Six Special Garden Experiences on Lake Como

>Six Special Garden Experiences on Lake Como

Lake Como has an array of stunning gardens loved by both horticulturalists and hobbyists for their panoramic views, their diverse vegetation and their rich history. Some of these lakeside oases – such as Villa Carlotta in Tremezzo and Villa del Balbianello in Lenno – are well known and much frequented by visitors to the area, while others are hidden away just waiting to be discovered. We have put together a handy list of gardens to visit during your stay at the Palazzo and paired each with one of our unique experiences that give guests deeper insight and tons of fun. There is something for everyone on our list, from families with curious kids to photography buffs and amateur artists – just get in touch with our staff to arrange a botanical daytrip with a difference. 

May the flora be with you!!!

For adventurous types: Giardino del Merlo 

Few visitors make the trip to the Alto Lago, or upper lake, while visiting Lake Como – and they’re seriously missing out! The wild and windswept northern branch of the lake offers off-the-beaten-path serenity, swashbuckling history and the closest thing to wilderness you can find on the world’s favorite lake. On a wooded hill between the towns of Musso and Dongo, you’ll find the picturesque Giardino del Merlo laid out on terraces extending below the charming Chiesa di Sant’Eufemia. The history of the area is fascinating – beautiful white marble has been mined in local quarries as far back as the Roman Empire; a 16th-century pirate king ruled the lake with an iron fist from his fortress on the Musso cliffs and dictator Mussolini was captured in these hills in 1945 trying to escape to Switzerland. 

It was also here in 1858, near the ruins of the old fortress, that Giovanni Manzi decided to create a terraced botanical garden like those found on the steep coastal cliffs of Liguria. Although Giardino del Merlo (literally the “garden of blackbirds”) is no longer the beautifully manicured oasis it was when Manzi’s granddaughter was living, it is quite a thrill still today to wander along its rocky paths, scramble across its bridges and venture into its marble caves. Local garden-lovers are mounting a herculean effort to restore Giardino del Merlo to its former glory, while the typical Mediterranean flora from prickly pears to eucalyptus trees that blend beautifully with typical local vegetation are still very much on display. The panoramic views from the garden are second to none, but due to the lack of guardrails and some pretty rocky conditions, guests are advised to take caution, wear suitable footwear and leave the little ones at home…

view Giardino del Merlo on a map

For people looking to linger: Giardino della Valle

Nonna Pupa – a local grandmother slash gardener – is something of a celebrity on Lake Como. She is revered by locals and visitors alike for her valiant efforts to transform the eyesore of an illegal trash dump in her native Cernobbio into an idyllic oasis filled with whimsical statues, romantic bridges and meandering shaded paths. Strolling through the rather intimate Giardino della Valle is a pretty quick adventure, unless you (like us!) prefer to take your time and read the signpost poetry, peruse the artwork and try to identify all of the blooms. Literary types will love the little free lending library and nearby bench perfect for lingering over a good book.

There is never a bad time to visit Giardino della Valle, but some days are better than others. Check the garden’s website and Facebook page for details on upcoming events ranging from flower competitions to readings and concerts. If you are lucky, you will be in town for one of the garden’s open days, where much-needed volunteers donate their time and talent to keep this flower-filled paradise going strong. You could be among the scores of willing gardeners – like those who showed up for the recent “Dig for Glory” event this July – and even have the chance to meet the inspiring 92-year-old Nonna Pupa in person!

view Giardino della Valle on a map

For fans of horticulture and cycling: Orto Botanico in Valmadrera

The area in and around the southern tip of Lake Como’s Lecco branch is a cyclist’s and nature lover’s dream. A bicycle path along the Adda River goes from Lecco all the way to the canals of Milan – or just spend a few hours circumnavigating pretty Lago di Garlate south of Lecco, as we mentioned in a recent blog post. If you love horticulture and cycling, this trip to Valmadrera east of Lecco is just right for you. 

First make your way to Rush Cycle in Malgrate to rent bikes and have the expert staff give you directions on how to get to the center of the nearby hamlet of Valmadrera and the Centro Fatebenefratelli. This former 17th-century convent is home to one of the area’s most comprehensive and historic “Orto Botanico” gardens, constructed in the 1980s on the exact site where the “Brothers Hospitaliers” once grew the medicinal herbs used to treat their patients. The garden boasts over 450 species of rare and specialty plants, from aromatics and aquatic plants to alpine and medicinal varieties, each designated with their Latin and common names. After visiting the garden, make your way around Lago di Pulsiano on a route that mixes dedicated bike paths with local roads, before heading back to Malgrate to return your bikes.

view Orto Botanico on a map
view Rush Cycle on a map

For cross-border cruisers: Villa Bagatti Valsecchi and Parco Scherrer

What is one of the best things about the Italian lakes? Their proximity to Switzerland… And one of our favorite daytrips is to nip across the border into Switzerland and get a taste of the lavish Lake Lugano lifestyle (only 3-3.5 hours of driving in total!). The Palazzo team will be happy to book a driver for your cross-border trip, which starts with the ferry from Bellagio to Menaggio. In the hills just above Menaggio, you’ll have a guided tour through one of the area’s most beautiful yet hidden gardens at Villa Bagatti Valsecchi. Milanese architect Baron Bagatti Valsecchi has spent his life making sure this garden stays as lovely as it was when his father, noted horticulturist Pasino Bagatti Valsecchi, designed it in the early 20th century. The panoramic views across the Sanagra Valley, the eclectic collection of native and non-native trees as well as bright blooms for every season make this garden a delight. 

After lunch, the trip continues along the shores of Lake Lugano, which transform from steep wooded slopes on the northern branch to the bustling city of Lugano wrapped around its boat-filled bay. Just south of Lugano sits the picturesque village of Morcote, where the hilltop church, lakeside colonnades and meandering medieval alleys transport you to another time. After lunch in one of the trattorias along the shore, make your way to nearby Parco Scherrer. Eccentric and artistic textile merchant Hermann Scherrer spent years cultivating exotic and oriental plants in his own personal paradise, positioning Greek and Roman statues in between the foliage and building follies with exotic architectural styles he discovered on his business travels. Enjoy climbing up and down the stairs and in and out of Mr. Scherrer’s fantasy worlds before the return trip to Lezzeno via Como town. 

view Villa Bagatti Valsecchi on a map
view Parco Scherrer on a map

For families with curious kids of all ages: Villa Melzi

The Villa Melzi garden just outside Bellagio is the perfect antidote to the bustling town center, thanks to its lakeside promenade in the shade of the sycamore trees, its quiet rhododendron-covered slopes and its Zen-like Japanese water garden. And our family-friendly science workshops with a local guide and naturalist are the perfect antidote to kids and their “are-we-there-yet” pleas. After a horticulturalist’s tour of this renowned English-style park, it’s time to get hands-on in one of several workshops that teach the whole family fascinating science with easy-to-understand experiments as well as objects and observations found in nature. 

Guests can choose Earth Sciences workshops that tackle wilderness navigation, cloud-reading or geology. Crafty families might prefer a Creativity Lab using reclaimed materials to make musical instruments or a DIY dream catcher. There are also experiments in botany, photosynthesis and foraging as well as lessons on how to design gardens to attract much-needed birds, bees and butterflies. The Palazzo team would love to work with our expert guide to tailor the experience to you and your family’s specific wishes. And after all is said and done, the gelaterias of Bellagio are within easy reach for a well-deserved reward…

view Villa Melzi on a map

For fashionistas and flower fans: Silk and the CEO’s Garden

The city of Como has been world renowned as a center for silk production since the 15th century: not only was its climate ideally suited to the mulberry trees that fed the silkworms, but its artisans and entrepreneurs proved extremely skilled in creating and marketing high-quality silk fabrics. We have a close relationship with one of these successful Lake Como companies, currently run by the fourth generation of the family and one of the world’s foremost leaders in the creation, production and distribution of textiles. Their silk-screened and digitally printed silk fabrics are sold through big-name fashion labels as well as under its own brand and this illustrious family is known for their generous patronage of horticulture and the arts. 

Our Palazzo team would love to arrange an exclusive experience that gives guests the unique opportunity to meet one of the legendary silk trade’s most charismatic personalities and glimpse inside one of Lake Como’s most luxurious private gardens. Guests interested in fashion and the silk trade might want to avail of our guided visits to Como’s silk museum, local outlets with good value on silk products and even inside the hallowed production halls of a local manufacturer. Afterwards, you will have the rare opportunity to venture into the gorgeous lakeside garden surrounding the elegant villa of a local silk CEO and one of Como’s most dapper inhabitants. You will enjoy a private tour of his terraced garden filled with plants typical of the region, such as lilies, wisteria and –the silkworm’s favorite! – the mulberry tree as well as a light aperitivo of local wine and delicacies in the company of a true Italian original. 

Lake Como has an array of stunning gardens loved by both horticulturalists and hobbyists for their panoramic views, their diverse vegetation and their rich history. Some of these lakeside oases – such as Villa Carlotta in Tremezzo and Villa del Balbianello in Lenno – are well known and much frequented by visitors to the area, while others are hidden away just waiting to be discovered. We have put together a handy list of gardens to visit during your stay at the Palazzo and paired each with one of our unique experiences that give guests deeper insight and tons of fun. There is something for everyone on our list, from families with curious kids to photography buffs and amateur artists – just get in touch with our staff to arrange a botanical daytrip with a difference. 

May the flora be with you!!!

For adventurous types:

Giardino del Merlo 

Few visitors make the trip to the Alto Lago, or upper lake, while visiting Lake Como – and they’re seriously missing out! The wild and windswept northern branch of the lake offers off-the-beaten-path serenity, swashbuckling history and the closest thing to wilderness you can find on the world’s favorite lake. On a wooded hill between the towns of Musso and Dongo, you’ll find the picturesque Giardino del Merlo laid out on terraces extending below the charming Chiesa di Sant’Eufemia. The history of the area is fascinating – beautiful white marble has been mined in local quarries as far back as the Roman Empire; a 16th-century pirate king ruled the lake with an iron fist from his fortress on the Musso cliffs and dictator Mussolini was captured in these hills in 1945 trying to escape to Switzerland. 

It was also here in 1858, near the ruins of the old fortress, that Giovanni Manzi decided to create a terraced botanical garden like those found on the steep coastal cliffs of Liguria. Although Giardino del Merlo (literally the “garden of blackbirds”) is no longer the beautifully manicured oasis it was when Manzi’s granddaughter was living, it is quite a thrill still today to wander along its rocky paths, scramble across its bridges and venture into its marble caves. Local garden-lovers are mounting a herculean effort to restore Giardino del Merlo to its former glory, while the typical Mediterranean flora from prickly pears to eucalyptus trees that blend beautifully with typical local vegetation are still very much on display. The panoramic views from the garden are second to none, but due to the lack of guardrails and some pretty rocky conditions, guests are advised to take caution, wear suitable footwear and leave the little ones at home…

view Giardino del Merlo on a map

For people looking to linger:

Giardino della Valle

Nonna Pupa – a local grandmother slash gardener – is something of a celebrity on Lake Como. She is revered by locals and visitors alike for her valiant efforts to transform the eyesore of an illegal trash dump in her native Cernobbio into an idyllic oasis filled with whimsical statues, romantic bridges and meandering shaded paths. Strolling through the rather intimate Giardino della Valle is a pretty quick adventure, unless you (like us!) prefer to take your time and read the signpost poetry, peruse the artwork and try to identify all of the blooms. Literary types will love the little free lending library and nearby bench perfect for lingering over a good book.

There is never a bad time to visit Giardino della Valle, but some days are better than others. Check the garden’s website and Facebook page for details on upcoming events ranging from flower competitions to readings and concerts. If you are lucky, you will be in town for one of the garden’s open days, where much-needed volunteers donate their time and talent to keep this flower-filled paradise going strong. You could be among the scores of willing gardeners – like those who showed up for the recent “Dig for Glory” event this July – and even have the chance to meet the inspiring 92-year-old Nonna Pupa in person!

view Giardino della Valle on a map

For fans of horticulture and cycling:

Orto Botanico in Valmadrera

The area in and around the southern tip of Lake Como’s Lecco branch is a cyclist’s and nature lover’s dream. A bicycle path along the Adda River goes from Lecco all the way to the canals of Milan – or just spend a few hours circumnavigating pretty Lago di Garlate south of Lecco, as we mentioned in a recent blog post. If you love horticulture and cycling, this trip to Valmadrera east of Lecco is just right for you. 

First make your way to Rush Cycle in Malgrate to rent bikes and have the expert staff give you directions on how to get to the center of the nearby hamlet of Valmadrera and the Centro Fatebenefratelli. This former 17th-century convent is home to one of the area’s most comprehensive and historic “Orto Botanico” gardens, constructed in the 1980s on the exact site where the “Brothers Hospitaliers” once grew the medicinal herbs used to treat their patients. The garden boasts over 450 species of rare and specialty plants, from aromatics and aquatic plants to alpine and medicinal varieties, each designated with their Latin and common names. After visiting the garden, make your way around Lago di Pulsiano on a route that mixes dedicated bike paths with local roads, before heading back to Malgrate to return your bikes.

view Orto Botanico on a map
view Rush Cycle on a map

For cross-border cruisers:

Villa Bagatti Valsecchi and Parco Scherrer

What is one of the best things about the Italian lakes? Their proximity to Switzerland… And one of our favorite daytrips is to nip across the border into Switzerland and get a taste of the lavish Lake Lugano lifestyle (only 3-3.5 hours of driving in total!). The Palazzo team will be happy to book a driver for your cross-border trip, which starts with the ferry from Bellagio to Menaggio. In the hills just above Menaggio, you’ll have a guided tour through one of the area’s most beautiful yet hidden gardens at Villa Bagatti Valsecchi. Milanese architect Baron Bagatti Valsecchi has spent his life making sure this garden stays as lovely as it was when his father, noted horticulturist Pasino Bagatti Valsecchi, designed it in the early 20th century. The panoramic views across the Sanagra Valley, the eclectic collection of native and non-native trees as well as bright blooms for every season make this garden a delight. 

After lunch, the trip continues along the shores of Lake Lugano, which transform from steep wooded slopes on the northern branch to the bustling city of Lugano wrapped around its boat-filled bay. Just south of Lugano sits the picturesque village of Morcote, where the hilltop church, lakeside colonnades and meandering medieval alleys transport you to another time. After lunch in one of the trattorias along the shore, make your way to nearby Parco Scherrer. Eccentric and artistic textile merchant Hermann Scherrer spent years cultivating exotic and oriental plants in his own personal paradise, positioning Greek and Roman statues in between the foliage and building follies with exotic architectural styles he discovered on his business travels. Enjoy climbing up and down the stairs and in and out of Mr. Scherrer’s fantasy worlds before the return trip to Lezzeno via Como town. 

view Villa Bagatti Valsecchi on a map
view Parco Scherrer on a map

For families with curious kids of all ages:

Villa Melzi

The Villa Melzi garden just outside Bellagio is the perfect antidote to the bustling town center, thanks to its lakeside promenade in the shade of the sycamore trees, its quiet rhododendron-covered slopes and its Zen-like Japanese water garden. And our family-friendly science workshops with a local guide and naturalist are the perfect antidote to kids and their “are-we-there-yet” pleas. After a horticulturalist’s tour of this renowned English-style park, it’s time to get hands-on in one of several workshops that teach the whole family fascinating science with easy-to-understand experiments as well as objects and observations found in nature. 

Guests can choose Earth Sciences workshops that tackle wilderness navigation, cloud-reading or geology. Crafty families might prefer a Creativity Lab using reclaimed materials to make musical instruments or a DIY dream catcher. There are also experiments in botany, photosynthesis and foraging as well as lessons on how to design gardens to attract much-needed birds, bees and butterflies. The Palazzo team would love to work with our expert guide to tailor the experience to you and your family’s specific wishes. And after all is said and done, the gelaterias of Bellagio are within easy reach for a well-deserved reward…

view Villa Melzi on a map

For fashionistas and flower fans:

Silk and the CEO’s Garden

The city of Como has been world renowned as a center for silk production since the 15th century: not only was its climate ideally suited to the mulberry trees that fed the silkworms, but its artisans and entrepreneurs proved extremely skilled in creating and marketing high-quality silk fabrics. We have a close relationship with one of these successful Lake Como companies, currently run by the fourth generation of the family and one of the world’s foremost leaders in the creation, production and distribution of textiles. Their silk-screened and digitally printed silk fabrics are sold through big-name fashion labels as well as under its own brand and this illustrious family is known for their generous patronage of horticulture and the arts. 

Our Palazzo team would love to arrange an exclusive experience that gives guests the unique opportunity to meet one of the legendary silk trade’s most charismatic personalities and glimpse inside one of Lake Como’s most luxurious private gardens. Guests interested in fashion and the silk trade might want to avail of our guided visits to Como’s silk museum, local outlets with good value on silk products and even inside the hallowed production halls of a local manufacturer. Afterwards, you will have the rare opportunity to venture into the gorgeous lakeside garden surrounding the elegant villa of a local silk CEO and one of Como’s most dapper inhabitants. You will enjoy a private tour of his terraced garden filled with plants typical of the region, such as lilies, wisteria and –the silkworm’s favorite! – the mulberry tree as well as a light aperitivo of local wine and delicacies in the company of a true Italian original. 

2018-07-23T18:45:09+00:00July 23rd, 2018|Categories: Lake Como|0 Comments

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