If I had to make a list of my favourite places on Lake Como, Villa Balbianello would most certainly be in top positions
When, back in the 1970s, I first visited it with my second grade class, I was completely mesmerized.
A the time, Villa Balbianello was still inhabited by its previous owner, Count Monzino, who, as seen with my little girl’s eyes, was a very eccentric and mysterious character, with his stories of reckless expeditions to the conquest of the North Pole and the summit of Mount Everest and with his collections of objects from all over the world, among which the beautiful sleigh used on the ice of the North Pole.
At the time, I didn’t fully appreciate the opportunity we were given to visit this beautiful place that was still not open to the public, although I was fascinated by this Villa that was completely isolated from the hamlet of Lenno and by its spectacular gardens right down to the edge of the lake.
The silence broken only by the plashing of the waves and the screeches of the seagulls, the beautiful ancient trees, the overlapping terraces and the panoramic route heading towards the mooring boats behind the Villa, all this contributes in creating a fairy-tale atmosphere.
This is probably what Star Wars screenwriters must have thought when they chose Villa Balbianello as the location for Anakin and Padmé Amidala’s first kiss and secret wedding in Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones.
Villa Balbianello, built on the ruins of a Franciscan monastery at the end of XVIII century by will of Cardinal Angelo Maria Durini, has always fascinated its guests and visitors, such as the 1800s liberal intellectual Ludovico di Breme, who has often been a guest at Balbianello, of which, according to the words of Silvio Pellico, he seemed to be “madly or rather wisely in love!” or Silvio Pellico himself, who, in one of his letters, wrote: “Blessed be Balbianino! I would willingly spend my life here, as this stay is so romantic, poetic, magic”.
Since 1988 Villa Balbianello has been property of FAI – Italian Environment Fund – which, after having pursued a complex project of conservative restoration, opened to the public both the magnificent gardens and the villa, with the library and Guido Monzino’s remarkable book fund, dedicated to the geographic and climbing expeditions, the Primitives’ Room, with an interesting selection of African, pre-Columbian and archaic art pieces, and the Museum of the Expeditions, where you can find flags, photographs, memorabilia and recognitions related to Monzino’s expeditions.
Reaching the Villa is by itself an emotional experience, both if you decide to follow the pleasant walk path that, from the Lido di Lenno, slowly climbs up the side of the promontory of the Lavedo, through the woods, and if you prefer to reach the Villa by boat from the lake, as the beautiful Padmé Amidala did in the famous scene of Star Wars.
If you decide to walk there, on the way back I would suggest you to leave the main path to follow the one on your left, that, running through the chestnut grove – in Autumn you could even pick some excellent chestnuts up, to roast either in the oven or in a pan – will take you to a panoramic view of the lake and then back down to join the main path again.
Via Comoedia 5, Tremezzina (CO)
Tel 0344 56110
From mid-March to mid-November: 10am – 6pm.
Open every day, except Mondays and Wednesday (unless public holidays).
Last entry to the gardens: 5.15 pm.
Last entry to the Villa: 4.30 pm according to availability.