George Clooney is nowhere to be seen as we head towards the Grand Hotel Tremezzo on beautiful Lake Como.
The oh-so-debonair movie star lives in this area and up until he became a father of twins he was often seen riding his motorbike through the picturesque villages – now, not so much.
Clooney would also be spotted in small cafes having coffee obviously when he tired of giving his own coffee machine a workout.
His home base is Laglio Villa Oleandra on the western shores of Lake Como where Bellini was inspired to compose the music for La Sonnambula.
My eyes are peeled, but he’s certainly not out and about today, however there are many dazzling sights everywhere you look.
Lake Como is a 50-minute train ride from Milan and close to the Swiss border in the northern Italian Lake District.
Surrounded by mountains and hills, it is Italy’s third largest lake and home to stunning villas of the rich and famous including movie stars, artists, poets, musicians and fashion designers who frequently visit the town of Como, which has long been considered the silk capital of the world.
Charming villages are dotted around the lake, full of expensive shops, chic cafes and restaurants.
When to Visit
An ideal time to visit is the last few days of summer and early autumn when the crowds have gone and the temperatures are still mild with sunny days and crisp evenings.
When you look out across the lake with the sun shimmering on the water, blue skies above and historic villas and magnificent gardens in sight – it certainly has that wow factor.
No Dawns are the Same
There’s an old saying that no two dawns are ever the same on Lake Como but each one is just as memorable and it’s true.
Every time I pull back the silk drapes at the elegant Grand Hotel Tremezzo, open the French doors and stand on the narrow Juliette balcony, the lake doesn’t disappoint.
Get out and Explore
Our day of exploring starts with a 10-minute ferry ride to the charming village of Bellagio that was aptly christened the “pearl of the lake” many years ago. It is located on a promontory in the centre of the lake boasting fabulous views with the lofty Grigna Mountains as a back drop.
Maybe it’s the cobblestone laneways that wind through the historic town, the hot pink and brilliant red geraniums that spill from windowsills or the quaint shops selling pastries that make your mouth water and gelato flavours that bring a smile even before that first lick that makes Bellagio so special.
Check Out Those Villas
Later we board the hotel’s elegant wooden Venetian-built boat, Ruy, stopping at the magnificent Villa Balbianello, a stunning palazzo built by Cardinal Angelo Durini in 1787. Scenes from the Bond movie, Casino Royal and Star Wars II were filmed here. The elegant gardens are a haven and a guided house tour reveals secrets of the wealthy owners.
Back on land we head to nearby Villa Carlotta, a wedding gift to a Prussian princess, considered to be the most famous villa on Lake Como with its centuries-old parkland. The gardens that seem to go on forever are filled with vibrant colours in spring. There are orange trees knitted into pergolas and some of Europe’s finest rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias.
Grand Hotel Tremezzo
It’s hard to leave this hotel that was opened in 1910 and today boasts a glamorous bold decor and offers the choice of outstanding historic and contemporary suites.
The art nouveau exterior is painted a soft primrose-yellow with Hermes orange awnings, surrounded by manicured lawns and pots of white cyclamen and begonias. Inside it’s all about stunning views, drawing rooms filled with plush gem-stone coloured sofas and armchairs and massed roses that spell romance.
Love Letters on Your Pillow
This is a place where you just want to sit on the terrace – prosecco in hand and stay forever. It’s an opinion shared by many guests over the years, especially those who penned hand-written love letters that decades later were discovered in a bundle tied with a red ribbon, hidden behind wallpaper. These have been turned into the most beautiful bedtime stories and each night one is left on your pillow to fill your dreams.
Dining is an adventure with modern Italian cuisine master Gualtiero Marchesi and executive chef Osvaldo Presazzi creating outstanding dishes such as risotto with saffron and gold leaf that stars in the degustation menu at La Terrazza, where Greta Garbo frequented. The L’Escale Trattoria and Wine Bar offers more casual dining with Italian favourites and a cellar of 1300 best drops.
Head to the TBar for a Blue Cheese martini, the TBeach for grills cooked and served beside the famous floating aqua pool or to TPizza for a wood-fired treat.
Breakfast on the Terrace
Breakfast served in the La Terrazza is a grand affair with luscious bounty spread on white linen tablecloths – think the plumpest berries and peaches, the reddest ripest tomatoes, a table of squishy cheeses and creamy burrata, eggs done every which way, piles of fancy pastries and perfect crispy croissants.
Later indulge in a massage at the TSpa housed in the 18th century Villa Emilia and wander around the hotel park that is home to rare magnolias, azaleas and rhododendrons and the best views over the lake and beyond.
Take a step back in time
Another must see is the palatial Villa Sola Cabiati once owned by the noble Serbelloni family, that is now exclusively available to guests of the Grand Hotel Tremezzo.
Villa Sola Cabiati
The 18th century neoclassical residence is resplendent with ornate wrought-iron gates, manicured parterres, museum-like exhibition rooms and a sweeping staircase with Belgian tapestries.
Guests can stay at the villa’s six historic suites, enjoy a pre-arranged gourmet lunch or book a short visit to see its treasures.
As for Mr Clooney, I never did see him – damn that coffee machine.
Grand Hotel Tremezzo www.grandhoteltremezzo.com