Villa Olmo is one of the main symbols of the city of Como, one of the most famous and sumptuous historic houses in the Como area; it was built in neoclassical style between 1782 and 1787 by the Ticino architect Simone Cantoni (Muggio di Mendrisio, Canton Ticino, 1736 - Milan 1818), on behalf of Innocenzo Odescalchi.
The Villa stands at the north-western end of the city of Como, at the end of the lakeside promenade of the Villas of Borgo Vico (today's Lino Gelpi promenade), opened in 1957 to connect the most prominent patrician buildings of the city.
Walking along the promenade and admiring the stately homes overlooking the lake you can perceive that romantic and fascinating combination of landscape, ingenuity and taste of architects and gardeners that, between 1700 and 1800, made the shores of the Lario a coveted destination of the Grand Tour of the European nobility and that Villa Olmo, with its park, still evokes today.
Villa Olmo, of monumental dimensions, has a slightly elevated central body, marked by columns decorated with roundels depicting Plato, Solon, Thales, Socrates and Pythagoras, the work of the Ticinese sculptor Francesco Carabelli.
Inside, in perfect correspondence with the architectural solutions of the façade, we find an immense square atrium that occupies the entire area of the ancient Villa Odescalchi, covering, in height, the space of three floors. From here a large arch leads to the main staircase, decorated with marble and stuccoes of fine workmanship; between worked balustrades and neoclassical mirrors stands out a fresco by Appiani, which presents a mythological subject, according to the use of Lombard palaces and villas.
From the atrium, continuing towards the back of the building, we enter the majestic ballroom, covered by a pavilion vault on which stand out the beautiful frescoes by the Ticinese painter Domenico Pozzi, depicting the Contest between Poseidon and Minerva for the patronage of the city of Athens and Apollo with the nine Muses, painted in 1789. The large stucco figures are by Carlo Luca Pozzi and depict the main gods of Olympus: Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, Hades, Chronos, Rhea, Apollo and Artemis. Once past the ballroom, a flight of rooms leads to a series of rooms used for conversation, reception, billiards and the cabinet de toilette.
On the walls, richly decorated with stuccowork and gilding, some large frescoes with mythological themes give their name to the rooms which, from these, are also called: by Dionysus, Dionysus and Ariadne, by Selene with Endymion, by Artemis.
On the first floor, the mythological decorations are concentrated in the rooms dedicated to Olympus with the medallion depicting the Apotheosis of Heracles and the adjoining hall of arts.
Here, on the side facing the garden, there are a series of sumptuous lounges known as: hall of Garibaldi, Bacchus and Diana. The small theatre with 92 seats, commissioned by the Visconti di Modrone in 1883, is a small jewel with perfect acoustics; a fresco by Fontana stands out on the ceiling.
The park behind the Villa, accessed through two side porticoes, is the main public park in the city of Como: it extends for about five hectares, excluding the surfaces of the various buildings and represents one of the most important historical parks not only in the city but in the whole province.
Inside the park there are about 780 trees, including some monumental plants such as horse chestnut, Lebanon cedar, liquidambar and some plane trees, and 460 shrubs and bushes.
The park is characterised by a harmonious panoramic layout with pleasant clearings that creep among the tree patches beyond which you can see the lake and the mountains above. In one of these clearings there is a neoclassical temple, built by the Visconti di Modrone. In front of the palace, a large Italian garden with regular flowerbeds leads to the lake where a stone balustrade runs. Among the flowerbeds, statues of pagan gods stand with a curvilinear basin in the centre of which a bronze sea monster by Oldofredi was placed.
Built in the 18th century, Villa Olmo owes its name, according to an undocumented tradition, to the pre-existing presence in the area of two distinct examples of elm trees, very old and large.
It was built in neoclassical style between 1782 and 1787 by the Ticino architect Simone Cantoni (Muggio di Mendrisio, Canton Ticino, 1736 - Milan 1818), on behalf of Innocenzo Odescalchi, whose wealthy family had purchased part of the property and land of the abbey of S.Maria di Vico, known as Olmo, in 1664.
The neoclassical inspiration is fully evident in the façade, whose central body, facing forward, has five entrance arches surmounted by six Ionic columns alternating with medallions depicting philosophers. In 1824, with the death of Marquis Odescalchi, the Villa passed to the Raimondi family who hosted illustrious personalities of Italian and European history (Giuseppe Garibaldi, the imperial family of Ferdinand I of Austria), and then it was sold in 1883 to the Visconti di Modrone dukes, whose stone coat of arms is positioned in the centre of the balustrade that crowns the building.
In 1925 it was sold to the Municipality of Como, which two years later, on the occasion of the first centenary of Alessandro Volta's death, set up the Voltiana International Exhibition there.
Since then the Villa has been a prestigious venue for exhibitions, events and conferences.
Villa Olmo is easily accessible by car, even from Milan, through the A9 highway, but it can also be easily reached by bus from the Como area.
You can also reach the villa on foot following the Lino Gelpi promenade (15 minutes from Como centre).