Villa Balbianello

Top choice villa in Lenno

A 1km walk along the (partially wooded) lake shore from Lenno's main square, Villa Balbianello has cinematic pedigree: this was where scenes from Star Wars Episode II and the 2006 James Bond remake of Casino Royale were shot. The reason? It is one of the most dramatic locations anywhere on Lake Como, providing a genuinely stunning marriage of architecture and lake views.

Though the grounds are lovely, it's well worth joining a guided tour to see the villa's interior. Here you'll see the exquisite collections of the villa's last resident, Guido Monzino, who purchased the estate in 1974. Monzino was an entrepreneur, art collector and explorer, who filled the 18th-century mansion with artwork and mementoes from his adventures in Africa, the Himalayas and the polar regions, among other places.

Built by Cardinal Angelo Durini in 1787, Villa Balbianello was used for a while by Allied commanders at the tail end of WWII. The sculpted gardens, which were restored to Renaissance glory by Monzino, are the perfect place for hopelessly romantic elopers to spend a day. You can access the villa by a 1km path (amid vegetation so florid as to seem Southeast Asian) or take a taxi boat from Lenno.

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