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Villa Carlotta

On the western shore of Lake Como in Lombardy, northern Italy, the village of Tremezzo sits beneath wooded hills backed by the spectacular Grigna Massif of the Dolomite Mountains. Directly facing the southern peninsula of the lake upon which the popular resort of Bellagio is situated, Tremezzo enjoys stunning panoramic views of the mountains, hills and lakes.

In itself, this outstanding natural beauty is sufficient justification for visiting Tremezzo but it is the village's wealth of grand villas and palaces dating from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries that has secured Tremezzo's reputation as one of the most famous and popular destinations in this region of Lake Como.

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The jewel in Tremezzo's crown is Villa Carlotta; a magnificent neoclassical palace built for the Marquis Giorgio Clerici in 1690 and set in a seventeen-acre lakeside estate. In the nineteenth century the villa's last owner, Giambattista Sommariva, a wealthy politician and art enthusiast, turned Villa Carlotta into a museum to showcase his extensive collections. Among the many masterpieces on display today are several marble statues by the celebrated Venetian sculptor Antonio Canova, reliefs by Danish sculptor Bertel Thordwalsen, paintings by Italy's foremost artist of Romanticism, Francesco Hayez and works by a host of other Italian and European masters, as well as period furniture and numerous antiquities from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Whilst the house itself is undeniably spectacular, Villa Carlotta's extensive gardens are incomparably beautiful. A blaze of colour in the spring and summertime, the perfectly-tended, landscaped and terraced gardens feature themed areas including a dazzling section of multi-coloured Azaleas, an arboretum of pink, white and red Rhododendrons some of which are centuries old, a bamboo forest containing more than twenty-five individual species, some of them rare, set beside streams, waterfalls and rock arrangements, and a grotto filled with different ferns.

Wide and level pathways, and lifts between the terraces ensure that Villa Carlotta's exquisite gardens are accessible to everyone, whilst their elevated position overlooking the shore enables visitors to enjoy some of Lake Como's very best views. To fully explore and appreciate the beauty and diversity of the gardens takes at least a couple of hours, but there are many picturesque places to sit and admire the scenery and the gardens' own coffee shop provides snacks and refreshments.