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Villa Melzi: an awe-inspiring botanical sanctuary

A perfect blend of Renaissance and Neoclassical architecture, exuding sensations from an era of grandeur, and surrounded by gardens of an heavenly beauty. Villa Melzi, located in Bellagio, stands as a celebration of things done all’italiana, pursuing utter excellence and beauty in every aspect of human genius, from architecture, to botany, to sculpture and arts.

We have to warn you though: a trip to the villa is an experience so rewarding, that it will become an obligatory benchmark of beauty for those who have the privilege of visiting it: every step around the magnificent giardini of Villa Melzi will get you more inspired by its intricate details. 

Heaven on Earth is now reality: welcome to Villa Melzi. 

How to get to Villa Melzi

Bellagio, one of Lake Como’s most popular destinations, is home to Villa Melzi. The world-famous village can be reached in the blink of an eye, thanks to the little guide prepared by Lake Como Experiences. 

By train 

Bellagio cannot be reached by train due to the lack of space due to Lake Como’s unique combination of lush mountains and pure water. 

But there’s a hidden option that lets Lake Como aficionados sample another prize: Varenna. Getting to Lecco from Tirano takes about 40 minutes and costs as little as €5. 

Getting to Bellagio from Lecco by bus number.10 (which leaves from Piazza della Lega Lombarda) takes around an hour and costs between €2 and €3, depending on the time of year. 

By ferry boat 

Experience the beauty of Lake Como by hopping on a ferry from Como’s harbor. It takes about 2 hours to reach Bellagio, with a ticket costing €11,60 for the ferry boat and €16.20 for the faster option, the thrilling aliscafo. 

By car

From Milan, take the A9/E35 freeway for 9 km (5.6 miles) and exit on SS35 dei Giovi. Merge onto the A36 highway and take the exit for Via Nazionale dei Giovi/SP44. This will lead you up to the SS 36 del Lago di Como e dello Spluga/SS36. Continue on this road until Lecco and then take the SS72 to Bellagio. Before setting out, be sure to check for the latest road conditions.

History of Villa Melzi 

I Giardini of Villa Melzi are renowned as some of the most beautiful in Italy and Europes.

Its construction was commissioned by Francesco Melzi d’Eril (1753-1816), a vice president of Napoleon’s Italian Republic and the Grand Chancellor of the Italic Kingdom who was once the duke of Lodi. After the duke’s political career ended, he made the Gardens of Villa Melzi d’Eril his summer home in Bellagio, until his death in 1816.

Melzi d’Eril commissioned the Villa and Gardens to be designed by Giocondo Albertolli (1742-1839), a prominent neoclassical architect. Albertolli wanted to build a home that would complement the natural scenery by using clean, basic lines and proportions. 

The Villa and Gardens were decorated and furnished by a variety of famous painters of the period. Andrea Appiani (1754-1817) and Alessandro Sanquirico (1777-1849) were two painters, while Antonio Canova (1757-1822), Giambattista Comolli (1775-1830), and Luigi Manfredini (1771-1840) were three sculptures. 

The English-style gardens were created by architect Luigi Canonica and botanist Luigi Villoresi, and they include several sculptures and other embellishments. Melzi and his team of talented artists and technologists have worked out a unique arrangement that results in an atmosphere of exceptional harmony. In fact, Stendhal gushed over the estate’s aesthetic appeal in his 1817 book Rome, Naples, Florence.

A land of enchantment: walk through the gardens of Villa Melzi

The botanical gardens of Villa Melzi, perfectly blended with Bellagio’s stunning surroundings, are a true example of nature’s resiliency. The Italian garden the villa is endowed with is a hidden jewel, a haven of peace and tranquility among the towering sequoias and oaks and the Japanese maples and camellias. The tranquil atmosphere and plenty of exotic plants and the towering Tulip Tree allow visitors to reflect on the beauty of the natural world. The grounds at Villa Melzi show how timeless beauty can be, and how there is always something new to find.

Late April and early May are ideal for getting out and appreciating nature’s vivacious splendor. At this time of year, Bellagio and the villa’s lush gardens burst into life with breathtaking displays of rhododendrons, elephant-sized camellias, and Volkswagen-sized azaleas. Blooming Brunfelsia pauciflora ‘Floribunda’ (also known as Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow) contributes to the region’s lively attractiveness.

Did you know? Bellagio and its beauties are for everyone: as a matter of fact, Villa Melzi is also a great location for school groups and educational activities! For private visits, workshops and guided tours to the gardens, check out the contacts in the last paragraph! 

Play with the past at Villa Melzi’s museum

Following a renovation, Villa Melzi’s Museum now narrates the events from the Napoleonic era to the Unification of Italy, including Neoclassicism and Romanticism, in an intimate and familiar atmosphere.

Located in the Orangery adjacent to the villa, the museum exhibits Napoleonic memorabilia, evidence of Duke Francesco Melzi d’Eril’s loyalty to Napoleon.

On the ground floor, the “Antiquarium” section displays artifacts of the Melzi d’Eril and Gallarati Scotti families, both archaeological and ancient art: Egyptian and Etruscan sculptures, masterpieces of medieval art, 19th century sculptures, ceramic vases and an interesting series of goldsmithing objects.

On the second floor, instead, visitors can stop and contemplate the history of the villa: from the design to the various stages of its construction, with an interesting glimpse of life in Bellagio at the time. Coinciding with the 200th anniversary of Napoleon’s death, this wing of the museum also houses a number of artifacts from that very period, as well as marble busts of Napoleon and his family.

The perfect Instagram spot on Lake Como doesn’t exi-….hold on, we might prove you wrong on this. Because of its ability to distill Lake Como’s unique blend of history, nature, art, and luxury into a single image, narrative, or film, Villa Melzi is widely acknowledged as one of the lake’s and Bellagio’s most recognisable landmarks. Take the ideal photo in front of the clear waters of Lake Como, with the villa in the backdrop and the mountains in the distance, and your pals will be green with envy. 

However, there is more: at Villa Melzi, it is possible to organise professional photoshoots, which will please even the pickiest photographers and models. Learn the steps to take to make it happen in the next paragraph!

LCE Tip: Bellagio is universally considered as one of Italy’s most romantic scenarios, evocating daydreams of love, beauty and tenderness. Unfortunately, Villa Melzi cannot be used as a wedding location (check out Villa Serbelloni and its equally magnificent gardens, you won’t be disappointed). However, it can become the perfect setting for a unique post-wedding photoshoot with Lake Como as its protagonist!

Villa Melzi: Useful Info 

Villa Melzi can be visited during the months from  March to October (confirm this the official website).

The park is open daily from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., with the final entry at 6:30 p.m.

The garden tour costs €8 per person (children under 12 get in free) and lasts around an hour and a half. It also includes stops at the family church and the modern and Napoleonic Museum. Tours may be scheduled by contacting visite@giardinidivillamelzi.it.