Lago di Como
BY ALESSANDRA VALENTINELLI
Villa ''Il Pizzo'' overlooks Lake Como set into a long series of terraces, seemingly carved out of the mountain. Situated on a promontory called ''Pizzo'', which in Como dialect means ‘point' or ‘spit', the site was bought in 1435 by Giovanni Mugiasca, a rich merchant from Como. The Mugiasca family built their country house here which only became a refined residence in 1569. In 1630 they fled here to escape the dreaded Manzonian Plague, offering hospitality to several friends in exchange for manual work which involved digging, levelling and terracing the land. Thus the present structure of the garden was created, later to be enlarged at the end of the 18th century by Bishop Giambattista Mugiasca. In the 19th century important improvements were undertaken by the architect Simone Cantoni and subsequently, on the extinction of the Mugiasca family, the complex passed to Arch-Duke Ranieri of Hapsburg, Viceroy of Lombardy-Veneto, who gave free rein to his passion for botany, summoning the famous gardener Villoresi from Monza Royal Palace. In 1865 the ''Pizzo'' passed to a French noblewoman Madame Musard, mistress of King William II of Holland, who dedicated herself to embellishing the Villa and Garden, subsequently leaving it to the Volpi-Bassani family, whose descendants are the present owners.
In the areas nearest to the main buildings are geometric paths running between the flowerbeds, clipped topiary hedges and baroque fountains, typical of formal Italian gardens. The long, renowned Cypress Avenue distinguishes the Villa, even from the lake. Towards Moltrasio the garden increasingly conforms to the English romantic style, more luxuriant, with tall trees interlaced with a system of small paths bordered by a water grotto, pools, streams and the ''Fountain of Alessandro Volta'', often a guest of the Mugiasca family in Villa Pizzo.
Among the illustrious personages who frequented the Villa during the Mugiasca ownership, there was also the famous scientist Alessandro Volta, remembered by a monument that the owners had built following his death in 1827. This is the very first historical monument dedicated to Volta. When the Mugiasca family died out, it was Ranieri d'Asburgo, viceroy of Lombardo-Veneto, who bought the property. He found at Pizzo the ideal place of rest and refuge from the complex political events of the time. At Pizzo the viceroy Ranieri did not arrive alone, but accompanied by the famous landscape architect Villoresi, already designer of the Villa Reale in Monza, who gave a unique and definitive structure to the large park around the Villa. Following the turbulent political events of the end of the nineteenth century, which resulted in the "Moti del 48", the viceroy left the Villa, which was purchased by the charming Parisian madame Elise Musard, who gave a very recognizable feminine touch to the Villa, dyeing it pink, as it has remained until today. When Madame Musard tragically left the Villa, the Volpi-Bassani family bought it and lived it respecting the architectural and stylistic choices of the past and adding elements of great value that can still be admired today in the park such as the family Mausoleum, built by renowned architect Luca Beltrami and the large dock, which overlooks the lake giving a wonderful panoramic view. The simple and geometric architecture of the Villa, with the sobriety of its decorations that intersect with the irregularity and variety of shapes, colors and styles of the gardens, combined with the uniqueness of the history and events that took place in Villa Pizzo over the centuries, make Pizzo a unique place on Lake Como.