Without doubt, if you visit only one villa on Lake Como, it should be Villa del Balbianello.
This villa was the highlight of our trip to the lake and as such, it’s our ‘top tip’ on our free guide to Milan & Lake Como. Although the site began life as a monastary, as with most of the villas on the lake, its history has evolved with wealthy families wanting a luxurious lake-side retreat. This villa is now owned and operated by the FAI (Fondo Ambiete Italiano), a national foundation to preserve historically significant buildings. However, most of the history you will see relates to its previous owner, the explorer Guido Monzino who died in 1988.
The villa sits on an outcrop of land at Lenno and as such it has superb views up and down the lake. The impeccably landscaped gardens enhance the location with romantic tree-lined walkways, lawned areas and the trademark flower containers built into an elaborate wall. It really is stunning beautiful. It’s no surprise therefore that film-makers have chosen this location for significant scenes in their movies. The most notable movies filmed here are Daniel Craig’s Casino Royale and Star Wars Episode 2.
In Casino Royale, the villa played the role of an exclusive hospital where James Bond recovered from his encounter with Le Chiffre. Scenes were shot on the flat lawned area under the huge shaped tree (pictured at the top of the page) and also on some of the pathways. In Star Wars Episode 2: Attack Of The Clones, the villa is transported to the lake district of the planet of Naboo. Padme and Anakin get married here under the tree by the old church towers. Scenes were also shot in the small harbour and on the loggia, where Anakin looks out across the lake after being awoken by a bad dream about his mother.
You can only access the villa itself through guided tours which you can book on your arrival. At busy times they can book up fast, so we’d recommend arriving shortly after the villa opens. On the tour you’ll get to see the loggia, and the 5 floors of the Villa and along the way you’ll learn a lot about Monzino who restored it and lived here until his death. It’s an interesting mix of an historic building with the odd 1970s feature thrown in!
Villa del Balbianello is open every day except Monday and Wednesday from mid March to mid November from 10am to 6pm. Adult admission to the gardens is 8 Euros and the house and garden ticket is 15 Euros (2015 prices).
LOCATION & CONTACT
Address: Villa del Balbianello, Via Comoedia, Lenno, Lake Como, Italy
Tel: +39 0344 56110
There are two ways to get to the villa once you arrive in Lenno. You can take the 1km walk along the woodland pathway which takes around 15 minutes with a slight incline, or you can take the water taxi from the dock. We’d recommend the water taxi because it’s a great way to arrive at the villa and you get to see it from the lake from where it looks particularly impressive. We paid 7.50 Euros return per person (2015 prices) for the water taxi.
MORE ON VILLA DEL BALBIANELLO
Villa del Balbianello – Official website (in Italian)
Villa del Balbianello – Wikipedia
Lake Como Day Trip From Milan – Latest reviews and prices in US Dollars
Lake Como Day Trip From Milan – Latest reviews and prices in UK Pounds
Residence Lenno – Our recommended hotel is a short walk from Villa del Balbianello
More Hotels near Villa del Balbianello – We recommend Hotels.com