Villa Melzi (Bellagio), on Lake Como, Italy.

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The significant building, which overlooks the lake, was built between 1808 and 1815 by the architect Giocondo Albertolli upon a request by Francesco Melzi d'Eril, nominated Duke of Lodi by Napoleon himself and for whom he fulfilled the role of vice-president of the Italian Republic from 1802. From 1805, with the advent of the short-lived Napoleonic Kingdom of Italy he fulfilled the role of Chancellor of the Empire.

Even after his political career, since this was a Melzi residence, the construction, which he wanted as elegant as the Royal Villa of Monza and the other villas situated on the Lake of Como, was decorated and furnished by famous artists of the period: artists Appiani and Bossi, sculptors Canova and Comolli, and the founder Manfredini. He also had a collector’s passion which, on Lake of Como, did not have any rivals except for the figure of Giovan Battista Sommariva, owner of the villa bearing the same name (nowadays Villa Carlotta), who, politically defeated by Melzi himself (who was preferred by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802 as vice-president of the Italian Republic), tried to re-acquire the lost prestige by assembling an extraordinary art collection.

Villa Melzi is introduced by its English style gardens which develops harmoniously along the lake’s banks, the last offshoot in the hill picture of the peninsula of Bellagio, to the south of the inhabited area. The realisation of such a garden implied notable interventions to the structure of the land and the realisation of outstanding supporting walls. In such surroundings, enriched by monuments, artefacts (amongst which a Venetian gondola transported to Bellagio, expressly desired by Napoleon, and two precious Egyptian statues), rare exotic plants, secular trees, hedges of camellias, groves of azaleas and gigantic rhododendrons, the villa, the chapel and the glass house constitute an extraordinary ensemble in which the neoclassical style reaches one of the highest peaks.
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