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Lake Como





The Magistri Comacini were master-builders from the Lake Como area who, during the 11th and 12th centuries, contributed to expanding Romanic Art and co-operated in the construction of numerous churches throughout Europe. On both sides of the Lake they built small-sized rural churches with simple ground plans and often sophisticated apsides. For these buildings simple materials like regional stones and flints were mainly used.

Out of the greater city cathedrals which were built at the same time, the Basilica di Sant’Abbondio and San Fedele should be mentioned. The latter’s architecture has been influenced by the San Vitale Cathedral of Ravenna and by the Imperial Cathedral of Aachen. Archaeological excavations on the Lake Como island Isola Comacina have brought forward an ancient church dedicated to Sant’Euphemia with mosaics from the 5th and the 9th centuries as well as frescoes from the Carolingian epoch.

There is also a long tradition of villeggiatura on Lake Como, reaching back to Roman times when Pliny the Younger eulogized his stay in a manor house situated on the lake. In medieval times, the villa buildings of the later Roman Iron Age were mostly substituted by simpler structures. The 16th century then produced further examples of complex buildings, such as the original nucleus of the Villa d’Este building and the villa-museum of the historian Paolo Giovio with its famous arts collection, which unfortunately was destroyed at the beginning of the 17th century. Other famous buildings of the 17th century are Villa Gallia and Villa Balbianello.

During the 18th century and with the beginning of the 19th century, Lake Como became an obligatory travelling destination of the classical Gran Tour. The most famous historical villa buildings, or at least their present appearance, date back to that time: Villa Melzi d’Eril in Bellagio, Villa Sommariva – originally from the 17th century and well-renowned under its present name Villa Carlotta, Villa Balbianello and also Villa Mylius Vigoni.

The architecture of the early 20th century is represented as well on Lake Como with extraordinary buildings with regard to the Art Nouveau style, but also the epoch of Italian rationalism with designs by Giuseppe Terragni and Pietro Lingeri.

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Lake Como