The city on the lake
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The city of Como lies near the Italian border with Switzerland and stretches along the Western arm of the homonymous lake (one of the most important in the Italian peninsular), a popular international tourist destination due to its remarkable natural scenery. Modelled over the centuries first by nature and then by man, this quintessentially romantic place is set like a precious stone in a green hollow and is part of a fantastic and exclusive natural environment. And it is for this reason especially, though not only, that Como is a favourite place of lovers and poets.
Today this region, founded by the ancient Orobii people according to classical historians, is of course completely urbanized. Yet, Como and its surroundings are still as delightful as when the ancient Romans discovered and conquered them two hundred years before Christ. The local economy is traditionally based on industry, particularly textiles and silk, which is famous around the world. Indeed, in the shops you can find beautiful ties and scarves produced from the local yarns. Today, however, the silk industry is in severe recession, and it is gradually being replaced with tourism, which has always been the prerogative of the lake-district towns. The numerous visitors who come to Como and its surroundings every year are attracted by the appeal of its temperate climate, by the landscape and by all the reminders of places conjured up by the Italian poet and novelist Alessandro Manzoni, who set his most famous work, The Betrothed, in this area. The historical centre of the town is close to the lakeside promenade, near what is undoubtedly the most prestigious square in the town: Piazza del Duomo. The Duomo, or cathedral, is one of the most important cathedrals in Northern Italy. The city centre also contains numerous roads of many different kinds, with delightful, old-fashioned shops and workshops, but also smart boutiques of famous names, all selling goods of very high quality. The castrum romano, or Roman castle, still in its original form, stands out against the modern part of the city around it. The mediaeval walls are well preserved, and several of the sizeable look-out towers are still standing, for example, Porta Torre, Torre Gattoni and Torre San Vitale. Also of interest are the churches of San Fedele, in the heart of the town, and San Abbondio. We must not forget, either, the rationalist houses built by the famous Como architect Giuseppe Terragni: they are the former Casa del Fascio, the Monumento ai Caduti, the Novocomum and the Asilo Sant’Elia, all masterpieces of architecture. On the shore of the lake is the Tempio Voltiano, a building inaugurated in July 1928, where a number of relics of the world famous physicist and scientist of Como, Alessandro Volta, inventor of the electric battery and discoverer of methane, are kept. Lastly, Villa Olmo, the most famous and sumptuous historic home in Como, is worthy of a visit. Designed by Simone Cantoni and completed in 1812, today the building hosts major events and prestigious art exhibitions. To end the itinerary, there is the picturesque cable car that connects Como to the mountains and the small town of Brunate.
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