Villa Pliniana has graced the shores of Italy’s Iconic Lake Como since 1573. The site was already famous prior to construction, thanks to the natural spring after which Villa Pliniana was named. ‘Pliniana’ is inspired by the naturalist natives of Como; Plinio the Elder, and Plinio the Younger, who first discovered and described the spring and its intermittent flow in the first century A.D. Since then, the property has seen many owners and changes – read on to find out more about Villa Pliniana’s fascinating history…

Villa Pliniana

In 1573 Count Giovanni Anguissola bought the land from then-owner Gerolamo Gallo and began construction on Villa Pliniana a few months later. The Count was a highly controversial resident due to his notoriety as a murderer and tyrant of Placenza. Be that as it may, the Count was loved and highly praised by Como citizens until his passing in 1578. Contrary to rumours of his brutal demise, Giovanni died peacefully in his bed. Unfortunately, the Villa had not been completed at this point.

Although there is little known about the construction of Villa Pliniana, we do know that the only known heir of Giovanni Anguissola, Guilo Anguissola, continued the project thanks to assistance from designers Antonio Piotti and Pellegrino Tibalidi.

The Villa was then sold to Pirro Visconti Borromeo in 1590 due to his interest in the spring’s intermittent flow phenomenon. At one point he even commissioned Gerolamo Borsieri to construct an essay containing possible explanations of said phenomenon, entitled “Speech on the ebb and flow of the Pliniana.”

In 1676 the Canarisi family purchased the property and kept it until the start of the Nineteenth Century. The Canarisi’s were a prominent family in Como and had attempted to purchase the villa previously due to a genuine historical interest. During their ownership, Villa Pliniana’s buildings and gardens were refined, achieving a level of splendour unrivalled since. The family was also responsible for the restoration of the St. Francesco Chapel and redecoration of the property’s main floors and halls.

Villa Pliniana was subsequently purchased by Emilio Barbiano Belgiojoso in the first half of the Nineteenth Century and used as a retreat for him and his friends. The Prince then married Caterina Trivulzio in 1824. Caterina was a woman known for her progressive ideas on women’s emancipation and generosity towards the oppressed. Unfortunately, Caterina and Emilio led very different lives, which led to their separation but continued friendship just a few short years after their marriage.

In later years, Emilio and Caterina moved to Paris in order to avoid the attention of Australian police – the pair were under investigation due to their controversial political views. Once in Paris, Emilio met the beautiful Anne Berthier de Wagram and they swiftly became lovers. In April 1845 Emilio and Anne fled back to Villa Pliniana where they lived in splendor and isolation until 1852. The couple’s happiness and passion feature in legends of the lake to this day, particularly a story of them diving from the loggia wrapped in nothing but a bedsheet.

At the turn of the Twentieth Century, river navigation was replaced by trains and later cars, leaving the villa more isolated and less accessible. The family who owned it at the time never lived there, which meant that the villa became an abandoned yet picturesque place of mystery and legend.

During the Second World War, Villa Pliniana achieved brief notoriety, having featured in the film Malombra. Following the film, the property once again stood abandoned with some parts left in ruin. Fortunately, as tourism and interest in Lake Como grew, Villa Pliniana once again became a place of intrigue. Following a full intervention to consolidate the original structure in the Nineties, the current owners began a full conservation and reconstruction project. Work began in 2013 and was completed in late 2015.

Villa Pliniana is now a spectacular amalgamation of the original structure and new, modern architecture. The villa is now part of the Sereno Hotels collection and is used for group and family getaways, weddings, and events. To learn more about this beautiful palazzo, visit the website or email

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