Isola Comacina, a story of war and surrender
So many historical events have happened in the small Isola Comacina, a strip of land only half a kilometer long and 200 meters wide, in the western branch of Lake Como.
In the 6th century, under the Byzantine rule, it endured a long siege imposed by the Lombards – who had conquered Milan in 569, but would have to wait twenty years before defeating the tiny island.
Comancina paid for its pride: it was razed more than once, in the 8th century by vengeful Lombard princes; in the 11th century due to contrasts between Frank notables; finally, in 1169, because of its brave opposition to Como’s expansion (against Milan). After that last upheaval, people went in exile and left the island deserted until modern times.
One 19th-century books reports, “Thus public life died on this island, once the beacon of Italian freedom, famous refuge for rebel princes and unhappy kings, and place of birth of many illustrious families. After centuries, the ruins have decomposed into the little land covering it, scattered with meager vegetation.”
“Only few of the people crossing the lake ever have a glance of admiration for this unique, makeshift monument; very few are those who honor it with due respect…” (translated from A. Gentile, “Como ed il suo lago”, Como 1858).
The beautiful, small island is now property of the Brera Academny of Fine Arts. If you stop here, you can visit the church of San Giovanni (a small, Baroque treasure chest with ruins of Roman walls and a 5th-century baptistery), the 11th-century Basilica of Sant’Eufemia, and the ruins of other religious buildings. There are also three small villas, designed in the late 1930s by rationalist architect Pietro Lingeri.