Trip Over to Lenno from Como
An Explorer’s Paradise – Villa del Balbianello
We had been told this villa was magnificent to visit by Milan, our driver from Como Limousines on the drive in from Milan to Como, and having seen Villa del Balbianello standing majestically on a beautifully terraced peninsula as the ferry passed by on a trip on Lake Como the previous week, it was firmly put on the list of things to see.
The ferry trip from Como to Lenno takes 30 minutes on the fast hydrofoil, or a relaxing 90 minutes on the regular ferry sipping coffee, or wine, from the ferry’s bar, taking photos as you pass the many magnificent villas on the edge of the lake and pull in to all the village ferry stops along the way. Then Villa del Balbianello comes into view. The ferry passes close by the Villa as it turns in towards the Lenno ferry wharf.
After getting off the ferry turn left and follow the road around to the path leading up to the Villa, stopping for lunch in one of the beautiful lakeside restaurants along the way. Then wind your way up the well sign posted path through the forest to the main gates. Or you can arrive at the villa by boat on a private tour or water taxi, you will pass the water shuttle on the way to the woodland path. It is possible to visit the gardens without a guide, but to go inside the buildings there are regular guided tours to join.
Villa del Balbianello was built in 1787 on the site of a Franciscan monastery, the towers you can see from the lake are the campanili of the church. The cardinal left the villa to his nephew, who later sold it to the Arconati family, who over a few generations transformed it into a serene summer residence. But as the family started to die off the buildings fell into a state of neglect until American businessman Butler Ames bought it in 1919 and renovated the villa and its garden. In 1974, Ames’s heirs sold the villa to the leader of the first Italian expedition to climb Mt Everest, Milanese businessman and explorer, Guido Monzino who filled it with rich collections, including artifacts acquired on his expeditions to the North Pole, China and South America.
Guido Monzino, who died in 1988, asked for his ashes to be placed in a little out building in the grounds overlooking his beloved lake, and he left the villa to the National Trust of Italy who set about cataloguing his collections, maps and books, then opened the villa as a museum. (Thank you Guido). The guide can show secret passage ways through the building that lead down to a waiting boat in the boat shelter, built in case a hasty escape was required, from what, or who??? All very James Bond……….
Monzino was very particular about the garden and the view, all the large plane trees pruned to look like very ornate candelabras and the old oak trees are trimmed into a mushroom dome shape so the lake can be seen from all windows in the villa. He has a snake on his coat of arms so some of the vines growing on the building are trimmed to resemble snakes.
Villa del Balbianello was the hospital in Casino Royale where James Bond (Daniel Craig) recuperated after being tortured in 2006. He should have been more decisive about whether he wanted that last Martini shaken or stirred, he recovered well though and – spoiler alert – he got the girl and off they went to have a fabulous time in Venice!?!
Itinerary for Trip Over to Italy – Milan, Como and Venice
Qantas flight (Emirates code share) to Milan (Malpensa) from Sydney via Dubai
Stayed in Milan, Airbnb, for a week before going to Como
Picked up in Milan by Como Limousines and driven to Como
Stayed in Como, Airbnb, for 3 weeks
Picked up in Como by Como Limousines and driven to Venice
In Venice, water taxi to Al Ponte Antico Hotel for 3 nights and water taxi back
Picked up in Venice by Como Limousines and driven back to Como
Picked up in Como by Como Limousines and driven back to Milan (Malpensa) Airport
Qantas flight (Emirates code share) to Sydney via Dubai