Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Villas of Lake Como

We set off this morning to visit 2 Villas on this side of the lake.  The first one was Villa Carlotta which was just a short walk down the road.  It is the most visited Villa by tourists.  The photo below taken yesterday from the ferry shows a plain looking building, typical of the times.

It was built in the late 1600s on over 70,000 sq metres of garden, decorated with sculptures, stairs and fountains.

It has various types of gardens, colourful flowers such as below.

Did you notice the topiary ducks above?

Rain forests like the Otways

Bamboo gardens that Chinese pandas would love to get into.

Classy neighbours.


Yes, the turtles are alive.

Inside, the Villa was impressive, but not over the top.  It was bought by during  the middle of the 1800s by a Princess as a wedding present for her daughter, Carlotta.  

She and her husband, Georg II, used it as a summer residence, like most of the Villas (even today for the privately owned ones) and only used it on a few occasions before Carlotta died, aged 23.  Georg was a big botanist and made many improvements to the gardens, including the rhododendron and azalea gardens.  Unfortunately for us, they flower in spring, not autumn.  However, the gardens and lay out were quite impressive.

We moved on to the other Villa which our host had told us was a must visit.  About half an hour walk past Villa Carlotta.  Well, we walked and walked, sometimes along the promenade, sometimes alongside the very busy, narrow road.  

Eventually we found it in the town of Lenno.  Another walk up a hill 1km, back toward the water.  
Lake Como is shaped like an upside down Y.  Bellagio is on the junction of the Y so one or two places may get a better view that this place, but this place juts out on a peninsula and has a view both directions.

And the other way.

Villa Balbianello was built in the late 1700s.  After a few owners,  and many years of abandonment, it was bought by an American General in 1919, who restored it and the gardens.  After his death, a wealthy Italian businessman bought it to restore it again in 1974 and turn it into a private museum for his collections.  He was a dedicated explorer and collector.  (He took 300 odd huskies and sleds with 2 other men to the North Pole in 1971 and climbed Mt Everest in 1973).  He collection was astonishing.  Pieces bought at auction from all over the world ( none of it was illegally collected). He had it all displayed in this residence.  He never married and had no children, he was a loner and liked the solitude of his own company.  His will ensured that the Villa would be left to be enjoyed by others and he gave it to the Italian National Trust.  He died in 1988, aged 65.  A very heavy smoker apparently.

The plants that have been trained around the columns and the arches are almost one hundred years old.  

I don't think there are enough years left to get one of these at home.

This Loggia (or terrace) is flanked by a Library and a Map Room.  The area in between (with spectacular views in both directions) is now used regularly for weddings.  In fact at least one a day.  They were getting ready for one, which actually began whilst we were there.

The bequeath the th National Trust included enough money to maintain the buildings and gardens (along with entry fees). Only 2 gardeners are needed to maintain these gardens. Hard to believe really.  One of them worked for Guido Monzino before he died in 1988.

The tree below, takes 3 weeks every year to keep it in its shape. (Done with manual shears!). It is kept trimmed  to maintain the view up the lake from the Villa.

It was a stunning garden.
A walk back down to water level (about a 20 min walk).  The legs were pretty weary by this stage, so we decided to get the ferry back. (Have walked about 10km today).  A short wait for the ferry so a peaceful drink with a beautiful view.

Villa Balbianello is on the peninsula between the tree and lamp pole, going from the shore up to the top  (obscured by trees from the angle below).

A ferry road home for some weary travellers.

Our journey comes to an end as we prepare for our flight home tomorrow night.  We shall spend the day in the city of Como.  So should be still more to come tomorrow, depending where WiFi is available.
Bye for now.

1 comment:

  1. this one is George's house