Thursday, December 4, 2008

Italian Notebook published another one of my little stories and photos


What do Casino Royale, Star Wars, Ocean's Twelve and A Month by the Lake have in common?

More hints you say?

How about "What was revered by a Cardinal in the beginning and loved by an international man of mystery to the end?"

If you thought "Villa Balbianello on Lake Como", you're right!

Lake Como has long been a playground for the wealthy. Its beauty and serenity has also been attractive to the Catholic church which snapped up some prime locations; to-wit, Villa Monastero in Varenna (once a monastery) and Villa Balbianello, once the site of a Franciscan monastery. Villa Balbianello itself was built by Cardinal Durini in 1787 after he discovered its beautiful locale (a promontory jutting out just south of present-day Lenno) and decided its solitude would be a perfect place to escape the world.

Almost 200 years later, in 1974, Villa Balbianello would be bought by its last private owner, Guido Monzino, the son of a wealthy Milanese businessman. Guido was quite a character: he climbed the Matterhorn, he was the first Italian to scale Mount Everest and he led an expedition to the North Pole. Sadly he died a young 60 years old in 1988 and his resting place is his beloved Villa. He willed it to FAI, the Italian National Trust, and it is now a museum to his adventurous life (with a strong James Bond aura!). When you visit his smoking room, filled with leather chairs and maps and globes and books you can imagine that he only just nipped out for a bottle of Scotch and would be right back.

Finally, the glamorous movie connection of this fabulous Villa: it has played a starring role in the various movies listed above and it's no surprise at all that one of them was a James Bond film. Before you visit this spectacular villa you simply must watch the Vanessa Redgrave/Uma Thurman movie, A Month by the Lake. You will find yourself seeking your own Month by this wondrous Lake too.

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