New Villa d'Este

Victorian view of Villa d'Este Hotel

Built on beautiful Lake Como in Italy in 1568 by architect Pellegrino Tibaldi as a private residence for Cardinal Tolomeo Gallio, the villa had passed to Domenico Pino, one of Napoleon's generals. In late August of 1815 the widowed countess Pino sold Villa del Garrovo to Caroline of Brunswick (1768-1821), estranged wife of England's heir, the Prince Regent.

Venus Crowned by Eros attributed to Canova Princess Caroline named the property New Villa D'Este--to differentiate it from the Villa d'Este at Tivoli--after her remote ancestor one Guelfo d'Este. By this time, the family of Bartolomeo Pergami dominated her household. His former commander General Pino had recommended Pergami to Caroline as a courier for her trip into Italy. The tall dark and handsome 33 year old former Austrian Army officer soon received the gift of an estate in the south of Sicily that came with the title of baron from the 47 year old Caroline. As a nobleman, he could now be appointed the Princess's chamberlain. In November 1815, while the villa was being enlarged, the Princess fitted up a polacca, a three masted trading ship, and sailed to Tunis, Athens, Constantinople, Acre, and the Holy Land. She returned to the Villa September 16, 1816. New Villa d'Este had been redecorated and a library and theater had been added to the building. Caroline placed the famed statue Venus Crowned by Eros attributed to Canova in her suite. While Princess Caroline lived a life of scandalous and ill advised self indulgence the Regent's Milan Commission gathered evidence against her for divorce proceedings.

Henry Brougham was negotiating a divorce agreement for her when George III died. Caroline injudiciously returned to England where she was tried for adultery before Parliament in a failed attempt by George IV to divorce her. Though no divorce was granted, Caroline's reputation was ruined by the testimony concerning her relationship with Pergami. George IV repulsed Caroline's attempts to be included in his July 19th of 1821 Coronation. She died on August 7, 1821 of an unknown gastric disorder. Speculation included everything from poison to a tumor to the mysterious illness of her Uncle George III. Vittorina, the daughter of Pergami was to inherit the estate according to the Princess's will, but she had been forced due to her debts to place the deed of the villa in the hands of her banker Giovanni Torlonia of Rome (He was also Napoleon's banker.), when she left Italy. Princess Caroline intended to redeem the deed with the settlement she received from George IV, but this was not to be.

The Villa d'Este (The word new was dropped.) passed through a number of owners until it was renovated in 1873 and turned into a luxurious hotel. The hotel has a collection of sixteenth-century paintings and sculptures. A large park, with caves, fountains and statues, surrounds the Villa. The late Kate Ross mentioned Lake Como and the villa in her mystery The Devil in Music.

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