Villa D’Este is one of the world’s most famous grand hotels, and deservedly so. This authentic neo-classical villa (built in 1568) has been a hotel for almost as long as the modern unified Republic of Italy has existed—the first guest checked in in 1873—and the transition from aristocratic residence to opulent grand hotel was a natural one; even today the guestbook reads like a who’s who of the upper crust, from authentic royalty to Hollywood aristocrats-of-the-moment. The location on the shores of Lake Como is one of the most desirable in the world, secluded and picturesque, the only drawback perhaps being the proximity to the foot of the Alps, and the resulting cold winter which closes the hotel from mid November to the end of February. The hotel is reachable by an easy drive from Milan, and an even easier one from the Como train station or by boat. Inside, it’s the royal treatment all the way: the service is possibly the gold standard for grand hotels, and the interiors are opulent in an effortless rather than a showy way. No modern decorator’s touch is required—what was good enough for Tsarina Maria Fedorovna, the villa’s last private resident, is certainly good enough for the Madonnas of the world. The rooms are as splendid as any anywhere, whether in the Cardinal Building or the Queen’s Pavilion; all are decorated in period furniture and no expense has been spared. The views of the lake are of course the most sought after, especially from those rooms fortunate enough to come with balconies. But then again, the garden views are quite amazing as well. And the facilities are first-class to match, from the famous outdoor pool floating in Lake Como (must be seen to be appreciated) to the spa, which is the one concession to modern design, in a sort of Northern Italian Zen style one may recognize from Milan’s finer spaces. The formal Italian restaurant is impressive, with, again, frighteningly superior service, and there is The Grill Restaurant as well, for a less buttoned-up option. This is the sort of place dedicated travelers must make an effort to see—though off the traditional Italian holiday path, it’s worth begging, borrowing or stealing a ticket to the Lake District just for Villa D’Este.
Villa d'Este is a 60 minute drive from Milan Malpensa Airport or a 15 minute drive from Como Ferrovie dello Stato Railway Station. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange airport, railway, or helicopter transfers.
Via Regina 40, Cernobbio, Lake Como