As the nights grow longer and temperatures get lower, Como goes through another of its periodical metamorphoses – producing a set of seasonal December delights.
What better way can there be of exploiting the increased hours of winter darkness than by staging spectacular light shows? The 8208 Lighting Design Festival (see images in our Photo Gallery) has just been an artistic aperitif to sharpen the appetite for the so-called Città dei Balocchi’s lighting extravaganza across the city’s main piazzas and monuments which started last Saturday. Why not also while away the dark hours immersed in the latest ‘noir’ crime fiction and finally, celebrate the opening of a modern, well-conceived and engrossing museum in the Art Nouveau masterpiece in Cernobbio by visiting the Villa Bernasconi.
The switching on of the lights has become the symbolic start of the Christmas holiday season with Como going all out to attract as many visitors and shoppers to its streets. The Città dei Balocchi, now into its 24th year and sponsored primarily by local business, encompasses not just the light shows but also the Christmas market in Piazza Cavour at the heart of which is the outdoor ice rink, the vintage merry-go-round in Piazza Volta and the Ferris wheel in the lake gardens and much else.
In fact a full range of Christmas activities comes under the ‘Città dei Balocchi’ umbrella. Details of all events are available on their dedicated website in Italian only or also on the Comune’s newsletter available also in English.
Another major seasonal attraction, hopefully on course to also becoming a tradition, is the Noir in Festival event. This celebration of crime and detective fiction moved from Courmayeur last year. It is actually held over two centres with all events between 4th and 6th December held in Milan and those from 7th to 10th December held in Como. This is a must for all lovers of ‘noir’ crime fiction.
All events in the festival are free, consisting of film screenings and discussions with a variety of authors. Those films shown in Como are mainly international in original language with Italian subtitles. The live authors are mainly Italian. Como is also the location for the presentation of the prestigious Raymond Chandler Award which goes this year to the Canadian writer, Margaret Atwood.
The auditorium of the Teatro Sociale is the location for the film screenings and the award ceremony whilst the meetings with authors are held in the elegant Sala Bianca on the theatre’s first floor. The film screenings at the Teatro Sociale are listed in our calendar whilst details of these and all other events are available from the Festival’s website which is available in English.
Finally, it’s great to hear of a new museum opening in Como – or at least in nearby Cernobbio. The Villa Bernasconi, a Liberty-style masterpiece built for the owner of what was the largest textile mill in Italy (see Como Silk) has been renovated internally and now opens its doors to the public as a rather unique form of museum.
There are so many good reasons to visit this new museum. Here are some of them: 1) The Building – is a masterpiece of art nouveau design and craftsmanship. The interior has been restored to show the marvelous work in stucco, wrought iron, stained glass and fresco.
2) The Story – Davide Bernasconi, the factory owner who commissioned the villa, developed the largest textile mill in Italy and his company was one of the main silk producers in the Como area. The museum provides a lot of information about the silk industry bringing it alive through the reproduction of personal testimonies. It acts as a true compliment to Como’s Silk Museum in that the Villa Bernasconi illustrates the actual lives of both the factory owners and their workers. 3) The Methods – the museum has used some effective multi-media and interactive ways of conveying its story making the the content very accessible to all including English speakers since most of the material presented (orally and visually) is in two languages. I can heartily recommend a visit to the Villa for anyone interested in art, architecture, or the history of the local silk industry.
The museum is open from Monday to Friday from 15.00 to 18.00, and from 10.00-18.00 at the weekends. Entrance costs €8 or €5 for those over 65. Those under 14 or over 75 enter free. More information is available from their website.