The villa was built in 1787 on the site of a Franciscan monastery, but by the early 20th century the buildings and grounds had fallen into a state of neglect. American businessman Butler Ames bought and refurbished the villa in 1919, creating the elaborate terraced gardens that you can see today. In 1974 Italian explorer Count Guido Monzino purchased the villa and decorated it with collections of Chinese and African art, French furniture, and other artifacts from his expeditions before leaving the estate to the FAI (Italy’s National Trust) upon his death in 1988.
By far the best way to appreciate the estate is by taking a guided tour that offers insights into the history of the villa and explores both the impressive interiors and the extensive gardens. Consider opting for a private tour that combines Villa del Balbianello with visits to Villa Melzi and Villa Carlotta, also on the shores of Lake Como.