The Wordrobe’s Sophie Ritchie takes an opulent leaf out of George Clooney’s book and pays a visit to Villa D’Este, Lake Como
“If a place has a soul, it remains alive forever.” Sitting pretty on the edge of Lake Como, this Italian landmark of a hotel first started its life as a summer palace back in the 16th century and has passed though the hands of everyone from princesses to powerful tsars.
Flash forward to present day and Villa D’Este is known for being one of the world’s most distinguished hotels. Even visiting for an hour-long lunch is a mecca to many.
Furnished in Renaissance style with acres upon acres of tranquil turret-topped grounds, this property lives and breathes old world glamour (despite only being an hour’s drive from Milan). But be warned – visit for a weekend and you’ll be hankering for an eternity.
Sprawled across Lake Como’s shoreline, the spacious property is filled with grand beauty. Towers of fresh flowers, velvety blue sofas and softly illuminating chandeliers are just a few of the impressive features found within the entrance alone. This is not postcard-worthy perfection – it belongs within its own painting frame.
152 rooms, divided between the Cardinal Building and the Queen’s Pavilion, are all individual in their own right but furnished in Renaissance fashion with antique furniture.
My own is stunning – and feels fit for royalty with a gilded gold bed, deep velvety red carpets and regal touches. There’s charm in the traditional style, a suaveness in the lack of contemporary detail.
The bathroom reveals enough bottled toiletries to stock half a beauty store, with opulent marble etchings across the walls and floor. Other cookie cutter hotel rooms pale in comparison – this is authentic luxury.
The dining here is as decadent as the drool-worthy rooms, Eat your way through a duo of restaurants, the traditionally formal Pavilion and the more relaxed Grill. George Clooney himself is a firm fan of the latter and its no-tie policy – and if it’s good enough for Clooney, well.
Charming Head Chef Michele Zambanini conjures a menu filled with locally sourced dishes, offering everything from lobster to goat cheese tortilla. With the rise of vegans, flexitarians, and pesky-tarians, no dietary requirement is too much hassle.
“We had a guest who wanted nothing but burnt food last week,” he tells me during a tour of the kitchen. “If it’s what they want, nothing is impossible.”
That’s the ethos which makes Villa d’Este truly exceptional as a hotel. It thrives on hospitality, offering faultless service with a smile.
It’s not hard to see why the famous flock here, or why guests return year upon year requesting the same hotel rooms. Yet, it’s not only the guests who wish to return – many staff members work here for decades.
Villa d’Este is also equipped with a number of lavish facilities to satisfy guests’ whims. Sip cocktails in the sunshine outside on the Veranda, have an afternoon of pampering at the eccentrically decorated Beauty Centre or grab your towel and head to the fabulous floating swimming pool, which is perched on Lake Como itself.
It’s the gardens however, that are truly magnificent and worth a flight in themselves. With 10 acres of exquisitely manicured parkland, stroll through the paths to admire sculptures, ancient mock fortifications and beckoning botanic beauties.
Chestnut trees, magnolias, wisterias, laurels, agaves, palms, cypresses, pines, oaks, privet and much more await – a must-do walk is almost a biology lesson in itself.
The Wordrobe’s Verdict
Like most Italian creations, Villa d’Este is a thing of quality. A stay here might drain your pocket, but it’s worth it for the dedicated detail. Ciao for now, bella.
Make it happen
Where: Via Regina 40, 22012 Cernobbio, Como, Italy.
Wallet: Rooms start from £430
Bookings: Phone 00 39 031 3481 or visit villadeste.com to book
Words and photos by Sophie Ritchie