Top historic sites in Lake Como

Como Cathedral

Como Cathedral is one of the most important buildings in the region. It is commonly described as the last Gothic cathedral built in Italy: construction on it, on the site of the earlier Romanesque cathedral dedicated to Santa Maria Maggiore, began in 1396, 10 years after the foundation of Milan Cathedral. The construction works, started under the supervision of Lorenzo degli Spazzi di Laino, did not finish until 1770 with ...
Founded: 1396 | Location: Como, Italy

Villa del Balbianello

A Franciscan monastery had existed on the tip of the peninsula of Dosso d"Avedo since the 13th century. The two towers which remain on the property are the campanili of the monastery"s church. After failing in his attempts to buy the nearby Isola Comacina Cardinal Angelo Maria Durini purchased the property in 1785. In 1787 he converted the monastery building into a villa for use during the summer and added a log ...
Founded: 1787 | Location: Lenno, Italy

Villa Carlotta

The beautiful Villa Carlotta was built at the end of 17th century by the Milanese marquis Giorgio Clerici in a natural basin between lake and mountains, facing the dolomite Grignas and the peninsula of Bellagio. The architect created for the Clericis an important but sober building, with an Italian garden decorated with sculptures, stairs and fountains.  In 1801 Gian Battista Sommariva, famous politician, businessman an ...
Founded: 1695 | Location: Tremezzo, Italy

Tempio Voltiano

The Tempio Voltiano is a museum in the city of Como, Italy that is dedicated to Alessandro Volta, a prolific scientist and the inventor of the electrical battery. Volta was born in Como in 1745, held his first professorship there until 1779, and retired to Como in 1819. The neoclassical building was designed by Federico Frigerio (1873–1959). It was completed in 1927 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the scientist' ...
Founded: 1927 | Location: Como, Italy

Villa Monastero

Villa Monastero, located on the shore of Lake Como, includes a botanical garden, a museum, and a convention center. Villa Monastero is an eclectic villa built in the Nordic style. The site was originally a Cistercian convent, founded at the end of the 12th century in Varenna, which now lies beneath the modern building. The convent grew in importance and wealth, purchasing many properties, especially around Lierna, but eve ...
Founded: 17th century | Location: Varenna, Italy

Villa Melzi d'Eril

Villa Melzi d’Eril was created as the summer residence of Francesco Melzi d’Eril, vice president of the Italian Republic that was founded by Napoleon in the early 1800s. Located in Bellagio, this vast complex is one of the most popular attractions among tourists who visit the Pearl of Lake Como. Unfortunately, Villa Melzi is not open to the public but you can visit its gardens, designed by architect Luigi Canonica an ...
Founded: 1808 | Location: Bellagio, Italy

Villa Olmo

Villa Olmo is a great example of neoclassical architecture. Its construction started at the end of 18th century and was finished in 1812 by marquesses Odescalchi. It belonged to family Raimondi and Visconti di Modrone. In 1925 Como municipality decided to make it a place for cultural events and art exhibitions. Villa Olmo is definitely the most majestic villa at Como lake. It is composed of a huge park and many buildings. ...
Founded: 1797-1812 | Location: Como, Italy

Villa d'Este

The Villa d"Este, originally Villa del Garovo, is a Renaissance patrician residence in Cernobbio on the shores of Lake Como. Since 1873 the complex has been a luxury hotel. Gerardo Landriani, Bishop of Como (1437–1445), founded a female convent here at the mouth of the Garovo torrent in 1442. A century later Cardinal Tolomeo Gallio demolished the nunnery and commissioned Pellegrino Tibaldi to design a residence f ...
Founded: 1565-1570 | Location: Cernobbio, Italy

Vezio Castle

Castello di Vezio is a castle located nearby Varenna and Perledo. Characterized in the main tower by square merlons, similar to Cly Castle in Aosta Valley, it commands the Lake Como. It was once connected by walls to the village of Varenna below. The castle was built in the late 11th-early 12th century and was restored several times in the following centuries. In the late 19th century and in 1956 remains of tombs from th ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Varenna, Italy

San Nicolò Church

The Basilica of San Nicolò is a Roman Catholic minor basilica church located in the town of Lecco. A church at the site was present by the 11th century. It has undergone a cycle of damage and reconstruction until the 17th century, when it garnered Baroque elements and decoration. Between 1831 and 1862, the architect Giuseppe Bovara altered the facade and decoration to the Neoclassical tastes. The imposing, neo-gothic be ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Lecco, Italy

Villa Erba

Villa Erba is a 19th-century villa in Cernobbio, on the shores of Lake Como. It was built by Luigi Erba, brother of the prominent businessman Carlo Erba (founder of the first Italian pharmaceutical company), to show off his wealth. After the death of Luigi Erba, the villa was inherited by his daughter Carla and was used by members of Carla"s family, including her son Luchino Visconti. In 1986, it was bought by a pub ...
Founded: 1898-1901 | Location: Cernobbio, Italy

Piona Abbey

Piona Abbey is a religious complex on the bank of Lake Como. The abbey is set at the top of a small peninsula, the Olgiasca, which points into the lake, creating an inlet. The original church of Saint Justina was founded in the 7th century; the ruins of an apse behind the current church of San Nicola belong to this original edifice. A new church was added some centuries later, though before 1138, as testified by an inscr ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Colico, Italy

Basilica of Sant'Abbondio

The current edifice of Basilica of Sant"Abbondio rises over a pre-existing 5th century Palaeo-Christian church entitled to Sts. Peter and Paul, built by order of St. Amantius of Como, third bishop of the city. Erected c. 1 km outside the city"s walls, it was intended to house several relics of the two saints which Amantius had brought from Rome. The basilica acted as bishop"s seat until 1007. Six years la ...
Founded: 1050-1095 | Location: Como, Italy

Lierna Castle

Lierna Castle is built on a peninsula that protrudes into the lake Como and consists of a group of connected buildings, rather than a single building. The main portion of the current buildings was constructed in the 10th century in Romanesque style upon former Roman ruins. The castle includes the 11th-century church of Saints Maurice and Lazarus (Chiesa dei Santi Maurizio e Lazzaro), associated with the Order of Saints Ma ...
Founded: 10th century | Location: Lierna, Italy

Sacro Monte di Ossuccio

The Sacro Monte di Ossuccio is one of the nine sacri monti ('Sacred Mountains' of Piedmont and Lombardy, series of nine calvaries or groups of chapels and other architectural features ) in the Italian regions of Lombardy and Piedmont, in northern Italy, which were inscribed on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites in 2003. The devotional complex is located on a prealpine crag some 200 metres above the wester ...
Founded: 1635-1710 | Location: Ossuccio, Italy

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Les Invalides

Les Invalides is a complex of buildings containing museums and monuments, all relating to the military history of France, as well as a hospital and a retirement home for war veterans, the building"s original purpose. The buildings house the Musée de l"Armée, the military museum of the Army of France, the Musée des Plans-Reliefs, and the Musée d"Histoire Contemporaine, as well as the burial site for some of France"s war heroes, notably Napoleon Bonaparte.

Louis XIV initiated the project in 1670, as a home and hospital for aged and unwell soldiers: the name is a shortened form of hôpital des invalides. The architect of Les Invalides was Libéral Bruant. The enlarged project was completed in 1676, the river front measured 196 metres and the complex had fifteen courtyards. Jules Hardouin Mansart assisted the aged Bruant, and the chapel was finished in 1679 to Bruant"s designs after the elder architect"s death.

Shortly after the veterans" chapel was completed, Louis XIV commissioned Mansart to construct a separate private royal chapel referred to as the Église du Dôme from its most striking feature. Inspired by St. Peter"s Basilica in Rome, the original for all Baroque domes, it is one of the triumphs of French Baroque architecture. The domed chapel is centrally placed to dominate the court of honour. It was finished in 1708.

Because of its location and significance, the Invalides served as the scene for several key events in French history. On 14 July 1789 it was stormed by Parisian rioters who seized the cannons and muskets stored in its cellars to use against the Bastille later the same day. Napoleon was entombed under the dome of the Invalides with great ceremony in 1840. In December 1894 the degradation of Captain Alfred Dreyfus was held before the main building, while his subsequent rehabilitation ceremony took place in a courtyard of the complex in 1906.

The building retained its primary function of a retirement home and hospital for military veterans until the early twentieth century. In 1872 the musée d"artillerie (Artillery Museum) was located within the building to be joined by the Historical Museum of the Armies in 1896. The two institutions were merged to form the present musée de l"armée in 1905. At the same time the veterans in residence were dispersed to smaller centres outside Paris. The reason was that the adoption of a mainly conscript army, after 1872, meant a substantial reduction in the numbers of veterans having the twenty or more years of military service formerly required to enter the Hôpital des Invalides. The building accordingly became too large for its original purpose. The modern complex does however still include the facilities detailed below for about a hundred elderly or incapacitated former soldiers.