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Lake Como: A Trio of Must-See Villas

I've realized that George Clooney and I have at least one thing in common: our love of Lake Como and the villas that surround it. A recent 3-day visit to Lake Como was all I needed to crave regular visits for many years to come. I’m currently eyeing a Summer 2018 return.

The region's surrounding mountains, gorgeous deep-blue lake, and its quaint cities will remind you of a fairytale land with pink hues and palm trees. And, for those Game of Thrones fans, you'll picture a walk through Dorne.

A fairytale land would not be complete without royal families and their oversized mansions. There are a dozen or so villas that surround Lake Como, each of them with its own unique backstory and design philosophy. During my quick trip to Lake Como, I had the pleasure of getting up close with these three must-see villas.

Villa Carlotta

In 1843, Princess Marianne of Nassau, wife of the late King Albert of Prussia, purchased this 17th century villa as a wedding gift for her daughter Carlotta, hence the name Villa Carlotta. Located on the West side of Lake Como, Villa Carlotta boasts 3 stories spread across 20 acres. Once inside, you'll be amazed by the stately designed and expertly curated art collection. The 3rd floor ceiling design is simply breathtaking.

What's more beautiful than the building itself is the massive wraparound garden terrace that surrounds it. In full bloom, the botanical garden makes up over 6,000 individual species of plants, roses, shrubs, and trees.

To visit Villa Carlotta, you'll want to take a ferry from any of Lake Como's primary cities (Varenna, Como, Bellagio, among many) and head for the Tremezzo - Villa Carlotta stop. It's very simple, however please note, this stop has fewer lines of service with the last ferry departing in the early evening.

Please expect to pay a small entrance fee.

Villa Melzi

Belonging to the late Franceso Melzi d'Eril, a high ranking dignitary in the Italian government, Villa Melzi is perhaps my favorite of Lake Como's fabulous villas. Here you'll find a 4-story pristine white and perfectly symmetrical 18th Century villa designed by architect Giocondo Albertolli along Lake Como's prime waterfronts.

The gardens of Villa Melzi, designed by architect Luigi Canonica and by botanist Luigi Villoresi, is famous for its English styled gardens, enriched sculptures, and the diverse foliage. As you walk through the garden's quaint pathways, you'll perhaps spot a cluster of Japanese maples, American redwoods, rhododendrons or azaleas.

To reach Villa Melzi requires a ferry ride into Bellagio, one of Lake Como's more popular stops. Ferries in and out of Bellagio run round the clock and more frequently than compared to Tremezzo - Villa Carlotta. Villa Melzi is a short 15 minute walk south along the waterfront from the dock.

Please expect to pay a small entrance fee.

Villa La Gaeta

Villa La Gaeta is one of Lake Como's newer lakeside villas - and, by new, I mean 100 years old. What you'll hear most frequently from Lake Como residents is this 1920's imperial style villa made a cameo in the 2006 James Bond 007 Casino Royale movie. The other fun fact is you can Airbnb one of the units for just $293 per night.

While I didn't explore Villa La Gaeta by foot, I did admire the building's bizarre medieval style from a private boat, enjoying its usage of brown stones adding to its already eclectic style. Planned by Adolfo and Gino Coppedè and completed in 1921, Villa La Gaeta is shaped like a medieval, renaissance castle with inserted motifs of the liberty period. It is structured around two towers, one of which is on a deep cliff over the lake, the other facing the hills. In 1940, the villa became the property of Counts Gerli.

I will certainly be adding a visit to Villa La Gaeta on my next trip to Lake Como.

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