Villa del Balbianello is located on the tip of a small wooded promontory that juts out from the coastline to form a small peninsula called Dosso del Lavedo on the western shore of the south-west branch of Lake Como, in Lenno.

The peninsula, also thanks to its geological conformation, has fully kept its natural values, accentuating the romantic character of the local buildings and the lovely garden located sheer on the lake, just opposite the severe mountains of the Northern Lombardy and Switzerland.

This villa is probably the most famous and one of the most amazing villas to see on the lake. This villa was commissioned by Cardinal Angelo Maria Durini in 1787 and throughout the years it has inspired generations of writers, painters and musicians. In 1974 the villa was bought by count Guido Monzino, that restored the building and the garden, furnished the halls with English and French furnitures, and many numerous collections of art, together with many memorablia from his expeditions, in particular the one to the North Pole, in 1971 with a sled pulled by dogs, and the first Italian ascension to the Everest in 1973.

In 1988, he left the Balbianello in inheritance of F.A.I., Fondo per l’Ambiente Italiano which is the National Trust for Italy.

Thanks to its magnificence, this villa has been the setting for a number of famous Italian and international movies, such as Piccolo Mondo Antico, The Charterhouse of Parma, Jackpot, A Month by the Lake, Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones and 007 – Casino Royale.

Welcomed the hospitable motto Fay ce qui voudras(Do what you want) engraved on the floor of the porch which is accessed from the marina, guests climbed a steep ladder to the villa overlooking the lake; and it is still true today, since access by water is still the main.

The “Loggia” portion of the Villa which Cardinal Durini built a little beyond the Villa, is the real architectural innovation of Balbianello. This portico of arches crowns the main building from the highest point of the promontory, letting the viewer simultaneously enjoy two different panoramas of Lake Como from the samespot.

The real highlight of the villa is the panoramic terraced garden dominated by the elegant loggia.

The garden. A well-kept tree-lined path leads from the front of the small church (which is accessible from the small harbour mentioned above, as well as from a sleek marina) to the summit of the promontory. Tall sycamores pruned “candelabra-style” alternate with statues and gnarled wisterias, lining the panoramic path that climbs up through steep grassy slopes bordered by boxwood and laurel bushes.

The library. In the library next to the portico, the Count added his books on alpine and polar exploration, still an enormously valuable resource for those who study these subjects. Finally, he had a small museum installed in the attic, commemorating his most important exploits: among the many exhibits, a dogsled at the centre of the room, with which he reached the North Pole in 1971. Photographs and objects also document the first Italian ascent of Mount Everest, in 1973, which he participated in.

La Sala dei Primitivi. The room displays an interesting selection of pieces of primitive art (African cultures), Columbian (Mesoamerican cultures: the Olmecs, Maya, Aztecs) and archaic (Cycladic art).

The expedition room on the upper floor of the villa is dedicated to an exhibition of mementoes and memorabilia of Guido Monzino’s boldest expeditions. Photographs, flags and honours are joined in the centre of the room by one of the eight dog-hauled sledges that enabled Monzino to reach the North Pole in 1971. The small Eskimo statues representing divinities and anthropomorphic figures are also very interesting.


Practical Information:

VILLA DEL BALBIANELLO -Via Comoedia – Lenno (Como)
Ph. +39 0344 56110 / Fax +39 0344 55575 / E-mail:

Opening Times
Middle to MARCH – Middle to NOVEMBER: 10 am – 6 pm

CLOSING DAYS: Mondays and Wednesday (unless public holidays) / SCHOOLS: guided visits (only for FAI member classes and on prior booking). / LAST ENTRANCE: half an hour before closing.