Villa d’Este, originally known as Villa del Garovo, is a grand villa overlooking Lake Como, in the Cernobbio municipality. (Coordinates: 45°50′41.91″N9°4′47.64″E)
Originally created the 1500s as a summer redidece for the Cardinal of Como, the villa and its surrounding 25 acre park has been altered in various ways throughout the centuries to reflect contemporary tastes and the wishes of the various owners.
Since 1873, Villa d’Este has been a luxury hotel. Today, you can expect to pay around €1,000 per night to stay here. Top suits average €3,500. The hotel is frequently included in lists of the world’s best hotels.
The Concours d’Elegance held at Villa d’Este in spring each year is the world’s oldest extant Concourse d’Elegance, dating back to 1928.
In September each year, the Ambrosetti Forum takes place here, an international economics conference attended by prominent international personalities from the fields of finance, business and politics. This event was first arranged here in 1975.
Where is Cernobbio?
Cernobbio is located within the Province of Como in Lombardy, roughly 40 km north of Milan and 2 km northwest of the city of Como. Cernobbio borders Switzerland (the Swiss municipalities of Breggia and Vacallo).
If you are within the Lake Como region, getting to Cernobbio using public transit is fairly easy since Cernobbio is a stopping point on the bus and ferry services that link the city of Como to Colico via the west side of Lake Como.
History of Villa del Garovo / Villa d’Este
Before the villa
Before the villa was built here, this was the site of a nunnery, founded at the mouth of the Garovo torrent in 1442 by Gerardo Landriani, Bishop of Como.
Cardinal Tolomeo Gallio
In the mid 1500s, Cardinal Tolomeo Gallio – who hailed from Cernobbio – ordered the nunnery to be demolished since he wanted the land for his own use.
The Villa del Garovo and its gardens were constructed in 1565-1570. Head architect was Pellgrino Tibaldi.
As the cardinal’s private residence, Villa del Garovo became an exclusive place for high-ranking ecclesiastics, politicians and intellectuals to mingle and relax in the pleasent Lake Como environment.
After the cardinal’s death in 1607, the villa was inherited by his family, who didn’t maintain it in the splendid condition favored by the cardinal.
In 1749, the villa became a Jesuit centre for spiritual exercises, but this only lasted until 1769.
Count Mario Odescalchi and Count Marliani
After the Jesuits, Count Mario Odescalchi became the owner of the villa, but he didn’t remain long either, selling it in 1778 to Count Marliani.
The Calderari family
In 1784, the villa was acquired by the Calderaris, a prominent Milanese family who had both the means and the ambition to restore and develop the villa. Among other things, they ordered the creation of new Italian-style park, and in this park was built a temple housing a 17th century statue of Hercules hurling Lichas into the sea.
After the death of Marquis Calderari, his widow Vittoria Peluso married Count Domenico Pino, one of Napoleon’s generals, and had a mock fortress built in the park for him.
Caroline of Brunswick
In 1815, the villa became the residence of the Princess of Wales, Caroline of Brunswick (the future Queen of the United Kingdom). She was married to the heir of the british throne, but the spouses were estranged from each other and did no longer live together.
The princess seems to have liked the garden of the villa a lot, writing in her diary that “It’s garden seems almost suspended in the air, and forms a scence of compelte enchantment”.
The princess gave the villa a new name – Nouva Villa d’Este – and had the park landscaped in a more English style.
In 1873, the villa became a luxury hotel, but kept the name Villa d’Este.
Murder at the hotel
In 1948, the wealthy silk manufacturer Carlo Sacchi was shot to death by his lover Countess Pia Bellentani. The murder, which became highly publicised, took place during a gala dinner at Villa d’Este.