italy | lake como | villa d’este

travel /ˈtravəl/ (verb)

to take a journey, especially of some length, or abroad
oxford dictionaries

villa d’este | lake como | cernobbio, italy

photo credit leading hotels of the world

traveling to villa d’este on lake como in cernobbio, italy could certainly be described as a journey to a luxurious location.

lake como, located about an hour north of milan, is shaped like an inverted Y.  alto como, the upper leg of the lake, intersects with the lower legs of the lake, lecco to the east and como to the west, at the town of bellagio, located on the punto (point) at the center of the lake.

map of lake como

photo credit navigazione laghi

when visiting athens for the first time, a greek friend recommended putting everything into perspective by hiking to the top of philopappos hill, near the acropolis, first.  when visiting lake como for the first time, taking guided tour of the park at villa serbelloni in bellagio, puts everything into perspective.  the views of all three legs of the lake are spectacular.  but, the town of bellagio could only be described as turistico.

view of alto como from the park at villa serbelloni in bellagio

the town of menaggio is on the left, and the town of varenna is on the right

photo credit lisa walsh | innerspace

view of the lower legs of lake como from the park at villa serbelloni in bellagio

the lecco leg of the lake is on the left, and the como leg of the lake is on the right

photo credit lisa walsh | innerspace

villa serbelloni is now split into two properties, the rockefeller foundation bellagio center, which promotes the ‘well-being of humanity’ by supporting the work of scholars, artists, thought leaders, policymakers, and practitioners through conferences and residency programs, and the grand hotel villa serbelloni.  many of the other 17th-19th century villas located on the como leg of the lake, such as villa del balbianello in lenno, villa carlotta in tremezzo, or villa melzi in bellagio, also feature spectacular parks and botanical gardens.

villa del balbianello | lenno, italy

photo credit c majno

villa carlotta | tremezzo, italy

photo credit villa carlotta

villa melzi | bellagio, italy

photo credit scott l robertson

and, villa d’este is no exception.  villa d’este is located in cernobbio, a town at the southern end of the como leg of the lake.  a most convenient location considering that my husband, bob, and i are explorers instead of resort goers.

even so, we couldn’t resist lounging by the hotel pool, which floats on lake como, every evening before dinner at a restaurant recommended by an italian friend. (grazie mille…)

floating pool | villa d’este | lake como | cernobbio, italy

photo credit lisa walsh | innerspace

villa d’este was built in 1568 as the summer residence of cardinal tolomeo gallio from como.  it was transformed into a luxury hotel in 1873 by combining the cardinal’s villa with adjoining properties.

cardinal building | villa d’este | cernobbio, italy

photo credit italianvisits.com

we arrived at villa d’este the day after the formula 1 grand prix in monza.  (strategic planning…)  so, our lake view room in the cardinal building was upgraded to a lake view suite.  (lucky us…)


view of lake como from our suite in the cardinal building at villa d’este in cernobbio

photo credit  lisa walsh | innerspace

you could also stay in the queen’s pavillion, which was built in 1856 on the site of a medieval monastery that was constructed in 1442.  the remains of the monastery are now part of a ruined labyrinth built by english king george IV’s wife, caroline of brunswick, who owned villa d’este from 1815-1820.

queen’s pavillion | villa d’este | cernobbio, italy

photo credit lisa walsh |innerspace

if you prefer, you could also stay in a private villa.

villa cima | villa d’este | cernobbio, italy

photo by glenvis loci

villa malakoff | villa d’este | cernobbio, italy

photo credit italy-hotels-trip
while, the rooms could be characterized as classico, the setting and the gardens could only be described as magnifico!   some parts of the garden were added during the 18th century.

18th century garden facing the entrance to the cardinal building at villa d’este in cernobbio

photo credit lisa walsh | innerspace

the perspective of the 18th century entrance garden

during our visit, gardeners had just started replacing the coral impatiens with red and white begonias (goodbye summer, hello, autumn…)

photo credit jennifer deppe parker

arco del pastore (triumphal arch) at the end of the perspective

photo credit lisa walsh |innerspace

while, other parts of the garden date to the 16th century.  renaissance period architect pellegrino pellegrini (1527-1596) designed not only the cardinal building, but also the nymphaeum in the lower gardens.

the 16th century nymphaeum in the lower gardens at villa d’este in cernobbio

photo credit lisa walsh | innerspace

the fountain inside the nymphaeum

the mosaics are made of colored marble splinters

photo credit lisa walsh | innerspace

one of the bas relief plaques inside the nymphaeum

in 1985, two contemporary plaques of ‘love’ and ‘solitude’ by sculptor francesco somaini (1926-2005) were added to the origial eight bas relief plaques

photo credit jennifer deppe parker

but, some parts of the garden combine both periods.

fontana di ercole (fountain of hercules) in the upper gardens at villa d’este in cernobbio

water from the fountain cascades over 130 renaissance period granite basins as it flows down the hillside towards the nymphaeum

photo credit lisa walsh | innerspace

18th century statue of ercole e lica (hercules and lica) inside the pavilion at the top of the hillside

photo credit lisa walsh | innerspace

18th century statue of ercole e lica (hercules and lica)

the statue of ercole e lica is from the workshop of antonio canova (1757-1822)

photo credit jennifer deppe parker

magnifico, no?

ps. click here to read more about villa d’este on AD daily.

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