Lake Como, Italy is full of fantastic villas and grand gardens, some of which are open to the public; one of the best known villas is the Villa Balbianello. Movie buffs will recognize the villa from the Star Wars Episode II and Casino Royale. You can visit the villa and gardens which I highly recommend for it is truly unique!
The History of Villa del Balbianello
– The villa has changed hands many times, below are the previous owners:
1- The villa was built in 1787 for Cardinal Angelo Maria Durini, on the site of a Franciscan monastery.
2 – In 1796 after the Cardinal’s death, the villa was bought and renovated by Giuseppe Arconati Visconti.
3- In the 19th century the villa belonged to the Porro-Lambertenghi family.
4 – After falling into disrepair in the early 20th century, the villa was bought and renovated by Butler Ames, an American military officer.
5 – In 1974 the villa was purchased by Guido Monzino, known as the leader of the first Italian expedition to Mount Everest. Monzino was an art collector as well and filled the villa with his collection.
6 – The villa was left to the National Trust of Italy by Monzino, who passed away in 1988.
When visiting Villa Balbianello, you can just visit the spectacular gardens; which provide wonderful views of the lake and towns. If you like, you can also purchase a ticket to have a guided tour of the house (not essential to the visit as the main attraction are the gardens).
Ticket prices for Villa Balbianello:
-The villa is open from mid March to mid November.
-Tickets for the garden are only 6 Euros for adults and 3 Euros for kids (4-12 yrs).
-Tickets for the garden+villa are 12 Euros for adults and 7 Euros for kids (4-12 yrs). There is a maximum of 15 people in a group and a guided tour is mandatory. Tours last one hour.
How to get to Villa Balbianello:
1 – Walking – You can actually walk to the villa. If you are driving in the area you would stop and park in the town of Lenno – there is a narrow parking lot at the edge of the town. From the parking lot you will see a path leading up the hill and through the forest, which will take you to the villa, where you will enter at the top of the gardens. The walk takes about 20 to 30 minutes.
2 – By Boat – From the parking lot at Lenno you will find a small boat at the water’s edge that takes you to the villa. (There are other boat services from neighboring towns and you can also hire a private taxi boat as well with price depending on the number of people and time needed for the boat ride). I recommend arriving by boat as it really gives you a sense of the villa and seeing it from the water is much more impressive!
For information about Lake Como and all of Northern Italy’s major lakes click here for italylakes.net