Monuments city guide

Discovering the origins of Como

Porta Torre

Medieval walls

Medieval walls

To understand the origins of the city from prehistoric times, you should visit  the Archaeological Museum Giovio (Piazza Medaglie D’Oro), which is open daily except mondays. Inside the palace belonged to the family Giovio you can find an interesting collection of urns , vases, jewelry, weapons and everyday objects, dating mainly from the Iron Age and the Bronze Age. At ground floor has been opened a section dedicated to Roman Age in Como. After visiting the museum, you can reach Porta Torre, a medieval gateway to the ancient city, located in the center of the southern walls, built by Barbarossa in the Middle Ages. Some parts of the ancient city walls and Porta Pretoria are still in the basement of the adjacent middle school, but can not be visited. From Porta Torre you can see  two other towers: the West Tower Gattoni, East Tower Vitali. The street outside the walls, once used as a defensive moat, is now the location of the open market (tuesday, thursday, saturday, easter week). Outside the walls lies Piazza Vittoria, a square with the statue of Garibaldi, who freed the city from Austrian rule in 1859.

Inside the walls: “La Vasca”


Piazza del Duomo

Teatro Sociale

Piazza del Duomo

“Vasca”(literally it means pool, because you go up and down the medieval district)  is a word used by citizens of Como to designate the usual walk made on saturday and sunday afternoons, to look around  shops. Inside the walls tourists can explore magnificent civic monuments.   The itinerary starts from Piazza del Duomo, which holds the city’s cathedral and it is also home to the Broletto, an elegant building dated 1215, formerly the location of the Palazzo della Ragione (regional government), now you can have the chance to visit nice exhibitions and to see the Duomo square from the top. Turning around the Dome, you arrive in Piazza Verdi, where stands the neoclassical Teatro Sociale, designed by Cusi architect during nineteenth century. The building, with its impressive corinthian columns, consists of a huge complex that once also included an arena (they recently started works to renovate the Arena) . Follow the arcades that take you in Via Vittorio Emanuele, the most posh street of the city, plenty of upmarket shops. You can get to the top of the street, and in this case you will reach the Giovio Museum, or you can follow the shopping street, until you reach Piazza San Fedele, the true heart of the city since ancient times. You can continue walking until Porta Torre and the edge of the city wall, from here you can also see Tower Vitali and Gattoni. Leaving the walled city, immediately on the right is Piazza Victoria, the square dedicated to Garibaldi, who freed Como from Austrian rule. You can continue walking, following Via Milano, another shopping street, or you can turn back to Piazza San Fedele and take Via Bernardino Luini, until you reach Piazza Cavour. At this point, you can walk through Portici Plinio arcades to go back to Piazza del Duomo. You can now restart another “vasca” or you can enjoy the Dome square from one of its café and restaurant.

Romantic walking: From Villa Geno to Villa Olmo

Villa Geno lake promenade

Villa Geno lake promenade

Villa Olmo

This is a beautiful promenade that runs continuously along the lake. Starting from Villa Geno you can refresh yourself to the big fountain which stands only few meters from the lake. Walk down until the cable car, which connect Como with Brunate mountain in 6 minutes. During the short trip and from the top you will appreciate gorgeous views of the city and the lake.  Continue to Piazza Cavour and proceed along the Tempio Voltiano. Here you can relax a bit on the grass overlooking the lake or you can continue; a little further is the starting point of seaplanes and here begins the most romantic walk of the city. Don’t miss the splendid neoclassical villas that lie opposite the lake. Until the nineteenth century this area was considered out of town and used as pasture. With the Romantic period Como discovered the great charm of the lake and some rich families decided to build their resorts along its shores. The first building is Villa Musa, but that is more recent than the others, founded at the beginning of the twentieth century when it was fashionable art-deco. Near there are the lovely Villa Carminati, the most elegant example of neoclassicism in Borgovico and Villa Saporiti, now belonging to the provincial administration. Next one is Villa Gallia, now used as location  for cultural events. Beyond the bridge lie the austere Villa Parravicini, Villa Canepa and Villa Mondolfo, built in empire style with two wings connected by a central terrace. At the end of the walk we meet the most famous villa, which is Villa Olmo, famous for the ancient trees that adorn the surrounding park. Built in the late eighteenth century from Cantoni for Count Innocent Odescalchi, then passed to the Marquis Raimondi and then the Visconti, is now owned by the City Council, and it’s used as perfect location for exhibitions and events. The front of the overlooks the lake, benches and stone walls let you remain blissfully sat admiring the view for hours. On the back of the villa lies a beautiful park, shaded and cool, ideal for picnics and afternoon naps.

Famous citizen of Como: Alessandro Volta itinerary

Piazza Volta

Tempio Voltiano

Tomba di Volta

Few meters before the seaplane arrival of Como starts the itinerary dedicated to Alessandro Volta who has devoted much of his life to research on electricity. The Volta Temple is a neoclassical building, built in 1927 on the occasion of the centenary of  Volta. The museum is open every day except monday, here you can appreciate a collection of instruments made and used by the great scientist to carry out his experiments on gas and electricity that led, in 1799, implementation of the battery. Some items are originals, others are copies remade by professors from the University of Pavia, and others are part of tools recovered at the disastrous fire who took place in the 1899 in the International Exhibition hall. Returning to the city center you can stop in Piazza Volta, one of the most beautiful square of the city, dominated by a statue of the scientist. Continuing along Via Volta you will meet the house where Volta was born. On the parallel street, Via Diaz, there is still the church of S. Donnino with the baptismal font and baptismal certificate of the little Alessandro Volta. In Via Carducci, parallel to the left, you can see the classical high school A. Volta, where the scientist was a teacher. For those who have time, you can go to Brunate funicular and then proceed to S. Maurizio (walking or bus), where there is the Volta lighthouse built in 1927. It is a spectacular view point: from here on a clear day, you can see the whole lake, the Alps, the Ticino region and the Brianza region. Finally, you can end the route leaving the city and heading towards Camnago Volta (Lecco direction). At the edge of the village there is still a cottage that housed the family  and in the local cemetery there is the body of the scientist. The tomb is situated opposite the entrance gate, it is a circular chapel flanked by statues of Science and Religion, the two ideals that have lighted the great man throughout his life.

The twentieth century in Como

Monumenti ai Caduti

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Casa del Fascio

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Monumento alla resistenza

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Between the wars, in Como was working a group of architects who, starting from international ideas of artistic renewal, began to design modern homes, provided with water, gas, electricity, heating.  Homes were healthier, more rational and even cheaper. All this was possible through the use of new materials (concrete, plastic, glass, cement, etc.). The masterpiece of the italian Rationalist is Casa del Fascio, built by Terragni between 1932 and 1936: a balanced and proportional semi cube that where solid and void elements alternate themselves. The 18 gates of the main facade and the massive use of glass, cement and glass surfaces cancel the boundaries between inside and outside and let the light enter and enlarge spaces. Near Tempio Voltiano you can find some other buildings dating back to rationalist period: the Novocomum or Transatlantico, apartment complex built in 1929 by Terragni, Sinigaglia pool, House Frigerio, the Canottieri Lario and the War Memorial, a simple tower placed between the lake and city to honor the soldiers who died during the First World War. In the same area, but not in the rationalist style, you can see the monument to the European resistance which was inaugurated in 1983 by President Pertini. The monument is a warning to young people against the totalitarian and destructive ideas. Other great works of Terragni can be seen in the suburbs such as St. Elia Nursery and  the Fountain Square  in Camerlata.