Lake Como History
The lake has been populated since Neolithic times. Rome knew of its considerable charms. Como was an important outpost for latter-day Imperial Rome. The Lombards did not ignore the lake. The main lake road extending from Como on the western side of the lake, the Via Regina, was named after the Lombard queen Theodolinda in the 7th century.
Almost midway up the western shore, between the towns of Argegno and Lenno is Lake Como's only island, Isola Comacina. Settled by the Romans, it later becames a prosperous independent commune that was a fierce rival of Como. It helped Milan in defeating Como in 1128 AD.
In 1190, Como, backed by the Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa, decimated the island state and forbade its inhabitants from returning. Como also finally overwhelmed another rival in 1522, the town of Torno on the eastern shore of the western portion of the lake.
The town of Musso, about two-thirds the way up the lake, was the site of the castle of the pirate, Gian Giacomo de' Medici nicknamed "il Medeghino". Born in 1498 during the Medici exile from Florence, he was allied with Francesco II Duke of Milan for whom he helped to remove the French from Milan and some political dirty deeds. For most of the decade of the 1520s, he extorted the towns and merchants on the lake. He was later defeated and exiled by his former friend and protector Francesco helped from the Swiss. For compensation, Il Medeghino, who was the brother of pope Pius IV and the uncle of Charles Borromeo, was made the Marquis of Marignano by the Holy Roman Empire Charles V. He later helped the Emperor in battles in Ghent in Flanders and Siena.
In 1603 the Spanish built massive fortifications on the northern edge of the lake between what is known like the Lake Mezzola above Lake Como and the Adda River that guarded the strategic entrance to the Valtellina, which is the historic military route between Austria and Milan. Since then, this area has been known as the Pian di Spagna.
Though long popular with the nearby Milanese gentry, the lake began to attract other Europeans, especially the English, during the 17th century. Queen Caroline of England visited Lake Como in 1816. She stayed in Cernobbio just north of Como, an area known for its excellent climate and beautiful gardens. Lake Como remains a primary tourist destination.
The western shore has long been the more prosperous side of the lake while the eastern shore has increased its tourism. In Mandello del Lario on the Lecco side of the lake the famous Motto Guzzi motorcycles are made. There is also a museum dedicated to these motorcycles there.