Posted by: debrakolkka | May 2, 2010

Villa del Balbianello

Villa Balbianello from the boat

This Villa on the western shore of Lake Como was the most beautiful I saw on my 2 visits to Lake Como.  It is near the town of Lenno and before I describe its many attributes I will pass on some instructions on how to get to Villa del Balbianello.

First of all, it is closed on Mondays and Wednesdays.  On Tuesdays, Saturdays and Sundays you can walk to the Villa via a very pretty path and then the road to the point of the Dosso di Lavedo, a wooded promontory that juts out to form a small peninsula.  On Thursdays (the day we were there) and Fridays you must arrive by boat.  Unfortunately we didn’t read the tiny signs on the closed gates in the park and started trudging along the road.  We spotted another tiny sign telling us we needed to take the boat, so back we went to the beach.  There was little signage indicating where the boat might be, but we saw a possible suspect arriving at the beach to pick up some waiting passengers and headed in that direction.

the path to Balbianello

This sign is not big!

It was a great way to arrive at the Villa – go on  Thursday or Friday.  We soon forgave the confusion when we came round the point and got our first close up view of the beautiful gardens.

arriving at the villa


Monzino’s snake Coat of Arms

The last owner of Villa Balbianello was Guido Monzino, a very wealthy entrepreneur who doubled as an explorer and mountaineer.  He acquired the property in 1974 and restructured the buildings and the magnificent garden.   He redecorated the Villa, adding English and French antique furniture.  He collected Oriental carpets, Ming and Tang porcelain, exotic African, Chinese, Mayan and Aztec objects.  He also built a museum in the attic to exhibit the trappings from his expeditions to the North Pole and the first Italian ascent of Mount Everest.  These things are all able to be seen on a guided tour of the house.  It takes quite a long time but it is fascinating.

When he died in 1988 he left the Villa, along with most of the Dosso di Lavedo, to the FAI, along with enough money to maintain the property.  His ashes are buried in the ancient ice cavern near the lake.

The garden is a combination of formal Italian and English style.  Tall plane trees pruned in candelabra style line the path that leads up from the lake through grassy slopes.  2 very old oak trees are hand pruned into domes – aparently Monzino didn’t want his view of Bellagio interrupted and had the tree in front of his office window trimmed.  The other one is done to match. Who could blame him for that?

plane tree pruned in candelabra style

the 200 year old tree – hand pruned each November

the snake theme continues

the loggia offering views up and down the lake

the climbing fig is trimmed in the snake motif

the old church which is now part of the house

wisteria in bloom

where the boat comes in

not a bad view

steps up from the lake



pretty fresco over the old church door

The garden also contains beautiful specimens of holmoaks, camphor trees, magnolias and cypresses as well as azaleas, rhododendrons and wisteria which burst into bloom in late spring.  The villa has been used as a setting for several films, including A Month by the Lake, Star Wars and one of the James Bond movies.  It is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen.

huge rhododendrons near the villa

Thank you Guido Monzino!

The boat cost 6 euro return and the ticket which includes the garden and house tour cost 11 euro.  If you book ahead it is slightly less.  Allow yourselves a few hours here to really enjoy it.

Please check the details on how to get there before you go.  It can be quite confusing.

an interesting way to take to the lake

welcoming visitors


  1. Never known it is sooooo beautiful out there. Thanks to you we know where we want to go!

  2. Never known it is sooooo beautiful out there. Thanks to you we know where we want to go!

  3. What a stunning location! I’m amazed that one man could be so creative and leave a legacy for visitors to enjoy. Yes, thank you indeed, Guido Monzino! You are fortunate to have that experience – must be hard to leave that behind. At least, we can look and admire from afar, thanks to your beautiful photos, Deb.

  4. Your pictures Debra are so good they look unreal!
    Beautiful place!!!
    You are lucky to be there!
    Enjoy my friend!

  5. Deb, love this one even more than usual. Only sorry Villa del Balbianello was not open when I was there with you late march- will make sure i vist there again one day. Sensational photos – the camera is good but the photographer even better.
    Thank you for sharing yet another special part/place in Italy.
    x di

  6. I am enjoying being a voyeur courtesy of your blog Deb. After reading this I had to look up the history of the Villa. Wikipedia came good so I’ll just add the first bit of history – “the villa was built in 1787 on the site of a Franciscan monastery for the Cardinal Angelo Maria Durini.” Beautiful and interesting.

  7. […] went with my friend Di to Lake Como in March and liked it so much I went back in April with Jim, Laurie and Liz. looking at the Alps […]

  8. So gorgeous! I’d love to visit this Villa, hopefully on one of my next big vacations we can go to Lake Como!! This will be at the top of my list , thanks!

    • Lake Como is gorgeous! My favourite town on the lake is Varenna. We stayed at Villa Cipressi, which I recommend highly.

  9. Thanks For Well Written and Well Explained View About the Villa Balbianello

    When plan to Visit lake Como then Don’t Forget to View the beauty of Villas near by locations…Yes Villa Balbianello most Beautiful villa on the western shore of Lake Como

    If You choose Same place in Your Visiting List while your Vocations to italy then Should Know that Tours are available April to beginning of November and do not operate on Mondays.

    Few Points of interest:
    Bellagio: 15 minutes by boat
    Cernobbio (Villa d’Este), Como: 35 minutes by boat
    Menaggio (golf): 20 minutes by boat…Visit for more infor and Explore them in Details …

    • Thank you for the extra information.

  10. Look up Butler Ames And Pliney the youngers job when he lived there

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