- Art & Culture
Lake Como in 5 Villas
Como, Varenna, Bellagio. Go for Villas on Lake Como, discovering enchanted gardens and work of art
Villas of delight surrounded by exquisite Italian gardens; botanical gardens where visitors can take a relaxing break from the bustle of the city
Below 5 Villas on Lake Como not to be missed
The Villa Melzi d’Eril Gardens
This magnificent villa was built at the start of the 19th century by Francesco Melzi d’Eril, vicepresident of the Italian Republic established by his personal friend Napoleon. A large elegant white building in Neoclassical style which fits perfectly into its setting on the shores of Lake Como. But what attracts thousands of visitors every year are the gardens, which stretch for almost a kilometre along the lakeshore.Designed by Luigi Canonica and Luigi Villoresi, today the gardens constitute a magic retreat, a delight for the eyes and spirit alike.
Here are both venerable trees and exotic plants such as cedar trees from Lebanon, Ginkgo balboa, copper beeches and camphor trees, together with a superb collection of statues and monuments, some ornamenting the terrace overlooking the lake. Other features of the gardens include a private chapel, an aedicule in Moorish style, various Egyptian statues from Napoleon’s campaign in Egypt and an orangerie, with a museum dedicated to memorabilia and prints from the Italian Republic established by Napoleon.
Villa Carlotta, located on the shores of Lake Como near the charming village of Tremezzo, is a triumph of natural and architectural beauty. It was built in the 17th century by order of the Marquis Giorgio Clerici, in the then fashionable Baroque style and surrounded by a magnificent Italian style garden.
Today the villa is an art museum where visitors can admire the many masterpieces purchased by the owners through the centuries, including Antonio Canova’s sculptures and Francisco Hayez’s paintings.The 20 acres of park that surround the villa are a testament to the different styles that have been fashionable since it was built, starting with the Italian style garden which surrounds the house with its perfectly trimmed hedges, statues and water features, followed by the less formal English style garden of the Romantic period to the late 19th century, with rhododendron woods, gorgeous camellias and azaleas, making the villa’s grounds a true botanical garden.
Villa del Balbianello
At the very tip of the Dosso di Lavedo, a wooded promontory on the shores of Lake Como, is the Villa del Balbianello, built in the early 18th century, famous not only for its beauty but also for having hosted many wellknown intellectuals in exile during the Italian Risorgimento.
Commissioned by Cardinal Angelo Maria Durini and built over the remains of an ancient Franciscan monastery (although the facade of the original church is still intact), after the Cardinal’s death it passed down to Count Luigi Porro Lambertenghi. The Count was a very active supporter of the Unification of Italy and turned the villa into a hub for intellectuals who supported the Cause, even hiring the famous author Silvio Pellico as a tutor for his children.
The superb Villa has been managed by the FAI, the Italian National Trust, since 1988, donated by its last owner, entrepreneur and explorer Guido Monzino, who wished it to be thrown open to the public.
This imposing Neoclassical villa was built in 1812 by order of the Marquis Odescalchi; after changing hands multiple times it was acquired by the municipality of Como in 1925 and turned into a venue for art exhibitions and cultural events.
The villa’s English style park, with its over 800 trees including horse chestnut trees, cedars from Lebanon, sweetgum and planes, is one of the most historically interesting parks in the whole province. The villa’s conservatories were added at the end of the 19th century and built in iron-glass in accordance to the fashion of the time, a botanical garden was also added later to grow all the plants that have historically been a part of these gardens and for various native species.
Villa Olmo is one of the stops on the Chilometro della Conoscenza (“Kilometre of Knowledge”) a cultural itinerary and a green joint that stops at 12 different sites within three historical villas: Villa Olmo, Villa del Grumello and Villa Sucota.
Villa Monastero’s history spans nine centuries, making it one of Varenna’s best-known landmarks, despite its current eclectic style from renovations in the 19th century.Built around 1100 AD as a convent for Cistercian nuns, the building has had many owners and purposes through the centuries and each one left its mark through various renovation projects which have given the villa its unique style.
The villa is now a museum showcasing an amazing collection of items left by its various owners, an incredible record of four centuries of history. From the 19th century, the villa was a hub for prominent artists, musicians, writers and actors and to this day the stimulating artistic and cultural climate of the era is in the air.
The villa is also surrounded by a beautiful botanical garden, home to plants from every corner of the globe, which flourish thanks to the temperate climate of the lake.