We all know the battery, but not everyone knows that Alessandro Volta was born in
Como and that the world’s first battery is conserved in the museum that the city
dedicated to him. But not only science has been blessed by this province. Literature,
history, art and sport have all seen the influence of important local figures.
From the history of SCIENCE:
Pliny the Elder (23-79 AD)
Cavalry officer, lawyer, councillor to Emperor Vespasian, admiral.
Pliny was the author of the “Naturalis Historia”, a monumental work in 37 books, which
represents the most complete compendium of ancient scientific knowledge.
At the time of the famous eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD (which destroyed Pompeii) he
was in command of the fleet in Campania and went to the aid of the escaping population.
His scientific curiosity and sense of duty turned out to be fatal as he ventured too close to
the volcano and was suffocated by the smoke and gases.
Alessandro Volta (1747-1827)
Inventor of the battery and discoverer of methane gas. The volt, the unit used to measure
electric tension, is named after him.
Como has dedicated him a street, a square with his statue, a high school, a scientific
study centre and a neo-classical temple which houses a collection of his instruments and
The Younger Pliny (61-113 AD). - Nephew and adopted son of Pliny the Elder. He was a
lawyer and magistrate as well as a writer. His major work is the “Epistolario”, in 10
books, composed principally of private correspondence with friends and men of letters. It
offers us a rich picture of the life of the times and contains pages dedicated to the Como Lake
and its many beauties. It is said that the younger Pliny owned two villas at Bellagio: one,
high on the promontory (possibly occupying the site of today’s Rockefeller Foundation),
was reserved for study and reflection while the other, down on the lakeshore, was
dedicated to hunting and fishing. He wrote for his lake and his friends even during the
period in which he was governor of Bitinia (today’s Turkey), where he probably died.
Paolo Giovio (1483-1552) - Bishop, author of the “Historiae sui Temporis” in 45 books,
which covers world events from the descent of Charles VIII (1494) to the Peace of Crepy
Benedetto Giovio (1471-1545) - A life dedicated to archaeology, linguistics and history.
He wrote a history of Como from its origins down to 1532 (“Historia Patria”). Maestro of
Cesare Cantù (1804 -1895) - Friend of Alessandro Manzoni and Cesare Balbo. Teacher,
parliamentary deputy, founder of the Historic Archive of Lombardy and first president of
the Lombard Historic Society (1874), author of a history of the city and diocese of Como.
Among the “Maestri Intelvesi”, a group of engravers, stucco-workers, painters, marbleporkers
and master builders was Benedetto Antelami (1150-1230), the architect and sculptor,
who designed and sculptured the famous Baptistery in Parma.
The Duomo in Milan (begun in 1186) also owes a debt of recognition to the Como region: its
first architect Simone da Orsenigo was born in the village of the same name just 10
kilometres from Como.
Alongside the artists we can also note those who commissioned their work, including
Cardinal Tolomeo Gallio (1527-1607) who had two of the most beautiful villas of the
lake region built: the “Garovo” at Cernobbio - today Villa D’Este - (1569) and Palazzo
Gallio in Gravedona (1583) which now houses the Comunità Montana Alto Lario
Occidentale (Mountain Community of the Northwest Como Region).
To lodge in Como Lake