The hills surrounding the current location of Como were inhabited in prehistoric times, at least since the Bronze Age.
Remains of settlements are still present on the wood covered hills to
the South West of town. The people that inhabited these settlements
were known as the Orobii, a Celtic tribe.
Around the 1st century BC
the territory became subjected to the Romans. The first center was
situated on the nearby hills, but it was then moved to its current
location by order of Julius Caesar,
who had the swamp near the southern tip of the lake drained and laid
the plan of the walled city in the typical grid of perpendicular
streets. The newly founded town was named Novum Comum and had the
status of municipium.
In 774 the town surrendered to the invasion of the Franks led by Charlemagne, and it became a center of commercial exchange.
In 1127 Como lost the decade-long war against the nearby town of Milan. A few decades later, with the help of Frederick Barbarossa,
the Comaschi could avenge their defeat when Milan was destroyed in
1162. Frederick promoted the construction of several defensive towers
around the city limits, of which only one remains, the Baradello.
From then on the history of Como followed that of the Ducato di
Milano, through the French invasion, then the Spanish domination until
1714, when the territory was taken by the Austrians. Napoleon descended into Lombardy in 1796 and ruled it until 1815, when the Austrian rule was resumed after the Congress of Vienna. Finally in 1859, with the arrival of Giuseppe Garibaldi, the town was freed from the Austrians and it became part of the newly formed Kingdom of Italy under the House of Savoy.
At the end of World War II, after passing through Como on his escape
towards Switzerland, Mussolini was taken prisoner and then shot by
Comaschi partisans in Giulino di Mezzegra, a small town on the north
shores of Como Lake.
As a curiosity, the Rockefeller fountain that today stands in the
Bronx Zoo in New York City was once in the main square by the lakeside.
It was bought by William Rockefeller in 1902.