"It's great to be king," Joseph DiLuccia of Bangor, Pa said while over looking Villa del Balbianello in Lenno, Italy on Lake Como.
It wasn’t actually a king who built this place in the 1700's, but Cardinal Durini who wanted a quiet summer residence.
He couldn't have picked a better place.
Our group felt like kings when we pulled up to the villa in a boat.We felt like kings as we were taken by boat to the estate. Gentle waves rocked the boat as we stepped off the craft and into paradise.
We’ve been lucky as we’ve toured these last few gardens to be lead by Italian garden designer Carlo Maria Maggia who has enlightened us to their secrets. In broken English his passion for these places always comes through.
This is a garden of topiary art of the highest sort. The scenic view of Lake Como is often framed through trees, shrubs or vines which are expertly trimmed.
It's not a big garden, but it's a spectacular one. Villa Balbianello is the ultimate summer hideout.
Walking up the first path, we were greeted by cheery rose colored cyclamen hugging the ground. It seems every space is filled in this garden.
Tiny daisies cling to rock walls, pretty pink roses are intertwined with pointed greenish gray agave. But it is the topiary which takes your breath away. Light posts covered in spiral green vines, columns and walls covered in the same. I wonder how long it must take to prune each one to perfection. Out in the courtyard we hard the gardeners arguing as they snipped at the plants on the wall. We wondered if one had trimmed too closely and was reprimanded for doing so.
On a lower level, overlooking the lake, it's hard to guess how long gardeners have worked to prune a spectacular-looking tree into an oblong oval. This tree stops you in your tracks and for once the lake and mountains must take center stage. It's wonderful to watch visitors linger under it’s tightly pruned leaves.
As our boat sped away, I wished I had the summer to spend at this incredible villa.
Our tour of Northern Italian gardens keeps getting better, with each garden topping the last.
I wonder what tomorrow will bring as we venture to Lake Maggiore.
Above: One of the first plants to see were these cyclamen in full bloom along the side of the path to the villa.
This huge tree in the lower courtyard is something special and attracts visitors.
It seemed that every crack and crevice was planted with the just the right species. These little daises grew along a rock wall.
When was the last time you saw roses planted with agave?
One thing that makes these Lake Como gardens something special is the mist, fog and clouds which seem to come and go every hour or so.
I wonder if this statue has been watching the villa since the very beginning.
With each turn this garden provides topiary surprises.
These gardeners are in charge of keeping everything trimmed to perfection.
(Top image: It was amazing to see the villa from the boat as we approached. Doug Oster photos/Post-Gazette)