Villa del Balbianello, lakeside movie setting

Villa del Balbianello (c) Stefano Valeri/
Villa del Balbianello (c) Stefano Valeri/
Nestling in the heart of a wooden promontory on the banks of Lake Como in Lenno, Villa del Balbianello is a magnificent example of a perfectly preserved 18th century dwelling and an ideal movie setting.

While approaching the banks of Lake Como, it is almost impossible not to notice the imposing waterfront dwelling dominating the area of Lenno; it’s the Villa del Balbianello, one of the most loved attractions of the area. Built in 1787, the villa still retains some architectural elements inherited from the former Franciscan monastery on whose remains it stands. Extending over six floors, Villa del Balbianello, indeed, jealously preserves the façade with the two bell towers of the ancient church belonging to the former Franciscan monastery. This elegant, 18th-century mansion and its magnificent garden – which are currently owned by FAI-Fondo Ambiente Italiano, a private non-profit trust – have hosted writers, scholars and travelers, including Count Guido Monzino, the last owner of the Villa, as well as Giovanni Berchet and Alessandro Manzoni.

Surrounded by a stunning, terraced panoramic garden, with a breathtaking view of the lake and direct access to the waters of the lake, the Villa is one of the area’s most romantic retreats. Highlights of the dwelling and the surrounding area include the Caretaker’s House, the Glacier House, the Wood House, the Greenhouse and the extensive garden park. The interiors of the house are a perfect testimony to the splendour of the past, where time seems to stand still. The original 19th-century furnishings are still visible, including the extensive library, the bedroom furniture and the rare collection of paintings on glass collected by Guido Monzino between the 1950s and 1970s. Particularly noteworthy is the Loggia, whose incomparable beauty and evocative atmosphere have turned it into the perfect set for scenes from major international films. Villa del Balbianello was indeed chosen by director George Lucas as one the setting for the marriage of Anakin Skywalker and Padmé Amidala on the planet Naboo for Episode II “Star Wars: Attack of the Clones”, as well as the background to a scene of the 007 series, Casino Royale.

If, on the one hand, tours of the gardens and open-air beauties of the villa are free, on the other hand, the interior is only accessible by 45-minutes guided tours. Moreover, if you are planning a visit to the Villa, please bear in mind that there are no roads accessible by car leading to the dwelling. If you are feeling sporty, remember to wear comfortable shoes, as you can easily access it after a half-hour walk through a wood starting from the city of Lenno. Conversely, if you wish to enjoy a more relaxing experience, you can reach the Villa thanks to a taxi-boat departing from the Lido di Lenno and stopping right in front of the villa.