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Villas and Gardens - Villa Monastero Varenna

Villa del Balbianello

...Villa Monastero today is one of the most interesting examples of an eclectic style residence on lake Como; here the interventions from the end of XIX and the beginning of XX century have added functional and decorative elements without damaging the traces of the building's history...

Villa Monastero has developed from the continual restoration work of the ancient cistercensian monastery of Santa Maria, first quoted in a document dated 1208.

Its foundation is probably related to the religious settlings on the opposite side of lake Como: the St. Faustino and St. Giovita monastery on Comacina island from whence came some refugees in 1169.

In 1566 the archbishop Carlo Borromeo decided to transfer the last six nuns of the Varenna monastery to another cistercensian monastery in Lecco; as a consequence, in 1569, the monastery buildings were sold to Paolo Mornico.

The actual Fermi conference room was once the old church. The only surviving decoration is a small frescoed "Pietà", painted in the late-gothic period and inserted in a niche in the wall. The Renaissance altarpiece, which was on the main altar, today is to be found in the left chapel of the parish S. Giorgio church.

The Mornico family owned the Villa Monastero buildings from 1569 to 1862, when the Villa underwent major restoration works, such as the façade of the Villa and the two rooms on the ground floor, the Rossa and Nera rooms. The Fermi room door's wood frame is also of the XVII century. From the second half of XIX century the Villa underwent many changes made by the different owners (Genazzini, Maumary Seufferheld, Kees, De Marchi) which gave the Villa its actual eclectic appearance. The garden was also enriched with Mediterranean and tropical plants.

Particularly interesting is the staircase, scenographically realised using polychrome marble, ceramics, stucco works. The so-called "Pompeian" or "King Farouk" bathroom is also a further example of this style. After confiscation in 1918 the property went to the "Opera Nazionale Combattenti", a state association, that then sold it to Mr. Marco De Marchi, who left it to the Italian Institute of Hydrobiology "Dr. Marco De Marchi".

Internationally known literates, historians, artists, scientists, even the Nobel Prize winner Enrico Fermi, to whose memory a plaque has been placed, have honoured Villa Monastero since 1953 when this prestigious abode became a Congress Centre for high level studies thanks to prof. Polvani, President of the Italian Society of Physics, and Mr. Bosisio, then President of the Provincial Administration of Como. Since 1963 the villa has become an international cultural and scientific centre.

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