When taking a long road trip (for example, from France to Liechtenstein), it is always a good idea to have a point to stop, stretch one’s legs and see something interesting to break up the monotonous hours of motorway/autobahn/highway travel. This specific stop was a nice city on the Swiss-Italian border (on the Italian side): Como.
History of Como region
The area of Como (city and district) has been settled since the Bronze Age; it has a typical history for a city on the Italian peninsula. It was part of the Roman Empire. Then it was conquered by Charlemagne during his reign. It warred with its neighbouring city-states (chiefly Milan) until the Spanish dominated it, followed by the French and Austrians. It eventually united under the House of Savoy to form the Kingdom of Italy. In relation to World War II, the Como district was the sight of the capture and shooting of Benito Mussolini.
Our visit to Como was very brief as we only had about three hours in this area before moving on to Liechtenstein. For that reason, we were only able to see a few things:
The first was the Basilica di Sant’Abbondio, a Roman Catholic basilica from the 11th century, a former seat of a bishopric. It was originally built to replace two other churches built on the site several hundred years before. It has an attached medieval monastery, although we were not able to visit it. Unfortunately, we did not have permission to take pictures of the interior; to be honest, it was not really worth the visit. The odour of incense was extremely poignant (if you could not tell, I am averse to incense) and the inside was undergoing renovations, so there was not much to see at the time.
We also had the opportunity to wander around the centre of the city. Where the basilica was almost completely empty (it was a kilometre or so outside of the old city walls), the centre of the city was bustling, especially with the number of tourists. The day in question was a bright and sunny summer day, although it was during the week. It was of no consequence as we had to weave through tourists. We had no plan of what to see (just to wander around, stretch our legs, find new places), we started with the outer wall, some of which still surrounds the centre of the city. Some of the gates, which in and of themselves are more like towers, are impressive in themselves. As the tower is not accessible to the public, we continued on.
Our next stop (and final building), was the Cattedrale di (Cathedral of) Como. Construction originally began in 1396 but was not complete until 1770; it occurred in three phases. Because of this long period of construction, it is the last Gothic Cathedral constructed in Italy.
If you are thinking about visiting anything in Como, the Cathedral should probably on your list. In addition to an impressive building, at least from the inside, the tapestries and artwork and worth the visit alone. They include some very valuable tapestries from across Europe from the 16th and 17th centuries from the artistic centres of Europe at the time (Florence, Ferrera and Antwerp, for example).
The cathedral is quite a large building, although its size is not really appreciable from the town centre as opposing buildings are approximately the same height; at the same time, it is hard to back up far enough to get a scope of the building. Entering the building remedies this conundrum. With its vaulted ceilings, domes and general grandeur, it is quite an impressive sight to behold. If the religious iconography is too much for you, have a look at the ceiling. Gold leaf octagonal shapes cover it, giving the already deep ceiling even more depth.
My overall assessment of the Cathedral would be that, short of lying down and staring at the ceiling, you will be leaving with at least a crick in your neck!
Our final stop was the lakeside, which boasted on this particular day a nice blue lake against a sky blue sky, both of which sandwich the Alps that are ever present in the city’s vista.
Overall, Como was underwhelming; it also did not help that we were both sick at the time and had not slept well the evening before. My favourite part was definitely the lake, which is where my stomach finally settled down. Suffice it to say, my state of health coloured my view of Como at the time.
Too long, didn’t read? Sickness + tiredness = not enjoyable.
Here are some more photos from Como: