The romantic town of Como and its magnificent surroundings make for a perfect getaway from Milan. A one-hour long drive or train ride will be enough to reach one of the most beautiful destinations in Northern Italy. As a local, I have witnessed the growing popularity of Como amongst international visitors. Showing foreign friends around has allowed me to appreciate it even more. I am very proud to give you some advice to get the best from my wonderful hometown!
How to reach Como from Milan: Thousands of commuters and tourists shift to-and-from between Milan and Como. Therefore, several train connections are available at Centrale, Porta Garibaldi, or Cadorna railway stations. From Cadorna, only, can you travel all the way to the lakeside and the city centre. From Centrale or Garibaldi, you can reach Como San Giovanni with Switzerland-bound trains (Trenord, TiLo, or Eurocity trains). A basic Milan-Como train ticket will cost you about 10€ roundtrip (browse your options here).
By car, you can reach Como via the A1 motorway or Statale dei Giovi. Once in town, be prepared to pay for expensive parking lots, as even locals have a hard time finding parking spots in the city centre. Driving on the narrow, winding lanes of the lake or mountain villages requires above-average driving skills. Travelling by train, and then by bus or boat, is probably more suitable. Como is small and you will not really need a car to visit its attractions.
What to see, plus some historical background
Despite its limited size, Como offers much to see. The town is located in a basin between green hills and the south-Western tip of the namesake lake. Nature and history literally stand side by side.
Start your visit with a stroll in the old town. Its many treasures witness the city’s history, dating back to the Roman era (earlier Celtic settlements were found in the outskirts). A campsite was built there in the 1st century b.C. Little has remained of the Roman vestiges: the town came to shape during the Middle Ages, as proven by its walls and characteristic Romanesque churches. It is worth visiting San Fedele, in the beautiful namesake piazza, and Sant’Abbondio, a 10-minute walk from the centre. The tower on the top of the nearby hill is related to Holy Roman emperor Frederick I ‘il Barbarossa’, an ally of Como against Milan in the 12th century. He is still remembered in the tradition known as Palio del Baradello.
Como is indeed one of the earliest examples of municipality. The former centre of political power, the ‘Broletto’ tower, stands aside of the Cathedral, which is, in turn, one of the region’s most magnificent with Its distinctive green copper dome.
Neoclassical, Romantic and Art Nouveau architectures give Como an aristocratic atmosphere. To enjoy it at its best, you can walk along the waterfront. Going westwards from elegant piazza Volta, you will cross the city’s gardens, where the iconic ‘Tempio Voltiano’ celebrates Como’s most famous citizen, Alessandro Volta, the pioneer of electrical energy. Once there, you can take the promenade leading you to magnificent Villa Olmo. Instead, walking eastwards, you can opt for a funicular ride (round trip: €4.50) to Brunate, an uphill village embellished by fin-de-siècle villas and a glorious view.
It is fair to warn you about Como’s reputation as one of the rainiest towns in Italy, but this does not make the landscape any less charming, adding a melancholic twist to its blue and green nuances.
Last, but not least, one defining trait of Como’s architecture is represented by many futurist and rationalist buildings and monuments, the most famous of which is certainly Palazzo Terragni, formerly known as Casa del Fascio for being the local house of the Fascist party in the 1920s-1940s. It owes its name to Giuseppe Terragni, the architect that designed it.