The old name of Canturio, which became Cantu in the fifteenth century,
takes its origin from the name of the Lombard people of the
Canturigi, which is the origin of the Gaelic name "Galliano", the first settlement in the
territory around present day Cantu.
The city of Cantu first appeared in history in the eleventh century when Ariberto da
Intimiano, the Archbishop of Milan, rebuilt
the Galliano Basicilica in 1007, which was originally built on the site of an ancient
From 1118 to 1128 Cantu took part with Milan in the war against Como, losing in 1124
but coming out victorious in 1127. Many
years later the city fought with great strength against Frederick the Redbeard,
defeating the invader in 1160.
Fortified with 100 towers in 1324, it remained independent until 1334 when the Visconti
occupied the regions around Como. Involved
in the fight between the Guelfi and the Ghibellini it was subdued by the forces of
Francesco Sforza. Cantu was ruled for about 30 years
by this powerful Milanese family, until it was surrendered to the faithful Pietrasantas
who built a castle of which remains only the bell
tower, that was eventually completed by Pellegrino Tibaldi.
Today, Cantu is renowned as a center of artisans. Around the year 1000, it became
known as a center for expert iron works. More
recently, it has cultivated a tradition of expert furniture making. With over 700
"botteghe" or small craftsmen shops, its furniture is
revered as hand-made art, rather than mass-produced utilitarian items. Cantu is also
known throughout the world for its production of
fine lace, a tradition began by the Benedictine nuns in 1600.