Taken as a whole, Lenno is possibly the most under-rated of the villages along the Tremezzina stretch of the western branch of the lake. We’ve valued it more for its supermarket, which are few and far between at Lake Como, than for any other attractions. Ironically, however, the adjacent Villa del Balbianello is probably the most stunning site on the whole Lake.
Built by Cardinal Angelo Maria Durini as a ‘place of delights’, the Villa is arranged in tiers on the edge of a rocky promontory. Its most celebrated feature is the open loggia from which you can see the bays on either side of the promontory, named the Gulf of Diana and Bosom of Venus by the apparently unconventional Cardinal. A subsequent owner of greater eccentricity was Count Guido Monzino, a famous explorer who contributed to the contents of the Villa a collection of African and Chinese art and the sledge he used on an expedition to the North Pole.
Now owned by the Italian Foundation for the Environment (FIA) Villa del Balbianello has been in more films than many actors, which may explain why it’s open to the public under rather complicated terms and conditions (see Lake Como Villas). It can be reached by foot from Lenno but more conveniently by boat from nearby Sala Comacina or from Menaggio. And on a recent visit to Bellagio we saw a private boat, moored near the ferry terminal, advertising trips to Villa del Balbianello.
Lenno itself lies in and behind an almost semi-circular bay. At the southern end of the bay are a small commercial Lido and an appealing free beach (if you don’t mind pebbles). The beach is just a bit further round the promenade than the lido. Don’t be put off by the entrance, which consists of a small, un-signposted, gap at the side of a gate. There is also a water taxi at this end of the bay. The northern end contains the ferry point for boats up and down the Lake, and the two ends are connected by a promenade, with some waterfront cafes.
About halfway along the promenade is a piazza, open to the Lake, containing the tourist information office, an octagonal Romanesque baptistry and the church of S. Stefano. There are also a number of other religious sites in various parts of the hills behind the lakefront, including the Abbazia dell’Aquafredda (with paintings by Fiamminghino and other artists) and the church of S. Andrea, which has an ‘ossuary’ – collection of bones – of plague victims who were buried there. Higher up, at 817 metres above sea level, is the Monastery of S. Bernadetto.
One way of getting around the slopes of Lenno is by mountain bike, which can be hired from the Bici Club 2000.
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