Constructed in 1910, Grand Hotel Tremezzo was Lake Como’s first specifically built hotel—the rest were private villas turned into guesthouses. The area was already a tourist hot spot, having been popularized by the previous century’s Grand Tour travelers. A bus or private car from Como’s main train station (an hourlong ride from Milan) climbs along narrow winding roads flanked by colorful homes and shops on one side and the vast sapphire blue lake on the other.
In the 1932 film Grand Hotel, a Russian ballerina played by Greta Garbo called the Grand Hotel Tremezzo the “happy, sunny place.” Her declaration holds true today. As soon as you’re deposited in front of the art nouveau building, lodged on a verdant hill, happily the senses register only beauty—fresh sea breezes; the warmth of a golden sun; and the vibrancy of an aquamarine sky, emerald mountains, and coruscating water. A glass-fronted elevator whisks you up to the third floor lobby. Here, the glory of nature segues into the glory of man-made Belle Époque décor. Red seats, gold drapes, marble columns, and crystal chandeliers set the stage for similar sybaritic visual feasts throughout the hotel’s public spaces, all dotted with Italian antiques and oil paintings. Sala Biliardo has a pool table from the 1800s, and the Sala Lettura, a cozy reading room, is lined with books donated by guests.
In keeping with Italy’s reputation as a world-class capital of cuisine, the hotel offers guests gastronomic decadence when it comes to dining—five restaurants to be exact. Our favorites include La Terrazza for dinner, an open-air restaurant where a seasonal Italian menu—the braised veal shank with saffron risotto shouldn’t be missed—is whipped up with local ingredients (in the winter, full-length glass panes keep guests warm and the lakefront vistas uninterrupted). Located in the cellar, the romantic L’Escale Trattoria & Wine Bar, the town’s only fondue restaurant, is the ideal spot per due: wine barrels double as tables, walls are lined with hundreds of Italian wines, and flavorful dishes like the creamy cheese fondue—a blend of Swiss cheeses that guests can cook themselves with a little help from the chef—abound.
Après dinner, grab a cocktail at T Bar, an intimate drinking hole that spills onto a lakefront terrace, or settle in for lively conversation at Sala Musica, a sunshine yellow room where the walls are hung with vintage silks hand-worked in Lake Como, which has a rich history of the fabric’s production. Almost all the public rooms offer vistas of the lake, which means there isn’t a bad seat in the house.
The guest rooms and suites are reached through hushed hallways dotted with gilt-frame mirrors and paintings ranging from idyllic countryside scenes to lovers entangled in a fiery embrace. Although all accommodations have been updated many times since the early 20th century, the style stays true to their original opulence. Each uniquely decorated room and suite comes with soaring ceilings, gilded furnishings, thick silk drapes and even more museum-worthy artworks. Terraces both large and small face either the lake, all the way across to the colorful facades of Bellagio, or the lush lawns abloom with an astonishing variety of flowers. As if the hotel’s luxury and landscape aren’t relaxing enough, have a go at the deep whirlpool tub in the marble bathroom.
It’s hard to pinpoint the standout characteristics, as all rooms boast an individual appeal. But the Rooftop Penthouse might just be the crown jewel of the palace. A slightly more modern take on décor than the rest of the rooms—think built-in shelving and dark wood floors—the penthouse still offers a satisfying amount of glamour to ogle. The showpieces are the two terraces, one equipped with a heated Jacuzzi. Soak off a long day of sightseeing as you drink in a panoramic view of what else but the prevailing theme of the property: the majestic lake.
While the level of gilded opulence indoors astounds, the sprawling gardens easily take the mantle of breathtaking. Spread across more than 200,000 square feet, the century-old terraced park is a maze of footpaths and steps that wind up the hill, eventually joining the equally gorgeous grounds of Villa Carlotta, a 17th century home of an aristocratic family that is now a museum. The gardens explode with rainbow-colored clusters of tulips, hydrangeas and azaleas under a knotted canopy of palm trees and ancient magnolias. One of the property’s three swimming pools (there’s another one floating on the lago itself), situated on one of the higher tiers, boasts an almost aerial view of the water. The seasonal T Pizza serves wood-fired pies from May to September, the perfect snack after a few laps.
Adjacent to the main hotel, the brand new T Spa is located in the restored 18th century Villa Emilia, resplendent with original mosaics and slick, contemporary décor. The three-story, 11,000-square-foot space houses a yoga studio, gym and the area’s only authentic hammam. The infinity pool, sauna and a tranquil relaxation lounge all offer lake views. Highlights of the ESPA treatment menu are signature therapies inspired by the surroundings, including the Lake Como Relaxing Ritual: a body scrub and scalp mask are followed by a massage utilizing heated muslin poultices filled with local herbs like thyme and lavender.
Located in Italy’s northern Lombardy region, the hotel sits close to the banks of the lake. The property is a five-minute walk to a dock, where ferries leave every half-hour and hop from one picturesque town like Bellagio and Varenna to another, all nestled in the Grigne Mountains. For those who desire more privacy, the hotel’s Venetian-style boat races guests away for a personal guided tour. The town of Tremezzo itself is a sleepy hamlet with quaint trattorie and jewel box-like shops with dainty wares. If you’re up for a meander, head south. The scenic walk will take you past George Clooney’s villa, and the locals will be happy to point it out.
Grand Hotel Tremezzo
Address: Via Regina, 8 – 22016
Room Rates: $485 to $6,472