Your must-have travel gadget for this trip
I recommend the tripod or alternatively the monopod and possibly a photographic zoom
Table of Contents
Unique on Lake Como, Comacina Island is also known for having been a fortress in the past, the castel, as the locals call it
Comacina Island, view of Ossuccio
The Comacina island is a strip of land that emerges from Lake Como, at the height of the municipality of Tremezzina, where the Lario forms an inlet. We are on the border with the "oil basin", the territory considered the northernmost in Italy for the cultivation of the olive tree from which a precious oil is produced. But this is also the right place to eat the "misultitt".
Even today the inhabitants of Ossuccio, the small village opposite, and from where the boats leave to reach the island, call it: "el castél" (the castle). In the past, this small strip of land would have hosted nine churches.
Isola Comacina, church of San Giovanni
The Comacina Island is a place on Lake Como to visit absolutely. Any time of year is good for a trip to the island, preferably in June during the feast of San Giovanni. To enter the island you pay a ticket which is already included with that of the private boat that leaves from Ossuccio. The ticket can be purchased on site. On the island, there are several ideas for taking wonderful photos also of the Como side of the Lario and you can have lunch in the only restaurant open, where you can taste the local cuisine. Prices are average. If you want, you can also bring a packed breakfast and you can easily arrive here with the whole family. On the Comacina island, it is absolutely not to miss a visit to the remains of the church of Sant'Eufemia, as well as the adjacent one of San Giovanni.
The adjective with which the island is known today, or Comacina, would derive from an interpretation linked to "di Como" or "island belonging to Lake Como", therefore as "island of Lake Como". According to the Byzantine geographer of the seventh century, Giorgio Ciprio, the name derives from "νήσος κωμανίκεια (nísos komaníkeia)", bringing it back to the Byzantine garrison and the resistance of Francione. But who will be the latter?
Comacina Island, view of Sala Comacina
That of the Comacina island is a long story, but let's start with the most recent. The old owner, Giuseppe Caprani, bequeathed this territory to King Albert I of Belgium, who donated it to the Italian State, who in turn gave it to the president of the Brera Academy of Fine Arts in Milan with the very specific purpose to build a village for artists and a hotel. In 1939 Pietro Lingeri built three houses for artists, in a rationalist style. On this strip of land, there are very few recent constructions, including a restaurant located a few steps from the port where the ferry of Navigazione Lago di Como docks.
The past, however, takes us far back in the centuries, to some fortifications that would have been built here and subsequently occupied by the Roman community of the Ausuciates, from which the name of Ossuccio derives. This was one of the last strongholds of the Western Roman Empire. Isola Comacina was also a fortified citadel surrounded by high walls within which houses and churches rose. This is why it is still called "castél" today. For twenty years it was a Byzantine garrison commanded by Francione who was alongside Milan in the ten-year war against Como.
In 1169, it was razed to the ground by the Como allies allied to Barbarossa. The leader himself imposed a ban on construction on the island and for centuries it remained uninhabited.
"The bells will no longer ring, no stone will be put on stone, no one will ever make you the host again, on pain of violent death". This was the will of Federico Barbarossa.
Comacina Island (also called San Giovanni Island) was no longer inhabited. Only in the seventeenth century was a small church dedicated to St. John built.
Isola Comacina remains of the church of Santa Maria
Today every year, even today, the destruction of the island is remembered and on the weekend that falls close to June 24, the feast of San Giovanni, the lake is illuminated by day with thousands of candles floating on the waters, as if to remember souls of those who sailed from one shore to the other, escaping from their burning houses. In addition, a fireworks display reconstructs the fire and the destruction of the island.
Isola Comacina, remains of the church of Sant'eufemia
Over time the Comacina island was one of the major religious nuclei of the Como diocese. This small strip of land had up to nine churches, including that of Sant'Eufemia, considered one of the most important basilicas of the eleventh century. Tradition has it that this basilica was built by S. Abbondio, bishop and patron of Como who brought the cult of the saint here and placed the Abundi, the ancient relics of the martyrs. The remains that we can see date back to 1031 and belong to the religious building built by the bishop of Como Litigerio. The church of Sant'Eufemia was destroyed by the Comaschi in 1169. The cult building had three naves with apses and crypts.
The island was an important religious garrison and the mortal remains of Bishop Agrippino were received here, the epitaph of which remains today.
Isola Comacina, church of San Giovanni
The only church that remains intact today is the Baroque one of San Giovanni, inside which you can see remains of Roman and late Roman walls, but also part of the foundations of a Romanesque chapel and the remains of a 5th-century baptistery. On the Comacina Island, you can see the remains of the 12th-century church of Santa Maria del Portico, that of San Pietro in Castello and the Saints Faustino and Giovita.
A typical specialty of Lake Como is the “misultitt”, which is agony caught and left to dry in the sun and pressed with salt in wooden mixes. Hence the name of this specialty goes well with polenta. Other fish include arborelle, the perch with which a fabulous risotto is prepared. There is no shortage of cheeses such as semuda, made of cow's milk that is consumed with polenta. Zincarlin, a kind of flavored ricotta. Among the typical desserts, here are the tortelli di San Giuseppe, the miascia, the bread and fruit cake or the braschin, a kind of sweet focaccia, the pan mèino or millet bread. Those who arrive at these latitudes also buy extra virgin olive oil DOP from the Lario.
Comacina Island can be reached from Como with the navigation boats, or by car from the A9 Milano-Chiasso motorway, Lago exit, then following the Regina state road to Ossuccio. From here a private boat service takes you to the island.
By train, you arrive at Como San Giovanni station or Como Lago (Northern railways) and continue by boat