Sitting in a lush if crowded basin at the southern tip of its namesake lake, Como is a self-confident and historic town, established by Julius Caesar as an Alpine garrison and Roman holiday resort in the 1st century BC. Philosophers Pliny the Elder and Pliny the Younger were born here, and Virgil thought Como, with its narrow profile and soaring Alpine amphitheatre, the greatest Italian lake. The town’s medieval watchtowers were built by Frederick Barbarossa and its three impressive Romanesque basilicas rise from the remains of once-rich convents and are layered with priceless artworks.
Eighteenth-century Austrian rule subsequently gave the town its orderly, central European air, a monumental theatre and vibrant cafe culture; while the wealth of the silk industry paid for dozens of palazzi and Stile Liberty (Italian art nouveau) villas. Nowadays, Como is reimagining itself as the lake’s coolest hub, full of hip hotels, creative restaurants and youthful bar-lined piazzas.