The historic villas of Lake Como


A must-see destination for those who love the allure of the past.

The central lake area is world-renowned for hosting not only the most important villages of the lake but also luxurious historic villas with their gardens, all of which can be visited. In this article we will take you on a discovery of these magical places.

Villa del Balbianello

Villa Balbianello is a splendid 19th-century mansion located in Lenno. Commissioned by Cardinal Angelo Maria Durini in the late 18th century, it is now owned by the Fondo Ambiente Italiano, which has opened it to the public for guided tours. The villa’s interior houses collections of primitive art objects, maps, 19th-century prints with views of the Lario, carpets and rare 18th-century glass paintings. And also the maps, books, and travel instruments that are housed in the Museum of Expeditions. Also priceless are its marvelous gardens with daring pruning, the Loggia Durini, a monumental arched structure decorated with an inlaid wind rose, the Darsena and the small harbor carved from the rocks. Romantic views coexist here with masterpieces by Canova, Tadolini and Hayez, panoramic terraces and copious blooms. A setting that has enamored artists, writers and filmmakers. The villa has repeatedly been the location of high-profile films: Star Wars or Casino Royale to name a few.

Villa Carlotta

Villa Carlotta, located in Tremezzina, is a place of rare beauty, where the masterpieces of nature and human ingenuity coexist harmoniously in 70,000 square meters of gardens and museum facilities. Built in the late 1600s, the villa is named after the noblewoman who received it as a wedding gift from her mother, Princess Marianne of Prussia. Over the years the villa was embellished with masterpieces, especially of sculpture, including works by Canova and his school and Thorvaldsen. The last kiss of Romeo and Juliet painted by Hayez also came to the halls of the villa. Today the works of art on display are mainly on the lower floor, while the upper floor shows the villa from a living point of view. It was George II who created the landscape garden, which today includes more than 500 species. Strolling through the park’s pathways one can see ancient specimens of camellias and century-old sequoias; the splendid spring blooms of rhododendrons and azaleas in more than 150 varieties are also not to be missed.

Villa Melzi

Villa Melzi d’Eril is a private historic mansion that has become a symbol of the village of Bellagio and has been proclaimed a National Monument. It was erected between 1808 and 1810 at the behest of the Duke of Lodi Francesco Melzi d’Eril as his summer residence. The construction of the villa was entrusted to Giocondo Albertolli, while the park was designed by Luigi Canonica and the agronomist Luigi Villoresi, creators of the Villa Reale Park in Monza. Internally, the villa was furnished by the most celebrated artists of the time, including Andrea Appiani, Giuseppe Bossi and the sculptor Antonio Canova. Its gardens extend more than 800 meters along the lake, reaching as far as the hamlet of Loppia. Inside the park is a magnificent water lily pond, while exotic and rare plants alternate with centuries-old trees, giant hedges of camellias, rhododendrons and azaleas. Today, it is possible to visit the gardens, museum and family chapel, which are open from late March to late October.

Villa Monastero

Located in Varenna, Villa Monastero grew out of an ancient Cistercian women’s monastery, and only during the seventeenth century was the building converted into a holiday residence. In the second half of the 19th century, the villa underwent grand renovations both in the interior and in the garden, which was enriched with decorative architectural elements and with numerous exotic essences, especially from the Far East, according to the taste of the time. It was purchased in 1925 by Dr. Marco De Marchi, who donated it to the state. It recently passed to the Province of Lecco, which, after adequate restoration, entrusted its management to the Istituzione Villa Monastero, an instrumental entity of the same province. For more than fifty years, it has hosted conferences and various cultural and scientific events, including, in 1954, some lectures by Nobel Prize winner Enrico Fermi, to whom the conference hall is now dedicated. It has now become a museum venue with the establishment of the Villa Monastero House Museum, which has an exhibition itinerary consisting of fourteen rooms that can be visited in their entirety and are open to the public.

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Locanda Montefiori

Ice cream shop Riva

Stone House

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Royal Cadenabbia

Grand Hotel Victoria

Al Molo 5

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Il Molo 5

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The Main Villages of the Central Lake

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