Dreamy Gardens and Villas on Lake Como

It’s Bank Holiday weekend in Italy.  With everyone off work through Wednesday, by 9:00 am this morning the streets of Bellagio were lined from one end of town to the other with cars and people were crowding the ferry docks ready to travel to spots all over Lake Como. 

This morning we walked along the waterfront in Bellagio to Villa Melzi. It was built by the Vice President of the Italian Republic founded by Napolean between 1801-1803. With its Neoclassical architecture it was used as a summer residence.

The villa was so pretty to walk through with fish ponds with lily pads, Cypress trees, palm trees, and gazebos that jutted out into the water. As we walked along the gravel paths, we could hear the cicadas sing in the early morning heat of the day while church bells from distant villages rang out across the lake. Motor boats sped by made of  wood polished like glass.

Back in Bellagio waiting for the ferry, I sat on some stone steps watching the waves lap ashore. It was mesmerizing and I could imagine myself wading into the clear water to swim. It seemed like such a perfect thing to do. I noticed that people all over the lake were enjoying the water. If we come here again, I’ll have to bring a bathing suit.

We took a ferry to Lenno to visit Villa del Balbianello which is out on a peninsula. There are three options to get there: a speed boat, a short 20 minute hike with some ups and downs, and a 45 minute huff and puff hike over the top of the peninsula. We chose the 20 minute hike. 

Villa del Balbianello’s most recent owner had no children and when he died in 1988, he left his villa to Italy. During his time at the villa he was a businessman and adventurer.  He attempted to climb Mt. Everest and  visited the North Pole as well as numerous other countries around the world.

 We took an English tour and learned the former owner was into organization and designed some rooms to look like a museum with artifacts from the Qin Dynasty, the Maya, and Incas in beautifully lit display cases. There were  several secret passages in the villa down to the lake because of kidnappings for ransom of wealthy people long ago. When our guide opened a door revealing a set of stairs leading to a secret passageway, there were oohs and ahs from our group. Our guide was very informative. At the end of the tour, she got a round of applause. The couple behind us rolled their eyes because they thought the tour was too long, but we liked it.  David praised the guide and she beamed with pride.

On our way out of the villa we passed a bride and groom posing for,photos. The reception was being set up in one of the buildings and had neatly set tables with beautiful linens, china, silver, and crystal, White roses were everywhere.

By the time we left, the villa was closing for the wedding.  Walking out the front gate we passed a small group attempting to get into the villa. “We drove 60 kilometers to get here,” said one man to the villa’s employee, but he was told no, the villa was closing.  Some heated words were exchanged in Italian, but in the end, no one else was allowed in.

Back in Lenno I saw a huge group lining up for ice cream. I tried to get in line, but it was an every man for himself mentality.  The girls scooping the ice cream were at their wit’s end because there were so many people. When I finally got ready to order I decided on raspberry ice cream. In Italian it’s lampone, but when I asked the young woman how to pronounce it (meaning in Italian) she appeared irritated with the idea of small talk and barked at me in English “Raspberry!” Oh well. it was a tasty treat on a hot day.

Dinner tonight was at a restaurant called La Punta. It is so popular we had to book it weeks ago. We dined outside on Mediterranean chicken and pesto pasta and it was delicious. 

Tonight back at our hotel the ferries are running late. We have many options for tomorrow including a boat ride into Switzerland for the day. But even if we decide to just stay here in Bellagio, spending another day on one of the prettiest lakes I have ever seen will be all I’ll need to have another perfect summer  day.

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