When in search of a touch of rural Italian glamour, culture and food, look no further than Lake Como. It’s a place of exceedingly great beauty, with a population of escapees from the fashion capital of Milan. Its winding shoreline is dotted with gorgeous old villages, exquisite architecture, fabulous residents and mouth-watering Italian and international cuisine.
Our favourite getaway to take in the waters is the Grand Hotel Tremezzo. It’s an enchanting property, with an imposing lakeside location that instantly transported us to the bygone era of the Grand Tour. As we entered the imposing Art Nouveau reception, we instantly felt like royalty or a movie star from the silver screen. It’s hardly surprising, as the hotel has been the home-away-from-home playground of aristocrats, Maharajas, Hollywood icons, Tsars and other nobility for over a century, immortalised in the 1930s movie Grand Hotel where Greta Garbo refers to Tremezzo as, “that happy, sunny place.”
As we’re on a grand tour of our own, it’s fitting that we were surrounded by the kind of Italian splendour that is lost in today’s quest for minimalist modernity. The reception lounge is dotted with jewel-coloured velvet sofas and sumptuous courting benches, perfect for gazing out onto the vistas of Lake Como. It seems that romance is ingrained into the very fabric of the place, but not in a stuffy, old, grande dame kind of way. While the hotel harks back to that era of Italian decadence, it fully embraces the modern needs of today’s luxury traveller. All quarters are filled with old-school elegance in the furnishings to set the scene and mood, yet the facilities are undeniably contemporary.
We visited for a very special reason, to shoot a fashion story to celebrate the property’s opening of the magnificent 18th-century Villa Sola Cabiati – just along the Riviera della Tremezzina – for private, high-end events – the perfect spot for a wedding, or milestone birthday party. Once the private summer residence of an Italian Duchy, the villa is a breathtakingly beautiful piece of architecture, with frescoed rooms by the Tiepolo school and perfect gardens that blend into the landscape. Disembarking the Hotel Grand Tremezzo’s own Riva motor boat (she’s called Ruy) at splendid moorings, we walked up a set of majestic steps bordered by old sycamore trees and immediately fell in love with the place. The villa is an absolutely beguiling building, flanked by two side wings, a large imposing staircase, marble balconies and lake-blue shutters. Inside, the magic continues – magnificent stuccos and fabulous frescos are brought to life by extraordinary tapestries, majestic chandeliers and period furnishings. But the beauty was not just in the stylings, but also in the stories the place told, from tales of countless, debauched parties hosted by the villa’s noble owners, to that of a fine bedstead slept in by Napoleon and his wife Josephine.
Back at the hotel, we fancied a swim and were spoilt for choice of swimming pools. The thermal waters of the property’s modernist spa are a great option for colder days, but for an iconic Tremezzo experience, we opted to try the hotel’s ‘private beach’. Floating on a cleverly designed pontoon, a champagne bar comes complete with sandy beach, sun loungers and beach huts. However the show-stopper here is a pool that literally floats on the lake, something that needs to be seen to be believed. For a more romantic and secluded swim, the ornate Italian ‘garden’ (a twenty-acre park with wonderful flora, sculptures and fountains) at the back of the hotel is home to an inviting, jade-green pool.
The Grand Hotel Tremezzo is simply magnificent and we don’t need a reason to return. But now with the Villa Sola Cabiati open for business, it has doubled, if not more, in charm. Perhaps a little bit of Greta Garbo has rubbed off on us, but we certainly know that this is going to forever be our happy, sunny place.
The Villa Sola Cabiati is primarily hired as an event space, but is also available for stays by special request, minimum tenure being three nights. You can book the villa at email@example.com. The Hotel Grand Tremezzo is a member of the Preferred Hotels and Resorts family, a global portfolio of carefully curated OutThere hotels. The property is seasonal, opening from March to November each year.