Buongiorno from Lake Como!! Today, we will take you to one of our favourite places, the charming Villa del Balbianello in Lenno, on the western shore of the lake. What makes this place so special to us is not only the beautiful scenery surrounding the Villa but also the charm of the characters who inhabited it. Writers and travellers, who in the Villa found inspiration and who, with their history, keep seducing modern adventurers. Listening to the incredible stories narrated by our guide our minds got filled with wanderlust and, while moving from a room to another, we discovered new countries, lost tribes, ancient rituals and Arctic expeditions.
But let’s start at the beginning. The first building on the Dosso di Lavedo, a lush promontory that plunges into the deep waters of the lake forming a small peninsula, was a Franciscan convent that has been abandoned over the centuries. In the 18th century, at the wish of Cardinal Durini, Villa del Balbianello was built on the ruins of the convent, which can still be seen in the facade of the ancient church and in the two bell towers connected to the house.
The villa changed different owners until 1974 when it became the residence of Guido Monzino, entrepreneur, explorer and mountaineer. The loggia, the library and the map room of the Villa del Balbianello are a journey into the 21 mountain and polar expeditions to which Monzino participated in over a twenty-year span. He hiked the highest peaks of the Alps, the Valtournenche, the Andes, the Himalayas, Greenland and the wild mountains of the African continent.
The interiors are witness to his deep love for adventure. The Villa’s shelves are home to objects coming from far away tribes: Masai, Japanese, Berber, Tibetan, Argentine and over 300 pieces donated by the Arctic people of Inuit. Walking upstairs we found in front of us the sled protagonist of the expedition to the North Pole in 1971, the equipment used during the Italian conquest of Everest in 1973 and the Grand Official of the Cavaliers of the Crusaders medal received for his brave actions. Walking through the Villa we came across African, Pre-Columbian and Cycladic art, Chinese terracotta statuettes dating back to the Tang Dynasty (618-906), English and French furniture from the 18th and 19th centuries and Flemish tapestries.
The Villa has secret passages that allowed Monzino, in suspicious times, to move from the highest level of the house to the jetty. A perfect escape route.
After the tour, we visited the loggia, the Balbianello‘s wonder, overlooking the Tremezzina to the North and to the basin of the Comacina Island to the South. On the floor, the rose of the winds, the symbol of all travellers, was made by Monzino in memory of his adventures. Around us, the picturesque evergreen Ficus Repens surrounds all the columns starting from its single and only root.
Guido Monzino left the Villa as an inheritance to the FAI, the Italian Environment Fund, in 1988 with the request to open it to the public in his memory and to guarantee a job for life to his employees. Promises that the FAI has maintained.
How to reach the Villa del Balbianello from Lenno
From a cave among the rocks, Cardinal Durini created a small jetty and, since then, water became the most used access route to the Villa del Balbianello. Arriving from the lake you can fully appreciate how the Villa perfectly integrates with the surrounding landscape. On the dock’s floor the motto “fay ce que vouldras” (do what you want): reminds us of the reason why the Cardinal built the Villa in the first place: to spend quiet and leisure days with a few intimate friends. The taxi boat departs from Lenno, beside the Lido and costs € 5 one way, € 7 return. The villa can also be reached with a short 1-kilometre walk, slightly uphill.
Our advice: reach the villa by water, you will enjoy the boat trip, the VIP arrival at the marvellous jetty and a unique point of view of the manor and its romantic gardens. On the way back, opt for a pleasant walk (downhill) and skip the queue of tourists waiting for the taxi boat!
From mid-March to mid-November: 10am – 6pm.
Open every day, except Mondays and Wednesday (unless public holidays).
Entry to the Garden is still possible up to 5.15 pm.
Last entry in the Villa 4.30 pm according to availability.
Adults: € 10
Children (4-14 years): € 5
National Trust members and Students (until 25 years): € 7
FAI members free admittance
Villa and Garden
Tours inside the Villa are conducted by an FAI guide. The duration is approximately 60 minutes.
The compulsory guided tour without reservation in Italian and English
Adults: € 20
Children (4-14 years): € 10
National Trust members and Students (until 25 years): € 14
FAI members: € 4
(Prices consist of the ticket for the Villa, for the Garden and the guided tour)