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Even in prehistoric times men must have admired the scenic beauty of Como, as Bronze Age settlements have been discovered in the area. The first actual permanent settlement actually dates to the 5th century BC when the earliest Celtic tribes arrived. They stayed and built the first village and even some fortifications.
The arrival of the Romans in 59AD saw the establishment of an outpost, and then in 89AD Comum, as it was then called, became a full Roman colony. The area was one of strife until the last of the Celtic tribes were conquered around the year 200AD.
This is when the Romans began to build their own town on the shores of Lake Como, fortifying it with a wall, much of which can still be found today. Throughout the Imperial period the town remained an important military outpost in Northern Italy. But with the decline of Rome’s power in the 6th century the city of Como suffered greatly. It was sacked by the Huns and the Goths, and around 570AD it came under the control of the Lombards.
During the Middle Ages the city fought for its independence, experienced an era of growth and gradually rose to some power. It was during this time that many of the most notable of the city’s finest buildings were constructed.
By the late Middle Ages the city fell under Spanish rule, then under Austrian Rule in 1630, followed by French rule under Napoleon from 1796 until 1814. After the fall of Napoleon, the city reverted to Austrian domination. Throughout this period the city had its shares of rises and declines, but eventually established itself as a center of neoclassicism, attracting wealthy Europeans, who flocked to Northern Italy.
The city rose up against its Austrian masters during the great rebellions of 1848, and was finally liberated by Garibaldi in 1859 during the wars of Italian unification. With the arrival of the railways in 1893 the city saw even more growth as an early tourist destination.
It survived both World Wars relatively unscathed. But it is worth noting that the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini was taken prisoner and shot by partisans from the Como area in the nearby Giulino de Merregra on the shores of Como Lake.Today the city remains a popular Northern Italian tourist destination with plenty of reminders of its historic past.