Contributing editor Lauren Taylor indulges in a weekend of grand hotels, historic lakeside villas, charming villages, and spritzy orange cocktails.
Where to Stay
Born during the 18th Century Rococo period, Passalacqua was created to delight in Italian pastimes - friends, love, leisure - and northern specialties of the table, art, and, culture. Transformed by the De Santis family and rooted on the shores of Lake Como for generations, the unique hotel has 24 characterful guest accommodations. These are spread across magnificently restored edifices over seven acres of landscaped gardens that descend onto a private jetty.
Guests enjoy the gorgeous panoramic swimming pool, an open-air gym in their olive grove, lakeside tennis courts, movie nights under the stars, and much more all nestled among the park terraces, burbling fountains, and centuries-old trees. Staying at Passalacqua gives guests an all-access pass to life at the villa, whether that means making ice cream with the Gelateria, swapping pruning tips with the gardeners, kneading pasta dough with the chef, or perfecting your volo shot on the bocce court. As a guest, you become a part of the family, intertwined with the delights of the owner's manifestation. At Passalacqua, it’s all about reviving the lost art of travel known as villeggiatura and making new memories that connect us with our shared past.
Grand Hotel Tremezzo, Tremezzina
The Grand Hotel Tremezzo (sister property of the newly opened Passalacqua) is one of the big names on the lake and an iconic art nouveau masterpiece. With views spanning the crystalline waters towards Bellagio and the Grigne mountains, guests are treated to sumptuous accommodation, three pools, a lakeside private beach and lavish private park, all with the warmest hospitality all’italiana.
Villa d’Este, Cernobbio
Perhaps the most iconic hotel in all of Northern Italy, Villa d’Este has been the residence of the aristocracy – princesses, marquises, sultans, and tsars for decades. In 1873 it was opened as a luxury hotel and remains a favorite retreat for modern royalty. Privacy and discretion are of utmost importance, but it’s not unusual to see loyal patrons such as Queen Beatrix of Holland, Bruce Springsteen, Barbra Streisand, Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones, Robert De Niro and, of course, neighbor George Clooney strolling through the gardens or sunbathing by the stunning pool that floats in the midst of Lake Como.
Villa Lario, Pognana Lario
Villa Làrio is an exclusive property that extends over 2 acres of private gardens directly on Lake Como. The Suites are located in four different constructions. Villa Bianca with four Suites, the reception, and Restaurant, Pavilion, an independent villa with two bedrooms en suite, a large salon, a private terrasse, an exceptional view, and Garden Suite, an independent Suite in the historical gardens. Directly by the lake, you will find Il Palazzo a XIXth-century classical villa with impressive loggia and a terrace.
What to Do
Lake Como offers many nautical activities, from waterskiing to boat rides, and lake swimming. One of the most exciting activities you can do is rent a seaplane and explore the lake by air.
Don’t miss a visit to Villa La Cassinella, a stunning lakeside property on the western shores of the lake with an impressive garden. And then there is George & Amal, no Lake Como stay is complete without a peak of their Villa Oleandra in Laglio.
What to See
Take a boat trip to Varenna - the most picturesque village on the lake. Have an aperitivo (one of those spritzy orange cocktails you’ll see everywhere around the lake) at Bar Il Molo, right by the water.
When to Go
Season starts around Easter and lasts through September. June, July, and September are our favorite months to visit when temperatures are in the high 20s during the day and the lake is warm enough to swim.
How to Get There and Navigate the Lake
The nearest airport is Milan Malpensa, roughly an hour by (rental) car. Most of the hotels can organize a shuttle.
Getting around the lake can be stressful by car. Water taxis are often best and quickest, however many usually only operate during daytime hours unless privately arranged.