Villas and Gardens

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Villas and Gardens 2017-05-18T14:15:32+02:00


The villa was built at the close of the 17th century for Marquis Giorgio Clerici following the canons of late Lombard Baroque, with a symmetrical design that still dominates the front area with the Arion of Methymna fountain basin, the terraces with the famous collection of planted citrus trees, and the stone staircases. The formal layout was partly reworked in 1801, when the property passed to G.B. Sommariva, a collector of Neoclassical works of art, some of which can still be admired in the Museum. Sommariva transformed large areas of the gardens by adopting the new canons of the English-style garden and placing the old formal garden in a varied rural setting. The next owners, Princess Marianne von Nassau (1843) and her daughter Charlotte, who married Duke Georg II von Sachsen-Meiningenin 1850, continued along these lines. The longitudinal avenues were decorated with rhododendrons and azaleas, which are still a major attraction of the gardens in the spring. Other well-known features are of the same period: the ‘Old Garden’ with the ‘Waterfall of the Dwarves’, the ‘Valley of the Ferns’, the ‘Rhododendron Wood’ and therock garden. The most recent innovations include ‘The Bamboo Garden’ and the Museum of Farm Implements.The modern aspect of the complex has stayed the same: it did not even change when the management was assigned to a non-profit corporation headed by Count Giuseppe Bianchini in 1927. Over the years, Villa Carlotta has built up are fined and rich botanical garden: a census carried out in 2008 recorded the presence of 800 species and varieties ,with over 1,000 trees (over which towers an enormous Pseudotsu gamenziesii or Douglas fir) and as many shrubs, including400 camelias, 250 rhododendrons and 200 roses.

Villa Carlotta

Via Regina, 2 – 22019 Tremezzo, Como
Tel. (+39) 0344 40405

Opening Time

14th March – 28 March and 20th October 9th November

Opening Time:
10.00 a.m. – 6.00 p.m.
(last ticket 5 p.m.) (museum closure 5.30 p.m.)

29th March – 19th October

Opening Time:
9.00 a.m. – 7.30 p.m.
(last ticket 6 p.m.) (museum closure 6.30 p.m.)


€ 9,00 Adult
€ 7,00 Senior Over 65
€ 5,00 Student (valid document)
free entrance Children under 6
€ 20,00 Family (2 parents + 2 children)
€ 7,00 Parties min. 20 persons
€ 3,50 Parties min. 20 persons schools

Balbianello Villa

The Balbianello complex is one of the most harmonious examples of the villa and garden, whose fascination derives

from the overall effect rather than any particular detail. Situated on Dosso di Lavedo, one of the few promontories

on Lake Como, the villa dates to the 18th century, the period that saw the explosion of the sociocultural phenomenon known as the “pleasure-house”. In this case, the genius loci was the Milanese cardinal Angelo M. Durini who, after spending long periods abroad as papal nuncio, decided to spend his last years in one of the most pleasant places in Lombardy, with the “Lake of Diana” (Gulf of Campo) on one side and the “Lake of Venus” (Lenno) on the other. Although he already owned Villa del “Balbiano”, the prelate wanted an almost isolated site, where he could receive frivolous personages, but also

philosophers and men of letters like Abbot Parini, who dedicated an ode entitled “Gratitude” to him.

The place was enhanced also by its subsequent owners: the Porro Lambertenghi and Arconati Visconti families, and the explorer Guido Monzino who donated it to the Italian Fund for the Environment (FAI) in 1988. The garden’s role was as important as that of the house, but it could not adhere to formal post-Baroque principles because the

natural setting was unsuitable for this.

A landscape layout was adopted, which is still maintained today. The arboreal

heritage is impressive: ilex, plane, magnolia, cypress, pine, beech trees, some of which sculpted in topiary. There is no lack of scented plants (Wisteria and Osmanthus) and everyone admires the Ficus pumila in the portico beneath

which it is said that Durini liked to sit and sip his coffee.

Villa del Balbianello

Via Comoedia 5, 22016 Lenno (CO)
Info: +39 0344 56110

Opening Time

From mid-March: 10.00–18.00

Open every day, except Mondays and Wednesdays (unless bank holidays)

Entry to the garden is still possible up to 17.15

Last entry in the Villa 16.30



Adults: € 8.00

4-14 years old: € 4.00

0-4 years old: free entrance

Garden and Villa with guided tour:

Adults: €17.00

4-14 years old: € 8.50

0-4 years old: free entrance

Gallio Palace

After obtaining the “Feudo delle Tre Pievi” (a feud composed of the three parishes Sorico, Dongo and Gravedona)

in 1580, the powerful and wealthy Cardinal Tolomeo Gallio, who already owned several Como properties, commissioned a talented architect (Pellegrino Tibaldi?) to design a new palazzo on the upper lake, according

to political and strategic rather than aesthetic criteria. The “feudal” palazzo-

castle was erected in 1586; it was right on the water and dominated the entire north end of the lake, with Monte Legnone opposite, and the Val Chiavenna and Valtellina not far away. Nevertheless, there were “gardens,

fountains and ponds” on the property from the very beginning, as recorded

on the marble plaque beneath the portico facing the lake. Inherited by the Dukes of Alvito, the palazzo later passed through the hands of several owners, and is now the property of the Comunità Montana Alto Lario Occidentale.

The edifice has always been bounded

on one side by the lake, and the ancient Strada Regina on the other. Consequently, the gardens are composed of three sections: one in front of the entrance and the other two on either side, the section on the left being connected by a flight of steps to the private dock. Through the centuries,

much of what must have been created

in a formal style has been replaced by English-style flowerbeds and trees,

large conifers, magnolias and camelias. However, the upper, or entrance, garden still has trees incompatible with Renaissance models (the two Magnolia grandiflora on either side of the steps), the layout has remained formal, especially the central walk with box hedges and a fountain basin decorated with herbaceous perennials.

Palazzo Gallio

Via Regina Levante 2
22015 Gravedona
tel. 0344 85218
fax 0344 85237

Opening time

Open from Monday to Friday

from 9.30 am to 4.30 pm


Free admission

Villa Giulini Park

Around the mid-14th century, the Erba family, flourishing from the 12th century on, settled in Como. Alessandro Erba married Lucrezia, the daughter of Livio Odescalchiand sister of Pope Innocent XI, who bore him a son, Antonio Maria Baldassarre. The boy was adopted by Livio Odescalchion condition that he added this surname to his own (1709). The Erba family entered the Milanese patriciate in 1676, and became Marquises in 1684. The family had owned houses and land in Breccia and Lazzago since the beginning of the 16th century, and in 1617 they already possessed a “property in Lazzago with manor house, garden, press and dovecote”. The impressive villa built on Baroque lines was acquired in 1836 by the Counts Giulini (from Lake Como), who continued to look after and stay at their property in Lazzago even after they had moved to Germany. Besides the main villa, the complex consists of various service buildings, a roccolo (fowler’s hut), an oldice-house, a small church (S. Grato) and a 14th-century farmstead (‘Tre Camini’), which belonged to the Mugiasca family. The ornamental area is composed of two gardens. The formal one surrounds the villa and was remodelled in the second half of the 20th century, following the geometric rules of the Baroque style, but with some informal elements. The landscape garden was probably created on a modest scale halfway through the 19th century, and then enlargedun til it merged with the vast wood that covers the hill behind. The oldest trees (Magnolia grandiflora, Cedrus deodara,Platanus x acerifolia) are located to the west of the building, while the undulating ground towards the roccolo was exploited by planting exotic conifers and striking broad-leafed trees like linden, horse chestnut and red oak.

Villa Giulini

Via Lazzago 21 – 22100 Como
tel. 031.521300
fax 031 524630

Opening Time

from March to October


Guided tours by appointment only

Villa Saporiti

Although of Austrian origin, Leopold Pollack was one of the most prominent Lombard architects at the end of the18th and the beginning of the 19th century. After working on many private and public buildings (Villa Reale in Milan), from 1780-90 he devoted himself energetically to designing English-style gardens in Bergamo and Varese, and throughout the Como area. Between 1790 and 1793, he was asked to draw up plans for a villa on the Como-Borgovico lakefront for Marquess Eleonora Villani née Doria, which quite possibly made his reputation due to the originality of the design characterized by the large oval drawing room projecting from the main building. Thus the villa was called ‘La Rotonda’, the name it is known by in the history of civil architecture. The curved drawing room is the most interesting part of the design, since the elegant yet formal interioris off set by the exterior with its sober almost graceful pure Neoclassical lines. The curved shape of the drawing room, which is almost right on the lake shore, blends seamlessly with the narrow garden linking the building and the lake. The short parterres and flower beds with various tree species rising up on either side, charmingly frame the tranquil and captivating Como landscape. The floral composition consists mostly in evergreen shrubs interspersed with lovely clusters of camellias. The villa has not only welcomed a Russian tsar but also Napoleon, Joséphine and Eugène de Beauharnais, and the emperor’s entire entourage. The property passed from the Villani-Novati to the Rocca-Saporiti family, and then to the Marquises Gropallo, who sold it to the Provincial Administration of Como. The garden of Villa Saporiti is directly connected with the near garden of Villa Gallia.

Villa Saporiti

Via Borgovico 150 – 22100 Como
tel. 031 230816

Opening time

subject to telephone booking

Villa Gallia

On the ruins of the elegant residence known as ‘Il Museo’, erected by Paolo Giovio between 1537 and 1543 to house hisportrait collection, Marco Gallio built a villa (later named ‘LaGallia’) in 1615, in order to symbolically mark a place steeped in artistic and cultural memories. Marco had followed his uncle, the cardinal and humanist Tolomeo Gallio, to Rome but wanted to spend his last years in Borgovico where he chose to erect this suburban villa which, as attested by a plaque, was enhanced “by gardens and fountains”. ‘La Gallia’ and its ornamental areas have survived the centuries, although they were substantially altered in the course of the19th century when the complex passed to the baron Sabino Leonino, who restored it and also built a private dock and stables. Originally laid out according to the strictest formal canons, the upper garden was redone in the same style by the architect Lodovico Pogliaghi at the beginning of the 20th century, when the property was owned by the Crespi family (1901). It was then that a Victorian conservatory was incorporated, eliminated in 1963 when a school was built. ‘La Gallia’ passed to the Como Provincial Administration in 1957 and is now used for institutional purposes. In the upper section, all that can be admired today is the layout of the mosaic pathleading to the 18th-century nymphaeum clad with coloured tesserae, vaguely remembering the ‘Mosaic’ at the Villa d’Este. Instead, the area overlooking the lake is characterized by a mixture of formality, created by the flower beds bordered by cypresses in front of the building, and an informal touch achieved with palms and shrubs and small flowering bushes, such as holly, arbutus, bay, evergreen magnolia and camelia. The garden of Villa Gallia is directly connected with the near garden of Villa Saporiti.

Villa Gallia

Via Borgovico 148 – 22100 Como
tel. 031.230816

Opening time

subject to telephone booking

Gera Lario and San Vincenzo Church

Gera Lario is a small village at the top end of the Alto Lario west bank. It is situated at the mouth of the torrent Gera at the foot of Montemezzo. Today it is one of the most favourite destinations for tourists who enjoy water-sports. There are private and public facilities such as the new lido and the new port to allow the practise of these sports. It is believed that the name ‘Gera’ derives from the Greek word “leréus”, priest, suggesting the presence of a place of worship. This village was founded in the vicinity of Olonio and was used by the Spanish troops as a military base during the battles against the Grigioni of Valtellina. In 1482 the village gained ecclesiastical autonomy from Sorico. A series of feuds between the Tre Pievi ensued then becoming county of Tolomeo Gallio in 1580. This was until 1620 when during Spanish domination, even administrative autonomy was obtained by Gera. On the houses facing the only square along the Strada Regina and shaded by secular plane trees, there are still traces of frescoes dated XVI and XVII century.

San Vincenzo Church

The old fishermen’s village of Sorico is situated on the north-western bank of Lake Como and was founded in 1432 after Olonio, a Roman founded centre of the Pian di Spagna was for the umpteenth time destroyed by the overflowing of the river Mera. Its communal territory stretches from the river Mera which joins to Lake Mezzola, as far as Pian di Spagna and since ancient times has been a passageway and a place of commercial trading. Because of its strategic position, at the top end of the lake and at the entrance of Valtellina and Val Chiavenna, it was part, together with Dongo and Gravedona of the County of the Upper Tre Pievi of the Lario and during the ten-year war between Como and Milan it allied with the latter. During medieval times the whole area was rich with towers used not only to patrol better the territory but also to collect toll money. A century tower can be found near the bridge over the river Mera, another called “Castello di Sorico” was in the area once named “Dazzam” now recognized as the hamlet Dascio but the most ancient and the most famous was the tower “of Olonio”, built in a strategic position where the roads from Valtellina and Val Chiavenna merge. This tower was at length contested for and finally destroyed in 1523.

Church of Sants Gusmeo and Matteo

In the year 286 at Octodorum, today Martigny, Maximilian ordered the slaughter of the Tebea legion since it had refused sacrificing to the Gods. Only some people and among them Carpoforo, Esante, Cassio, Licinio Severo, Gusmeo and Matteo succeeded in escaping to Milan but there they were recognized as Christian so they were captured and imprisoned. Fortunately Fedele, the jailor who had just been converted to Christianity, opened them the door of the prison. This way they could take shelter in Como, precisely in Salvetta at the foot of the Baradello. When Maximilian got acquainted with the fact, he ordered to his men to go and try to convince them to worship the Gods or otherwise to kill them without pity. The fugitives were informed of his intention so they decided to separate: Licinio, Carpoforo, Esante and Cassio stayed in Como whereas Fedele fled to Samolaco and Gusmeo and Matteo fled to Gravedona. Of course, the men of Maximilian reached them and cut their head off since they still refused to give their faith up. Some pitiful Christians buried them exactly on the place of death.

In September 1248 the two martyrs’ remains were found and just there a church was built so that the Christians of the lake and of far away places could come and pray the saints. Because of natural reasons the place where the remains had been laid was forgotten until 1593 when Mons. Niguarda put them into a copper case. Only in 1637 they were laid under the main altar as they can be found now. On the beautiful urn made of white marble the following inscription was written: “The corpses of the martyrs St. Gusmeo and St. Matteo lie here, whom were taken from the middle of the temple by Mons. Lazaro Carafino, Bishop in Como, in 1637”. As we previously wrote, the church was initially built in 1248 when the corpses were found. It looked a bit like the church of S. Maria del Tiglio but it was smaller and less elegant. In fact, in 1530 it was decided to have it enlarged so in 1533 the works began.

In 1606 Giovanni Mauro della Rovere, called the Fiammenghino, painted the valuable “God Father in the Glory” among angels, the three big paintings in the chorus showing the martyrdom and the invention of the Saint Martyrs. On the wall on the left: “The Predication of Saints Gusmeo and Matteo”, in the middle “the Martyrdom” and on the right “The Recognition of the Corpses”. The sacristy was ended in 1609, the bell tower dates back to 1616-17, the pronaos and the main door date back to the XVIII c. The Church remembers the two martyrs on 11th September.

Villa Melzi

The Gardens of Villa Melzi strech out along the lake shore and are armoniously inserted into the hilly scenery of the Bellagio peninsula that divides the two branches of Lario lake.

Inland, the Villa, the Chapel and the orangery, today transformed into a historical museum, are splendid expression of neo-classical style and as such stated

national monument.

This architectural complex was realized between 1808 and 1810 for Francesco Melzi d’Eril (1753-1816), Duke of Lodi, Vice President of Italian Republic under Napoleon and afterwards Gran Chancellor of the Napoleonic Reign of Italy.

Francesco Melzi d’Eril relied upon the architect and decorator Giocondo Albertolli (1742-1839), an exponent of great importance in neo-classicism,

asking for a villa looking sober and polished whose simples lines and volumes would emphasize the surrounding amazing countryside.

The Villa that became the Melzi’s residence at the end of his political career and afterwards his summer residence until his death was decorated and furnished by some of the most famous artists of the age: as well as along with Giocondo Albertolli author of the great part of furniture and inside decorations, are to be noted the painters Andrea Appiani (1754-1817) and Giuseppe Bossi (1777-1815), Alessandro Sanquirico (1777-1849) and the sculptors Antonio Canova (1757-1822), Giambattista Comolli (1775-1830), Pompeo Marchesi (1789-1858), as well as the bronze sculptor Luigi Manfredini (1771-1840).

The English styled gardens, enriched with sculptures, was designed by the architect Luigi Canonica and by the botanist Luigi Villoresi, both responsible for the arrangement of Villa Reale park in Monza.

Through the contribution of great artists and artisans and the special concordance between them and Francesco Melzi the whole complex was shaped like a place of rare harmony and was admired, among the others, by Stendhal who described its beauty in his book “Rome, Naples, Florence” dated 1817.

Villa Monastero

Villa Monastero, a property of the Province of Lecco, is one of the most interesting attractions of our territory thanks to its strategic location, its history, its landscape, its environment and for the different services which it can offer. The House Museum, the historical and noble residence, is at its core: in the year 2004 Villa Monastero was given the title of “Casa Museo” by the Lombardy Region and since then its fourteen rooms can be visited following a charming itinerary.

Villa Monastero is also an international Conference Centre where, in the year 1954, the Nobel prize winner Enrico Fermi held some lessons. The Villa offers rooms and facilities to hold meetings, conferences, seminars, training activities, workshops and cultural events in an unforgettable, beautiful setting.

Every year the Italian Society of Physics organizes its prestigious courses at the Villa Monastero. The Villa is surrounded by a spectacular and fascinating botanical Garden which extends for two kilometres from Varenna to Fiumelatte; it is visited yearly by about 65.000 people and offers recreation and learning opportunities thanks to the presence of many botanical species, both indigenous and exotic.