Bellagio, villas and gardens

Bellagio was one of Italy’s first truly international tourist destinations, although it has never become a “tourism machine”.

Bellagio’s villas and gardens are an exceptional example of a 19th century aristocratic resort.

The villas in Bellagio and the surroundings are a fine example of architecture and landscape.

 

Villa Melzi

The gardens of Villa Melzi extend along the lake shore and are nestled among the hills of Bellagio, which divide the two branches of the lake. The villa, chapel, and orange tree greenhouse – which today houses a museum – are the beautiful expression of neoclassical architecture, and have been declared national monuments.

The complex was built between 1808 and 1810 for Francesco Melzi d’Eril (1753-1816), Duke of Lodi and vice-president of the Napoleonic Italian Republic and, later, Grand Chancellor of the Napoleonic Kingdom of Italy. He called upon architect Giocondo Albertolli (1742-1839), a leading exponent of Neoclassicism, to design an elegant villa, whose lines and volumes would underline and enhance the beautiful surrounding landscape.

This villa was Melzi’s residence after he ended his political career and his summer residence until he died (1816). It was decorated and furnished by the most renowned artists of the time. Besides Giocondo Albertolli, who created most of the furnishes and interior design, painters Andrea Appiani (1754-1817), Giuseppe Bossi, (1777-1815), and Alessandro Sanquirico (1777-1849), sculptors Antonio Canova (1757-1822), Giambattista Comolli (1775-1830), and Pompeo Marchesi (1789-1858), and bronze sculptor Luigi Manfredini (1771-1840) also played a part.

The English-style gardens enriched with sculptures were designed by architect Luigi Canonica and botanist Luigi Villoresi, who had also designed the layout of the park of the Royal Villa of Monza.

The work of distinguished artists and technicians and the special relationship with Francesco Melzi led to the creation of a villa of rare harmony. Even Stendhal described its beauty in “Rome, Naples, Florence” in 1817.

 

Villa Serbelloni

Villa Serbelloni is in Bellagio, on the promontory that divides the lake into the branches of Como and Lecco. The villa was built in 1605 for the Sfondrati family, who owned the promontory. In 1788, it was purchased by Alessandro Serbelloni, who enriched the interiors and created a park with décors, terraces and caves, where new tree and flower species were planted. Here you can admire cypress and olive trees, hedges that model the terraces, and the typical scarlet flowerbeds with geometric designs.

In 1930, an American-born princess acquired the villa and later donated it to the Rockefeller Foundation in 1959. Now, it is used as a conference centre.

OPENING:
the park is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 1 April to early November. Closed on Mondays.
You can visit the park only accompanied by a guide (included in the price)
Guided tours twice a day at 11.00 and 15.30 for 6 to 30 people per tour. Tours will be cancelled in the event of bad weather.

To take part in a guided tour of the gardens, please arrive 15 minutes before the scheduled time at the Promobellagio office located in the medieval tower in Piazza della Chiesa 14, in the upper part of Bellagio.

 

Villa Giulia

This three-storey neoclassical building features large gable windows on the main floor. Two wings branch out from the central portion of the building clad with stone ashlar. The wings are decorated with the architectural motifs of the main unit. The villa enjoys an elevated position with respect to the Bellagio peninsula, and overlooks the lake from both sides, with a dual perspective made possible by extensive works. To get there, you need to take the 800-step stone stairway – the so-called 'scalotta’ – which leads from the Loppia docks next to Villa Melzi to an Italian-style garden with a fountain. The roof is decorated with a festoon railing and stone ornaments.
The other façade of the villa overlooks another Italian-style garden with geometric flowerbeds and boxwoods. The rest of the garden features exotic trees and English lawns. What was once the fruit orchard, next to the stables, is now an olive grove.

Count Pietro Venini had the villa built in late 18th century, in the place where the summer residence of the Camozzi family once rose. It was completed in 1806 and dedicated to his wife, Giulia. Major changes to the landscape included the flattening of some areas surrounding the building. Large investments and several years of work later, Pietro Venini could finally settle in his extraordinary double façade villa (one for each branch of the lake) featuring a majestic entrance, with a stairway that connected the hamlet of Loppia to the villa. “This stretch of plain, where the Lecco and Como branches of the lake meet, was once uncultivated, neglected, full of crags and ravines, where valleys sank down cut by deep gorges. Pietro Venini, who was born here, had amassed enormous wealth and wanted to build this villa in the same places of his modest background to involve them in this change of fortune.” This is how Balbiani summarised the history of the construction of the villa, back in 1877.
The Villa passed from the Venini family to Leopold I King of Belgium, a true Lake Como enthusiast. However, due to his political engagements, the King did not visit the property very often. At his death in 1865, the villa was sold again and became a luxury hotel for a few years. During that period, a wealthy Polish banker, Baron Gay, was looking for a place with a mild climate where his wife, who suffered from tuberculosis, could stay. So he acquired the villa. After his wife’s death, overwhelmed by grief and economic problems, the Baron sold the villa to Romanian nobleman, Enrico Kirakirschen, from whom it was acquired by the current owners.

 

Villa Trotti

A 17th century house transformed by Marquis Ludovico Trotti into a sumptuous villa surrounded by a wonderful Italian-style garden in 1752. During the following century, a descendant returning from a journey to the Far East changed the façade to Moorish style and created a tropical aquatic garden.

 

Villa Trivulzio Gerli

This neoclassical villa has a central body from which two wings branch out in the direction of the English-style park designed by Balzaretto to replace the previous Italian-style garden. Balzaretto was a master in creating breathtaking panoramic views creating a “telescope” perspective against the timberline backdrop in which various botanical species grow spontaneously. At the far end of the park stand the neo-Gothic mausoleum designed by Carlo Maciachini for Giacomo Poldi Pezzoli in late 19th century. The park also houses Romanesque church of Santa Maria di Loppia. This church was once connected to a small cloister that was destroyed to build the cypress-lined road that crosses the promontory from Villa Giulia to Loppia.

Villa Taverna enjoys a scenic position between Loppia and San Giovanni and was built by Count Paolo Taverna in late 18th century. The vice-president of the Napoleonic Italian Republic, Francesco Melzi d’Eril, rented the villa from the Tavernas and lived there while the nearby Villa Melzi was being built. During the 19th century, the property was sold to the Poldi Pezzoli family, who added the two wings connected to the main building through galleries. A few years later, architect Giuseppe Balzaretto redesigned the surrounding park creating an English-style garden. Subsequently, the villa was sold to the Trivulzio family and, in 1941, to the Gerli family.

 

Museum of navigation instruments

An old tower house is the location of this museum that showcases over two hundred objects that, over the centuries, have allowed people to orient themselves at sea and sail towards new worlds. The most interesting pieces of this private collection include 18th century Venetian-made telescopes, compasses, sundials from various periods, a rich collection of marine chronometers, an armillary sphere, and a beautiful brass planetarium.
The Museum is in San Giovanni, Piazza Don Miotti - Bellagio (Como)

HOW TO GET HERE:

You can reach San Giovanni easily taking the state road to Como. On foot, it’s approximately 25 minutes from the centre of Bellagio. During the summer, you can even take the public boat that stops at San Giovanni, or the little train that winds through the villages.

INFO:

Bellagio Museum - Frazione di San Giovanni in Piazza don Miotti - Bellagio (Como)
Open during the summer from 10.00 to 13.00. Afternoons by appointment only

Tel. 031.950204 - E-mail: info@bellagiomuseo.com - Website: www.bellagiomuseo.com