On the border between Switzerland and Italy sits a small city called Como. It’s a serene place, much more laid back than its neighbour Milan, with stunning mountain views in every direction and a magnificent lake named after the city which props its left corner.
Near the banks of Lake Como, a fair-sized stadium finds itself embedded between the city’s yacht and aviation clubs. Its tenants are Como’s football club, which has gone by various names in recent years. Calcio Como, Como 1907 or just FC Como all seem to be used adequately but no official name is really given. And the reason for this uncertainty is down to the uncertainty surrounding the club itself.
Como have been in serious financial problems for over a decade now. Just 15 years ago, the team was playing in Serie A as Calcio Como before three successive relegations left them bankrupt. They’ve since tried to rebrand and revive themselves, changing their name to FC Como and then Como 1907 following a takeover from Akousa Puni Essien – wife of former Chelsea midfielder Michael Essien – this year.
Recently though, fresh threats have emerged to omit Como from even playing in Serie D, which is the highest non-professional league in Italy. Reports have suggested players and staff haven’t been paid while a debt has mounted up from Como’s use of the nearby Orsenigo sport centre as a training base.
It’s all very complicated and messy. Hard to believe that they were bringing Italian World Cup winner Gianluca Zambrotta through their youth system a quarter of a century ago. Now it looks very unlikely they’ll be nurturing any talent at all in the near future. Quite an unfortunate decline. One hopes they can survive and bounce back again.
Making up for my somewhat disappointing photos of the San Siro, I took so many more pleasing shots from inside Como’s stadium. However, it did come at a cost.
As my girlfriend, Saffron, and I looked around, we noticed the front gates were open. When we entered, no one told us to leave so we assumed it was okay to have a look around. We took some really nice shots of the stands in the foreground of all that amazing scenery. It must add to the occasion when you have such an epic setting for a football match.
After we finished snapping, we headed for the exit only to find the gates had been locked back up. As you can tell from the photo above, there were people around us only moments before. Suddenly in the space of five minutes the whole ground was abandoned barring us two.
For a little while, I found it quite cool to be locked in a stadium. We were in this 13,000 capacity ground, surrounded by great views and, apparently, no one knew we were there. Soon though, I began getting edgy that we’d be stuck in there for a long time. Or someone would find us and assumed we’d broken in.
We tried to find anyone who could help us get back out but there weren’t any club officials around the place. We headed to a gate on the opposite side and climbed an adjacent wall which helped us get back onto the streets. A few people walking by watched us escape and gave us some funny looks. Thankfully no one confronted us about it though. It would have been very frustrating to get into trouble for breaking out of a stadium rather than breaking in one.
A day trip to Como was just what we needed to escape the rush of Milan. Everything was at a slower pace and we could have happily relaxed with a couple of croissants, staring out across Lake Como for hours.
We decided to take the Funicolare to the small mountain-top town of Brunate for a reasonable €5.50 return each. Being at the front or bottom carriage is a great experience as the ropes pull you gently up and there are so many great views from every angle.
In Brunate, our main goal was to reach the Faro Voltiano, a lighthouse overlooking the lake which is visible from the streets of Como. The hike took us about 20 minutes (beating the sign times by 10!) and really made us work up a sweat despite the cooler air higher up.
When we arrived at the top, everyone was gathered around the lookout at the foot of the lighthouse. A spectacular view already but I’d done some research and knew of the rewards more climbing could give you.
So we paid two euros each to walk up the spiral stairs of the lighthouse. And, my God, it’s probably the best fee I’d ever spent on a viewing platform. I’d seen what was waiting at the top from my research on YouTube but nothing could prepare me for the real thing. It is stunning. And for some reason, we were the only two people up there for half an hour. We kept looking at the people below – the non-two euro club – and thought about how much they were missing out on by refusing to pay a couple of euros.
Perhaps we would have been the same had we not done our homework. The views on the way up are partly obscured by houses and trees. So maybe a few people thought it would be two euros on a similar kind of view. Or maybe they were happy with the free view. Whatever works. For me, I’d happily pay double for a view that is priceless.
Honestly speaking, we were disappointed we couldn’t spend longer in Como. And Brunate. The former has so many nice little side streets to get lost in whilst the latter seems like it has even more great hikes. You could easily spend a day exploring either place, or even head over the Swiss border to Chiasso.
I’d say it was my favourite part about our holiday. And that’s even ahead of the football, so that says something!