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Accessible Options in the Land of Counts, Cardinals and Clooney

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Italy's Lake Como is a perennial favorite for jetsetters looking for mild summer climes, gorgeous vistas, and classic Italian style. For many aristocratic European families, a summer spent on the shores of Lake Como is a tradition that spans several generations, spawning gorgeous lakeside villas like the Villa del Balbianello (above). The rambling red-roofed villa was built in 1787 for the Cardinal Angelo Maria Durini, who retained the twin-towered chapel left behind by a former Franciscan monastery. It spent much of the 19th century under the purview of the powerful politicians in the Porro Lambertengi clan, and by the early 20th century had fallen into disrepair. American soldier, engineer, and businessman Butler Ames took possession and revamped the property, but his family sold to famous Italian mountaineer and explorer Guido Monzino in 1974. Monzino—who led the first Italian expedition up Mount Everest—passed away in 1988, leaving the storied villa to the National Trust of Italy. Today, the villa hosts the occasional wedding and has served as a backdrop in Casino Royale, Star Wars: Episode II, and, most fittingly, A Month by the Lake. But now that this beautiful example is out of circulation, and prices for similar lakeside villas have skyrocketed to heights only a Russian fertilizer baron could afford, we decided to find some more modest accommodations.

? Lakefront villas are certainly still around, but with the low inventory and monied buyer pool, the prices are almost always only available on request. Such is the case with this six-bedroom waterfront villa, which boasts an 18,000 square foot garden, boat mooring, and access to a private beach.

? Though it sits over a ridge from the lake, and therefore has gasp no water view. What it lacks in lake vistas, it makes up for with classic architecture and two separate apartments for a steady stream of rental income. For $1.16M, the next buyer gets a total of seven bedrooms, a large garden, and four parking spaces.

? Set on the top floor of an important lakeside villa in Griante, this apartment captures some of the grandeur of the Villa Balbianello but without the full burden of up-keep. A small terrace, two bedrooms, and a communal garden are included in the $563K asking price.

? Stretching the second home budget out to $2.2M yields some impressive history in Villa Gaeta. The two bedroom shares access to the gardens, lakeside patio, and swimming pool, but the wall painting and double height dining room really make the case.
· Risorgimento nei Beni FAI: Villa del Balbianello [FAI, in Italian]
· 6 Bedroom Villa [Homes in Italy]
· V29 [Accastudio]
· A15 [Accastudio]
· A6 [Accastudio]