Northern Italian villas on Lake Como: spectacular

 

 
Villa del Balbianello was built on a rock outcropping that forms a small peninsula in the lake. The villa has had many owners and fell into disrepair for a time, but it has been restored to its former glory by its current owner, the National Trust of Italy. Althoughnot a big garden, this is the ultimate summer hideout.

Walking up the first path, we were greeted by deep rose-colored cyclamen hugging the ground. It seems every space is packed with plants. Tiny daisies cling to rock walls and pretty pink roses are intertwined with greenish gray agave. Every once in a while, a tiny lizard scurries from one rock to another.

Topiary is the star of this garden as expertly pruned trees, shrubs and vines frame views of Lake Como.Light posts are covered in spiraling green vines that resemble climbing snakes. Huge columns and even exterior walls are covered with greenery.

Out in the courtyard, we watch as gardeners argue while trimming plants on the wall. Beneath them, the ground is covered with the results of their work. Horticulturists who scold us for turning azaleas and forsythia into round meatballs would be aghast. Here, heavy pruning is both welcomed and celebrated.