This floating castle appears to be from an enchanted fable, but in actuality it is Europe's best preserved Renaissance water castle.
Reflected on the shores of Lake Como stands the grand Villa Giovio Balbiano. Built by Cardinal Tolomeo Gallio at the end of the 16th century, the design was modeled after the drawings of Pellegrino Tibaldi, and was enlarged and embellished by Cardinal Durini in the 18th century.
The villa’s property was originally in possession of the noble family of count Giovio. In the 1600s ownership was passed to Cardinal Tolomeo Gallio, and in 1637 he ordered a change in the layout of the grounds in order to obtain enough space to craft a proper Italian garden.
Cardinal Angelo Maria Durini became interested in the villa and purchased it in 1787. He was known as a papal nuncio, a lover of arts, letters, and an avid patron and collector. He worked diligently to turn the Villa into a true masterpiece by enlarging the house and garden, erecting statues and fountains and opening new avenues between hedges and pergolas.
In the late 18th century Villa Giovio Balbiano hosted a gallant and frivolous society where festivals, banquets and dances followed one another relentlessly. The lounges housed recitation meetings, concerts and literary discussions.
The villa’s façade is much more modest than one might imagine, with simple and sober lines, punctuated by gray stone ornamental carvings. From the Strada Regina – a historic pathway on the west side of lake Como – a nymph flowered of blue iris ushers visitors to a path that leads to the main house that is lined with box hedges, where plane trees and cypresses grow.
The interiors are graced with enchanting baroque frescoes by the Recchi brothers that were painted in the early 17th century. In the lobby Cardinal Durini installed a large library, known to all scholars of the time who hoped to use it. An indoor pool can be found just off the first floor living room.
The villa is now available to rent to parties who wish to stay in this luxurious oasis but be ready to spend a pretty penny. With six bedrooms throughout the dwelling, the villa can host up to 12 guests. Cooking services can be added to the bill so guests don’t have to worry about making their next meal. The villa also caters to a long check list of other exciting activities so guests never experience a dull moment.
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