Spilling down to Lake Como as the Villa Melzi does, it is a perfect place to spend about a couple of hours on a sunny day. The gardens are absolutely fascinating. They are abundant with trees and flowers whose aroma is simply incredible. The panoramic views over the lake are also superb.
The villa was built by Francesco Melzi d'Eril, vice-president of the Italian Republic at the time of Napoleon. The work lasted two years, from 1808 to 1810.
Although originally built by Francesco Meltzi, it passed into the hands of the Gallarati Scotti. Interestingly enough, however, Ludovico Melzi (a descendant of Francesco Melzi) married Joséphine Barbò, by whom he had two daughters. His favourite daughter married Giancarlo Gallarati Scotti, and through marriage she brought back to the Melzi’s the villa in Bellagio.
Beautiful sculptures are spread all through the park. Egyptian antiquities and Roman statues add to the romantic atmosphere of the garden.
The monument of Dante and Beatrice is imposing. The story of the great Italian poet and Beatrice is one of the greatest tales of unrequited, distant love and that is represented in the sculpture. As the subject of Dante’s inspiration, Beatrice stands much higher than Dante. Beatrice looks semi-divine. Does this represent the moment when she guides Dante during his journey through the Hell, Purgatory and Paradise, as described in The Divine Comedy? It is said that this sculpture inspired Franz Liszt, while a guest at the villa, to compose his Dante Sonata.
The Melzi family chapel is also worth a visit. This is a Palladian style temple and it has some remarkable sculptural works.
We reached the villa by car. There is a small car park for visitors in front of the gate of the villa. The other option is to park in Bellagio’s city centre and to walk to the villa.
The admission fee of 6 Euros allows one to see the gardens only. The villa itself is not open to the public as the current owners, the Scotti family, still use it as a summer residence. Its elegant style and simple lines make the villa a wonderful asset to the gardens and the surrounding countryside.
The villa offers stunning views to the other side of Lake Como – you can see Tremezzo and Villa Carlotta. Villa Melzi is located exactly opposite Villa Carlotta. It was interesting to learn that there was a competition between the owners of the two villas, Duke Francesco Melzi and Giambattista Sommariva to see who could build the finest villa. Both men were also political rivals. Melzi was preferred by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802 as vice-president of the Italian Republic. Politically defeated by Melzi, Sommariva tried to re-acquire his lost prestige by assembling an extraordinary art collection (which can be seen at Carlotta Villa).
The competition between the two men was also beneficial – it led to continual embellishment of both residences and their gardens. It is quite amusing to imagine how these two spied on each other across the lake.
The Villa Melzi and its gardens represent rare harmony. They just need to be enjoyed!
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