Villa Balbiano is la dolce vita, brought to life

Fresh of a five-year renovation spearheaded by Jacques Garcia, the property may be Lake Como’s new crown jewel.

By Phoebe Neuman 06/11/2018

When it comes to drool-worthy villas that you can call your temporary home, it’s no secret that some of the best line the emerald shores of Lake Como. Over the years we’ve checked in to some of the most opulent—think the ever-popular Villa d’Este and the sleek Boat House, near Griante, which made its splashy entrance to the scene last year. But Villa Balbiano, which is now available to book through Italy experts Homebase Abroad, gives all of them a serious run for their money.

Owned by the same well-heeled European couple that lay claim to the storied Villa Astor on the Amalfi Coast, the 500-year-old estate has just completed a five-year, high-design renovation courtesy of Jacques Garcia. In addition, it can lay claim to a new partnership with Homebase Abroad (which means guests will have access to one-of-a-kind experiences and hard-to-snag reservations through the outfitter’s extensive network of contacts). The French architect who is the visionary behind the oft-Instagrammed La Mamounia, has lived up to his aesthete reputation here, deftly transforming the 1900-square-metre property into a space fit for 21st century aristocrats.

And though things are undeniably luxurious—see chandeliers dripping in crystal and glittering gold accents in nearly every room—everything is refined. Restored frescoes originally commissioned by Cardinal Durini (who turned what had been a humble estate into the sweeping villa we see today in the 18th century) sit nicely alongside bold velvet couches and rococo antiques sourced from around the world.

That’s not to say there isn’t plenty of drama to go around. The 15 bedrooms—six of which are housed inside the main palace, and the others scattered across the Villino and the Dependence—are all outfitted with curvaceous headboards that snake their way up towards the high ceilings and sexy silken linens. Bathrooms clad in black marble are framed by antique Asian screens, and an indoor pool is framed by archways frescoed in delicate blue clouds.

And while there is plenty to do around Lake Como, we won’t blame you if you can’t tear yourself away from Villa Blabino. After all, a team that includes private chefs, butlers, and concierges is on hand to arrange anything you can dream up. And there’s plenty to discover while flicking through one of the first-edition books in the library or while wandering the two hectares of manicured gardens. Just be sure not to skip a sunset whiz around the lake in the property’s Venetian water taxi; there’s no better way to catch la dolce vita.

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