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Villa del Balbianello

The villa is located at the end of Avedo peninsula in one of the most attractive areas of the lake. Built for the Cardinal Angelo Maria Durini at the end of the 18th century, it was frequented by intellectuals and outstanding figures of the Italian Risorgimento.

Access to the Villa is by foot, with a 25 minutes walk, or by taxiboat from Lido di Lenno.

The complex includes several buildings surrounded by a beautiful garden, organized on different levels to exploit the characteristics of the promontory, which has ornamental trees, including a majestic oak and plane trees pruned in candelabrum.

At the center of the garden there is the loggia, a rectangular building with only two rooms, the library and the cartographers hall, connected by a graceful porch with two balconies facing east and west. The main body of the villa is composed of a massive three floors building and there is a lower wing facing towards the lake which includes the ancient church with two bell towers on the façade.

The rooms still have the arrangement of the furniture made by Guido Monzino and the villa preserves art collections collected by him, the library, several items related to his travels to the North Pole and to the Everest and numerous prints of the lake.

At the height of its fortunes after a long diplomatic career, Cardinal Angelo Maria Durini decided to have another home in a secluded location not far from villa Balbiano in Ossuccio that he purchased in 1787. Between 1790 and 1793 he bought the entire Avedo peninsula and built a new home on the tip of the promontory where there were already a house and a small church, dedicated to St. John and belonged to the minor Franciscans.

The cardinal built an elegant pavilion with a central loggia overlooking on one side, called Cove of Diana, the creek of the Comacina island, and the other side towards the Tremezzina, called Cove of Venus. Two rooms were built on the sides of the porch, a library and a music room, where the Cardinal received friends, artists and writers including Giuseppe Parini, who devoted to the Cardinal the Ode “Gratitude”.

In 1797, after the death of Durini, the complex was bought by Giuseppe Sepolina, and then in the 19th century it was sold to Luigi Porro Lambertenghi patriot from Milan that sheltered in the villa Silvio Pellico, tutor to his children. In 1821 the villa was sold to Giuseppe Arconati and in 1876 the property was inherited by his widow, the Marquise Marie Peyrat, who in 1919 sold it to the American General Butler Ames.

The Ames family owned the villa until 1974 when it was purchased by Count Guido Monzino who restored the building and the garden, renovating the interior with English and French furniture and collecting the relics of his travels and of his expeditions. At his death, in 1988, Monzino left the villa Balbianello to the Italian Environment Trust (FAI) that still owns the villa and opens it to the public.

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