You would think George Clooney was single-handedly responsible for putting Lake Como on the map. But in fact, this spectacularly scenic lake – set in the foothills of the Italian Alps, about an hour north of Milan – has been a celebrity paradise for centuries. In the 1800s composer Franz Liszt and poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow were drawn to its shores; Marlene Dietrich, Rita Hayworth and Clark Gable holed up here in the 1950s. Today it attracts the likes of Madonna, Jennifer Lopez and Britney Spears; John Krasinski and Emily Blunt married here.
But the true stars of Lake Como are its legendary villas and palazzos – very much among them the Grand Hotel Tremezzo which reopened for the season this month. Built in 1910, this five-star waterfront hotel is one of the oldest on Lake Como…and certainly one of the grandest. Five restaurants, three pools, a private five-acre park, a spa with a hammam, tennis courts, a private boat – don’t you feel like Hollywood royalty just thinking about it?
Grand Hotel Tremezzo’s seven floors include 76 rooms and 14 suites – the best overlooking the lake, with views of the gorgeous village of Bellagio on the opposite shore. Others face the gardens, which were designed by Emilio Trabella (who also landscaped Clooney’s nearby Villa Oleandra). Even the smallest accommodations, which measure around 375 square feet, feature plenty of plush details: period furnishings, silk drapes, multi-thread-count sheets, marble bathrooms. If you’re feeling flush, book one of the eight rooftop suites, whose sprawling terraces are fitted with outdoor hot tubs.
The indoor heated pool and the outdoor garden pool are all fine and lovely; but the sufficiently named WOW (water on the water) is actually a floating pool built out over Lake Como…separated from the hotel’s private beach by two wooden piers. It’s as close as you’ll come to swimming in the lake itself — but with the fab factor of poolside drinks service.
It’s where Greta Garbo used to dine – no wonder, since La Terrazza is as movie-star worthy as they come. Big shot Milanese chef Gualtiero Marchesi serves up lobster pasta, spaghetti with clams, and saffron risotto; while the four-course, 120-euro tasting menu includes heavenly specialties like filet of veal with foie gras and black truffles. One floor below, L’Escale Trattoria and Wine Bar opened last year as the first (and only) place for fondue on Lake Como; this year there’s an expanded menu and a new chef’s table. More casual options include T Pizza (wood-fired pies in the garden) and T Beach, with burgers, skewers, salads and a special sunset menu highlighting local seafood.
Without a doubt, the highlight of T Spa is the hammam, where you can book traditional a Turkish exfoliation and foam massage in a steam-filled, white-marble room. Other treatments – facials, massages, scrubs – are done using all-natural ESPA products; a super-private T Spa Suite, set in a separate area next to the garden, is ideal for power-couples.
The hotel recently purchased the nearby Villa Sola Cabiati, an 18th-century residence where all manner of Milanese royalty once summered; it’s now open exclusively to hotel guests. The villa – replete with frescoes, tapestries, and original furnishings (including a bed where Napoleon once slept) – will be used mainly for weddings and events, but guests can book a tour of the collections and even have a private dining experience in its ornate private garden.
A new, tailor-made boat, Batt, to be added to its existing traditional water taxi – which means an even more luxe way to zip around the lake.
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