Lake Como and Brianza were appreciated already in the oldest time for their mild climate and the beauty of their landscapes, becoming the favourite resorts of the nobles and the personages of the social and cultural elite. After the long parenthesis of the Middle Ages it befell to the Renaissance to redescover on lake Lario the lesson of the Classic antiquity about a Villa of Pleasure that by the Humanist Paolo Giovio, also from Como, was turned into a “Museum” - so he had called his home in Borgo Vico by the lake, dedicating it to the Muses.
The most ancient villas of lake Lario date back to the end of 1500: Villa Pliniana in Torno and the Gallio Palace in Gravedona, then Villa Gallia in the hamlet of Vico in Como; all sumptuously conceived and decorated with frescoes and works of art. All the same were the Balbiano and Balbianello in Lenno, and the Monastero Villa in Varenna.
The Landed Gentry of Lombardy and Milan were the authors of the great flowering of gorgeous Manors on lario during the Neoclassic period, between 1700 and 1800. The rich families were flanked by the best architects of that age: Cantoni, Pollack, Soave, Tazzini and Canonica. The highest episode of the Neoclassic style in Como is Villa Olmo, inspired to the sumptuous residences of Rome, nevertheless all the western shore of Como town is a parade of masterpieces of neoclassic architecture. In Bellagio among several others we mention Villa Melzi, projected by the great Albertolli ; in Cernobbio lies the famous Villa D'Este, nowadays turned into one of the most famous hotel resort in the world.
On the hilly slopes of Brianza there's all a blooming of neoclassical style in buildings projected for the summer leisure time of the noble Lombard families: so it is in Anzano del Parco, in Casnate and Fino Mornasco; In Alzate Brianza the hotel Villa Odescalchi was the manor of Pope Odescalchi's family. From the second half of the nineteenth century the style of the building on Lake Como follows the new tastes of their proprietors –the new industrial bourgeoisie- who want them in Eclectic style, as in the remarkable residential nuclei of Brunate and Lanzo Intelvi, or follow the revival of the historic styles, as in the neo medieval villa La Gaeta in Acquaseria. Of the early1900 are the Liberty buildings, as the Villa Bernasconi in Cernobbio, while the Villas in Rationalist style, as the ones by G.Terragni, are of 1930.
Nowadays a few of this elegant abodes have been destined to be Museums, Cultural Foundations, Congress Centres and are mostly visible with their treasures of art and culture. Some have been turned into luxury hotels, or have been acquired by people of the jet set who have become somewhat testimonials of Lake Como in the world: in Moltrasio there is the Versace's Villa and in Laglio the Villa of George Clooney.
All through the centuries Lake Como's Villas have always been exerting their fascination on all the tourists and visitors who have the luck of sightseeing lake Lario.