Lake Como (Lago Di Como)
Surrounded by mountains and picturesque villas, Lake Como or Lago Di Como (as the locals call it !) is a popular retreat among the tourists as well as the locals. Nearly an hour from Milan, a day trip to Como becomes a perfect way to spend the weekend. I took an early morning train from Milano Porta Garibaldi station to Como S. Giovanni. The train ticket costs around 4.8 € (one way II class) with a travel time of 58 minutes.
With a map in one hand, I walked down the steps leading out of the station. Immediately, I was greeted by two large striking palms at the center of the street. Monumento ai Caduti per Servizio is a sculpture dedicated to the service people who were injured or disabled. One hand is depicted as actively serving the country whereas the other is wounded in the line of duty.
Further ahead as the streets got narrower, I noticed the electric lights flicker in the small bakery shops that had opened early in the morning. The streets converged to a large square with a huge monument of Alessandro Volta standing in the middle of the square. Como is the birthplace of Alessandro Volta – the pioneer of electricity and inventor of electrical batteries. As the predominant local hero, Volta’s presence is felt in every corner of the streets of Como.
At the end of the street lies the imposing Como Cathedral also known as the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta. It is dedicated to the assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The construction of the cathedral began in 1396 after the foundation of Milan’s Duomo and it took nearly 400 years to complete.
Life Electric is another monument built to honor Volta. The design of the monument takes inspiration from the electric tension caused between the two poles of a battery. The monument is erected at the center of Lake Como’s first basin.
Few of the best panoramic views of Lake Como can be seen by taking the Funicular up to Brunate. There is pretty much nothing to do in Brunate other than taking great pictures of Lake Como from the top 😀 . The funicular ride is enjoyable and lasts around 6-7 minutes. The cost of the funicular ride back and forth is 5.5 €.
During earlier times, the maintenance of the funicular was done manually. This meant that every morning at 4 am, an employee of the funicular climbs the 3949 steps flanking the line to check if everything was in order. Towards the end of the late 80s, the walk was abolished. Today a test run with personnel on board is done at a reduced speed before public service starts.
Volta Temple on the banks of Lake Como is a museum dedicated to Alessandro Volta. Inside, there are exhibits containing instruments used by Volta including dry electric batteries and spark plug. The museum’s balustrade depicts key events in the life of Alessandro Volta. Entry fees to the museum costs 2 €.
It is said that people lived in Lake Como since prehistoric times. When Romans conquered the area, Lake Como became an important center for trade. Wealthy aristocrats settled in Como to enjoy its mild temperature and natural beauty. In the 12th century, its neighbor Milan became jealous of its prosperity and attacked Como. In the ensuing war, Como lost its dominance. It was once again rescued by the holy Roman Emperor, Frederick Barbarossa who built defensive walls to protect the city. Later during the 14th century, Como once again came under the influence of Duchy of Milan followed by French, Spanish and Austrian invasions. Citizens were subjected to cruel taxation leading to decline in Como’s economy. In 1825 during the Austrian rule, Alessandro Manzoni wrote the famous novel, “The Betrothed”. An important feature of this novel was its extraordinary description of the plague that struck Milan in 1630.
In 1859, Giuseppe Garibaldi defeated the Austrians and Lake Como finally joined the Kingdom of Italy under the house of Savoy.
At the end of World War II, Mussolini fled to Lake Como with his mistress. While trying to reach Switzerland, he was identified in a village named Dongo and later killed in 1945. From 1945 and for few years there after, people were traumatized to visit Lake Como.
George Clooney is the second most exciting thing that happened to Como after Mussolini. Como became more popular and made it to the news when the actor purchased a villa here as his retreat.
It is a wonderful one day affair to get away from the hustle and bustle of Milan and walk lazily on the shores of the Lake Como.
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