Balbianello , Villa Balbianello! A difficult name to remind, a difficult name to spell but a wonderful location impossibile to forget!!!
Lake Como is worldwide well known for its many elegant Villas that make it so romantic, most of them are located along its western shore from Como up to the Centro Lago the Center Lake and Villa Balbianello is right there, few kilometers after the Isola Comacina and the Zoca de l’Oli. Balbianello has a special position, it seems to jump in the water of the lake with all its beauty and uniqueness.Its architecture is the result of the transformation of a previous franciscan convent, that’s why its original facade with the old bell towers and a small fresco representing St Francis. The elegant Loggia stands out in the middle of the garden, a garden which is not a usual one, so different from any other you could admire along the lake shores. Villa Balbianello’s one is amazing, elegant, different, refined, well-finished in one word it is unique in its structure and style, you can’t consider it English, Italian style because it was especially designed for this Villa, for its position, for the surrounding landscape and view! When you walk in it you get stuned by the more panoramic points it has, each corner offers you detailed and special views of the magnificent lake, of the beautufilu trees and plants that are there creating a whole with the elegant structure of the house. The big green oak and camphore trees are uncommonly pruned like umbrellas, the old candelabra shaped sycamores are amazing alive sculptures, the Mediterranean palm and laurel trees charcaterized the southern side instead the strong pines seem to protect the gorgeous Loggia and the “private garden” the most beutiful terrace facing Lake Como!!!
The Villa houses some precious art and furniture collections that were placed here by the last private owner of Balbianello: Mr Guido Monzino. Before him the Villa was property of the Cardinal Angelo Maria Durini who built it athe end of the XVIII cent, later it was acquired by his nephew Lugi Porro Lambertenghi, this was the period when the impornat Italian writer Silvio Pellico stayed there , later cardinal’s nephew old the Villa to the noble Milanese family Arconati Visconti who had it for a long time till the beginning of the last century to then become an American property with the Ames. Mr Guido Monziono is without any doubt its maost influent owner, we have to thank him who decided to give to the Italian National Trust, called FAI, if we are able to enter and discover this astonishing location. Monzino was one of the most meaningful Italian mountain climbers and explorer, I can say that he made a piece of the Italian mountaineering history. In effect it is enough to think about two of his glorious expeditions: 1971 North Ple and 1973 Everest, the lattest was the first successful Italian climbing of the Everest! A great mission ! I get a little sad when I think that such a person is not so well known and commemorted in Italy.
Each room of the property tells us about him, but above all the special attic that he specially built to gather the many objects, mementos, pictures, tools, equipments of his expeditions; it is not so usual to see an original sled used to cross Greenland and reach the North Pole in 1971, the oxygen tanks, the ropes, the ice ax used to climb to the top of Mount Everest, 8848mt, in 1973!!! Unbelievable!
Unfortunately I had not the chance to meet Mr Monzino in person, he died in 1988 when I was not yet a professional tourist guide, but I was lucky enough to meet at the beginning of my training as guide the couple who used to be the keepers of this magnificent residence when Mr Monzino was still alive and loved to spend here most of his time. It’s also thanks to them and their teachings if I immeditely fell in love with this Villa. It is here where I did my first service as licensed tourist guide I still remember how excited I was and how satisfied as well! That’s also why I love so much Balbianello and I consider it the best Villa to be visited at Lake Como, it has everything you expect to find in an ancient property of the lake: great position with breathtaking views, an iteresting story, a charming and a bit misterious owner, precious collections, a beautiful and perfectly cared garden, rare trees and plants, romantic atmosphere, unique set!
“Villa Balbianello will be my last expedition”… thanks Guido Monzino.
By Daniela Rampoldi Official Tourist Guide Lake Como District
Pictures by Daniela Rampoldi