This is the magical view of the Villa Balbianello that greets visitors as you are about to arrive. The only way to reach this spot is by boat from one of the the towns along Lake Como, as the Villa sits astride the tip of a peninsula and cannot be reached by visitors from land.
This Villa was built on the site of a Franciscan Monastery from the 1700's. It has many charming architectural details, such as this coat of arms.
This looks like a church, but inside this part of the villa are bedrooms and the kitchen. The Villa was last owned by Guido Monzino, from 1974 until his death in 1988. He was the heir to an Italian department store chain and a renowned world explorer. He was the first Italian to climb Everest, and he explored the polar regions. He died of lung cancer around age 60, as he was a heavy smoker.
An American military officer, Butler Ames, owned the Villa in the early 20th century, and he renovated it, including the garden, so my guess is that he is the one who installed this fireplace mantle to the entrance walkway near the front door to the Villa. Guido Manzino left the Villa to an Italian architectural trust, so the property is open to visitors. It is our favorite Villa along Lake Como, an area known for spectacular lakeside villas.