Reflections amid clouds and beauty

Some suggestions for seeing Lake Como, with its villas and gardens, in a new light, to discover the incomparable artistic and natural treasures that have existed since antiquity in perfect harmony, and to capture the literary, musical, poetic and cinematic influences that have helped make these places unique.

“What news from Como, mine and your delight? And of your beautiful suburban villa? And the eternal springtime of your porch?”. With these deeply affectionate and admiring words penned in a letter to his friend Canino Rufo, Pliny the Younger, the nephew of the great naturalist, conveyed for the first time the beauty and benefits of life on Lake Como and described the atmosphere that belonged to the tradition of the typical Lake Como villa, which was to enjoy great success over the centuries with generations of residents and travellers. The remainder of the letter, which dates to between 96 and 100 AD, and other contemporary accounts give us a fairly precise idea of the Roman villa’s structure, and the relationship that this type of building had with the surrounding landscape. Next to the meeting rooms, study and conversation spaces, and rooms for sleeping, were a whole series of continuous porticoes open to the sun, with views of the water, and the green of the gardens.

Conceived as a peaceful location for intellectual pursuits, a space for physical activity and hunting, good reading and conversation, it was during the Roman era that the legend of the Lake Como villa was born. This legend was based on a celebration of villa life within a particular environment – one that was a miraculous contrast between the Mediterranean climate of the lake and the harsh alpine winter of the surrounding mountains, and between the splendour of nature and the work of man.