Path 5. The Modern City Walk

In the 1920s and ’30s the city of Como experienced a truly unique season thanks to a group of people – some of whom young, some not so young – in various ways related to the town, such as Giuseppe Terragni, Pietro Lingeri, Cesare Cattaneo, Attilio Terragni, Luigi Zuccoli, Luigi Origoni, Augusto Magnaghi Delfino, Mario Terzaghi, Gianni Mantero…
They were architects and engineers, artists and technical experts. To a certain extent they could be rated as heirs to the ancient tradition of the “Comacine Masters”. On the other hand, they were greatly attracted to the new experiences in European architecture – particularly German, Dutch and French – that were by then being called “rationalist”: essential, functional, technological, that is capable of creating and building whatever may respond to people’s actual needs, and of giving logical and technologically advanced – indeed, modern – answers to the practical necessities of living. This applied not only to the buildings’ design – which they thought of as a whole, thus including the technological details, the materials, the finishes, the decorations, and the furniture and furnishings, already with methods and objectives that currently define modern designers – but to the planning of the city, too.
These “poly-technical” engineers and architects came from different backgrounds but strongly believed in being part of a common project and line of action, and were particularly attentive, too, to the needs of the different socio-economic strata of society – undoubtedly a quite unusual concern at the time. And so it was in Como – albeit amongst the conflicts and the stormy atmosphere of that particular historical period, marked by the fascist regime and impending war scenarios – that they left behind the futuristic visions of a “new city”, that was never to see the light, and gave solid shape to the dream of a “modern city”, meeting the criteria of essentiality, functionality, rationality, and so on… Moreover, they managed to provide the city of Como with a truly European and international dimension, leading it to effectively become part of the vast “rationalist” architecture movement.
This is the reason why we named this path “the Modern City Walk”.
The path will lead us to discover the city’s most important rationalist monuments, in order to help us better understand an experience «the significance of which extends far beyond the boundaries of Como», and the remarkable «spirit of modernity» which enlivened it. However, it will not overlook the great thought that this extraordinary group of people gave to the social and economic demands of a community which by then was in a phase of full industrialization.
Therefore, we will start our itinerary from the buildings of the suburbs, set to meet the everyday needs of working-class families and working mothers (the Sant’Elia Nursery School, the Council Houses of via Anzani), and reach the final stages on the lakeshore, an area open to new residents, new activities, and new appetites for real estate ownership.
Our journey will come to an end in the Novocomum “apartment building”/“machine for living in”, considered to be the first notable example of rationalist architecture in Italy. By sharply “breaking with tradition” this building radically changed the way designers planned homes for living in and their conception of life inside the city. The city of tomorrow.

Path details

Point of departure Como, Sant’Elia Nursery School (via Alciato)
Point of arrival Como, Novocomum (Viale Sinigaglia)
Path type urban route (stages 1 and 2)
Environment urban area
Total length approx. 4,6 Km
Travel time on foot approx. 90 min (excluding visits)
Difficulty tourist (stages 1 and 2)
Access see single descriptions
Other recommended means of transport bicycle

Overlapping / Intersections with other paths

This path crosses Como Path 1 – Stage 1 and Stage 2, and partially overlaps Como Path 4 – Stage 1


Click here to download informations about this path


Silvia Fasana

We would like to thank Franco Panzeri, the “Amici del Novocomum” society and the Aero Club Como for their collaboration


Giorgio Costanzo

Further information on the path

Altitude difference (uphill): -
Altitude difference (downhill): circa 20 m
Maximum height: 225 m
Paving: aasphalt, porphyry cubes, porphyry tiles, concrete tiles, concrete, stone slabs
Public transport to the point of departure: ASF city bus service (see bus company website); “Como Borghi” Trenord railway station in piazzale Gerbetto
Public transport from the point of arrival: ASF bus service (see bus company website); “Como Lago” Trenord railway station in largo Leopardi; boat
Parking at the point of departure: yes

Want to know more?

Historical figures
Cesare Cattaneo; Archivio Cattaneo
Pietro Lingeri
Gianni Mantero; Archivio Mantero
Attilio Terragni Archivio Terragni
Giuseppe Terragni; Archivio Terragni

Mario Radice

Giuseppe Sinigaglia

Our main bibliographical sources for this path have been:
L. Cavadini, Architettura razionalista nel territorio comasco, Provincia di Como, Como 2004
F. Cani, G. Monizza, Como e la sua storia. La Città Murata, Nodo Libri, Como 1994
F. Cani, G. Monizza, Como e la sua storia. I borghi e le frazioni, Nodo Libri, Como 1994.

For Cesare Cattaneo: M. Di Salvo, IO. Il bigino di Cesare Cattaneo, Associazione Culturale Archivio Cattaneo, 2015

To learn more please refer to the extensive bibliography on the subject published in L. Cavadini, Architettura razionalista nel territorio comasco, Provincia di Como, Como 2004

Como Tourist Information Office
Lake Como Tourism website
Iter website for the enhancement and promotion of cultural tourism related to modern architecture
Rationalism on the Treccani Encyclopaedia

Free download of the interesting app on rationalist architecture in Como for Android from the following Google Play link
Free download of the interesting app on rationalist architecture in Como for iOS from the following i-Tunes link