Isola Comacina is the only island on Lake Como. Located in the waters off Tremezzina, just a few kilometers north of Argegno, this small piece of land is almost uninhabited and welcomes a lot of curious visitors in the period between March and October.
Isola Comacina overlooks the Zoca de l’oli, a bay that takes its name from the local production of olives, which is favored by the particularly mild climate that characterizes the area.
How to get to Isola Comacina
Naturally, you can only get to Isola Comacina by boat. The boats of Navigazione Lago di Como allow you to reach the island from anywhere on Lake Como. Just take a look at the timetables on the official website of the company to find the boat landing that is most convenient for you.
But if you are already in Tremezzina, you can take the taxi boat from the locality of Ossuccio. The taxi boat starts near the beautiful Church of Santa Maria Maddalena, whose bell tower is clearly visible from the road. You can buy your ticket directly on board.
History of Isola Comacina
The history of Isola Comacina is quite peculiar. In the 6th century, when the Lombards came from beyond the Alps, the island was still a remaining Roman stronghold under Francio. Most of the areas surrounding Lake Como, including Milan, were already controlled by the Lombards, but Francio was able to withstand the siege for several months, after which he had to surrender and flee toward Ravenna.
After a long series of events, in 1118 the Isola Comacina took Milan’s side during a ten-year war against Como, which eventually led to Milan’s victory. In 1169, the arrival of Frederick Barbarossa, the Holy Roman Emperor, presented an opportunity of revenge for Como, which could punish the surrounding rebel lands.
The island was destroyed and burned to the ground. All buildings, churches, and the city walls were demolished, while the survivors fled to Varenna. Ruins and stones were scattered in the lake so that nothing could have been rebuilt. Since then, the Isola Comacina was no longer inhabitated. In 1175, an imperial decree confirmed the ban on reconstruction.
In the 17th century, a church was built and dedicated to San Giovanni. Later, in 1919, the island was given to King Albert I of Belgium, who became an enclave for one year under Belgian sovereignty.
The island was returned to the Italian government in the following year, and in turn was given to the Brera Academy of Milan, which still owns it today. In 1939, the rationalist architect Pietro Lingeri built three houses, with the aim of turning the island into a colony for artists.
The Isola Comacina now hosts the Church of San Giovanni, a collection of archaeological sites (especially ruins of churches), and the three artist houses, in addition to a inn that was built in 1964 and still offers the visitors some relaxation after a pleasant walk.