people, Places

Villa Balbianello. A house on lake Como Hollywood loves.

2017-01-17 • By

In Lenno, a small country on lake Como, you’ll find villa Balbianello.

As many others villas on Lake Como, It was the buen retiro of its many rich owners and but it was also the set for some scenes of Star Wars – Episode Two and Casino Royale with Daniel Craig.

Villa Balbianello has one of the most spectacular and romantic views on the lake Como. It has an interesting story and its garden is a jewel. I worth a visit even if you’re not a Star Wars or James Bond fan.

Una foto pubblicata da Paola Marzorati (@paolamar22) in data:

Get there on the road of the Queen

You can reach it from Milan in about 45 minutes by the A9 motorway (towards Switzerland). Take Como Monte Olimpino exit and follow indications to Menaggio to the small town of Lenno.

You’ll drive on a road along the lake that also has an interesting story. Its name is Strada Regina: the Queen Road or the Road of the Queen. The name is traditionally linked to the passage of the Longobards’ queen Theodolind. Actually Romans called it Via Regia, meaning simply main road. Romans unified the very old paths running along lake Como towards mountains and Switzerland. So you are driving on a path where people have travelled and traded since prehistoric ages.

When you’re in Lenno find the place called Tramezzina and follow the indication villa Balbianello. Since you can’t enter by car, I suggest to take a walk from the small town square to the entrance. you’ll have to walk about ten minutes, but it will be very pleasant. You’re in a lush wood with a lush greenery thanks to the lake’s climate. There’s even bamboo, which is really odd for Italy.

As you enter, you will be astonished by the beauty of the garden.

Paths surrounded by statues and sycamores gently descend from the house to the lake, where there are two small docks. Up on the hill you’ll reach the loggia, with the most beautiful view of the lake Como, where Anakin Skywalker meditates on his destiny in Episode two.

(By the way, if you want it as a location for your wedding, you can contact them and try have it).

lake Como

Just below the loggia, in front of the lake, the secret wedding of Anakin and Padme is set.

lake Como

In front of the entrance James Bond recovers after tortures in the movie Casino Royale.

But I prefer the other side of the garden: the majestic umbrella-trimmed tree is like a natural cathedral dome.

lake Como

Forgetting Hollywood, villa Balbianello offers a view on Italian history, other than on the Como lake.

The house was built by a cardinal at the end of XVII Century. Of course, even at that time rich people spent heir holidays on lake Como, it has not started with George Clooney. The cardinal’s nephew Luigi Porro Lambertenghi inherited the house at the beginning of 19th century. He was an Italian patriot when the region was still under Austrian Empire. One of the main Italian patriots and writers, Silvio Pellico, worked here as teacher of Porro’s children. He would wistfully remember the period at Villa Balbianello in jail.

Later the house was sold to another moneybags, the Marquise Giuseppe Arconati Visconti. You must have at least two surnames to own Villa Balbianello. Arconati and his wife were also patriots and intellectuals: they hosted many writers, activists and politicians. In 1919 the American General Butler Ames bought the house who started the first restoration. His heirs sold it finally to the most important of Villa Balbianello owners, the entrepreneur, adventurer and traveller Guido Monzino.

Guido Monzino is an interesting character, too.

His family founded one of the first franchised department stores in Italy and he led it until a major multinational acquired it in the Sixties. So he had time and money enough to dedicate his life to hos main passion: travelling and explorations. He joined 21 Italian expeditions to, among others, Arctic, Hymalaya, African mountains and deserts. In 1971 he was the second one to reach the North Pole with dog sleds.

That’s why in one of the rooms next to the loggia the library is full of books on travels and exploration. It is one of the largest collections on that topic in Italy indeed. Visiting the villa you’ll also see objects Monzino collected during his travels and memories of he expeditions.

The villa is open only in summer, to preserve the collections from humidity. In winter you can visit the park and the two rooms of the loggia.

In 1975 the explorer donated Villa Balbianello to Fondo Ambiente Italiano, the Italian National Trust, which still manages it and opens the villa to the public.

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lifestyle, photography, Places

7 reasons why you’ll love Italy in autumn.

2016-09-25 • By

Italy in autumn is at its best. Here’s some reasons why you should visit Italy in autumn.

You might think how is it to visit Italy in autumn. When I was younger I didn’t like autumn. Holiday end and it’s time to go back to school or work. September was like the real beginning of the year. It bore the anxiety of what you were supposed to do in the next months. Wake me up when September ends.

But than things change and you start to appreciate what you didn’t like before. Now I can honestly say autumn is my favourite season. Living here I can say that Italy in autumn is at its best.

Italy in autumn

So here’s some reasons why you should visit Italy in autumn.

Weather is nearly perfect for visiting cities.

Summer is normally really hot. That’s nice if you are going to stay on the beach, but it can be unpleasant to walk all day long around in Rome, Florence or Venice. Plan to come in autumn in Italy if you are going to visit cities. It’s possible you’ll find some bad weather sometimes, but it’s generally pleasantly warm in the day. I personally prefer use the umbrella sometimes than walking all day with 30 celsius degrees and more. The most you go South the most you’re still in time to stay on the beach in September, October and even November. In Sicily and Puglia they always point out how they’re still bathing in the sea when we have foggy days here in Milan.


Where to stay in Venice. Three days in San Polo.

2016-09-18 • By

The streets around Campo San Polo are a perfect base to discover the Serenissima.

Are you wandering where to stay in Venice?

Consider the area around San Polo, one of Venice’s sextiers. Venice is divided in six districts, they are called sextiers indeed. The streets around Campo San Polo are good place where to stay in Venice. The area is a little less crowded than St. Mark sextier and Campo San Polo is no more than five- ten minutes walking far away from Rialto. Rialto is in San polo district indeed, but of course is one of the most crowded and expensive areas where to stay in Venice. Moreover, being in a central position you can easily reach the sextiers like Cannaregio and Dorsoduro to find less touristic and expensive bars and restaurants. Well, provided that in Venice prices are relatively high everywhere.

Riva degli Schiavoni da Palazzo Ducale #Venice

Una foto pubblicata da Paola Marzorati (@paolamar22) in data:

books, people

Italian books: the almond picker

2016-09-11 • By

Italian books. My review of the “the almond picker” by British-Sicilian novelist Simonetta Agnello Hornby.

After Elena Ferrante and Andrea Camilleri are you still searching in the Italian books shelf? Today I’m reccomending The Almond Picker by Simonetta Agnello Hornby. Actually I wouldn’t put it among the Italian books. Its place is in the Sicilian books shelf, if there was one. “La Mennulara” is not an Italian word, is the Sicilian way to call female workers who picked almonds from ground after men had beaten the trees.

La Mennulara, The Almond Picker, is the nickname of the main character of this book.

The story begins the day of her death, on September 23th 1963 in the village Roccacolomba.(Roccacolomba is fictional, don’t try to book a hotel there).

Italian books

The woman, “Mennù”, started working as almond picker at the age of six to help the poor family. Mennù had come a long way from the almond field. As a teenager she became servant of rich family Alfallipe.  Later she started to manage the family estates on behalf of the lazy Orazio, saving them from bankruptcy. At Orazio’s death, she took care of his wife. She obliged the three selfish and spoiled children to visit the mother by passing them a monthly wage. Yes, because La Mennulara, an illiterate waitress, died surprisingly rich.

lifestyle, people

Fertility day. About a disastrous health campaign and motherhood in Italy

2016-09-04 • By

My thougts about “fertility day”, an initiative of Italian health ministry showing how motherhood in Italy is still permeated by old stereotypes.

A disastrous communication campaign to launch the so-called fertility day on 22nd of September made Italian women mad.

Fertility day was meant to inform women and men on how to protect their procreative health. Of course there’s the low birthrate of Italy behind it. This might cause in the future problems of sustainability of our healthcare and welfare system. Everybody knows that. It not scandalous at all: it’s a real problem many other EU countries are trying to address.

The problem was that the fertility day campaign was completely wrong. Do you think they gave information on how to avoid infections? About access to in vitro fertilization techniques? Not at all.

It has been mostly addressed towards women and based on the message: tick tock, tick tock, hey your getting older, hurry up to get pregnant or you’ll miss your chance.

It featured an image of a woman brandishing a hourglass, with the claim “beauty is ageless, fertility isn’t”.

fartility day

not a joke: the real image of the campaign

A wave of rage raised among women who reminded on social networks the best way to boost fertility: permanent jobs, options to rent or buy a house with acceptable costs, more public kidergartens, no fear to be fired after maternity leave.

You can read more in this article in Quartz magazine, but also CBS, NYpost and Huffington Post talked about it.

The only effect was to make everyone mad. They bothered women who are delaying pregnancy for external private or economic reasons: precarious job, no stable relationship, lack of external help. They made angry infertile couple for to health problems, gays and lesbians, women who are not willing to have children. For those the campaign was not only ridiculous, but frankly offensive. Even women with children got mad, reminding that after you gave birth you are left alone with the only help of family and private baby-sitters. (Yes in Italy grandparents are the real welfare: without them most of the families will simply not exists).

I know really a few women in their thirties delaying pregnancy if they have a job, avhouse and a stable relationship because they go clubbing every night or they got workaholic trying to become the next Marissa Mayers (oops I forgot she is a CEO and also a mother).

I think it’s the worst health communication campaign ever. The claim “fertility is a common good” was particularly annoying for it’s reminding a sad page of our history, when fascists asked to do more children for a stronger nation.

When I saw it I couldn’t believe it. How could they be so stupid? But I have to say it did not completely surprised me. You know why?

It’s nothing different from the usual idea of motherhood in Italian society.

Motherhood in Italy in seen in a contradictory way. Superficially, we idealize it. But if you go deeper, I believe that Italian society misleads the complexity of motherhood with the simple act of taking care.