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Greatest Gardens Week 3

Week 3 – Villa Del Balbianello, Lake Como, Italy

Weather – Warm and Sunny

This week, I’ve gone all international! When I set out on my quest to find the Greatest Garden, I had planned to limit my exploration to the UK only, and now at only three weeks in, I can’t resist but to share this Italian gem.

The Italians have an unexplainable knack for doing things well; they are the best dressed, best designers and per capita, they have the highest numbers of perfect hairstyles. So as I bask in the Italian sunshine, I’m not surprised when I stumble across the magnificence of Villa del Balbianello. I instantly wished that I was wearing a pair of cream chinos and a pale lemon sweater casually draped over the shoulders of an oxford blue shirt, as this place oozes sophistication.

Positioned on a steep outcrop, overlooking Lake Como, the villa was built in 1787 on the site of a monastery for a wealthy cardinal, but now it’s in the hands of an Italian version of the National Trust which is very similar to ours, but they are less beard and ham sandwich and more designer stubble and linguini.

Once inside, a series of narrow pathways guide you through the steep terraces and luckily, from most positions you are able take in the spectacular views across the lake, and when the sun is dancing on the surface, it is truly one of the best views you could ever imagine.  Clipped hedges bordering the paths and planting beds create the traditional feel you’d expect from the garden and the villa itself, but the swathes of structural, mono coloured planting gives the garden a contemporary freshness which shouts that this landscape is prepared to adopt forward thinking design styles and not be too bogged down in its heritage.

The gardens at Villa Del Balbianello are spectacular; they work in a harmonious unison with the villa and its associated outbuildings. In some grand houses there is a clear definition of where the building ends and the garden begins, but here, the two seem to envelope each other in a way that can only be achieved through generations of attention to detail and carefully considered planting decisions. There are many different aspects from large lawns to private viewing platforms but one of my favourite areas is its very own little harbour where you can imagine yourself arriving on a classic Italian sports boat and casually hopping through the ornate cast iron gates to meet a stunning Italian beauty, unfortunately, the reality is that I arrived on a ferry boat with a mixture of pasty white Brits and badly dressed Americans! Well I can dream can’t I!

So, I must leave it there and I definitely recommend a visit and even though this one is international, as Greatest Gardens go, this is definitely one of my front runners.

Ciao for now



  • archiepemarchiepem Posts: 1,155


     was at lake como last week .went to belargio drinks at the grand . great place to visit.. will be back

  • FleurisaFleurisa Posts: 779

    Have you been to Arley Hall and Gardens?

  • I've not been there but it will be one for the list.

  • SalinoSalino Posts: 1,609

    ..very interesting write up George...thank you... you might like to know, in case you're not aware, that this featured, albeit briefly, in Monty Don's Italian Garden series, part 4...when he was doing a boat tour around lake Como... here is the you tube link if anyone would like to see... the Lake Como segment starts about 32 minutes in, and the garden in question - viewed only from the lake -  at about 34 mins 40 secs or something like that...  also shots of Clooney's and Richard Branson's houses.... I prefer Clooney's... but either would do...image


  • Thanks for that I'll give it a watch and compare notes!

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