On the Eastern shore of Lake Como, surrounded by the green of its botanical garden, stands Villa Monastero. This old villa in the small town of Varenna, in the district of Lecco, makes the perfect choice for a weekend visit while on the Lake.
The charming Villa Monastero was recognized as a museum by the Lombardy Region in 2004. Its last owners, the Milanese family De Marchi, donated it to the State in 1939.
The Villa, in addition to offering a museum with 14 rooms decorated with the original furniture, and a stunning botanical garden, has become an internationally recognised Convention Centre operating since 1953. Its main hall is dedicated to Nobel Prize Enrico Fermi, who taught some physics lessons here in 1954.
Observing Villa Monastero for the first time, you will notice its eclectic style, typical of the end of the 18th century. However, its actual look is due to the many maintenance works that have been going on for over nine centuries.
Indeed, the Villa results from the transformation of a Cistercian nunnery dedicated to the Holy Virgin that was built in the 12th century. As it is shown by the air loggia looking out onto the lake, the property preserves the 17th-century structure, resulting from the first building renovation wanted by the Mornico family. Renamed Villa Leliana, the house has been a Mornico’s property for almost three centuries, until 1862.
Then the Villa, passing through different owners, was bought by Alessandro Manzoni’s niece, the widow Carolina Maumari Seufferheld, in 1869. With this noblewoman, the house became a real hangout for prominent personalities of the cultural scene of that time.
Nevertheless, it was only thanks to the intervention of Walter Kees that Villa Monastero obtained the Nordic and eclectic appearance that is currently admirable. This German businessman became the owner of Villa Monastero at the end of 19th century and he invested an enormous capital to renovate the main building
In particular, the wonderful lobby decorations are due to Kees. They were made to reproduce the family library in Leipzig, Kees’ hometown. In addition to the family’s coat of arms, it’s possible to admire here four amazing panels in majolica. They portray physician H.K.F. von Helmholtz, philosopher I. Kant, sculptor and architect A. Schlüter, and musician J.S. Bach, with the purpose of glorifying the German world of arts and sciences.
The Oriental-looking bath “of King Faruk” is also remarkable. Always due to the German owner, it’s equipped not only with a heating system that still works but also with a stunning and enormous tub in majolica and marble.
However, Kees’ large maintenances work especially involved the garden. It was, in fact, greatly enlarged thanks to the purchase of the lands and the properties next to the Villa.
In 1918, the Italian State confiscated the Villa as a war debt. Only in 1925, the Villa was finally bought by the De Marchi family.
The Botanical Garden of Villa Monastero stretches for 2 km along the shore that runs to Varenna from the hamlet of Fiumelatte. In this locus amoenus, you can relax among over 900 different and rare tree and flower species from all over the world, as well as enjoy a breathtaking view of Lake Como.
Cipresses and palms from the African and the American continent are the major components of the garden, as well as the citrus trees and the yuccas. Under the reception, you will also find the herbs garden with a lot of Jasminum.
Walking down the street that skirts the lake, you’ll admire, in order, The Camellias Garden, The Wisteria Collection, The Hydrangeas Garden, and finally The Roses Garden.
Here, at the Southern edge of the property, the Kaffee Haus with its distinctive dome is located. Together with the sculpture group “Titus’ Clemence”, the Tempietto and many others sculptures placed along the walking, it is part of the architectural ornament of the garden.
HOW TO REACH VILLA MONASTERO
Car. Varenna is about 30 km north of the city of Lecco. It is easily reachable driving along the SS36 of Lake Como and Spluga Pass.
Train. The nearest train station is the Varenna-Esino, 30 minutes far from Lecco.
Boat. Thanks to its central position, Varenna is perfectly linked to the other cities of the lake. You can reach Varenna using the Lake Como’s navigation network.
For further information visit the website navigazionelaghi.it
Plane. The nearest airports are the Milano Linate airport (80 km far from Varenna), the Milano Malpensa airport (120 km far from Varenna), and the Bergamo – Orio al Serio airport (66 km far from Varenna).
Viale Giovanni Polvani, 4, 23829 Varenna LC, Italy
+39 0341 295450