Image: Villa del Balbianello Credit: Aerial-motion
Lake Como is perhaps one of the world's most breathtaking and picturesque regions, combining natural beauty and charming historic architecture. It is undoubtedly one of the most alluring places to visit in Europe, whether you're looking for a romantic getaway or a tranquil time away from the hustle and bustle of a city.
One of the best ways to enjoy Lake Como in its glory is to stay at one of the few enchanting villas that have been converted into hotels. This allows you to enjoy a full view of the clear waters and picture-perfect mountain panoramas for as long as you wish.
While you're here, you should take advantage of one of many private boat tours to get the full Lake Como experience. Most tours offer stopovers at some of these top villas.
Villa del Balbianello
Situated in the commune of Lenno on the western shore of Lake Como, Villa del Balbianello is an elegant 18th-century mansion with a breathtaking garden that has hosted many scholars, and adventurers who have visited Lake Como. This includes the famous explorer Count Guido Monzino, the last individual to own the Villa.
Image: Villa del Balbianello Credit: Aerial-motion
Villa del Balbianello preserves some memories of his adventures, such as being the first to lead an Italian expedition to climb Mount Everest. The villa displays some of his prized possessions, including maps, travel books, furniture items, and a peculiar collection of ancient art objects.
Famous for featuring in the James Bond movie Casino Royal and hosting a wedding in Star Wars: Attack of the Clones, the villa is currently a popular venue for high-profile weddings.
Located just 38 km from Como, Villa del Balbianello is easy to reach by car or even via taxi boat from Lido di Lenno. If you're driving, you should note that you must park a short distance from the villa. Free parking is available on Via Comoedia, a 20-minute walk from the villa.
For many centuries, Villa d'Este was home to royals and counts. Originally built in the 16th century as the summer home of the cardinal of Como at the time, Tolomeo Gallio, it has since been transformed into a charming and celebrated five-star hotel.
Image: Villa d'Este Credit: essevu
The villa has lush gardens overlooking Lake Como, offering beautiful panoramic views as the backdrop to such an opulent location. The villa itself exudes an air of sophistication with carefully managed gardens, glistening water fountains, and storied statues. It's also fully equipped with amenities such as culinary experiences, sports and wellness centers, and even shopping opportunities.
The villa is also a popular event venue, with one of the most famous events hosted there being the annual Concorso d'Eleganza Villa d'Este, a motor show for classic cars that draws a high-profile crowd from high-end car manufacturers to collectors from different parts of the world. This event is an excellent opportunity to explore the grounds of the villa since it isn't open for public tours.
Villa d'Este is easy to reach via car, taxi, or train. For a more luxurious entry, the villa has a small helipad for helicopter landing and a pier for private boats.
Originally a Cistercian convent in the late 12th century, Villa Monastero has been through numerous transformations. It has served as a private residence and an international conference center. To support conference activities, the villa also has limited accommodation with lake views that attendees can use.
Image: Villa Monastero Credit:Audrius Venclova
One of the most impressive features of Villa Monastero is the vast botanical garden, arranged in multiple terraces with some of the most rare plant species not just in the region but the entire world. Villa Monastero allows all visitors to enjoy a wide variety of colors and scents unique to the region. If you need a break during your tour, stop by the cafeteria to enjoy snacks and drinks while you soak in the fantastic views.
A large part of the interior of Villa Monastero is occupied by a museum called the House Museum. Here, you'll be greeted with an entire spectrum of architectural design evolutions, from early medieval periods to neo-classical elements. The period furniture, exquisite art, and intricately detailed elements will transport you to the past for an unforgettable experience.
Villa Monastero is just a short 10-minute walk from the nearest pier, making it possible to travel here by private boat. The local commune, Varenna, also has a railway station, meaning it's connected to major cities like Milan.
Villa Carlotta is an enchanting villa on the western shore of Lake Como. The villa dates back to the late 17th century when travelers would come from far and wide to marvel at the architectural wonder and be captivated by the botanical splendor on display. Originally built by the Marquises Clerici of Milan, the villa has since changed ownership many times, accumulating an extraordinarily vast collection of artworks and historical pieces.
Image: Villa Carlotta Credit: Sina Ettmer Photography
A major theme of Villa Carlotta is the merging of architecture, art, and nature. This is evident in the meticulously landscaped gardens surrounding the villa and the beautiful trees that line the pathways. The villa boasts an incredible collection of plants from all around the world, with breathtaking fountains and sculptures to elevate the experience. Inside the villa, you'll be transported to various bygone eras with an incredible art collection that has been amassed over several centuries.
Villa Carlotta is easy to reach by any means of local transportation. There's also free parking just a few minutes from the villa.
Villa Melzi d'Eril
In the charming town of Bellagio, you'll find the wondrous Villa Melzi d'Eril. This opulent villa was built in the early 19th century and gives tourists a glimpse of the region's cultural heritage, captivating visitors with a mix of neo-classical themes and an expansive botanical garden.
Image: Villa Melzi d'Eril Credit: Dafinka
Commissioned by Francesco Melzi d'Eril as his residence, the inside of the villa is lined with incredible historical artworks and intricate decorations. The villa's luxury furnishings and architectural choices truly showcase the refined tastes of its original designer. You'll even find a neo-Egyptian mausoleum within the gardens, complete with a statue of Francesco Melzi d'Eril by renowned sculptor Luigi Acquisti. Those who have a specific interest in the Melzi family can also explore the nearby chapel, which has an extensive collection of historical artifacts and family memorabilia.
One of the defining features of Villa Melzi d'Eril is the sprawling botanical gardens that stretch along the shore of the lake. The English-style garden has exotic plants and beautifully crafted statues. The garden also has a wide variety of camellias, producing beautiful flowers from late winter to early spring.
The villa's Bellagio location makes it an easy commute, no matter where you're traveling from.
Villa Olmo is an 18th-century residence on the shores of Lake Como. Located in Como, it was constructed in the late 1700s by the wealthy and influential Odescalchi noble family. The villa is characterized by its symmetrical architectural design, blending different elements of neo-classical and Baroque design to create a unique mix of styles that make it stand out from the other villas on Lake Como.
Image: Villa Olmo Credit: M-Production
Inside the villa, you'll find several rooms adorned with intricate art pieces such as decorative stucco work, fresco art, and period furnishings. Walking through the halls and rooms of the villa will transport visitors back in time to the 18th century, offering a peek into the opulent lifestyles that the nobles lived.
Surrounding the villa is a vast garden enriched with manicured lawns, trees, and a vast array of beautiful flowers. It makes for an incredible backdrop to any stroll, and visitors can marvel at the breathtaking central fountain with its magnificent sculpture.
Over the years, Villa Olmo has slowly transformed into a cultural hub that hosts everything from musical events to international conferences. This is thanks to the spacious hallways and large open areas that can be used for many different events. It's also one of the most sought-after locations for private events such as weddings. The garden and building can be freely explored as it is now part of a public park.
Nestled in the picturesque town of Cernobbio, you'll find Villa Bernasconi, an elegant villa originally constructed in 1905. The villa blends neo-classical design elements with Art Nouveau, making it especially captivating for both history and architecture enthusiasts.
Image: Villa Bernasconi Credit: Fabio Caironi
The interior of the villa will bring visitors back to the Belle Époque era, showing off elegant rooms that have been meticulously designed and preserved to offer a glimpse into the opulent lifestyles of its owners. The large rooms frequently host cultural events, art exhibitions, and guided tours, which can provide an immersive experience to anyone curious to learn more about the history and cultural significance of the villa.
But unlike many villas on Lake Como, Villa Bernasconi provides a more unique backdrop as it is not a lakefront villa. This offers visitors a different experience from the usual coastal villas with their views of the lake and mountains.
Villa Erba is located in the Cernobbio commune and is only a 1-minute drive from Villa Bernasconi. It was built as a luxury private residence but eventually became a sophisticated venue for cultural events, art exhibitions, conferences, and even a popular location for film productions. These include the Netflix movie Murder Mystery, which featured the villa as the location where the characters played by Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston, solved the murder case.
Image: Villa Erba Credit: Essevu
Over the years, many notable guests have attended a myriad of events in Villa Erba, making it one of the most storied and historically significant Lake Como villas.
Villa Erba offers a lavish interior adorned with period furnishings, ornate decorations, and outstanding artwork to give it a sophisticated character. This offers a look into the aristocratic lifestyle of the period it was built in, reflecting the opulence it once exuded as guests wander through its halls.
Villa Erba is a culturally rich destination in its own right, and its position as a renowned host for international conferences and exhibitions makes it one of the more unique and interesting villas to visit.
Villa Serbelloni has a storied history that stretches across multiple centuries. Initially built as a monastery, it was transformed into a noble residence and housed many wealthy families. Villa Serbelloni underwent architectural changes as the years went by, adding multiple influences from various periods, eventually becoming a cultural hub. It has hosted many illustrious guests throughout the centuries, including high-profile intellectuals and artists.
Image: Villa Serbelloni Credit: AerialVision_it
This estate offers some of the most incredible panoramic views thanks to its location on the tip of Bellagio, right where Lake Como splits into two branches. The alluring entrance is decorated by an extensive botanical garden that features lush trees and a wide variety of beautiful flowers.
The villa's interior is adorned with period furniture, intricate old tapestries, and historical artifacts gathered through many centuries. Some of the villa's original architectural elements are still intact, reflecting the various evolutions of the villa as it changed hands. From Renaissance to neo-classical and also Moorish influences, the interior is a wondrous sight.
A captivating historical retreat, Villa Cipressi overlooks Lake Como in the Varenna commune and offers a culturally rich history just waiting to be explored. Dating back all the way to the 1400s, the villa which was built as a monastery, later evolved into an opulent property. It has stood the architectural test of time, transforming from medieval interiors to neo-classical elements while retaining much of the original charm. Today, it is a hotel and a popular wedding venue.
Image: Villa Cipressi Credit: Trabantos
In the 19th century, Villa Cipressi became a private residence and was renovated to include more eclectic styles and interior motifs, which have become its defining characteristics today. With a mix of antique furnishings and fresco art pieces, the villa now reflects its aristocratic past and offers a glimpse into the lifestyle several centuries ago.
Villa Cipressi is surrounded by ancient cypress trees and a rich mix of flora, offering some beautiful sights and aroma to all visitors. There are also panoramic views of Lake Como, and you can soak in the beautiful sights from a delightful terrace where guests can also enjoy delicious local cuisine.