Villa del Balbianello – Gardens, travel, library, memories

Villa del Balbianello
Lenno (Como) Villa del Balbianello – AdobeStock_215526554

Villa del Balbianello: Cardinal Angelo Maria Durini built Villa del Balbianello at the end of the XVIII century. It stands on the tip of a steep promontory overlooking Lake Como, almost opposite Bellagio.

The explorer Guido Monzino designed the current appearance. It has above all a rich collection of Chinese, African and pre-Colombian art, precious English and French furniture of the 1700s. It has a small museum with documents and mementos of his expeditions.

The elegant “loggia” with three arches rising on the highest point of the promontory dominates the panoramic terraced garden. It is the true masterpiece in the Villa del Balbianello.

The small port

Dosso d’Avedo is just a few minutes by boat from Balbiano. Here, at the end of the 1700s, there were only the romantic remains of a small Franciscan church. Cardinal Durini built here from 1787 a splendid “place of delights” where he could study and discuss letters and arts with a few qualified friends.

Guests climbed to the villa up a steep staircase overlooking the lake. The “Fay ce que voudras” (Do what you want) is engraved on the paving of the portico opening on to the small port welcomes them. Today similarly it is the same. Access from the lake to the Villa del Balbianello is the main approach.

Villa del Balbianello
Villa del Balbianello Chappel – AdobeStock_176133840
The “loggia”

The “loggia” that Cardinal Durini commissioned slightly is above the house on the central part of the promontory. It is the true architectural invention of the Villa del Balbianello. Parallel to the peninsula, it similarly offers fine views of the landscapes of Tremezzina. This is the true heart of the Lario area and the bay opposite towards the island of Comacina.

Two symmetrical rooms: the library and the music room (today the map room) flank the “loggia”. It welcomed Giuseppe Parini for many hours, to whom the Cardinal dedicated his Ode “Gratitude”.

The map room

Many maps and geographical charts used by Count Guido Monzino in his exploits are on display in the map room in the “loggia” of the Villa del Balbianello. There are also many period prints on the walls depicting views and panoramas of the lake.

Four thousand volumes are also in the library. They were collected by Monzino over many years of scrupulous research in all countries of the world. Today it is certainly one of the most complete and precious collections dedicated to alpine and polar expeditions.

The museum of expeditions

The expedition room on the upper floor of the Villa del Balbianello includes an exhibition of mementos and memorabilia of Guido Monzino’s boldest expeditions. One of the eight dog-hauled sleds that Monzino used to reach the North Pole in 1971 is in the room. In its center, there are photographs, flags, and honors. The small Eskimo statues representing divinities and anthropomorphic figures are certainly very interesting.

Villa del Balbianello
Villa dl Balbianello Gardens – AdobeStock_221583451
The gardens

Cardinal Durini had available a very cramped space on the rocky tip of the peninsula. The lack of earth consequently caused considerable problems for planting new species. It was impossible to create an Italian garden. Numerous laurel and box hedges, therefore, mark off lawns with geometrical precision. It was not possible therefore to create an English garden either. The garden at Villa del Balbianello is something else in its won right. Everything relates to the lake and shores, where nothing distracts from the vision of the water.

Courtesy of FAI Fondo Ambiente Italiano

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