The Botanical Garden is open every day from 10am to 5pm. Tickets include entry to the Museum. Be sure to wear comfortable shoes.
Almost the entire garden is accessible to disabled persons, although some paths slope upwards. We have a bookshop, a café and a picnic area. Dogs are welcome but please keep them on the leash.
The structure dates back to the time the villa was built. This section of the park is clearly laid out as a formal or Italianate garden: a symmetrical axis runs through it from the gate to the clock on the roof of the building; hedges trimmed into shape; fountains and water features; statues, box beds to form geometric elements; terraces closed by stone balustrades and connected by stairs.
These characteristics blend well with the philosophy of the time, the 1700s, the century of the Enlightenment, a period in which reason prevailed over sentiment and it is humankind to dominate Nature.
Located on one of the terraces in front of the Villa, these two tunnels have been well-known since the time of the first owners, the Clerici family. In those days, the citrus trees were cultivated on a much bigger scale and included other terraces, earning the collection the well-deserved name of “Selva Cedrina” – the citron grove.
The camellias of Villa Carlotta pay homage to a fashion that circulated in Europe in the first half of the 1800s. Their glossy, leathery foliage and their spectacular flowering are the icon of the part of the park that surrounds the villa, both in the Italianate garden, on the sides of the monumental stairways, and at the back of the building
On the east side of the villa, near a small artificial cave in the Romantic style, there is a flowerbed where several specimens of tropical species grow in the summer: bromeliads (relatives of the pineapple), kentias (palm trees endemic to Lord Howe Island in Australia), ficus (Ficus elastica is the plant from which latex is collected and used to make gum, and Ficus benjamina L. is one of the most common houseplants), and several orchids cohabit with many useful plants including cinnamon, clove and patchouli.
In this area of the park a rock garden is home to two different types of installations. One is given over to the seasonal blooming of herbaceous plants inserted at the time of flowering and removed when the flowers wither, then replaced with other cultivars or species in bloom at that moment. The other houses specimens of succulent plants in special pockets made in the rock, placed there during the summer: euphorbia, cactus, agave, and aloe.
The aromatic plants collection is on the western side of the park, near a small artificial cave in the Romantic style. These plants are cultivated in pockets arranged on several parallel rows close to a slope and share a common characteristic: their tissues produce and accumulate aromatic substances which naturally defend them from parasite attack.
A small wood of tree rhododendrons, probably planted in the early 1900s amazes visitors for the fascinating environment created by the sinuous trunks with their warm brownish-pink colour and showy flowers borne in terminal trusses in spring. Most here are hybrids, deriving from Himalayan species, very different from the common Rhododendron ferrugineum L. which grows in the Alps.
Another specific habitat created artificially in the park which astonishes passionate visitors, is the valley of ferns. It was commissioned by Duke George of Saxony Meiningen, the last private owner of the villa, who wisely exploited a natural soil depression (at the time defined a “valley of brambles”), obtaining a quite theatrical setting with a stream that runs along the floor of the small valley.
The beauty of the Villa Carlotta park is certainly explained by its lavish collections and skilful landscaping, but also – and in no small measure – due to the presence of a number of monumental trees, whose silent presence confers majesty and character on the garden.
Many are conifers (cedars, cypresses, redwoods, pines) but some are also broad-leaved like the tulip tree located south of the Valley of Ferns, or the plane trees on both sides of that valley, as well as the beech trees near the picnic area by the bamboo grove. Many of these plants were added to the park at the behest of Duke George of Saxony Meiningen, who was a passionate botanist.
This part of the park is completely different from the rest and was once used for agricultural production that supplied the villa with food and supported the sharecropper families who tended the land. A description is already found on an ancient map dating back to the early nineteenth century, showing an area planted with vines, olive trees and mulberries.
Today there is still visible evidence of these ancient cultivations in the south-facing terraces, and it is still possible to admire age-old olive trees, flanked by new specimens that will become the Villa Carlotta olive grove as they grow. The intention is to tell the story of how the Lake Como landscape has been forged by agricultural practices over the millennia (olives have been cultivated on the lake since Roman times) and to promote Lario olive-growing as an agricultural practice of excellence and a resource for the local economy.
We have set aside a plot of land in the agricultural section for a vegetable garden, to conjure up the atmosphere of when the villa was a home and farmers cultivated the terraces of land behind the building to produce olives, grapes and vegetables, for the owners and for their own consumption.