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The most beautiful lake in the world also has the most beautiful villas in Italy, making for the perfect locations to observe the blossoming spring or admire the autumn foliage. You can visit, dine and sleep at one these beautiful villas – maybe even rent a single room or the whole place, if you’re so lucky!
Visiting villas is the best pastime on Lake Como, and truly living in them is the chicest experience you could have. They are luxurious facilities, rich in history and featuring wonderful parks, blossoming with flowers in spring or tinged with red and orange foliage in autumn.
The fashion in the 19th century – in addition to highly decorated and frescoed buildings – was to create botanical gardens to be admired by the guests of the wealthy landowners. Today, those parks and villas are still there, available to those who want to visit or rent them – for a dinner, one night or simply to have the entire villa for themselves.
THE BEST VILLAS TO VISIT
The most spectacular villas are those in the two most popular villages on the Lake: Varenna, with Villa Monastero, and Bellagio with Villa Melzi D’eril – which recently won the competition for Most Beautiful Garden in Italy.
Villa Carlotta in Tremezzina includes an art museum with works by Canova and Thorvaldsen and “The Last Kiss of Romeo and Juliet” by painter Francesco Hayez. Its park is famous for the amazing spring bloom of rhododendrons and azaleas, but ancient specimens of camellias, cedar trees, sequoias and exotic plants generate many different environments, that have been curated throughout the centuries by landscape architects.
Villa del Balbianello in Lenno overlooks the headland, almost a small peninsula, it can be visited and it represent one of the typical postcards of the Lake. If it looks familiar, it is because you’ve seen it in movies: among the many, Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones by George Lucas (2002) and Casino Royale, the 007 movie released in 2006.
LAKE VIEW DESIGN
Il Sereno is the new hotel which opened in 2016 which has revolutionized the concept of luxury on Lake Como, bringing an innovative and trendy design. It was planned and decorated by Patricia Urquiola – a designer who has collaborated with brands like Louis Vuitton, Baccarat, Panerai and Missoni. From the lounge to each room, the 5-star luxury hotel stands out from the typical architectural style on the Lake; thanks to stone, wood, natural fibres and the two vertical gardens, it brings out the lacustrine views and colours, allowing guests to fully absorb the blue-green corner of paradise. Located a few steps from a private beach and heated swimming pool, the hotel has 30 design suites, an excellent bar overlooking the lake to enjoy delicious drinks, along with the restaurant, Berton Al Lago, by Michelin-starred Milanese chef Andrea Berton.
INSPIRED BY THE THEATRE
CastaDiva Resort and SPA in Blevio, just outside Como, is built in a Baroque style and is very welcoming – already experienced by the likes of Robert De Niro, Beyoncé and One Direction. Villa Roccabruna, which houses the resort, is an eighteenth-century building but it has been renovated in a retro style for an eclectic elegance inspired by the Teatro alla Scala in Milan, with brocades and damask wallpapers in flamboyant colours and baroque furniture with golden details. In addition to the original villa, there are eight outbuildings and a SPA carved into the cave below the villa – among its illustrious guests is George Clooney, of course!
The Orangerie restaurant of the resort boasts the collaboration of two Michelin-starred chef Gennaro Esposito, owner of the restaurant Torre del Saracino in Vico Equense, near Naples.
THE CHICEST PRIVATE VILLA
If you have never heard of Villa Pliniaia, it’s because it has just been restored, but it is the latest trendy address that will fill the pages of gossip magazines.
Reopened in May 2016, Villa Pliniana is a magnificent palace originally built in 1576, nestled in 18 acres of private lakefront in Torno – a small village on the eastern shore of Lake Como. The name comes from Pliny the Elder, who first mentioned this place in documents dating from the first century B.C. because of the spring which still flows in the central courtyard of the villa, goes down through one of the apartments and then leads to the Lake. For centuries, naturalists such as Leonardo da Vinci, musicians like Rossini and poets like Percy Shelley stayed and wrote about it. It is now featured on the pages of glossy magazines thanks to the restoration guided by Patricia Urquiola and the management of Il Sereno Hotel. The villa can be rented for special events and includes 19 luxurious bedrooms, 3 independent villas, a lake view SPA and the ability to accommodate up to 500 guests – like those that attended Bruno Mars’ private concert last summer… Mark Zuckerberg included.