When you explore Isola Comacina you have to wonder why the ancient Byzantines of the area thought it was such a great idea to build seven churches on this tiny island. I'm sure there's an historical scholar out there who could explain it but while we were there I just keep wondering, "What were they thinking?". Apparently the conquering people of Como weren't too hot on the idea either as they destroyed all the churches in 1169. Oddly there are ruins of churches and little other evidence that anyone actually lived there.
In any event, the Church of San Giovanni was built in about the 17th century. Still there didn't seem to be any immediate parishioners and hence it too was abandoned. There were several plaques posted amongst the graffiti referring to restoration efforts but work appears slow. And what a shame. The little church is wonderfully charming on the exterior and the interior. The doors were locked but I was able to capture it's faded beauty through the barred windows. If you look closely you can see the construction materials left inside waiting for efforts to resume.
Isola Comacina has been inhabited since Roman times though there's not much easy evidence of this. There are, however, plenty of ruins. It seems the Byzantines found the island the perfect place build churches...lots of churches. In fact, they built a total of seven. This was great until 1169 when the State of Como decided to conquer the island and destroy nearly all of them. The ruins are spread all over the island but this one seemed the easiest for us to explore. The photo is of the apse of the Basilica di Sant' Eufemia which was built on the ruin of a Roman structure.
At first it seemed confusing because of the windows. Generally, an apse is pretty solid down low with windows only above. Now comes the speculation: I think what can be interpreted as windows are really penetrations in the niches to afford a view of the lake beyond. In any event, it's easy to imagine statuary located in each niche now long lost. For an archeological want-a-be like myself, this is pretty good stuff.
Our visit to Isola Comacina was perhaps the most relaxing portion of our trip. Probably because there is so little to do on the island and once you're there you're not leaving until the next boat arrives (which will be a while).
There are no cars and in fact, as best as we could tell, no roads. We took our time around the island and encountered only two other couples the whole time...one British, one Asian. Carol sketched and I explored.
When we finally returned to the boat dock we were early but fortunately there was a snack bar there and of course ...cappuccino! I know, I know, Italians don't drink cappuccino after 11:00 am. Phewy...we like it and we are on vacation!
A pretty, young girl ran the snack bar. Her company seemed to be the employee of the ferry boat company. His job seemed to be limited to sliding the gang plank to and from the arriving boats. As this didn't happen that often he had a lot of time to sit and joke with the obvious main character. This fellow, we surmised, was a local fisherman who had arrived by private boat. His real job seemed to be to provide a steady stream of boisterous, animated entertainment to all. We loved it even though we didn't understand a word!