Le Chic En Rose

Diaries of an independent traveller

Sometimes I find the best days on our holidays are when we make no plans at all. We had one of those a few years back when we were staying in central Switzerland (Serendipity In Switzerland see here). Our first full day on Lake Como turned out to be serendipitous too! A wild storm the previous evening had brought strong winds funnelling down from the mountains in the north, whipping up the lake into a choppy foam. Having popped across to Varenna for morning coffee from our Menaggio base, we thought perhaps indoor activities might be the order of the day! Mlle had seen a flyer in our hotel, advertising a concert at Villa del Balbianello near Lenno so we decided to head over that way and check things out.

 

I took this video whilst we were waiting for the boat to arrive – the wind was really blowing a storm by this point!

 

 

Taking a boat around the lake is a must – both to get around and admire the gorgeous scenery. It did take us a couple of days or so to get into the rhythm of the Italian way of doing things. Organisation leaves a little to be desired, timetables are a rough guide only and no one seems to know in which direction the boat is heading until the last minute when the captain or one of the crew yells out the ports of call. However, once we accepted the laissez faire approach, we were far more philosophical and enjoyed ourselves a lot more! Price-wise the boats were good value – 14 Euros per day will get you a day pass round the central part of the lake (Mennagio, Varenna, Bellagio, Tremezzo, Lenno). It goes up to about 20 Euros per day to go to Como or Collico at either end of the lake or you can get a 6 day pass for 84 Euros (check things out at the local ticket office at each port of call or the local tourist offices can advise you).

Docking at the next calling point Bellagio proved quite a problem for the crew and they had a couple of attempts before pulling into the quay successfully.

 

 

We made it safely to Lenno on the opposite shore and headed into the restaurant of Albergo Lenno for a welcome lunch and warm drink. Lenno is a pretty little town nestling on the shores of Lake Como and would be a refreshingly peaceful spot in which to while away an afternoon, but like many other visitors we were heading for the villa on the hillside. We asked for directions and were told to allow 10 minutes (by the waitress) or up to 25 (by the waiter). The latter proved more realistic – unless you are an Olympic runner it is a good 20 minutes walk uphill most of the way but you are rewarded with the most spectacular views for your efforts! You can always take a water taxi round the point if you prefer – they leave from the Lido di Lenno at the bottom of the hill.

 

 

We managed to get seats for the concert – a musical trio, part of the Lake Como Music Festival (see here for the 2016 season of concerts). Built in 1787 on the site of an old Franciscan Monastery for Cardinal Angelo Maria Durini, Villa del Balbianello takes full advantage of its superb setting on a wooded headland overlooking the lake and the Isola Comacina nearby.

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Villa del Balbianello Lake Como

Elegant buildings in a pretty shade of honey, classical columns and cascading terraced gardens leading down to the lake – it’s not too hard to see why it has become a popular setting for weddings and sometimes for film locations too! Scenes from A Month By The Lake (1995), Casino Royale (2006) and the wedding and lake scenes in Star Wars: Episode II Attack Of The Clones (2002) were all filmed here.

 

Successive owners including Guido Monzino (leader of the first Italian expedition to Mount Everest) have added their own touches but now the villa and gardens are magnificently preserved by the National Trust Of Italy.

 

 

We would have liked a bit longer to walk around.  The fresh air and calming effects of the lake not to mention the gardens (in full bloom with spring flowers) –  it was an idyllic experience!

 

 

The only downside was the time constraint and we’ll have to save a tour around the inside of the villa and its art treasures for another day! If anyone is interested the link to the Villa  del Balbianello “Wedding Planning Page” is here! Wedding parties usually arrive by private boat and walk up from the mooring point at the bottom of the gardens (though you can drive up along the same pathway we trekked up!).

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Villa del Balbianello Gardens

 

Retracing our steps we stopped off at the little gelato shop (La Fabbrica del Gelato) near the Lido and joined the extensive queue. Well worth it – the gelato served here is worth going to Lenno for alone (and that is saying something as we sampled quite a few on our trip!). Our return boat was predictably not running on time (the Sunday service and the inclement weather that day probably didn’t help). In spite of the hour’s wait (not everyone was as reasonable about it as we were!) we all agreed that our day out had been a fabulous experience and one we probably wouldn’t have done had it not been for Mlle’s chance sighting of a flyer in the hotel foyer!

For more wonderful and inspiring walks around the world visit Restless Jo at her Monday Walks!

 

Copyright © 2016 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

28 thoughts on “A Walk To Villa del Balbianello

  1. Quite pretty indeed. Seems like a beautiful day. (Suzanne)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Suzanne – it was a beautiful day just extremely windy! All added to the atmosphere!

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  2. restlessjo says:

    The scenery looks spectacular. I could be very happy there, Rosemay (even in a Force 9 🙂 )

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes it’s amazing scenery Jo! If you go back definitely get up to Villa del Balbianello it’s wonderful 🙂 Since we actually walked quite a long way this may qualify for a “Monday Walk” – happy to send you the link if you like 🙂

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      1. restlessjo says:

        When I started reading it I thought it was going to be a Monday walk, Rosemay. You don’t need to ask. Just link if you feel like it. It doesn’t matter when because it’ll go in the next Monday 🙂 Have a good weekend! Back to glum after two lovely days here. That’s Summer gone 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Thanks Jo – I will certainly link in this week and just found a whole lot more photos of Lenno so will probably do another post as well next week as it was such a beautiful place 🙂 Hopefully Summer hasn’t gone completely just yet! Have a lovely weekend despite the weather! 🙂

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  3. I have never been to the lakes or to Northern Italy, I might have to add it to my ‘to do’ list now. Looks great!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We really love Northern Italy Andrew and there is so much to see and do there in addition to the lakes. Going north there are some really pretty valleys on the south side of the Alps plus you are not too far from Milan, Verona, Venice, Bergamo etc. Have been to Venice a couple of times but only passed through Milan en route to the airport. The lakes however are the highlight for me – this was our 2nd trip to Como and we’ve been to the Swiss end of Maggiore as well. Garda is beautiful too though we’ve never made it there – did get as far as Bolzano/Bozen in the Sud Tirol north of the lake though on one trip and that was a really interesting place too!

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      1. I have been to Venice and the north east but mostly to the south. The only lake that I have visted and stayed was Lake Constance in Germany/Switzerland. I imagine it to be similar to the Italian lakes.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Yes I think it would be similar. I’ve heard that Lake Constance is very beautiful but never been there on our Swiss or German trips. I always find there is such a cultural shift when you go south of the Alps – I find the border regions fascinating for that region. The Italian Lakes are a blend in some ways of Italy/Switzerland and old Haspburg influences set amongst breathtaking scenery! Plus they have “Aperitivo Hour” – such a civilised custom in my book!

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  4. ledrakenoir says:

    So inspiring, excellent captured… 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Drake – it certainly is an inspiring place and wonderful to capture the memories on camera! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Wow Rosemary, until I watched your video I had no idea how strong that wind was – the pictures just make the weather look gorgeous!! I always overplan our holidays and put in hours of research but we’ve had days like this too where a flyer picked up somewhere has led to the most wonderful day out – better than anything I could have planned!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know Joy the photos are deceptive – it was really howling a gale that day so thought I’d put the video in to show what it was like! On the way back it was so choppy it was like being out on the open sea – the boat lurched around quite a bit so was glad when we landed! I usually plan quite a few activities too beforehand but these unplanned days often turn out the best!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Star Wars and Casino Royale, Yes!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I remember the scenes by the lake and wondering where they were filmed!

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  7. The winds were unbelievable in the video! Glad I was not sailing there that day. Do hope to visit though as my partner is from this region. Your images are just delightful.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Lisa 🙂 I just thought from the photos alone you wouldn’t really get the feel of how windy it was! It got even worse later on and the boat was rolling from side to side on the return journey from Lenno as if we were out on the open sea! I really hope you can get to the lakes especially if your partner is from that region! The whole area is absolutely gorgeous! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. RuthsArc says:

    Thanks for this delightful Italian stroll.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re very welcome Ruth – lovely to share the memories! 🙂

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  9. Becky B says:

    Beautiful . . . visited all the countries which surround its northern edges but somehow not Italy itself 😦 really must rectify this

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much! North Italy is beautiful especially the lakes region and so close to other countries such as Switzerland and Austria so easy to combine with visiting those too. Hope you get to Italy sometime! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Laia says:

    It’s a very beautiful place Rosemary! So interesting that the wedding scene in Star Wars II was filmed there, I didn’t know!
    And yes, sometimes the best days happen when we make no plans at all 🙂
    Reading your posts about the Alps makes me look forward to my next trip to Switzerland, I’ll be there two months this summer (working most of the time, but I’d like to visit some places too!). Any place you specially recommend me to go? 🙂
    Have a nice week, and happy travels!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Laia – yes I thought it looked familiar then we looked it up afterwards and found that it had been used as a film location! Switzerland is so lovely too – one of my favourite places! Hard to know where to start – I love Lucerne and Vierwaldstaettersee so many pretty places to see round there! We went to a little town called Thun a few times and also did a lake cruise along Thunersee to Interlaken and up to the Harder Kulm by funicular. There are great walks and views across to the Eiger and Jungfrau from there. Lauterbrunnen, Zermatt, Zurich, Bern are all worth seeing and we loved Montreux too! I also loved the Engadin Valley (we took the Glacier Express from Zermatt to St Moritz) and I thought the Engadin Valley was so lovely. The highlight was the Bernina Express run from St Moritz to Tirano in north Italy and back – that was amazing. In fact we did it again this time from our Lake Como base and I’ll be writing the whole day up soon. Ticino in the south is also worth checking – we stayed at Locarno at the Swiss end of Maggiore a few years ago and loved it. The Golden Pass line which goes from Montreux up via Zweisimmen to Interlakan and on to Lucerne via the Brunig Hasliberg Pass is a really good journey too if you like train rides (don’t need to do it all or book as like the Bernina it’s a scheduled SBB route). You must really be looking forward to your Swiss trip – happy to give you some more info I could go on and on! Happy planning and have a lovely weekend too 🙂

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  11. The weather was so gorgeous !! It looks just amazing !! We definitively have to check out that place 🙂 sometimes, it’s good to do things that are unplanned 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes it’s certainly an amazing place Gin!! The weather was so windy and yet glorious sunshine at the same time (but the wind chill did make it feel quite cold). It was so invigorating though – you felt you’d had a wonderful day in the fresh air! Yes you must check out this area – it’s wonderful – so many gorgeous walks round the lake, villas and up into the hills and mountains too. We flew Gatwick to Milan Malpensa but there may well be flights from Leeds Bradford there – highly recommend this part of the world! Have been before and hoping to go again before too long! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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