Fans of the Bond movies will recognise the terrace of the Villa del Balbianello on the shores of Lake Como as the location for the hospital where Daniel Craig’s Bond is recuperating in Casino Royale. It was also a film location for Star Wars II: Attack of the Clones. But when we visited it was to see the elegant terraced gardens, gaze at the spectacular Lake views and to covet the antique statuary.
Visitors can walk from the nearest ferry stop, or arrive by boat to the steep landing steps. Climb through beautiful gardens to the Villa which sits atop a high, wooded promontory looking to the right towards Como town and to the left towards Bellagio.
Built towards the end of the 18th century on the ruins of a Franciscan monastery, the last private owner was Count Guido Monzino who was responsible for extensive renovations. On his death, ownership was transferred to the Italian ‘national trust’, the Fondo Ambiente Italiano.
It is incredibly picturesque and cleverly landscaped in terraces to accommodate the sharply rising land. There are lush gardens, with paths culminating at the beautiful, triple arched loggia and the Villa itself. Dotted throughout is a wonderful collection of garden urns and antique statues looking out over the stunning Lake Como.
The Inspiring Villa Melzi
If you too are inspired by visiting beautiful landscape designs, then the shores of Lake Como are full of real delights.
In Bellagio, a five-minute walk along the shoreline from town, is the 19thC Villa Melzi whose English style gardens are a National Monument. There are botanical gardens, graceful parkland, pools, garden statues and of course wonderful vistas across the Lake.
And above the town of Bellagio is the Park of Villa Serbelloni whose gardens are only accessible with a guided tour.
Across the lake from Bellagio
A hop on the ferry directly across from Bellagio is the late 17thC Villa Carlotta. The villa is open to the public and contains a superb collection of antique garden statues. Famous for its azaleas in Springtime, the extensive botanical gardens are a mass of vivid colours and are arranged in various styles, including a formal Italianate garden with clipped hedges, fountains and statues. Architectural antique stone balustrades and steps separate the levels between rose-clad stone walls. Tunnels of brightly coloured citrus fruits and abundant camelias cascading down monumental stairways.
And finally, the Villa Monastero on the eastern shore of the Lake at Varenna has more than one thousand species of plants, flowers and trees alongside wonderful architectural antiques.