Villas & Gardens of the Italian lakes
May 5 - 12, 2018 | Tour Director: Peter Higginson | Register interest
• Plot the developments in garden design from the 16th to the 20th century
• Discover the famous 17th century Sacro Monte beside Lake Orta: a fascinating Counter-Reformation 'religious garden' designed to transport pilgrims into the world of St Francis, patron saint of nature
• Uncover the delights of the Borromean islands of Isola Bella and Isola Madre
The shores of Lakes Maggiore and Como have a reputation for some of the finest gardens in the world, which owe their presence to the irresistible landscape settings of blue water and mountain peaks; a unique microclimate of protected south-facing valleys; and a rich social, political, and even religious history spread across five centuries. Aristocrats, statesmen, eminent clergymen, wealthy émigrés and industrialists have all vied to establish their presence in this Paradise on earth.
Our tour will plot developments from the 16th to the 20th century: from the Renaissance intimacy of Villa Cicogna Mozzoni with its uniquely preserved residence and sunken garden to the luxuriant expansiveness of Villa Taranto, commenced in 1931 by a Scot, Captain Neil McEacharn.
We will uncover the delights of the Borromean islands of Isola Bella and Isola Madre. The Isola Bella’s Palazzo Borromeo begun in 1642 comes with six subterranean grottoes, and the gardens include magnificent terraces evoking the prow of a ship, and an impressive water theatre. It is perhaps the most extravagant example of Baroque landscape design.
Beside the charming Lake Orta lies the famous 17th century Sacro Monte: a fascinating Counter-Reformation ‘religious garden’ designed to transport pilgrims, via staged scenes, into the world of St Francis, the patron saint of Nature.
Sites on Lake Como include the Villa Carlotta, whose interior contains some splendid neoclassical statuary by Canova and Thorvaldsen, and the grounds combine giardini segreti, lemon-scented terraces, the Ferns Valley and a picturesque 19th century English garden.
Approaching its promontory by private boat gives added romanticism to the enchanting Villa Balbianello, while on the opposite side of the lake the Villa Melzi d’Eril at Bellagio, built in 1810, served as inspiration to Liszt and Stendhal among many others.
In Verbania Pallanza we stay at the Art Nouveau Hotel Pallanza, wonderfully situated on the shore of Lake Maggiore, and in Varenna at the four-star Hotel Royal Victoria overlooking Lake Como.
5 May – 12 May 2018
7 DAYS | TOUR CODE: PGPO-18
Peter Higginson, PhD
expert in art history and consultant lecturer at Christie's, London.