Located in the mountains east of Lake Como, Villa De Vecchi, more commonly called “Red House”, is a 19th century mansion built by Count Felice De Vecchi in the tiny hamlet of Bindo. For decades now, the historic, once opulent, building has been derelict, abandoned to total degradation.
Legend has it that a ghost lives in the villa and that it plays the piano every night.
Count De Vecchi was the head of the Italian National Guard and a patriotic hero for his role in the Five Days of Milan, an insurrection in 1848 that led to Milan’s liberation from Austrian rule. Enamored of the Valsassina valley near Lake Como, he ordered the construction of the villa between 1854 and 1857 to serve as his summer residence. The villa is located within a 130,000-square-meter park, surrounded by woods; its architecture was inspired by the count’s passion for Eastern culture.
According to one of the many legends associated with the villa, its decay began after the count found his wife and daughter horribly murdered. Not true. The building was abandoned and fell into disrepair after De Vecchi’s death.
In the 1920s, occultist Aleister Crowley spent a few nights at the villa, and it is said that his followers later used the house for satanic and orgiastic rites and that murders and suicides took place there.
Now abandoned, the Red House’s outer walls are covered with vines, while inside, frescoes and tapestries have been damaged by humidity or vandalized.
In 2002, large boulders came falling down the mountain during an avalanche and stopped a few meters short of the villa, thus sparing it. Locals are not sure that was a good thing.
These photographs were taken by Jeff Kerwin, who made a detour to it in 2012. They show how the building, close to Lake Como, now lies in ruins with crumbling walls daubed in graffiti and rotting ceilings.