Transformed into an exquisite treasure chest for Giovan Battista Sommariva’s collections during the 19th century, the beauty of Villa Carlotta, with its azaleas, hydrangeas and citrus trees collections, complemented by groves of tree rhododendrons and a scenographic fern valley, was prised by Stendhal, Lady Morgan and Flaubert.

Erected around 1690, Villa Carlotta was sold by the descendants of Giorgio II Clerici to Gian Battista Sommariva in 1801. Forty-two years later, the property passed to the House of Saxony-Meiningen, through Albert of Prussia’s daughter, Carlotta, from whom the villa gets its name. Five engravings by Marc’Antonio Dal Re (1743) show the property’s original layout. With its monumental staircase, elevated gardens and citrus tree pergolas, the villa marks the central axis of the complex. By maintaining the balustrade with Candoglia-marble allegories and the fountain of Arion of Methymna, from the Clerici period, Sommariva adapted the property in order to display his rich art collections. The Italian-style formal gardens were complemented by a landscape park area and an agricultural section home to orchards, vegetable gardens, olive groves and vineyards. Other important alterations were introduced by the Saxon-Meiningen family, who remodelled the park to suit the new romantic taste of the second half of the 19th century. Encouraged by the fertile soil (rich in glacial sediments), the Dukes Bernhard and Georg II introduced more than 150 varieties of rhododendrons, camellias and azaleas, which still today offer visitors extraordinary spring blooms. In 1927, after a period of decay following the Great War, the Villa Carlotta Trust restored the property and today the complex welcomes visitors with its charming gardens reflecting in the waters of the lake. Its great variety of plants make Villa Carlotta an authentic botanical garden.


Find out more