Another one to tick off the Bucket List.
In our living area at home we have two large Howard Behrens prints of Lake Como - one of the Bellagio Promenade and the other one is of the Villa Balbianello. These prints got us talking years ago and we decided that one day we'd go to Lake Como. On our last trip to this region we walked along the Promenade at Bellagio and sailed past the Villa. Today we visited the Villa Balbianello.
We walked down to the dock this morning and bought tickets for the ferry. We usually manage to time things well and today was no different. Within a couple of minutes our ferry arrived, so we piled on with our fellow tourists and sailed along Lake Como once more. We stopped in at Bellagio and Tremezzo and got off the ferry at Lenno.
Internet research had revealed that it was all very confusing as to how to get to the Villa from Lenno - so we didn't quite know what to expect. We needn't have worried though, it was pretty straight forward.
It was another sunny, hot and steamy day today - so the walk from the ferry was a bit uncomfortable, but the setting was so idyllic - it didn't matter. We walked around the Promenade and then up into a heavily wooded area - a forest would be a good name for it. Uphill we walked (again!), and actually got quite high up. The view through the trees was spectacular. We then levelled off and continued in a downward direction. The Villa Balbianello sits on a point with views to Bellagio, Varenna and surrounding towns - a perfect spot. We arrived and bought our tickets - for the gardens and also a tour of the Villa. We had time for a quick look at the gardens before our guided tour of the Villa started at 12.20pm.
This was a brilliant little tour. The tour guide - Luisa - was a real card with a great sense of humour, a good command of the English language with an Italian accent that you couldn't cut through! The Villa and the Loggia were built in the last years of the 1700's. The Loggia is a separate building - two rooms connected with a roof and arches to let the breeze through and to provide stunning views from both sides. A Ficus plant was planted about 180 years ago, this grew and attached itself to the pillars of the arches and has been trimmed to perfection. It is still the original plant.
There have been several owners, but the most recent owner and the man to make so many changes to the Villa was Guido Monzino - a prominent Milanese businessman, fervent collector and a dedicated explorer. This guy was astounding. He led numerous expeditions in his lifetime - one to the North Pole. He also climbed Mt. Everest in 1973. Monzino died very young of a heart attack at the age of 60 in 1988. He had never married - he was too busy, and probably no woman would have put up with him. He left the Villa to FAI - Fondo Ambiente Italiano - the Italian National Trust. He also provided enough funds to maintain the Villa after his death so that the property could be well maintained into the future.
We were taken in to all the rooms of the Villa - it was fascinating. Guido Monzino's instructions were that things were to be kept exactly as he'd left them. That is exactly what has happened. In his office there is an opened packet of cigarettes on his desk - the packet that he never finished. In his bar there are bottles of spirits half full. His library contains more than 4,000 books on expeditions and explorers. In the attic is a collection of his exploration gear including the sled that he used on his trip to the North Pole. He has collected exquisite pieces of furniture from all over the world. I could go on and on - but will consolidate by saying that our visit to the Villa Balbianello was absolutely enthralling. At the end of our 1 hour tour - we spent about half an hour walking all through the gardens and admiring the beautiful views - just outstanding on a beautiful sunny day.
We made our way back to Lenno and had lunch and a beer in a cafe right on the water - really pleasant, enjoying the cool breeze coming in off the lake. We walked back to the dock in the blazing sun - and about a minute later, our ferry arrived. Stopping off once again at Tremezzo, Villa Carlotta, San Giovanni, Bellagio, and finally Varenna.
Today has been so hot and humid that we turned the air-conditioning on when we got back to our apartment. It's hard to believe that in 3 days we'll be back in wintery Perth.
We spent a bit of time tonight getting ourselves organised - and started to pack up our gear. Realisation has hit us - that this adventure of ours is coming to an end.
Lake Como - photo taken from the Villa Balbianello.
Selfie - in the grounds of the Villa Balbianello.
Beautiful sculptures surround the Villa Balbianello.
The Holm Oak trees in the grounds of Villa Balbianello provide amazing shade.
Another view of the Loggia in the Villa Balbianello - Lake Como.
Originally a church when the Villa was built by a wealthy Cardinal - it was converted in to a kitchen.
The walk to the Villa Balbianello - Lake Como.
Lenno - Lake Como. Photo was taken from the Villa Balbianello.
Photo of a photo - Guido Monzino during his trek to the North Pole in 1971.
Photo of a photo - this is how gardeners trim the Holm Oak trees on the estate. They come up from under the branches and trim from there.
Photo of a photo - Monzino's office in his Villa.
Photo of a photo - the display in the attic of the Villa Balbianello. Monzino's sled is in the centre of the room - fascinating.
Photo of a photo - the Library in the Loggia.
Photo of a photo - this is the Villa Balbianello - Lake Como.
Lunch on the Lake - at Lenno.
The Loggia at the Villa Balbianello.
The Loggia at the Villa Balbianello - Lake Como.
The ficus plant that over 180 years has firmly established itself around the columns on the Loggia.
The final resting place of Guido Monzino - an unobtrusive cross adorns the wall.
This little hut on the estate of the Villa Balbianello is where the late Guido Monzino lies.
The grounds of the Villa Balbianella - Lake Como.
A perfectly trimmed Holm Oak tree in the grounds of the Villa Balbianello.
Stunning view of the gardens and Lake Como - in the grounds of the Villa Balbianello.