Como is a charming little city, situated 45 km north of Milan, close to the Swiss border. Como was founded by the most famous Emperor of all times…Julius Cesar in 49 BC and still preserves the Roman layout in the very heart of its walled city. Como is renowned worldwide for producing high quality fabrics, first and foremost silk. Several little boutiques can be found in the pedestrian city centre, beautiful, peaceful, a haven of impressive artworks. Yet, what makes Como different from all other Italian art cities is its lake.
Lake Como is considered one of the most beautiful landscapes in Europe. This pre-alpine lake surrounded by a crown of mountains, is not only spectacular but rich in history and tradition. The lake is perfect for both active and relaxing holidays. Visiting the lake, you will be fascinated by the amazing historical mansions, outstanding gardens, and little Romanesque churches leading your way. Lake Como is 46 km long and shaped like an upside down Y, parting into three different branches at the height of the famous town of Bellagio. Its crystal clear water is up to 400 meters deep, the deepest in Italy. By boat you can enjoy the view of both shores dotted with small towns of rare beauty, while by car you can also discover the valleys with their rural settlements and paths originally created for pilgrims and for the noble coaches enjoying the Grand Tour. The Como branch is the most exclusive, elected location of several celebrities who, over the centuries, have bought properties. Here, one can admire the splendid private mansions and visit fabulous botanical gardens and fine museums, such as Villa Balbianello, Villa Carlotta and Villa Melzi, open to the public from March to October.
Villa del Balbianello, Lenno.
Considered one of the most beautiful and romantic residencies on the Como Lake, Villa del Balbianello overlooks an enchanting wooded ridge on the extremity of the Dosso di Lavedo, which plunging into the lake’s waters, creates a small peninsula. Built at the end of the 18th century by will of the Cardinal Durini, it soon became a venue for intellectuals and exponents of the Italian Renaissance before being bought, in the last century, by the explorer Guido Monzino who turned it into his home and personal museum, currently open to visitors. For its charm it is often used as a location for film productions.
Villa Carlotta, Tremezzo.
A wonderful mansion that houses the valuable collection purchased by Giambattista Sommariva in the early 19th century. He enhanced the value of the villa by acquiring works by Canova, Thorvaldsen and Hayez, masterpieces currently displayed on the first floor.
In the mid-19th century, Princess Marianne of the Netherlands bought this property as a wedding gift for her daughter Carlotta when she married George II, duke of Sachsen Meiningen. On the second floor of the villa you can still admire the furniture, objects, pictures and decorations from the period. The best part of Villa Carlotta, however, is the amazing garden-park, a treasure of harmoniously coexisting styles with a variety of plant species counting more than 1000 different trees nestled among spectacular colourful bursts of scented flowers! In April and May one may admire the blooming of the azaleas and rhododendrons.
Villa Melzi, Bellagio.
Francesco Melzi d’Eril, Vice president of the First Italian Republic at the time of Napoleon, decided, at the beginning of the 19th century, to build a summer residence in Bellagio. The house is still a private property and belongs to one of the Melzi heirs, Count Gallarati Scotti. The mansion is not accessible but visitors are welcome to enjoy the beautiful garden, the family chapel and a museum dedicated to Napoleon relics. Wondering through the garden, along the shore and the paths, one encounters the Egyptian sculptures and Roman statues which add to the romantic atmosphere of the garden. According to the fashion of the period, several exotic trees were planted, particularly fascinating is the Japanese pond with water lilies, surrounded by Japanese maple and cedar trees.
"That branch of the lake of Como which extends southwards between two unbroken chains of mountains, and is all gulfs and bays as the mountains advance and recede, narrows down at one point, between a promontory on one side and a wide shore on the other, into the form of a river[...]. "
Alessandro Manzoni, I Promessi Sposi, 1842
"When you look at the sky over lake Como, it is clear that God exists."
Robin Williams, 2010