Lake Como, Italy
One of the exciting things to do while you're in Lake Como, especially if you're a James Bond fan, is to visit Villa Balbianello, which is where Bond recuperates after his torture by La Chiffre in the 2006 version of Casino Royale, starring Daniel Craig. Check out the 3 minute 30 second scene below...
So here/s the story on "James Bond Villa" as its become known since 2006, or its proper name, Villa Balbnianello. Built for Cardinal Angelo Maria Durini at the end of the XVIII century, the Villa stands on the tip of a steep promontory overlooking Lake Como, almost opposite Bellagio.
Today, the villa has the appearance desired by its last owner, the explorer Guido Monzino, with a rich collection of Chinese, African and pre-Colombian art, precious English and French furniture of the 1700s and the small museum with documents and mementoes of his expeditions. Yet the true masterpiece is the panoramic terraced garden dominated by the elegant "loggia" with three arches rising on the highest point of the promontory.
But, back to Guido for a moment. When he brought the villa in 1973, he made sure to install secret passageways, include lodging for his mother (like any good Italian), and built out several rooms to be displays of his many travels. He never kept much company and never married (DING DING DING Gaydar alert). He felt restless and in love with travel and adventure.
While most people would be quick to call Monzino introverted, crazy, childish, or simply weird, he lived his life in a beautiful way. Mr. Monzino bought and transformed the Villa Balbianello into something he could truly feel comfortable in. A paradise escape with the theme of the motion of travel. A room of his own. He sheared the trees so he could see Lake Como freely. He kept the Fransiscan monks’ secret passageways so he could escape house guests if he felt like it. He lived in a rare privacy and peace from the confusing chaos of city life.
The same villa can also be seen in Star Wars II: Attack of the Clones. Here's my pics that I took while visiting for about 25 euro each...
This place truly is something amazing, inside and out. The grounds are kept in immaculate condition. Monzino willed Villa del Balbianello to the Fondo per l'Ambiente Italiano , which is a trust that takes care of the villa. The villa today contains a museum devoted to Monzino which includes artifacts acquired on his expeditions including Inuit sculpture, as well as memorabilia including one of the dog sleds from his 1971 expedition to the North Pole, and Monzino’s extensive collections of maps and books.
There is a massive Emerald Tree that must be sheared daily to keep its shape. Not a twig out of place.
There is a second villa on Lake Como that is featured in the final scene of the same movie as well. not sure if this one is open for visitors though...