Villa d'Este


Villa d’Este, a majestic luxury hotel, universal emblem of the Lake of Como, is situated along the gulf of Cernobbio. After five centuries and many ups and downs, it stands today as a contemporary symbol, with no obligations towards the past. It is like a window on the world: the celebrated personalities that frequent this place - those from the politic scene and the fashion and show industry alike - know little or nothing about the lake and its history. A holiday at Villa d’Este is an uncommon occurrence in itself. The building was erected in 1557 as a small private villa for cardinal Gallio. The complex has undergone considerable remodelling over the centuries, with many modifications to its external features. Boldoni, in 1616, writes about its extensive gardens, now rendered charming by trees, now by ponds, divided by a long avenue and bordered by mosaics. The park was the venue of the clandestine love affairs of Vittorina Peluso, known as Pelusina, a ballerina with a bad reputation, and consort to Domenico Pino, general of the Napoleonic army. There is also an intriguing creation composed of walls and small faux fortresses which Vittoria had commissioned as a tribute to her husband on his return from Spain, and where she would spend her time dreaming of and envisaging invasions from the lake. Such idle and loose lifestyle came abruptly to an end after the fall of Napoleon. In 1815, the English entered the scene: the villa was acquired by the daughter of George III of England, Caroline of Brunswick, who was utterly fascinated by the beauty of the Larian landscape. She renamed the villa with her real name in virtue of her (alleged) lineage that traced back to the Estense, without making any distinction with the villa of Tivoli. In 1868 the complex passed to the widow of Zar Nicholas I. The villa was eventually acquired in 1873 by a Milanese company who converted it into one of the most famous hotels in the world, which has counted with the presence of many illustrious visitors: the Moroccan Sultan, the Saudi Arabian Royal Family, the king of Holland, the king of Norway, the king of Munich, ministers Ciano and von Ribbentrop, president Kennedy, Orson Welles, Clark Gable, Ricky Martin, Versace, Madonna, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Robert de Niro, Yasser Arafat... just to mention some.The villa is also a venue for important finance conferences; the Ambrosetti Forum is held here every year, while the Bilderberg Group held meetings back in 1965 and 1987.

1950: Frank Sinatra and Ava Garnder at Villa d’Este.

Summer in the 1930s.