Villa del Balbianello is one of a number of elegant historic villas that sit directly on the water’s edge at Lake Como. On the tip of a small promontory on the lake’s western shore, Balbianello is particularly lovely, with luxurious interiors, scenic loggia, beautiful gardens, and romantic lake views.
The villa was built in 1787 on the site of a Franciscan monastery, but by the early 20th century the buildings and grounds had fallen into a state of neglect. American businessman Butler Ames bought and refurbished the villa in 1919, creating the elaborate terraced gardens that you can see today. In 1974 Italian explorer Count Guido Monzino purchased the villa and decorated it with collections of Chinese and African art, French furniture, and other artifacts from his expeditions before leaving the estate to the FAI (Italy’s National Trust) upon his death in 1988.
By far the best way to appreciate the estate is by taking a guided tour that offers insights into the history of the villa and explores both the impressive interiors and the extensive gardens. Consider opting for a private tour that combines Villa del Balbianello with visits to Villa Melzi and Villa Carlotta, also on the shores of Lake Como.
Things to Know Before You Go
Villa del Balbianello and its beautiful grounds are especially interesting for avid gardeners and photographers.
If you are joining a tour of Lake Como’s villas, be sure to wear comfortable shoes and dress for the weather.
Parts of the villa and gardens are accessible to wheelchair users, but many tours include access on foot and by taxi boat, which may not be suitable for those with limited mobility or a wheelchair.
How to Get There
The most scenic way to approach Villa del Balbianello is on foot from Lenno, a 25-minute walk with excellent views of the lake as well as over the towns of Tremezzo and Lenno. You can also take a small-group boat tour or water taxi from Lenno, Varenna, Sala Comacina, Ossuccio, or one of the other towns along the lake shore.
When to Get There
Villa del Balbianello is open on Tuesday and Thursday through Sunday. Spring and fall are the best seasons to visit, as the gardens are verdant and can be enjoyed without the summer crowds.
Villa del Balbianello and Hollywood
This dramatic villa has been used as a location for a number of movies, including Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones and the James Bond film Casino Royale.