Lake Como is surrounded by ville. White, yellow and rose-colored mansions perch on the hills around the lake, perfectly complemented by their extravagant, well-manicured gardens. This time I visited the extravagant, well-manicured Villa Carlotta.
Last year I decided that I’d had enough of visiting ancient palaces. I was over paying to tour rich dead people’s homes. Their gardens, on the other hand, I had come to love.
A garden is full of secrets. It’s a story all its own. And it’s beautiful. The world’s most opulent palace? I prefer Versailles’ gardens, and there’s nothing like admiring the façade of Monza’s Villa Reale while cutting through its private gardens or running through the park beyond. Last month we celebrating the full bloom of spring at Villa Monastero in Varenna. This month, I took advantage of my family’s visit to check out a new garden on the lake: the gardens of Villa Carlotta.
Located in Tramezzo, near Como, Villa Carlotta is a 17th-century mansion covering 70,000 square meters of land (about 17 acres) between lake and mountain. The mansion is impressive, but the real draw are the views of the lake and the Italian-style garden spread out below.
A veritable botanic garden, the massive area is well-maintained and offers a short tour or a long tour throughout. Hundreds of varieties of flowers and plants exist in the garden: camellias, century old cedars and sequoias, tropical plants, a fern valley, and bamboo garden. Each spring 150 different rhododendrons and azalea species bloom. It’s said the burst of color is the primary reason for the garden’s incredible reputation.
There are 6,000 individual plant species, more than 1,000 trees, 970 shrubs, 202 rosebushes and 51 flowerbeds. But the numbers can’t show you the hundreds of different hues in one flowerbed; they can’t make you feel the cool condensation in the air in the fern valley, each water droplet sticking to your skin only to be immediately dried by the lake breeze; they can’t excite your niece and nephew like a small turtle pond can; they can’t smell like the sweet, citrus fruits bursting with sugary water.
Archways of citrus fruit provide shade from the sun and strategically placed benches allow visitors to sit among the flowers to view the shimmering lake below. It’s a slice of heaven on earth, and a perfect way to tour Lake Como.
So no, I don’t like to pay to tour some old rich dead guy’s house, but I go crazy for his gardens!
How to Get There
Since the Lecco side of the lake is a bit closer drive for us, we decided to head to Varenna, our favorite lake town, and park, then take the ferry across to Tremezzo. Ferries to Tremezzo – Villa Carlotta run frequently from Varenna, Bellagio or Como.
You can also come directly by car, most easily from Como, Milan or Lugano, Switzerland. Just put Tremezzo into your navigator and follow instructions!
To take the bus, hop on the Line C10 bus from Como to the Tremezzo – Villa Carlotta stop.
Finally, you can come by train but it might require more than one train transfer, especially if you head to Varenna (located on the opposite side of the lake from Villa Carlotta). Below you’ll find various options and you can also check online at the Trenitalia website
– Milan N. Cadorna Station – Como Nord Laghi, stop Como Nord Laghi
The gardens are open from 9 – 7:30 during the summer and 9:30/10–4:30/5 during the other seasons. Check on the Villa Carlotta website for the exact opening and closing times for each month to be sure. Tickets cost 10 euro for adults.