Beneath the commanding, snow-capped Rhaetian Alps lies Lake Como – stretching for 120 kilometres. The main town of the region, Como, is an enchanting and romantic mix of 12th-century Italian city walls, cathedrals, villas and piazzas. A timeless, classic location for the uber-sophisticated set, Como is the place to languish in luxury and Italian la dolce vita. While sipping on a macchiato or a limoncello, there’s every chance you’ll be surrounded by artists, writers, film stars, business tycoons and models. But the real star and most beautiful jewel of this dream destination is the glistening lake, framed by green, forested mountains, terracotta tiled rooftops of Italian villas with Juliet balconies and the prized and perfectly manicured gardens.
Italy was recently voted by our readers as the Best Country to visit in our 2015 Luxury Travel magazine Gold List Awards, and Lake Como epitomises Italian style. Here are the five best excuses to book your trip to Como now.
1. Sunny days
Its northern Italy, lakeside location means the best time to visit is from late April through to September when the lake provides a cooling influence. The summer months of June, July and August are the most popular months to visit when the lake’s water temperature exceeds 20 degrees Centigrade making it the best time for swimming.
2. Smooth as silk
Como built its wealth on the silk industry. Today it continues to produce 85 per cent of all silk used in Italy and provides 70 per cent of Europe’s silk. Couture designers such as Chanel, Armani and Versace rely on the silk houses of Como for their collections. The markets and boutiques offer a range of couture and up-and-coming designer silk pieces, as well as silk scarves, ties and wraps. Factory shops are also another place to seek out edgy, silk pieces. And to learn why the silk worm loves Como, visit the silk museum.
3. Italian cuisine
It’s not a true visit to any Italian region without indulging in the fresh, simple yet vivid flavours of its produce, and Lake Como is no exception. In one of Como’s towns, Lenno, the Vanini family have been producing cold-pressed olive oil since 1850. It’s widely used by some of the best chefs around the world. Fresh fish is a specialty at the numerous lake-side, al fresco dining options. The famed Italian wine region of Piedmont, renowned for its barolo, barbaresco and barbera red wines is a 90-minute trip from Como making it an accessible day trip to some of Italy’s best wineries – or simply languor at the cafes during Aperitivo hour with a Campari and soda.
4. Wind-swept adventure
While you can take a ferry around the heart of the lake, the best way to experience Como on the water is by hiring or chartering your own boat. If you’ve ever wanted to cruise the blue waters of Italy on a classic Italian yacht, or zip along in a classic wooden skiff, conjuring Sophia Loren or Georgio Armani, then Lake Como is the place to do it.
5. Villa d’Este
Villa d’Este, Lake Como’s most luxurious place to stay, is a destination in itself. The historically significant property spreads over 10 hectares of gardens, which sit at the foot of the Italian Alps. The property dates back to 1568 and was built as the summer residence of Tolomeo Gallio, an Italian Cardinal. In 1815, members of the British Royal family acquired it before it was transformed into a luxury hotel in 1873, where it became the destination of choice for the European aristocracy. Since then, the hotel’s rooms have hosted royalty, artists, actors, musicians, novelists and fashion elites. Names on the Villa d’Este guest list have included Orson Welles, Elizabeth Taylor, Frank Sinatra, Madonna, Ralph Lauren and Oscar De La Renta. American actor George Clooney is one of the hotel’s neighbours.
Villa d’Este is a member of Leading Hotels of the World (LHW) and its gardens and rooms contain historic monuments and antique works of art, sculptures and Murano chandeliers. Marble staircases line the hallways while rooms at the hotel are all different in size and décor. In addition to the 152 guest rooms and suites housed in The Cardinal Building and The Queen’s Pavillion, there are two 19th century villas with the option of a personal chauffeur, butler or boat for those seeking a secluded, private space.
The hotel’s restaurant, La Veranda, is headed by chef Michele Zambanini and places an emphasis on traditional dining. A more relaxed offering is available at The Grill, which offers al fresco dining. Canova Bar features a piano player and the property also has a nightclub for the night owls.
Facilities at Villa d’Este include a squash court, an indoor pool and a golf simulator. Outside, guests can meander along hiking trails, play tennis at one of the eight courts facing the Lake, or engage in various watersports; including water skiing, canoeing, kayaking, sailing and windsurfing. The property has a golf course that is a short drive away or there are six other golf courses in the area. An iconic floating outdoor swimming pool sits atop the lake and inside, a day spa is available that customises treatments for guests using an exclusively made line of Villa d’Este products.
Excursions can be arranged to visit the regions of Bellagio, Isola Comacina, Villa Carlotta in Tremezzo, Milan and also into Switzerland.
The manicured grounds of Villa d’Este, Lake Como