Floating Garden of Bellagio, Lake Como

This is a few years old, but I've had these photos for a while and I felt guilty for trashing some of the urban public gardens in Rome, so I thought I'd post this. It wasn't just me though. Elizabeth from Garden Rant and Gardening While Intoxicated also mentioned, in a comment from that post, that she found no interesting public gardens in Rome, but gardens in other parts of Italy more than made up for it. I would just say that, when in Rome, don't do what they do.

The hotel with the floating garden on the lake.

I won a trip to Italy from a local printer back in 2000. It was random drawing. I've only ever won two things in my life–and they were both trips! The trip included a week-long stay that covered Lake Como, at this hotel, and a four-star hotel in Venice, complete with transportation and a modest budget for meals. For someone that travels a lot to begin with, this was the trip of a lifetime.

In the hallway in the basement on the way to the spa and the indoor pool, an original Magritte painting was hanging on the wall. Let's just say that's never really happened in any other hotel I've stayed in–not the Days Inn, not a La Quinta, not even a Comfort Inn.

The Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni, opened in 1873, is a five-star hotel in Ballagio on Lake Como, on a promontory that juts out into the lake. The Sovereigns of Spain, Romania, Albania, Egypt; all the Russian and English aristocracy; Winston Churchill, Roosevelt, the Rothschilds, John Kennedy; Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Clark Gable, Robert Mitchum, Al Pacino.... these are just some of the famous guests that have enjoyed a stay there. I don't have to tell you that when we showed up, in the rain, with our beaten up, roll-aboard suitcases, we felt more like the Clampetts that the Kennedys.

The Villa Carlotta entrance, one of the many Villas and gardens open to the public around the Lake. This was on the opposite side of Lake Como from the Hotel Serbelloni. This garden was recently featured in a gardening magazine, I can't remember which one.

Italian-style gardens surround the Villa, terraced into the hillside, with Mediterranean and subtropical plants growing in the pleasant micro climate around the lake. It receives sunshine almost all year round, and mild temperatures in every season.

Some of the gardens around the Lake were downright tropical.

While we were there, a garden "instillation," seen in the photo at the top of the post was going on. I don't remember much about the instillation, its time was nearing its end when we were there, but it was three floating barges fitted with a garden. I believe you could take a boat out there and stroll around, but I don't think there was anything there you couldn't see from the shore.

The climate & soil around Lake Como must create the perfect conditions for rhododendron. The steroidal rhododendron are like none I've ever seen previously.

We spent our days visiting gardens in other Villas around the lake and hiking the hills. (my wife called them hills, I called them mountains, a difference of perspective and cardiovascular fitness). I don't believe any of the other hotel guests went hiking.

The summer before, George Lucas was on Lake Como filming the romance/wedding scenes for one of the Star Wars movies. That's how other-worldly beautiful it is–it's used as a setting for other worlds.

Never got the invite to George Clooney's Villa though. Maybe next time. Bet he's got a nice garden. That's one garden my wife would be willing weed.


  1. In my dreams I live in Italy. Thank you for letting me daydream a bit this afternoon.

  2. Ah, so beautiful! Your accommodations were much more upscale than ours.

    We stayed in the tiny village of Varenna and visited Belagio and Mennagio. Ours was a little B&B run by a sweet little old lady who would go on and on in Italian to us as though we understood everyone word. She was wonderful!

    Thanks for sharing your photos.

  3. Jim - great post...I have never been to this part of italy, but can't wait to go...
    also...a question...just noticed your blog roll has feeds in it...that is cool...how did you did you do it? best, Rochelle

  4. The lakes region of Italy is great! I visited Lake Garda last last year (summer 2007) on my way to the Dolomites, which is the most beautiful place I have ever been.
    Thanks for adding The Variegated Thumb to your blogroll!

  5. Italy remains the stuff of dreams and these pictures are certainly dreamlike. The food, the gardens, the people all beckon. Someday but at least I have visited these gardens via your blog.

  6. Susan,
    And, if you're ever been to Italy, it stays in your dreams long afterward...

    These accommodations were as upscale as you can get on this planet. Not part of our usual routine. I'm sure there's very few accommodations around Lake Como that suck. The only way accommodations could be bad would be if there were no windows.

    Blog roll feeds? It's just an option on Blogger. I don't know how it's done, I think the magic Internet fairies spend 24 hours a day searching them out and post them in my sidebar.

    That's a good question I may pose at some point - what's the most beautiful place you've ever been? For me, it's Switzerland, specifically Zermat.

    The food beckons me all day and all night. The gardens that I haven't visited beckon constantly. The people beckon, but I don't speak Italian, so I don't know what they're saying. We've been fortunate to visit Italy many times and it's always at the top of our list for travel.

  7. That sound you hear is me thrashing my head against the desk. This is all too much. Lake Como, floating gardens, splendid accommodation. How's the storm looking on your side of the lake?

  8. Barbarapc,
    Don't hurt the desk! The storm was all ice this morning for drive time (fortunately, I work out of the house). All schools closed, except my daughter's. It's wavered between rain & snow all day. Supposed to get 2-3 inches of snow tonight. Can't wait.

    I visited your blog. Nice shots of you photographing your garden in a snowstorm with an umbrella. You need some indoor projects.

  9. Thanks for the trip down memory lane. My husband & I stayed in Varenna on Lake Como during our honeymoon. We were there for the Rhododendron Festival, visited Bellagio, Villa Carlotta, and other gardens around the lake. As far as I'm concerned, there is no better place on Earth than Lake Como. If we ever win the lottery, we're moving there. I immediately recognized Lake Como as the site of filming at the end of "Attack of the Clones." (That was the only good part of the movie.)


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