I finally made it to what I consider to be the most beautiful villa on earth. This is a place I have seen in several movies: A Month on the Lake (with Vanessa Redgrave and Uma Thurman,1995), Casino Royale (a recent James Bond thriller, 2006), and Star Wars: Episode II Attack of the Clones (specifically the scene where Queen Naboo played by Natalie Portman marries Anakin Skywalker before he turns into Darth Vader, 2002). The Villa del Balbianello, is located on the shore of Lake Como just south of Bellagio, and is easily accessible from Bellagio by a ferry boat (get off at the town of Lenno), or you can go all fancy and hire a private boat.
Regardless of how you get there, you will be treated with both a beautiful villa and incredibly manicured grounds full of greenery and statues lining balustrades along the lakeshore. The villa was first built by a rich Cardinal in the late 1700’s. It was later occupied by a number of occupiers including a group of franciscan friars and an American army general (after World War II). The last owner (who willed it to the state of Italy upon his death), was Guido Monzini, a prominent businessman from Milan and a collector and world explorer. The building is essentially a museum of his collections of artifacts from his wonderful expeditions from all around the world.
It is just marvelous.