Lake Como, in Northern Italy’s Lombardy region, is an area known for its dramatic scenery. The lake’s deep-blue waters are set against the rugged, forested foothills of the Rhaetian Alps. All along the shore are Mediterranean villas with formal gardens, some open to the public. Lake Como is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful lakes in Europe. In 1818 Percy Bisshe Shelley wrote to Thomas Love Peacock:  “This lake exceeds anything I ever beheld in beauty, with the exception of the arbutus islands of Killarney. It is long and narrow, and has the appearance of a mighty river winding among the mountains and the forests”.

The weather on the day of my visit to Villa Carlotta had started out with low-lying misty cloud, but dry. It was the end of October and almost the end of the tourist season. I knew that some of the locals in Bellagio were looking very doubtful when I told them that I was boarding the ferry to cross the lake to Villa Carlotta in Tremezzo. THEY WERE CORRECT! By the time I arrived, the rain was bucketing down and I was wet before I entered the grounds of this amazing Villa. The house was built in 1745 by Marquis Clerici, a wealthy Milanese merchant.  There is a landing stage on Lake Como from which steps and terraces ascend. It is located in a natural basin between lake and mountains and faces the peninsula of Bellagio.

The gardens of Villa Carlotta chiefly owe their reputation to the spring-flowering rhododendrons and azaleas, consisting of over 150 different varieties. There are old varieties of camellias, century old cedars and sequoias, huge planes and tropical plants and special features are the Rock garden and the Fern valley, the Rhododendron wood and the Bamboo garden. Some of the many dozens of rhododendrons are centuries old and display twisted trunks and branches.

Head Gardener’s Comment

“The garden-park of Villa Carlotta (about 8 hectares) is a very fascinating place: its favourable position, but also the harmonic coexistence of styles, the variety of species, and the literary suggestions make it worthy of a visit. The Italian garden dates back to the XVII Century with its geometrical schema, stairs and terraces, statues and fountains; one can feel the echoes of the Romantic period, still alive in the structure of the park with old tall trees and charming views; experience the impressive vegetal architecture of the second half of the XIX Century with the monumental azaleas and rhododendrons and the unending richness of rare plants and species!”

On a sunny day the view from the villa across the lake is quite spectacular ….. on this day the lake was nowhere to be seen. It is really quite difficult taking photos in pouring rain while holding an umbrella. Photography is not permitted inside the Villa, but with very few visitors (I saw only five) I was able to photograph parts of the garden from the upstairs windows.

This was a day I will never forget and I certainly have no regrets. There was something very special about seeing this magnificent Villa and garden glistening in the rain. The fact that it joins three other memorable moments when I have been truly wet through, leaves me with a smile.



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