Como, situated in a picturesque position, between the water of the Lake that bears its name, the moraine hills towards the broad plains and mountains of the Swiss Alps, it is a small northern Italian city well connected with Milan and North-South Europe by railways, motorways and the Linate and Malpensa airports.
Hometown to Pliny the Elder, author of the first encyclopaedia of the history of Humanity “Naturalis Historia”, Como is also the city of the Comacine Masters, who starting in the 8th century collaborated to create various works of esteemed artistic value, and the Giovi, who in 1500 turned their villa into the first Art History Museum, as well as Alessandro Volta, inventor of the battery, Antonio Sant’Elia, the visionary genius of Rationalism who in the 1900s marked modernity in architecture with the geometric and light forms of their white buildings and Giuseppe Terragni, the architect who in 1932 started working on a building today considered the highlight of Rationalist architecture in Como: the Casa del Fascio.
Como’s charm combines the nature, history and culture of the city that can be experienced strolling its narrow streets to visit its many, beautiful works of art: the Duomo and numerous Churches, the monuments and countless museums and the evocative Chilometro della Conoscenza, which unites Villa Olmo, Villa del Grumello and Villa Sucota, site of the Antonio Ratti Foundation (FAR) since 2010. A path through nature that features 17 hectares of centuries-old parks of a rare beauty and splendid landscape but also a unique cultural, historic-artistic specimen, based on creativity and the sharing of cultural, high-level training and scientific research initiatives.
The creativity and culture of silk in Como
Como’s current importance is mainly the result of the numerous manufacturing companies (12,998) that prosper in the city and its surroundings. Textile is the territory’s most characteristic sector and with its network of artisans and companies and its extensive and complete production chain it represents a district of worldwide importance. The showcase of Como’s textiles is precisely silk which represents the excellence of local creativity, with more than 2,000 companies and over 20,000 employees.
Como possesses a network of authoritative and prestigious enterprises that make the city a special and unique system able to promote the development of a community capable of resisting and reacting to negative market phases and taking advantage of innovation and research during positive cycles.
Antonio Ratti Foundation whose articles of association underline the promotion of artistic, cultural and technological initiatives, research and studies in the textile production and contemporary art fields, Silk Museum where the complete silk processing cycle is documented from the silkworm to ennobling, Istituto di Setificio “Paolo Carcano”, founded in 1868 and at present the only Italian institution to hold a textile design course Associazione ex Allievi del Setificio, Miniartextil, Università dell’Insubria, Cometa, the technological-scientific centre for start-ups ComoNEXT, Stazione sperimentale della Seta, just to mention a few of those present that contribute to creating the excellence of Como’s silk and making Como a truly special place where the art of silk is handed down from generation to generation.
Como is very active on an international level with Gruppo Filiera Tessile of Unindustria, Ufficio Italiano Seta and ComON for initiatives related to training young people, product environmental sustainability, research and innovation, safeguarding quality and protection of the chain and textile tradition. On a worldwide level, the Ufficio Italiano Seta acts as a contact for “International Silk Union”, the institution that covers the silk industry of 17 countries in Asia, America, Oceania and Europe.
The origins of Craft and textiles in Como
First with the “Comacine Masters” who built cathedrals across Europe, mentioned for the first time in the Edictum Rothari of 643, then with the “carpenters”, builders of wood vessels resulting in the most important shipyards on the lake, and lastly with the textile processing artists, namely for silk, who made it possible to develop Como’s textile district, Como has always been a city of great artisans and artists.
The roots of Como’s textile history span back in time. During the Middle Ages the soft wool textiles was the industry preferred by the locals. They imported raw material from Veneto, England, Provence and Spain. Supposedly more than 14,000 people in Como supported themselves with this industry in the Middle Ages. But wool cloth production began to decline when, between the end of 1400 and beginning of 1500, due to Ludovico il Moro the cultivation of mulberry trees and silkworm farming became increasingly widespread consolidating a new sericulture industry whose products became famous around the world. Pietro Boldoni from Bellano installed the first factory in Como in 1510 for processing silk and between the middle of the 1700s 25% of Como’s agricultural income came from silkworm farming. By the mid 1800s there were 800 silk mills that processed 3500 tons of cocoons a year with an estimated production of 400 tons of weft and the same amount of organzine. There were more than 2200 hand looms for a production of two million meters of fabric. With the advent of mechanical looms, at the end of the 1800s, Como gained the leadership, possessing half of the looms installed in Italy.
During the 19th century Como owed its leadership to weaving, while in the 20th century it was also a leader for printing on silk and at the beginning of the 21st century it began testing ink-jet technology.
A phenomenon that contributed to creating the Como effect thanks to the quality of the silk after the 1950s: centralisation of all silk processing in one company changed over to absolute perfection in a single process, carried out in companies specialised in each specific activity.
Lago, Seta, Ambiente: Como for biodiversity
Characterised by an extraordinary landscape, the city of Como has always paid special attention to protect nature and safeguard and promote biodiversity.
In addition to the lake and splendid villas with gardens, special mention should be given toVilla Balbianello in Lenno a Fai, Fondo per l’Ambiente Italiano heritage site, and which has been the most visited site for years on Giornate del Fai and where scenes for the film “Star Wars” were shot, and Villa Fogazzaro in Valsolda, where the author stayed at length and also a Fai heritage site.
Focus on the environment and biodiversity are specifically expressed in the Riserva Naturale del piccolo lago di Montorfano, a few kilometres from the city centre, in the Torbiere del Bassone (Albate-Como), Parco Spina Verde a regional entity that extends in the Municipalities of Como and surrounding towns, and the Riserva Naturale del Lago di Piano in Porlezza.
Parco Spina Verde, Riserva Naturale del Lago di Piano and Torbiere del Bassone are part of the complex of the areas protected by the Region of Lombardy and are recognised as SCI (Site of Community Importance) by the European Union.
The Torbiere del Bassona are managed by WWF and are located in the Albate quarter of Como, an area of ponds, pools and reeds, an environment where more than 200 species of birds can be observed. The area covers around 90 hectares and it is a Sci in the Municipalities of Como, Casnate con Bernate and Senna Comasco. The Riserva Naturale Lago di Piano extends over an area of 176 hectares of which 85 covered by lakes. Despite being small, the biological make-up is complex: different habitats all very close to each other make the area a real natural oasis.