History of the Villa
The historical Villa was built in 1899 by the Milanese hotelier Suardi and was used as a private summer residence until the 1930s.
After this the Villa was bought by a French noble familiy, Gallifet. The villa was used as a private summer residence until the early 1950s.
When Adenauer came to this dreamy little village on the recommendation of his foreign minister Heinrich von Brentano, he first lived in two other villas near Villa La Collina in 1957 and 1958. Despite his 81 years, Adenauer was in the best of health. He had been shown how to play boccia by a „carabiniere“ during one of his first visits to Italy, he was now an enthusiastic and very ambitious player. So Adenauer always liked to walk together with his secretaries and his daughters from his summer residence through the village to the local boccia court directly behind Villa La Collina. One of the players at that time – the mayor Roda - knew the owner of Villa La Collina and through his mediation the chancellery managed to rent the property fifteen times in a row for Adenauer and his entourage from 1959.
The villa, which had not been used by the French owners for many years, was in a rather sad state a few weeks before the first visit of the illustrious new guest. In reality it was not a real residence and the charm of the landscape and the marvellous park was far above that of the rental property. Because the 1899 built villa was totally unfurnished and empty, some furnitures were borrowed from the surrounding hotels.
The house was upgraded with the comunicative devices of the time and Adenauer brought with him, in addition to a rather large staff of employees, a safe with secret documents, table linen, cutlery and many other everyday items from Germany. The logistical effort of his visits was considerable and on each of Adenauer's fifteen visits between 1959 and 1966 the villa was furnished again with furniture from the surrounding hotels.
At Adenauer's wish, the Villa was modestly furnished and in keeping with his ideas of the time, we will never turn this place into a classic luxury hotel (at least in terms of room furnishings).
At Villa La Collina, the Chancellor was officially on holiday, but in reality his work continued unabated. Here Adenauer welcomed numerous personalities of the time. Over the years, high-ranking visitors from politics, economy and culture were his guests in Villa La Collina. The "Deputy Chancellery" on Lake Como ran smoothly eighthundred kilometres away from Bonn.
For Adenauer, Villa La Collina was always a very special place of retreat, where he took many subjects with him to discuss them once more with various experts in the tranquillity of Cadenabbia before announcing his decision. The idyll and the spirit of Cadenabbia contained and still contains a creative element.
After Adenauer's death in 1967, a German road-contractor and Adenauer fan bought the Villa La Collina and used the property exclusively for private purposes before he offered it for sale again 10 years later.
The Konrad Adenauer Foundation buys Villa La Collina
It was quite obvious that the Konrad-Adenauer Foundation would buy Villa la Collina and this happened in 1977. The aim was to preserve a monument and to have the opportunity to continue working in the spirit of Adenauer in a place that would allow inner reflection and the intensity of the conversation like no other.
From that moment on, the grandiose property was to serve primarily for the political education work of the Foundation. However, it soon turned out that the villa was too small for events of a certain scale. At the beginning of the 1990s a second building was therefore built on the territory: the "Konrad Adenauer Academy", which blends in carefully with the entire complex. Thanks to this extension, it is now possible to accommodate up to 61 people in 34 guestrooms.
Together with the extension of the accommodation capacity of the structure, the concept of use was also extended: while the Italian-German perspective had until then been the main reference point, this framework was later extended to the whole of Europe and the whole world. Whereas Villa La Collina had previously been a meeting place for many political celebrities, who could only be present at the invitation of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, it has now opened its doors to seminars, congresses, workshops and individual clients as well as day visitors who simply want to visit the property.
Today Villa La Collina is recognized by the Federal Republic of Germany as a "memorial of national importance". The Konrad-Adenauer Foundation is the owner of the entire structure and the management of the business is entrusted to a separate company.
Politics, art and more
The villa is still today a place of peace and work, as it was in Adenauer's time. The Foundation cultivates this heritage and keeps the spirit of those years alive. Every year about 2000 guests participate in the congresses organized by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation. In the quiet of the place, important political issues are analysed and discussed, mostly of a political nature.
In 2019 the Foundation organized 78 conferences and educational events in Cadenabbia. Here are just a few examples of these events:
Since the 1980s, Villa La Collina has hosted regular German-British parliamentary meetings with British Conservatives and German CDU politicians. The meetings are not about academic disputes, but the daily practice of politics. The CDU, which at the time under the leadership of Helmut Kohl had only recently been in government, has been able to benefit from the British Tories' long experience in government.
Since the mid-1990s, German officials from international organizations as well as important representatives of business and politics have met once a year in a relaxed atmosphere under the auspices of the Konrad-Adenauer Foundation to exchange experiences and establish contacts.
Together with the Think Tank "European Ideas Network" (EIN), common strategies for all European parties in the Christian Democratic environment are being worked on in Cadenabbia. For issues such as demographic change, security and the EU's external borders, guidelines are being developed to help parties in their policies.
Villa La Collina also regularly hosts small and large international meetings. In recent years, the focus has been on the Baltic States, the European Union, the Balkans and Africa. It deals with various topics such as development policy, "good governance" and state reforms.
Since 1995, Cadenabbia has been home to the Konrad Adenauer Foundation's author's workshop. Every year, in autumn, twelve to fifteen writers meet at Villa La Collina to read unpublished texts and discuss these works with critics, germanists and politicians. Almost 100 authors have participated in the various workshops that have been held over the years. Inspired by the picturesque environment of Lake Como, a series of poems, prose and diaries have been created. All these works have been collected in the anthology "Cadenabbia as a literary place - Writers on Lake Como" published by the Honorary President of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, Bernhard Vogel (Münster: LIT Verlag, 2006, 185 p., 30 fig., born, 19,90 Euro). The authors include Elisabeth Borchers, Ulrike Draesner, Elke Erb, Thomas Hürlimann, Daniel Kehlmann, Hartmut Lange, Patrick Roth, Burkhard Spinnen, Arnold Stadler and many others.
Meanwhile, Cadenabbia has also become a meeting place for young artists supported by the Else-Heiliger-Fonds (EHF) of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation. Beyond the boundaries of cultural disciplines, they discuss with authors, composers, gallery owners, museum and festival directors, journalists, about taboos in art and literature and the relationship between art and power. Whether it is an authors' workshop or an EHF workshop, Cadenabbia represents the culture of dialogue and confrontation.
The Konrad Adenauer Foundation also uses the entire facility for internal events. Each year the Planning Committee advises the Foundation on development and foreign policy issues. Citizens' seminars on political education are also held in Cadenabbia. They deal with post-war politics in Germany and Europe and pay special attention to the work of Konrad Adenauer.
As a European meeting place, as a creative workshop for writers and artists and not least as a conference venue, Villa La Collina has long since become an integral part of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation.
Contrary to what happens in the classic hotel business, here we try to combine the history and generous nature, typical of the property, with a familiar and private environment and to merge the Italian "Dolce Vita" with the German organization and reliability to create a unique experience.