I swear half the time I’m flipping through a magazine, watching a movie or television show I’m not paying attention to what’s actually happening, but instead I’m on the lookout for new places to visit. When I saw Casino Royale (a James Bond movie), I fell in love with one of their filming locations: Villa del Balbianello.
Of course, I didn’t realize at the time it was Villa del Balbianello in Lake Como, but after a quick Internet search I found it easily (obviously other people had similar ideas).
Getting to Villa del Balbianello
I’m still not sure why they do it (and by “they” I mean whoever it is who operates, owns or manages the villa), but they don’t make it easy to find info on or even visit the place in person. I had trouble finding an official website and information about how to get there and when to go.
Since we couldn’t seem to get definitive answers, we just decided to try to visit late in the afternoon on a Wednesday in July. We parked our car in Lenno (the nearest town) and started walking along the path leading to the villa (the villa sits on a peninsula). A little ways into the walk, we passed some people leaving who told us it was closed to the public for the afternoon. Darnit.
So, we came back the next day around 11am. It was a Thursday, and apparently the only way you could get to the Villa was by water taxi.
Here’s the pier where you wait for the next water taxi to come around. We paid something like €6 apiece and hopped aboard.
The thing about the taxi versus the alternative – walking – is you get some great views of the villa. I think that if you have the option to walk (which normally I’d prefer) I’d still recommend taking the taxi. You’ll go all the way around the villa in the boat so you’ll get to see the villa & the gardens from all different angles.
Such a lovely day for a visit to the villa!
The water taxi will drop you off by those striped poles (they remind me of the ones in Venice – maybe it’s an Italian thing).
After a little hike up the hill, you can wander about the grounds at your leisure.
A prime spot for a bench, if you ask me.
You have the chance to see a little of the house. Bit opulent for my taste, but kinda interesting.
So one of the big reasons for visiting, as I mentioned at the top, was to actually see the locations where filming took place for Casino Royale. And there was also another well-known movie shot here on the terrace: Star Wars Episode II. Unfortunately for us, though, the terrace was off limits during our visit. :( They were setting up for a wedding.
At least we could wander most of the meticulously manicured grounds.
Here’s the inside of the Loggia with strands of ivy decorating the columns.
Outside view of the loggia. They restored it quite nicely (which was a project they completed not too long ago).
Stone steps through the gardens
I love palm trees. These ones were so tall and skinny.
I think they’re trying to tell us something, but I’m not quite sure what…
To Go or No
If you’re visiting Lake Como, I’d say a visit to Villa del Balbianello should be high on your list. If you have the option, take the water taxi instead of walking there (better all-around views of the villa & the grounds). Be sure to not only see the villa, but explore the pretty extensive gardens, as well.
- Entry to the Villa for 1 adult: €4
- Water Taxi for 1 adult: €6
Some website links I found that may help:
- Friends of FAI Info on Villa del Balbianello (history, building info, and more)
- FAI (Fondo Ambiente Italiano) official website for Villa del Balbianello (though the English version isn’t working as I write this)
There’s a lot to see and do in the middle area of Lake Como and a visit to Villa del Balbianello is one of them. Here’s a map (click to see in Google Maps) of where we went and the highlights of the area.
And here’s an overall view of Italy and where Lake Como is within the country.