigious figures, including writers Pliny the Elder and Pliny the Younger, Pope Innocent XI, the scientist Alessandro Volta, to whom the city has repeatedly paid tribute with statues and monuments, and Cosima Liszt, second wife of Richard Wagner.

To discover Como at its best, starting from the station of Como Lago, reach the center of the city, in Piazza Volta. Here in the Christmas period, you can find stalls where you can buy handmade decorations, local products and sweet and savory delicacies. At the center of the square, full of bars, restaurants and stores, the statue of Alessandro Volta, created by Pompeo Marchesi, dominates the scene. From here you can wander into the center for a little shopping or for a bite to eat – including lake fish dishes, such as risotto with perch or lavaret, or polenta accompanied by cheese or meat. In the center, you’ll come across some of the city’s most important monuments including the Broletto, the ancient seat of Como’s Town Hall in medieval times, easily recognizable by its white, red and black marble facade, and the Teatro Sociale. Also a short distance away, plan a visit to the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, the Duomo of Como. Behind a late Gothic facade, the interior houses precious tapestries and 16th-century paintings. Moving a little further away from the lake you can also admire the Basilica of Sant’Abbondio with its characteristic two bell towers.

Starting from the left side of the lakefront, in a pleasant walk, you will reach the geometric and well-kept public gardens that anticipate the Tempio Voltiano. Inside this elegant neoclassical structure celebrating the genius of Alessandro Volta – inventor of the battery and discoverer of methane gas – are kept the instruments used by the scientist and documents on his life. A little further on, the monument to the fallen of the First World War amazes for its height. This impressive 30m-high granite tower is accessible to the public and from its top you can enjoy a magnificent panoramic view of the city and the lake. From here you can also stroll along the pier that leads to the “Life Electric” metal sculpture by Daniel Libeskind, located in the middle of the water, which is another tribute to Volta’s inventions. Como, however, also satisfies lovers of period villas. A little further on, in fact, there is the 18th-century Villa Olmo, in neoclassical style, with statues and fountains and surrounded by a large Italianate garden. Once an aristocratic residence that hosted kings and emperors between the 19th and 20th centuries, today the villa after major restoration is home to exhibitions and events.

Changing instead side of the lakefront you can reach the funicular that connects Como to Brunate, a small town located a little higher than the city and dotted with villas in eclectic and Art Nouveau style, from which you can enjoy one of the most beautiful views of the lake. Don’t worry if you suffer from vertigo, you can also reach it by car or, if you feel sporty, on foot with a long walk uphill.