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Located in Cernobbio, on the shores of one of the most romantic lakes in the world and just north of Milan, Villa d'Este was built in 1568 as the summer residence of Cardinal Tolomeo Gallio.
In the early nineteenth century the dancer Vittoria Peluso, who inherited the villa following the death of her husband Marquis Calderara, subsequently married the Napoleonic general Domenico Pino. Various interesting constructions dating back to this period, such as the reproduced ruins of the fortresses of Hostarlich and Gerona conquered by the general during the Spanish Civil War, can still be seen in the park in back of the property. In 1815 the villa was purchased by Caroline of Brunswick, the wife of the Prince of Wales, and future King George IV of England, from whom she had been separated for quite some time. Only then was the property given the name of Villa d'Este, in honour of the noblewoman’s presumed distant origins. The villa became a small international court: the princess — who commissioned the construction of a road connecting Como and Cernobbio – decorated the villa with fine furnishings and works of art and hosted sumptuous parties there.
In 1820, the year in which George IV ascended to the throne, Caroline, who stubbornly claimed her formal rights as queen, was forbidden from attending the coronation ceremony at Westminster. She gained her revenge by winning the divorce case that George had filed against her with the accusation of adultery.
Once the turbulent period of splendour had passed, in 1873 Villa d'Este was transformed into a luxury hotel , while managing to retain its historic charm and the majority of its decor and antique furnishings, making it the favourite haunt of politicians, bankers and industrialists even today, where they meet for conventions or famous annual economic conferences. The villa’s superb Italian-style garden also makes a significant contribution to the beauty of the place.
The property comprises 25 acres of gardens, whose statues and landscape have been photographed for centuries the park of Villa d’Este, which includes 25 hectares of gardens, is a veritable compendium of art and landscape architecture. In fact, many of the owners exercised their taste and influence with significant interventions that remain even today, testifying to the property’s extraordinary and complex history.
The extraordinary and spectacular monumental driveway dates back to when the villa was built in the sixteenth century. The avenue, flanked by a water chain, the only one of its kind in Lombardy, leads to the nymphaeum known as the Mosaic.
The subsequent owner, the Marquis Calderaia, built a neoclassical marble temple at the opposite end of the avenue to house the marble statues of Hercules and Lichas.
Vittoria Peluso, to celebrate military exploits in Spain, in 1808 ordered the construction on the slopes of the rocky outcrop overlooking the park, a series of towers and fortifications, accessible from small passageways and bridges, surrounded by a deliberately wild vegetation. This place became the theatre of war games at the lavish receptions held at the villa and, according to some sources, was where cadets from the Military School of Milan performed their exercises.
Caroline of Brunswick was responsible for consolidating the property’s fame and further developing the park with a romantic and picturesque sensibility: the symmetry of the sixteenth century garden, the new style that adopts traces of wild nature, with sculptures, ruins and grotesquery located here and there.
Other embellishments made to the property include the mysterious construction of Ceranico, of Villa Malakoff, Villa Cima, Villa dell’Ercole and the Queen of England building. A new period of splendour of Villa d’Este dates back to 1868, to Maria Feodorowa, the Tsarina of Russia, who resided in the villa for only two years, frequently hosting lavish receptions at night with whimsical lights and fireworks.
There was a succession of various owners before 1890, when the Grand Hotel Villa d’Este company decisively took over the garden, changing the entrance of the villa with the development of an avenue with chestnut trees on the shores of the lake.
The latest works date back to 2004 with the inauguration of the “Giardino dello Chef” located on the panoramic rise between the Viale dell’Ercole and the Temple of Telemachus, designed to cultivate all types of botanical herbs.
In the wake of all these changes, for over 500 years a large plane tree measuring approximately 8 metres in circumference and about 35 metres in height has continued to thrive: over the centuries, with hundreds of visitors including queens, empresses, cardinals, aristocrats and statesmen have experienced its refreshing shade, as we continue to do so today.
Today the Cernobbio resort has 152 luxurious room in two buildings surrounded by a secular park in one of the most beautiful corners of the lake. It offers a heated swimming pool floating on the lake, a sandy beach reserved for children, an indoor swimming pool, wellness centre, eight tennis courts, restaurants and night club.
Situated on the shores of Lake Como, in the lovely town of Cernobbio, approximately 60 minutes from Milan and 30 minutes from Lugano ( Switzerland).