No journey to the Italian lakes would be complete without a visit to Villa Carlotta. Situated on the edge of Lake Como, in the small village of Tramezzo, this substantial villa is surrounded by 70,000 square meters of majestic gardens. When I visited, on a particularly warm spring day, well organized groups of gardeners were hard at work pruning, planting and generally maintaining the groves of citrus trees, enormous groups of mature camellia trees, ferns and shrubs. Built in the 17th century for the Clericis family the villa was bought in the last half of the eighteenth century by Princess Marianne of Nassau and given to her daughter as a present on the occasion of her marriage to George 11 of Saxe-Meiningen.
The gardens and villa are open most days but are especially beautiful in the spring and summer time.
Another stunning garden and villa to visit on Lake Como is Villa del Balbianello. In the 16th century the villa was home to a small group of Franciscan friars then the land was acquired by Cardunal Durini who set about creating a perfect summer residence. Over time and several owners the final resident was Guido Monzino, a prominent Milanese businessman, ardent collector and dedicated explorer. After his death the house was bequeathed to Fondo Ambiente Italiano who maintain it for all to visit and enjoy. The villa is filled with priceless works of art, ceramics and ancient objects. However the grounds are as beautiful as the villa and the objects within. Although the manicured gardens are smaller than those of Villa Carlotta, they are perfectly maintained and have been designed to enchant.