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 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

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

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 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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Monastery of São Vicente de Fora

Monastery of São Vicente de Fora (Monastery of St. Vincent Outside the Walls) is a 17th-century church and monastery in the city of Lisbon. It is one of the most important monasteries and mannerist buildings in the country. The monastery also contains the royal pantheon of the Braganza monarchs of Portugal.

The original Monastery of São Vicente de Fora was founded around 1147 by the first Portuguese King, Afonso Henriques, for the Augustinian Order. The Monastery, built in Romanesque style outside the city walls, was one of the most important monastic foundations in mediaeval Portugal. It is dedicated to Saint Vincent of Saragossa, patron saint of Lisbon, whose relics were brought from the Algarve to Lisbon in the 12th century.

The present buildings are the result of a reconstruction ordered by King Philip II of Spain, who had become King of Portugal (as Philip I) after a succession crisis in 1580. The church of the monastery was built between 1582 and 1629, while other monastery buildings were finished only in the 18th century. The author of the design of the church is thought to be the Italian Jesuit Filippo Terzi and/or the Spaniard Juan de Herrera. The plans were followed and modified by Leonardo Turriano, Baltazar Álvares, Pedro Nunes Tinoco and João Nunes Tinoco.

The church of the Monastery has a majestic, austere façade that follows the later Renaissance style known as Mannerism. The façade, attributed to Baltazar Álvares, has several niches with statues of saints and is flanked by two towers (a model that would become widespread in Portugal). The lower part of the façade has three arches that lead to the galilee (entrance hall). The floorplan of the church reveals a Latin cross building with a one-aisled nave with lateral chapels. The church is covered by barrel vaulting and has a huge dome over the crossing. The general design of the church interior follows that of the prototypic church of Il Gesù, in Rome.

The beautiful main altarpiece is a Baroque work of the 18th century by one of the best Portuguese sculptors, Joaquim Machado de Castro. The altarpiece has the shape of a baldachin and is decorated with a large number of statues. The church also boasts several fine altarpieces in the lateral chapels.

The Monastery buildings are reached through a magnificent baroque portal, located beside the church façade. Inside, the entrance is decorated with blue-white 18th century tiles that tell the history of the Monastery, including scenes of the Siege of Lisbon in 1147. The ceiling of the room has an illusionistic painting executed in 1710 by the Italian Vincenzo Baccarelli. The sacristy of the Monastery is exuberantly decorated with polychromed marble and painting. The cloisters are also notable for the 18th century tiles that recount fables of La Fontaine, among other themes.

In 1834, after the religious orders were dissolved in Portugal, the monastery was transformed into a palace for the archbishops of Lisbon. Some decades later, King Ferdinand II transformed the monks' old refectory into a pantheon for the kings of the House of Braganza. Their tombs were transferred from the main chapel to this room.