The Gardens of Villa Melzi in Bellagio

Two hundred years of splendor on Lake Como

by Lavinia Colonna Preti
Gardens of Villa Melzi in Bellagio — Lombardia Secrets

The Gardens of Villa Melzi in Bellagio are, first of all, a great declaration of love for Lake Como and Italian art that has lasted uninterrupted for over 200 years.

Wanted by the Milanese Francesco Melzi d’Eril, a prominent figure in Italian politics, a personal friend of Napoleon who made him Vice President of the First Italian Republic, they have, in fact, always remained the property of the same family that has kept them intact over the centuries in total respect for the original landscape project.

Coming as an inheritance to Tommaso Gallarati Scotti through the bequest of his mother Luisa Melzi d’Eril, it is thanks to his son Lodovico Gallarati Scotti that in the 1970s the gardens were opened to the public. A commitment today taken up in particular by his son Fulco who guards them with love and commitment by continuously investing, not only all the proceeds from visits, in their improvement and maintenance.

Gardens of Villa Melzi in Bellagio — Lombardia Secrets

I consider myself the keeper of an artwork, passed onto me by my family, which due to its historical and artistic importance must also be able to serve our entire community

(Count Lodovico Gallarati Scotti)

Proclaimed a national monument, the construction of the villa began in 1808 following the decision by Francesco Melzi d’Eril to settle in Bellagio. For his new residence, the Count of Lodi, who also had the purpose of representation given the important political position he held, really thought big, spared no expense, involving the best designers and artists of the neoclassical style so much in vogue at that time. The choice for the garden fell on the architect Luigi Canonica and the agronomist Luigi Villoresi, also authors of the park of Villa Reale in Monza, who conceived a truly dream project, full of rare and exotic plants.

Remained unchanged over time, an unusual feature for large gardens in Italy, there are in fact many rarities: from the huge secular trees to an extraordinary collection of camellias, from exotic species such as a Montezuma Pine, arrived from Mexico as a personal gift of Maximilian of Habsburg, to the gigantic Tulip Tree.

Gardens of Villa Melzi in Bellagio — Lombardia Secrets
Gardens of Villa Melzi in Bellagio — Lombardia Secrets

Speaking of rarity, the chronicles of the time tell of a war with “plants” between Melzi d’Eril and Giovanni Battista Sommariva, his political rival who in 1801 had bought the neighboring Villa Carlotta, another pearl of the lake located in Tremezzo, who challenged him from a distance to have the most beautiful works of art or botanical species inside his villa.

In addition to the precious botanical part, the garden is also embellished with many works of art, in line with the “exotic” trends of the time, such as Egyptian statues dating back to the dynasty of Ramses II or an original Venetian gondola, witness of an early 19th-century trend, when the noble families of the lake competed to have the coolest pleasure boat for their guests. There were so many illustrious visitors to the Villa, from the European political elite of the time, to artists such as Franz Litz, who is said to have composed his famous “played to Dante” here, and Stendhal who will mention it in his novel “Certosa di Parma”.

Gardens of Villa Melzi in Bellagio — Lombardia Secrets

The gardens are also famous for 2 of the most Instagram-friendly spots on Lake Como, which you can see in the photo gallery: the first is the Oriental Garden with its water lily pond and the bucolic wrought iron bridge, while the second is the white&blue Moorish kiosk, built to host coffee breaks, another fashion habit of the time. It is here, under the silent gaze of the busts of the Austrian Emperor Ferdinand I and the Empress Marianna of Savoy, Duke Lodovico Melzi and his wife Josephine Melzi Barbò, that, giving the back to the lake, you will get the perfect shot as seen in the most popular photos with hashtag #comolake.

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Gardens of Villa Melzi

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