Villa del Balbianello

Lenno, Italy

A Franciscan monastery had existed on the tip of the peninsula of Dosso d'Avedo since the 13th century. The two towers which remain on the property are the campanili of the monastery's church. After failing in his attempts to buy the nearby Isola Comacina Cardinal Angelo Maria Durini purchased the property in 1785. In 1787 he converted the monastery building into a villa for use during the summer and added a loggia, which allowed viewers to otain two different panoramas of the lake.

After the cardinal’s death in 1796, the villa passed to his nephew, Luigi Porro Lambertenghi. During Lambertenghi's ownership the villa became a seat of republican activity and members of the Carbonari met here to discuss the unification of Italy. Among Lambertenghi's guests at the villa were the writer and patriot Silvio Pellico, who tutored Lambertenghi's sons. In 1820 Pellico was arrested at the villa by the Austrian government which forced Lambertenghi to move to Belgium, where he was supported by the Arconati Visconti family.

Lambertenghi subsequently sold the villa to his friend, Giuseppe Arconati Visconti, grandfather of Luchino Visconti. Visconti made improvements to its gardens and the loggia. To this day the balustrade in front of the church bears the Visconti emblem of a serpent with a man in its mouth. During the period of Visconti ownership the villa hosted politicians and writers Giovanni Berchet, Alessandro Manzoni, Giuseppe Giusti, as well as the artist Arnold Böcklin. The gradual decline of the family resulted in a lack of interest in the villa, which for more than 30 years was left to fall into a state of neglect.

Just prior to the commencement of World War I American businessman Butler Ames saw the villa for the first time. He made an offer to purchase it from the Arconati Visconti family and was initially rejected. He kept returning with ever larger cash offers until in 1919 he was successful in obtaining ownership. Ames renovated the villa and its garden.

In 1974, Ames's heirs sold the villa to businessman and explorer Count Guido Monzino (leader of the first Italian expedition to climb Mount Everest. While Monzino left the exterior essentially unchanged he had the interior of the villa completely re-decorated, installing artifacts acquired on his expeditions as well as important pieces of English Georgian and French antique furniture from the 18th and 19th centuries, Beauvais tapestries, French boiseries and Oriental carpets. In addition after the assassination of Aldo Moro in 1978 by the Red Brigade. Monzino worried that he may be on their list, added a system of hidden passages, linking parts of the property.

Monzino died in 1988 and left the villa along with most of the Dosso d'Avedo and an endowment to pay for maintenance, to the Fondo per l'Ambiente Italiano, the National Trust of Italy. Its grounds now form part of the Grandi Giardini Italiani.

Today the Villa del Balbianello is the most visited among the 52 FAI properties with over 90,000 visitors in 2015.

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Address

Via Comoedia 5, Lenno, Italy
See all sites in Lenno

Details

Founded: 1787
Category: Palaces, manors and town halls in Italy

Rating

4.8/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Jordan (5 months ago)
Expect large crowds. Lots of tourist taking photos. Absolutely stunning views. Beautiful villa. One can only imagine what it was like here in the past. Pre-internet days. Yes, it was popularized due to many movies including star wars.
Agnieszka Rybczyńska (5 months ago)
Villa del Balbianello is such a beautiful place that you don't want to leave from there. We had an excellent guide in English who showed us all the nooks of the villa. The ground is so well looked after, I have not seen such care for trees, bushes and other plants anywhere before. The location of the villa is fantastic and Lake Como itself is magnificent.
Philippe Beucler (6 months ago)
Villa Balbianello, built in 1787 on its own peninsula, is a veritable icon, renowned the world over for its exceptional beauty. Its Loggia, immortalized in the film Star Wars Episode 2, adds a touch of magic to an already enchanting setting. Surrounded by century-old trees, the property is impeccably maintained, offering breathtaking views of the lake and the Alps. A true architectural gem, Villa Balbianello is a magical and unique place in the world. Thank you for a wonderful visit, every corner of the villa tells a story of elegance and refinement. Although the night may cost around 1200 EUR, every euro spent is well worth it for this exceptional experience. For the next time ;0) Best regards, #B4YOUDISCOVERY
Irene Banasta (6 months ago)
A fabulous out of this world beautifully villa and experience! Definitely take the tour! Immerse yourself in the life of. 70s Italian explorer, the history and mini-museum feel of the place, and a must for Star Wars or 007 fans!
Gan Zi Le (7 months ago)
This place is absolutely stunning. I went to both the garden and the villa (guided tour), and it was amazing. The villa was huge, great for taking pictures of scenery and yourself. The atmosphere gave out old money vibes, loved it. The tour guide who showed us inside the villa was really friendly and patient with us as well. The only downside was that it was a one hell of a hike before you can reach the destination ( a good workout though). Definitely worth a visit if you’re ever in Lake Como. ?
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