Como for Easter – Friday

Como, Italy
April 6 – 10, 2023


Morning view from our room

We woke up early – probably due to our large skylights letting in the morning sunshine. The weather for our holiday was forecasted to be perfect: overcast and cool. The day officially started with breakfast in the fancy dining room we saw last night. It was pleasant to see the rooms now in full sun and the breakfast table was set for the guests who were staying. Although the breakfast was not set at a specific time, it was amusing that we all appeared at roughly the same time each morning. After greeting the other guests, we filled our plates with meats, cheeses, fresh croissants, and sliced fruit. Only as we were half way through our breakfast did the hostess from the kitchen come out and offer us something hot from the grill. Eggs? Bacon? Crepes? Well, it was too late now, but we’d keep this in mind for tomorrow morning!

After filling our bellies and getting our things together, we left the hotel behind and strolled out to explore the city. I knew nothing about Como except that it lies at the southern end of Lake Como. We had explored the northern parts of Lake Como on previous trips, admiring its beautiful towns and villas, but this corner was as-of-yet unexplored. Now was our chance!

The lake was the first thing on our list. Of course, this entailed walking through the entire city so we saw plenty along the way. This streets were surprisingly straight, which was a product of Roman construction in the first century BC:

“The town center was situated on the nearby hills, but it was then moved to its current location by order of Julius Caesar, who had the swamp near the southern tip of the lake drained and laid the plan of the walled city in the typical Roman grid of perpendicular streets.”

As we got closer to the lake we came across the backside of the Como Cathedral which even from this angle dominated the streetscape. Construction began in 1396 and was completed 1770 and, although there are various additions over the years, the structure is referred to as “the last gothic cathedral to be built in Europe”. At this time we did not visit the front of the building, but instead kept on heading for the water. We did, however, explore the attached building, the “Broletto” (town hall). There were some informative plaques nearby that explained the lowered floor level underneath. I didn’t take any photos because I thought I could remember enough details. I did not remember much of anything, so instead I spent way too much time on the internet looking it up once I got home.

Side door to the Cathedral

Broletto straight ahead

The building boasts a fascinating Gothic façade with polychrome marbles, coming from the quarries of Lake Como…the building was erected in 1215. Since Como is located at the end of Lake Como and there is no natural drain here, the area used to be swampy and often flooded. This caused the general level of the city – after the construction of the Broletto – to be raised by a good meter. This results in a lower ground floor compared to street level, which – comparable to a Roman basilica – could be used for market purposes, but also on the occasion of public court processes. The building was originally a bay longer, but had to be shortened during the Gothic cathedral rebuilding, which was done on the new street level – correspondingly cut stones can be seen in the north-east wall.

The arcade hall was filled in to the new street level so that the bases of the columns underneath disappeared. It was only in 1970 that the original floor was uncovered and the columns regained their former proportions and elegance. While the outer rows of columns are ornately decorated (13th century), the inner columns were replaced after a fire in a rather simple way (15th century). Their higher bases indicate the now elevated street level.

Different styles of columns from different eras

Leaving the Cathedral behind, we continued north and were almost immediately at the lakeside.

Old rail tracks, heading directly for the lake

The waterfront was going under extensive reconstruction, but where the work had been completed, it looked like it would be a pleasant place to stroll. But until then, we skirted the edge of the work until we got to the other side, ending up on the western corner of the lake.


One of the many ferries approaching the Como dock

Visiting “Life Electric”: artwork commemorating scientist Alessandro Volta (bonus funicular in the background

The park near the lake had an area that was clearly setting up for a food festival. I am not sure if this is a daily, weekend, seasonal, or holiday event, but it looked big! It was early enough that the vendors were still in the process of preparing for the afternoon crowds.

Beer truck!

Fine Argentinian meats

Roasty toasty!

Having reached the “end of the city”, we turned around and walked back through it, this time keeping more to the center. The buildings within the old city were a mix of late 19th century and more modern lines. There was very little evidence of anything from hundreds of years ago, which gave the city a fairly modern – yet classical – feel to it.

Building maintenance in process

San Fedele Basilica (built in 1120)

I hadn’t done any research before I came to Como. I usually look up facts when I get home, which then makes me sound like “I know stuff”, so the fact that Como is a walled city came as a complete surprise. But here in front of us was one of the original city gates, built in 1192, and still standing tall and strong over 800 years later.

Como Gate Tower (yes, that’s its name)

And the corresponding city walls, keeping out the pigeons

The remaining city walls are surprisingly intact. This fuzzy (and tiny) image I found from a random website called Coatesa gives one a good sense of how big the old city is, and how it is situated along the lake.

I like walled cities, and especially when the walls are still there. It really helps give the perspective of what life was like hundreds of years ago, and how dangerous life was. It was crazy to think that “Como and Milan” were at war for 10 years!

Flea market stalls line the streets outside of the city walls

Looking back at the city gate with a monument to Giuseppe Garibaldi in the foreground

The market stalls were a little overwhelming so we ducked our heads back through the next city gate and made our way again north towards the lake. More streets were explored and more architecture enjoyed.

I love the details on some of the buildings

The backside of San Fedele Basilica

We stopped at the local Carrefour (grocery store) and picked up some things to make a small lunch. We sat near the waterfront and ate our sandwiches while watching the people go by. It was a pleasant day and it felt good to just sit and take it all in. But eventually even that gets old, so we wandered back to the hotel to take a break before looking for a proper place to have dinner.

As we entered the hotel, we eyed the snooker table. Silvano said that it was from the 19th century and we were welcome to use it. In fact, he mentioned that no one else had used it since the hotel’s renovations in 2019. We checked the internet for the rules of snooker, since Dan hadn’t played since university, and I had never played at all. It is a complicated game.

The arrangement of the balls

Neither of us were any good at the game, but we enjoyed the peaceful conversation and the sumptious surroundings.

(not a video – just a screenshot from a video Dan took)

Lion head pocket

Eventually we both gave up on following the rules and just tried to get “any” ball into a pocket. It had been fun, but it was starting to drag on. With the last ball sunk, we put everything away and then headed out for some dinner. I had found a likely-looking place on Google and we walked in that direction.

Our restaurant was right next to the entrance to the Como-Brunate Funicular

Dinner was at the Ox Pub & Grill and even though it was already almost 5:30, they were just opening their doors. We’re not fans of eating late, so we waited until they were ready for us, and then were the first to be seated. The food was great. Dan had a wonderful Napoli pizza and I went for the rigatoni – mostly because that’s what the staff were all eating while we waited for the kitchen to open.

While waiting for our food, I noticed that their logo is actually the charging bull from Wall Street

After we ate too much dinner we thought it best to walk some more, so we headed for a nice gelato shop near the waterfront.

Gelateria Lariana

It was delicious!

With dessert in hand, we took a leisurely stroll to the hotel, exploring yet more new streets. It was Friday night, on a fine spring holiday weekend, and the city was hopping.

Statue of Alessandro Volta

And so ended our first full day in Como