Situated just outside the relaxed lakeside village of Laveno on the eastern shore of Lake Maggiore, the elegantly proportioned Villa Labiena sits high on its hillside with nothing between it and the water's edge but terraced lawns, towering shade trees and a large swimming pool. The main three-story structure is center to two ground-floor wings, each topped with large panoramic terraces. As the presence of the many French doors and wide windows indicates, the focus here is on vista and this property has one of the loveliest. It takes in swiftly moving sailboats, the elegant town of Verbania and the famous botanic gardens of Villa Taranto across the lake and rises to the tops of the Italian and Swiss Alps still covered in snow in mid-summer. With a layout that favours large family reunions, two families who would share a holiday location or even a small workshop of people seeking Nature's inspiration, this villa is set and furnished to ensure fond memories of time away.
The private drive leading down from the quiet lane to the estate ends at a fairly ornate entrance topped with an angel. The entrance hall with its marble staircase and the large sitting room with brocade sofas and gilded Italian Renaissance furnishings are somewhat in contrast with the clean exterior of the villa, but the eye is immediately drawn out through wide French doors to a large flagstone terrace and the panorama beyond. It is easy to imagine that there will be many meals al fresco at the large table for 10 that overlooks the pool. For indoor occasions there is a formal dining room with a table for 6 and the adjacent kitchen with a large table for 12, both of which have French doors to lake views. The ground floor sleeping accommodations in the opposite wing of the house are reached from the entry hall by following a corridor with mosaic flooring. There is a spacious double bedroom with French doors to the garden and a lake view, a simple single bedroom perfect for a child and even a small room with a baby bed ready for the youngest guest. Both the double and the single share a tiled bathroom on the same corridor.
Up a gracious circular staircase are two double bedrooms and a single bedroom, all of which have direct access through French doors to the two lateral terraces with splendid views. One of the double bedrooms has an adjacent bathroom with twin sinks, while the other bedrooms share a shower room. A narrow staircase from this floor leads up to the top floor and a compact twin bedroom with a panoramic porthole window. On this floor is a bathroom and a shower room, both tiled in blue. If a friend decides to come along at the last minute, it is possible to utilize an extra double bedroom on this floor for a supplementary cost. And should a group be particularly large, guests may also wish to take the porter's cottage at the property entrance - See Monte Bello (Ref. 513)
The vast garden seen from the terrace has a large pool with sun beds on the surrounding lawn, while a walk through the garden past sculptural pieces that hearken back to romantic age lead to 150 stone steps down to the estate's small pebble beach near the owner's boat house. Once off the estate, it is only slightly over a kilometer to the nearest shops and restaurants in the nearest town. Once in Laveno there is the choice of the vertical or the horizontal, for one can take cable cars up to 1060 meters for a bird's eye view of the lake, or simply hop on the ferry to cross it. On the Piedmont side, the marvelous gardens of Villa Taranto in Verbania display the bright blooms and rare specimens brought by a Scottish captain from all corners of the world. From the same town are ferries to the luxurious villas and quaint fishing village on the small Borromee Islands. The southern end of the lake is dominated by the 'Rocca Borromeo' castle at Angera - a completely preserved medieval fortress that now, somewhat ironically, houses the largest Doll Museum in Europe. For those who would prefer to be on the water rather than look at it, there are endless water sport opportunities and if you happen to be in the area mid-August you'll see the sky explode in colour and reflect in the lake as the Laveno boatmen row out to show off their craft. Whether you slip across the border to shop in nearby Switzerland or simply make friends with the locals, the villa that welcomes you back has such a wide embrace you may have to think twice about leaving again....Read more
As featured in USA TODAY and recommended by Travel + Leisure in its annual Villa Guide:
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