Villa Pliniana, originating from the sixteenth century, is located in the municipality of Torno, in the province of Como, on the right bank of Lake Como and is situated in an isolated cove, in the immediate vicinity of the stream that flows into Lake Como with a waterfall of about seventy metres.
It can be reached on foot, via the characteristic pedestrian street that goes through the woods and begins near the church of San Giovanni, or from the lake. From the dock you go up to the garden through the underground passage.
Two additional buildings flank the building: the chapel dedicated to St. Francis and what was once the caretaker’s house.
Villa Pliniana has always been considered one of the most interesting properties on Lake Como and was declared a national monument.
Unfortunately, for many years now it has been showing signs of significant decay. However, in other times over the property’s 420 year-history, it was left in similar conditions only to be subsequently revived by its dedicated owners.
The name "Pliniana" was attributed to the fact that the two Pliny’s were the first to describe the intermittent spring that flows from the rock in a ravine called the “horrible”, now enclosed and hidden by the building.
The spring flows from the mountain between layers of “Moltrasio stone”.
When it is full, the water invades a space of approximately 5 metres, where 5 columns with Romanesque capitals were placed as ornaments. When it is not as full, it laps just up to the foot of the last column to the right.
In 1577 construction work on the building was completed after merely three years.
When the property fell under the ownership of the Torno native Francesco Canarisi in 1676, the building was in a state of great neglect.
With the Canarisi family, both the building and the garden of the Pliniana reached the height of its splendour.
The villa was made into the family’s shrine, who filled it with commemorative plaques, many of which are now in the Giovio Museum of Como. They also paid homage to one of the two Pliny’s, to whom they dedicated the two halls on the main floor, decorated with friezes and illustrated with sayings taken from Pliny the Elder’s works.
These ornaments were later covered with tapestries.
After about a century and a half from the purchase of the Pliniana, another Francesco Canarisi transferred all of the property to Torno and he settled in his last property in Grandate.
Even before the sale of the villa on Lake Como which took place in 1831 by the latter Francesco, the Pliniana’s period of abandon had already begun.
After passing through three interim owners, in 1840 it was purchased by Prince Barbiano of Belgioioso Este. He lavishly adorned the villa, restoring it to its ultimate glory.
After numerous owners, a gradual period decline ensued, and in 1983 it was purchased by its current owners (Società Pliniana) who are extremely sensitive to its need to be restored.
In May 2001 restoration work began on the Torno villa, the interiors of which stand sadly bare today.
After the villa was sold in 1983, the Valperga family transferred the precious furnishings that adorned the halls and rooms elsewhere. The villa once hosted important guests including Napoleon, Byron, Volta, Rossini. The villa inspired Fogazzaro to write the novel "Malombra" and served as the location for the film by the same name shot here by the director Soldati.
The facade of the main building faces the lake with four rows of windows.
In the centre of the main floor there is a loggia with three arches, supported by columns and overlooks the lake from two large halls: the central hall houses a statue of Neptune with the trident flanked by a dolphin. On the side opposite the lake the loggia opens up onto a courtyard, where the Pliniana fountain opens into the rocky wall.
The upper floor is where you’ll find the bedrooms and bathrooms added in recent years, with a large spiral staircase made of sandstone with a wood finish, covered by a vault with a painting representing a starry sky.
Below the first floor is a first below-ground floor, consisting of bathrooms, a large kitchen and pantry and servants’ rooms. Just above the lake level, a second below ground floor consists of a long corridor lit by square openings without a closure, providing access to the various vaulted cellars. Finally, there’s an opening that allows the water from the Plinian fountain to flow into the lake. In recent years the villa has been opened on occasion to the public.
The splendid village of Torno is just a few kilometres from the city of Como, about 30 km from Lugano in Switzerland and a 1 hour drive from Milan.