Dotted among its hillsides are handsome villas and lush gardens that weave through the quintessentially Italian architecture, which make this verdant region one of the most beautiful in all of Italy. Lake Como’s lush foliage is apparent everywhere you go, but there are select gardens along the lake that shouldn’t be missed. Here are five of our favorites.
Considered one of Lake Como’s most famous (and Instagrammable) gardens, Villa Balbianello was known as a favored retreat for writers, academics, and high-profile society figures in the 18th century. It was also the filming location for several films, including Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, Casino Royale, and A Month by the Lake. Make a stop here during a boat tour to walk along its elaborate terraced gardens, which, during the spring season, include blooming rhododendrons and azaleas. Throughout the gardens, there are sycamore, oaks, camphor laurens, magnolias, and cypresses.
Villa Melzi d’Eril
The town of Bellagio is famous for its stunning villas overlooking the water, including Villa Melzi d’Eril, and the Gardens of Villa Melzi d’Eril is one of its most sought-after attractions. Built in the early 1800s by architect Luigi Canonica and botanist Luigi Villoresi, the gardens are distinctly English in style with exotic trees, camellias, rhododendron, and azaleas. There is also a Japanese pond with water lilies, cedar trees, and Japanese maples. Reopening this year is the Orangery, home to Napoleonic memorabilia. After your tour of the fabulous gardens, enjoy a glass of crisp wine and lunch at Ristorante Alle Darsene di Loppia.
Villa Serbelloni is also located in Bellagio and encompasses 50 acres of park and garden. Built in the 15th century, it exudes history at every turn. The villa features Empire, Neoclassical, and Art Nouveau styles within its interior and exterior designs, and remains an enchanting, inspiring destination to this day. The gardens are home to both rare and exotic plants along its curved terraces from the top of a promontory down to the lake. Walk along the same grounds that prolific figures have visited, including Leonardo da Vinci, Emperor Maximillian I, Silvio Pellico, and Queen Victoria. Garden tours are only available to those who book a restaurant reservation.
Located near Tremezzo, Villa Carlotta was built in the late 1600s and its Italianate-style garden dates back to the 17th century during the Romantic Period. Spanning eight hectares, the gardens on the grounds feature geometrical schema, stairs, terraces, statues, and fountains that transport you to the past. Come in the springtime, the best time to visit this garden, to see the flowering of more than 150 varieties of rhododendrons and azaleas. That said, beauty abounds no matter when you come; year-round, guests will delight in the varieties of camellia, centuries-old cedars and sequoias, tropical plants, a bamboo garden, and more. The gardens also offer vistas over the lake as you walk through them.
The perfect day trip lies a little more than an hour by boat or a few hours by car to Villa Monastero in Varenna. This Nordic-style villa was first built as a Cistercian nunnery in the 12th century and was renovated and redecorated in the 19th and 20th century. Today, it’s one of the finest examples of Eclecticism-style buildings in Italy. The botanical garden is the villa’s top attraction, featuring native and exotic plants including American and African palm trees, agaves, yuccas, dracaenas, citrus trees, oleanders, and more. After touring the spacious grounds, stop for lunch in Varenna before heading back to the hotel.
A visit to this Renaissance-era palace along Lake Como’s western shores is like stepping back in time to a bygone era. Villa D’Este was designed by Pellegrino Pelligrini and is surrounded by a 10-hectare private park of centennial plants that recall various garden styles and scenography, including Baroque, Renaissance, Picturesque, and Romantic. Enjoy old plane trees (a botanical landmark of the gardens), fragrant jasmine along the columns of the terrace porch, olea fragrans trees, and rose bushes, to name just a few. Guests of Il Sereno can access the hotel’s gardens with a restaurant booking for lunch or dinner.
Originally built in 1573, Villa Pliniana is another historic hotel boasting elegance and splendor. Like something out of a movie, the villa sits on 18 waterfront acres with vast gardens to explore. Nature reigns supreme here, and there are gardens and terraces boasting colorful flora and lush trees near spacious, manicured lawns. No matter where you are on property, there are beautiful views of the lake and the nearby mountains. It’s the ultimate private, nature-filled retreat. This palazzo, ensconced in nature, feels worlds away.
Whether you visit all or one of these stunning gardens, Il Sereno is the perfect foundation from which to explore the many sights of Lake Como. Book your next stay by visiting our website.