Villa del Balbianello: The paradise villa of Lake Como and its magnificent gardens

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Marija Georgievska
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When it comes to villas in Italy, many people are in love with these little beauties that can be seen all over the country decorated with beautiful flowers and designed with small terraces made in different styles. There are many of them which are frequently visited and are located in places like Sicily, Tuscany, and Venice. Also, the villas around Lake Como are very popular. One of the most beautiful is the Villa del Balbianello with its magnificent gardens.

This small villa is a real paradise. It is situated above the lake on the top of the small wooded peninsula of Dosso d’Avedo. People are amazed by the elaborate terraced gardens that are spread on the western shore of the lake making the place even more beautiful. Before the villa was built, there was a monastery on the site from the 13th century from which the two bell towers of the church remain today.

The property was purchased in 1785 by the Cardinal Angelo Maria Durini because he wanted to buy the Isola Comacina which was nearby. He converted the building into a summer villa and added a loggia for his guests from where they could see two different panoramas of Lake Como.

The magnificent Villa del Balbianello. Author: davharuk. CC BY 2.0

His nephew, Luigi Porro Lambertenghi, inherited the property in 1796, and it became a seat of Republican activity where most of the time members of the revolutionary Carbonari group met here to discuss on important subjects for the country. Lambertenhgi had many influential and notable friends, and one of them who often visited the villa was the writer Silvio Pellico.

View of the lake from the loggia. Author: Navin75. CC BY-SA 2.0

Pellico was arrested at the mansion for his political activism, an incident which forced the owner to move to Belgium. He sold the villa to Giuseppe Arconati Visconti who was a very close friend of his. Visconti made many improvements to the loggia and the gardens and during his stay even more notable people were guests at the place, including Giovanni Berchet, Giuseppe Giusti, and Arnold Bocklin. After a while, the family lost interest in the villa and the whole estate was left abandoned for almost 30 years.

Part of the fantastic garden of the villa. Author: Roman Harak. CC BY-SA 2.0

After many efforts to purchase the villa from the Visconti family, American businessman Butler Ames finally obtained ownership. He also renovated the villa, mostly the parts which had been left to rot for a long time. In 1974, it was sold to the leader of the first expedition to climb Mount Everest Count, Guido Monzino.

The Map Room. Author: Henry Kellner. CC BY-SA 4.0

Monzino redecorated the entire interior but left the exterior untouched. The must-see rooms are the Map Room and the Exhibition Room. He filled the room with artifacts from his travels and added unique pieces of furniture in English Georgian and French style from the 18th century. Many rooms have Oriental carpets and Beauvais tapestries. In 1988, after Monzino died, the villa was given to the National Trust of Italy. Because of its stunning gardens, it became a part of the Grandi Giardini Italiani.

The Exhibition Room. Author: Henry Kellner. CC BY-SA 4.0

The National Trust is continually investing in the improvement of the villa, and today it is trendy for weddings because of its location. Couples are regularly photographed in the loggia which overlooks the lake. Besides the enormous number of visitors and the wedding arrangements, the Villa del Balbianello is also a filming location. Some of the movies in which it appears are Casino Royale from 2006, A Month by the Lake from 1995, Star Wars: Episode II Attack of the Clones from 2002 and many more.

Today, the villa is maintained by the National Trust of Italy. Author: Christine Wagner. CC BY 2.0

Also, it serves as a place for fashion shoots, and it is visited by some of the most famous fashion designers. The villa and the gorgeous gardens are open to the public always, and the fascinating part is that the only way to get to this paradise is by a boat.