Como: Finding Home

By Chris Macchi

Como, about 50km north of Milan, lies at the foot of the lake that bears its name. The city is beautiful and feels small, but also extends into the surrounding hillsides with old Italian architecture pockmarking the wooded slopes. It's the kind of place where everybody seems to know everyone else in the street, and where you can get a caffè on almost any corner. While it's a popular tourist destination today, Como has been on the map for a while — and one of the original city planners was none other than Julius Caesar, who conquered the wishbone-shaped lake in 49 BCE.

A few millennia onward, the local football club was established. Calcio Como, founded in 1907, play at Stadio Giuseppe Sinigaglia, a lakefront oval in the heart of Como's center, where today Bassano Virtus visited for a match in the third division.

The game couldn't have met my stereotypes of lower-league Italian football any better. It was chippy. It was flagrant. It was floppy. It was sloppy. To top off the diving, crunching tackles, and wayward long balls, the referee made some super questionable decisions — the kind that probably made many wonder if he was accepting some Euros under the table. While the ref was extraordinarily quick to flash the yellow card at times — even booking a goalkeeper for time-wasting when he was clearing the ball off the top of his netting before a goal kick — he also seemed happy to play on when someone got demolished.

Despite the sparse attendance, the Como supporters were vociferous and passionate, clad in all-blue and standing and chanting in a half-empty terrace behind the goal, separated from the rest of the matchgoers by a network of steel fences designed to keep their mischief at bay. As the final whistle sounded, and their team was handed a 2-1 loss at home, they rushed to the fence and made enough of a statement to drive the referees into the tunnel together in a hurry. Polizia were dispatched to see them out and make sure nobody got hurt. 

The match ended in some more-than-scuffles-less-than-fights and I left feeling whole. It felt like the quintessential calcio experience — and also a kind of homecoming for me.

My primary interest in Como resides in the fact that, as legend has it, my family called it home decades ago, before heading to New York in the early 1900s. I don't know why exactly they left or even where exactly they lived, but knowing this was enough for me to come. It felt immediately homely and hospitable, a true tribute to the people here, and I leave knowing that I got to watch a Calcio Como 1907 match, something significant to me in its own right. I'd like to think that someone in the Macchi clan, decades and decades ago, did the same thing—cheering on the Blues, lakeside, feeling right at home. 

 

Words and photos by Chris Macchi. Follow his adventures in Italy and beyond on Instagram and Twitter.