grand hotel tremezzo

Grand Hotel Tremezzo: An Art Nouveau gem on the shores of Lake Como

17 May 2024 | Updated on: 23 May 2024 |By Anna Solomon

The battle of the grand dames of Lake Como is fiercely fought. The imposing, Wes Anderson-coded Grand Hotel Tremezzo throws its Borsalino hat into the ring

Don’t start a travel piece with the journey – that’s one of the first things they teach you as a journalist. But, so valuable is the cautionary tale I’m about to impart, I’m going to make an exception so that, if you wish, you can stop reading after I deliver the advice: don’t try to get public transport to Lake Como. Well, of course, it depends where you’re going, but if you’re going to Grand Hotel Tremezzo, as I did last November, call ahead and ask the hotel to send a car. Don’t baulk so hard at the €200 quote from the taxi drivers outside Milan Malpensa that you leap headlong into northern Italy’s road and rail system. You can stop reading now. You’re welcome.

If you’re still here, I assume you’re looking for some context. The train to Saronno went off without a hitch. The second train was delayed, leaving us huddled under an umbrella as Storm Kieron ravaged Europe. At Lago Como, the rain reached apocalyptic levels as we waited outside to buy bus tickets, only to be told that the stop was closed and we’d need to walk for 20 minutes to get to the next one. After dragging our sodden suitcases through cobbled streets, fingers pruning from the damp, we stood on a packed bus until we reached Tremezzo, over four hours after leaving Milan (the drive is about an hour).

grand hotel tremezzo

You enter Grand Hotel Tremezzo via a lift, so, after our ordeal (although not before the final indignity of being hit by a wave of rain water from a passing car), zooming up to the Belle Époque foyer felt like ascending to heaven. Heaven is, in this context (and perhaps in all contexts), a sumptuous lobby with parquet flooring, Aubusson carpets and velvet sofas – where receptionists greet you by name, having been telephoned ahead by bellboys dressed in wide-brimmed Borsalino hats, and give you a key to your Lake View Deluxe Room, where an iced bottle of champagne awaits.

Said room is cast in a palette of sages and browns, with a gold Baroque headboard drawing the eye. Silk drapes hang over double-aspect French doors, which open to the lake on one side and the hotel gardens on the other. There is a drowningly deep tub in the verde antico bathroom, where all manner of creams, scents and unguents from Acqua di Como reside on the vanity. 

Tremezzo was opened in 1910 to accommodate bourgeois travellers to the region. It’s an 18th-century estate – Lombardy’s answer to the Grand Budapest – painted honeysuckle yellow with accents of orange that pop on stationary, ashtrays, gift ribbons, and the parasols around the WOW (Water on Water) pool, which is situated on a floating pontoon out front. The hotel sits amidst sprawling gardens, which contain penny-filled fountains, hidden belvederes, another (more private) pool, a wood-fired pizzeria, an indoor ‘garden’ (soundproofed for parties), and several promontories over the lake.

grand hotel tremezzo

Although its heritage is proudly preserved, Tremezzo is improved annually by current owner, Valentina de Santis. She has recently added a ‘lake beach’ (with actual sand) and a new fish restaurant, Da Giacomo al Lago, where we enjoyed fresh crudi, spaghetti alle vongole and white wine until we weren’t sure whether the undulating sensation we were experiencing was a result of the Chardonnay Flora or the water below. Another recent addition is a salon of sherbet-coloured armchairs that provides an exhibition space for the de Santis family’s collection of silk designs (Como is famed for its silk, with brands like Hermès and Versace sourcing theirs here). It is under de Santis’s patronage that Tremezzo’s sister hotel, Villa Passalaqua, down the road in Moltrasio, has been nominated number one in Italy.

The lake was fantastically moody as the storm retreated – an almost violent shade of lapis. The perfect time to go sub terra to Tremezzo’s L’Escale trattoria, which serves rustic fare like cacio e pepe prepared at your table. The candlelit restaurant is the cosy alternative to Tremezzo’s fine dining spot, La Terrazza Gualtiero Marchesi, which is dedicated to the great Lombardian chef and founder of ‘the new cuisine’, which sought to prove that Italian food could be just as refined as French.

By morning, the lake had mellowed, and, over the most extensive breakfast buffet I have ever seen (a veritable Willy Wonka’s factory offering everything from pink donuts and a chocolate fountain to smoked swordfish and three churns of butter in varying degrees of saltiness), we got what we, and what European nobles on their Grand Tours, came for: a sunny panorama of a shimming lake – the third-largest in Italy at 146 square kilometres – fringed by snow-capped Alps, white-and-ochre villages, and Renaissance palazzi. 

lake como hotel

Lake Como is so romantic – populated by sleek Riva speedboats and tourists sipping prosecco in garden follies – that you can’t help but indulge in the mythology surrounding it. You think about how Leonardo da Vinci painted here, and Verdi composed La Traviata. You imagine Wordsworth, Longfellow and Hesse being inspired by Como. You’re reminded of how Gianni Versace owned a villa in Moltrasio and that Churchill stayed in Bellagio (directly across the lake from Tremezzo) after World War II. And, of course, no journalist could fail to mention George and Amal Clooney’s retreat in Laglio, Villa Oleandra, when writing about Lake Como (I’ll observe that rule, at least). 

Villa Carlotta, the villa and botanical gardens-turned-museum right next door to Tremezzo, is full of beautiful artists’ renderings of Como. Looking at them, and then across the lake through an enormous picture window, it is evident that little has changed in this scene between the visits of Richard Branson, Edith Wharton and the Milanese silk merchants who made their fortunes here.

Rooms start at £900 +VAT per night, including daily breakfast, grandhoteltremezzo.com

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