The owners: Barbara Biggs Chanel McNamara Jan Owen David James
When Italy surrendered to the Allies in 1943, German forces occupied most of Northern Italy. Life in Milan was tough and dangerous. For Signore Fossati, a wealthy Milanese industrialist, it was past time to get his wife and two young daughters to safety. He installed his family in a rented house in the picturesque town of Civenna, overlooking Lake Como, to wait out the war.
A year later, while having his afternoon aperitif, the barman told him that a nearby block of land, with the best views Lake Como has to offer, was on the market. He met the owner within the hour and did a handshake deal on the spot.
So begins the story of a house now known as Villa Ponti Bellavista.
Gio Ponti, Italian architectural icon, founder of the world’s foremost architectural magazine, Domus, and family friend of the Fossati family, became engaged. To capture the spirit of the site, which floats in the sky above the lake, Signore Fossati decided to build a ship. This theme was close to Ponti’s heart, who was also famous for his designs of transatlantic ship interiors. So the Domus architects incorporated ship funnels, lights, wood panelling and flooring into the design of a landlocked ocean liner, sailing on the edge of a cliff dropping steeply down the forested hill to the lake.
It took two years of clever engineering and hard work for the three-story holiday house to be launched. The ship metaphor is captured by the curved living areas, with sleeping areas in angular cubes, joined up by a central spiral staircase. Surrounding the house are 4 hectares of gardens and forest, creating a beautiful, completely private, enclave. The 180-degree views of what many regard as the most beautiful lake in the world have to be seen to be appreciated.
Time passes. A few years ago, three Australians and a New Zealander found themselves searching Italy for a European holiday home, to both use and rent out. During numerous expeditions over two years, they looked round Rome in the centre, in Sicily in the south, round Florence in the east, but could not escape the magnetic force of Lake Como, located an hour outside Milan.
Of course, what they had in mind was a traditional Italian villa, replete with frescoes and marble statutes and Juliet balconies. As we all would. But then they saw Villa Ponti. “It’s completely different from what we set out to find,” said author and now one of the house owners, Barbara Biggs, from Melbourne. ‘Instead of ancient history, we found breathtaking modern Italian design. While Australia has mid-century architecture, we’ve never seen anything like what we walked into that day.’
The Melburnians bought the house and began a massive renovation in July 2017. ‘We wanted to keep the architectural integrity of the house, respecting its nautical themes. clean lines and 60s style, while adding luxury,’ said Jan Owen, another owner.
Stage One, renovating 500mq of living area including eight bedrooms, three living areas and two kitchens as well as 200mq of terraces, was finished first. Stage Two, a garden wellness centre replete with sauna and a pool with an infinity edge to the lake, was completed in April 2019.
Villa Ponti Bellavista is now ready to receive guests. We look forward to welcoming you soon!
Read more about the restoration here.