Known as the balcony of the Prealps, the small village of Brunate is situated on a wooded plateau above Como. Thanks to the panoramic position and the altitude in which it is located, Brunate became, in the Seven-Nineteenth Century, one of the major Lombard holiday resorts.
In the early 1900s, during excavations in the historic center of Brunate, artifacts have been found that suggest a settlement of Celtic tribes since the 6th century BC Two fibulae, two globetto rings, a bracelet, a pendant, terracotta bowls and glasses, a fibula and two bronze rings were found.
Brunate has very ancient origins, probably Celtic, with strong Etruscan influences. In addition, the archaeological finds in the Civic Museum of Como show that Brunate was a place of organized life. After a few centuries, in the underlying plain, huts began to be built, until the Romans restored the soil, founding the city and erecting walls and towers. In this period Como actually became one of the most important cities of the empire thanks to its strategic position, which made it the center of the roads that led to Germany.
With the colonization of the Como valley by the Romans, Brunate began to follow the same fate as Como. In the second half of the twelfth century Brunate succeeded in forming a free municipality, but already in 1240 it returned under the jurisdiction of Como, entering the town district of Porta Sala.
Blessed Maddalena Albrici
For about half a century Brunate remains tied to the events of Como without particular events to mention. We only remember the presence of the monastery of St. Andrew and the future Blessed Maddalena Albrici. The Albrici had become religious in the monastery of Sant’Andrea in Brunate. When she became Abbess, she gave the foundation the Rule of the Hermits of Saint Augustine. He reformed the monastery of Sant’Andrea towards greater austerity of life and more rigorous poverty.
The Abbess Magdalene was the first to give the example of humble beggar, although she was born, in 1409, in the family of Nicola Albrici, the maximum magistrate of Como at that time. In the Como area Maddalena Albrici was a great shepherdess of souls that she attracted to herself, on the Brunate hill. After a long suffering illness he died in 1465.
Brunate – a destination for tourism
At the turn of the eighteenth and twentieth centuries, from a small medieval rural settlement Brunate became a famous destination for wealthy Milanese families.
The tourist flow to Brunate, as well as the arrival in the village of the Milanese upper middle class, was made possible also thanks to the construction, in 1894, of the Como-Brunate funicular. And in fact Brunate, between the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, saw an intense building activity, aimed above all at the construction of villas and hotels. Most of these villas were built in eclectic or Art Nouveau forms. An example is the small funicular station in Como, which still welcomes visitors with its pretty façade of mountain chalets.
Once in Brunate you can enjoy a splendid view. From there you can see the entire western Alps, the Po Valley and the Apennines. There are several panoramic points like the Belvedere, the large churchyard of S. Andrea, the rotunda of the Marenghi park in S. Maurizio and the overhanging Faro. There are also numerous monuments of historical and artistic interest. We mention the Voltiano Lighthouse, the parish church, the villas and many possible excursion destinations. Among the trekking itineraries we remember the so-called ridge of the Lariano Triangle, route at high altitude that connects Brunate to Bellagio.
The church of Brunate
The parish church of Brunate is dedicated to the patron saint Sant’Andrea Apostolo. The first records date back to the fourteenth century. Inside there are frescoes by the Recchis made at the end of the seventeenth century. In the vault the patrons of Sant’Andrea and San Maurizio are depicted. In the medallions below you can see Sant’Ignazio di Loyola, San Michele Arcangelo, San Bartolomeo and Blessed Maddalena Albrici. Inside the church there is an altar dedicated to the Blessed Maddalena Albrici, under which her relics are kept. In the church is also preserved a pipe organ of 1827. It was built by the Prestinari brothers of Magenta reusing the phonic material of a previous Serassi organ from 1774.
The historic center of Brunate is characterized by narrow alleyways that climb up the slope. In it there are ancient buildings, stone portals and several courts. The most important are the court of the Castle, one of the oldest places in Brunate, and the court of the Jews, dating back to the 14th century.
In Brunate we find the Voltiano Lighthouse. It is a 29-meter octagonal tower built in 1927 on the summit of Monte Tre Croci on the occasion of the centenary of the death of Alessandro Volta. The lighthouse, starting from sunset until dawn, alternately emits green, white and red light. On the coast of the mountain of Brunate we find the hermitage of San Donato erected by the Franciscans in the fifteenth century. The convent still exists. For five centuries it has dominated the city with its severe bulk. It is no longer a place of prayer because it is desecrated since Maria Theresa of Austria suppressed numerous convents.