Villa Carlotta, what you can’t miss when you visit it
In any city, country or place you go, there are attractions that, for the most diverse reasons, are must-sees for a tourist… that something you cannot avoid visiting, without then feeling that you have missed a treat.
Here, Villa Carlotta fits right into this category.
It is one of Lake Como’s tourist attractions par excellence, and the reasons are many, as I’ll tell you here below.
The suggested visiting time is about 1 hour and 30 minutes and I agree. The entrance ticket costs €15 (full price) and includes access to both the gardens and the villa (for up-to-date prices, I recommend you always have a look at the villa’s official website).
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Keep in mind that normally the ground floor and top floor of the villa-museum can be visited, but if temporary exhibitions are taking place, it is also possible to access the middle floor at no extra cost.
Furthermore, since 2023 the basement has also been open to the public, another unmissable gem of Villa Carlotta, as I will explain shortly.
In short, there is a lot to see and below are my tips for optimising your time and seeing the best of the best of Villa Carlotta!
The history of Villa Carlotta in two words
The events surrounding it begin more than three centuries ago, when, around 1690, it was built at the behest of Marquis Giorgio II Clerici.
Its history is fascinating, like that of all those buildings that over the years have been the setting for countless events, more or less important, and certainly linked to an intense life. Leaving aside dates and details, bear in mind that there were three families that succeeded one another within its walls: the Clerici, the Sommariva and the Sassonia Meinigen.
And each obviously left its mark.
But if you are wondering who Carlotta was then, I will tell you straight away: a princess, daughter of Marianne of Nassau and Prince Albert of Prussia.
Her parents bought the villa from the Sommariva family in 1844 and gave it to Carlotta as a gift on the occasion of her marriage to Prince Georg von Sachsen Meiningen a few years later.
Not a bad gift, is it?
Keeping these few passages in mind will make it easier for you to become engrossed in the stories of the individual characters as you wander through the rooms of this villa.
But I don’t want to give too much away, I can only assure you that it will be very interesting to discover how their lives intertwined with this place and how they left their mark.
What not to miss if you visit Villa Carlotta
Among the many beauties that Villa Carlotta holds, there are some that you really must not miss if you visit it!
1# The statue of Cupid and Psyche
Many think it is original by Antonio Canova, the most famous Italian sculptor of the 19th century, but it was actually made by one of his best pupils, Adamo Tadolini.
But I assure you that it is a fairly negligible detail and you will realise this as soon as you stand in front of the sculptural group.
Observing the details of the two figures entwining, the folds of Psyche’s dress, her hair, Cupid’s wings, the almost amber colour of their skin, you will find it hard to believe that you are looking at a piece of marble…
2# The two original statues by Antonio Canova
Yes, Villa Carlotta houses two original statues by Antonio Canova.
They are the statue of the muse Terpsichore and that of the mythological character Palamedes, the former in plaster, the latter in marble.
Here the comments are endless.
3# Thorvaldsen’s frieze
It is an actual depiction of The Entrance of Alexander the Great into Babylon.
Again, if you have the patience to linger over the details and the number of characters represented, you will be amazed at the sculptor’s skill in working the marble and in making the animals and men that populate this high relief almost real.
4# The ceiling in the Views Room
It was decorated by the Milanese artist Lodovico Pogliaghi.
It is a riot of colour, in the neo-Pompeian style…take a look at the cornice on the bottom with marine figures…hard to tell if it is painted or in relief!
Around the walls you can admire some views that show you the appearance of the dwelling in the 19th century.
5# The gallery and the ceilings on the top floor
This is the floor where the furnishings from Charlotte’s period are displayed.
If you don’t have a lot of time for your visit, at least go up and admire the original 18th-century ceilings (inside the furnished rooms) and the splendid gallery, at the time used as a ballroom and for strolling on rainy days.
The latter is truly impressive, embellished with sumptuous chandeliers and ornate ceilings.
Another gem on the third floor is the loggia with its balcony, which you can step out onto and from which there is a priceless view of the lake.
6# The Basement of the villa
Another highlight of Villa Carlotta is its recently opened and unique basement.
What you will see in this part of the villa are the rooms used by the servants, such as the kitchens, the laundry, the cellars or the cook’s bench. But the real special feature of this floor is the installation that, with multimedia projections, allows the visitor to literally immerse himself in the lives of the characters who animated these rooms.
But I won’t reveal any more!
To visit them, keep in mind that they have different opening hours from the rest of the villa, so I suggest you ask the staff in the room how to access them.
7# The garden
If by chance, given the size of the park, you are thinking of limiting yourself to seeing only the Italian garden, know that you are about to make a big mistake!
In addition to the front terraces, decorated with balustrades, flowerbeds, lemon houses, a fountain, walls of camellias and ancient species of roses, there is, on the left side of the building (looking at the lake), a real botanical garden all to be explore and for which Villa Carlotta is famous throughout the world!
Maybe it’s trivial to remember to visit it, but you never know!
The ferns valley and, in spring, the blooming of azaleas and the rhododendron forest are unmissable. A brethtaking show!
Well, these are my favorite spots in Villa Carlotta, but believe me, there is this and much more to see!
Among the many unmentioned treasures, there is certainly The Last Kiss between Romeo and Juliet by Hayez… just to give you an idea.
Enjoy your visit to the treasures of Villa Carlotta!