We were lucky enough to visit the exquisite gardens of Villa Carlotta in Tremezzo at arguably their most spectacular during the glorious displays of spring (see here for last week’s “Taster”). In April the azaleas and rhododendrons are a profusion of wonderful pinks, reds and soft creamy whites.
We had a lazy lunch overlooking Lake Como first and were pleasantly surprised to get straight into the gardens without a queue. Our ticket was for both house and gardens and we set off to explore. We had no idea from the lakeside how extensive the gardens are. Laid out over 70,000 square metres with pathways, stairs and woods it is like a walk through an enchanted garden and forest.
Villa Carlotta is named after the daughter of Albert I of Prussia. Her mother, Princess Marianne of Nassau, had purchased the villa in 1843 and gave it to her daughter, Carlotta, as a wedding present (as one does!). Originally built for a Milanese marquis, Giorgio Clerici, at the end of the 17th century it has a superb setting overlooking the lake and across to the Grignas mountains and the Bellagio Peninsula.
In 1801, Gian Battista Sommariva, a politician, businessman and patron of the arts had purchased the villa and he oversaw the acquisition of some outstanding 19th century artworks, which form the basis of the collection in the house today. Not surprisingly Villa Carlotta became one of the essential stopping points on the aristocrats’ Grand Tours during the 19th century.
Aside from the spectacular floral displays we also walked through the Valley of the Ferns and the Bamboo Gardens. Although not a particularly sunny day the gardens still looked divine and the brief rain showers were actually rather refreshing. Set along a hillside, the paths were often steep – I can imagine the ladies with their crinolines and bustles trying to get up and down them! The panoramic viewing areas were particularly stunning, designed to take full advantage of the prime lakeside setting.
At one point you come across a small garden shed now turned into a museum of some old fashioned gardening and farming implements.
No photos allowed in the main house! I found this out the hard way and had the embarrassment of being yelled at in Italian in front of some bemused looking tourists. Downstairs is given over to the neo-classical artworks and is decorated in the elegant style of Italianate villas of the 18th and 19th centuries. Upstairs was more simply decorated and the pretty soft lemon walls were currently home to an exhibition of an Italian Swiss artist entitled “As Clouds”. There didn’t appear to be any photographic restrictions here!
The views from the windows down to the entrance and across the lake were charming.
We wandered through an arbor lined with citrus trees and enjoyed an extended browse in the well-stocked gift shop before heading towards the cafe, where we enjoyed some gelati and a cup of tea. Villa Carlotta has its own ferry stop just a little further north from the quay at Tremezzo so we were able to time our exit to perfection and took the late afternoon ferry back to our Menaggio base in time for “Aperitivo Hour”.
During the summer months and holiday seasons I am sure Villa Carlotta would get very crowded, especially with all the coach parties, but if you happen to be there on a quiet midweek day as we were then it is a different story. We were able to enjoy the beautiful gardens at leisure and it was a wonderfully relaxing and peaceful experience!
Copyright © 2016 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved