Twin sweeping stone entrance stairways hugging either side of the building and a vintage walnut-paneled elevator with windows granting panoramic views over Lake Como make one’s arrival at Grand Hotel Tremezzo nothing less than enchanting. The immediate sense of romantic old world charm is fully realized as the elevator doors slide gently open on to the second floor lobby revealing what can best be described as a sumptuous treasure of art nouveau decor.
Greeting the eye are gilded framed paintings, decorative ceilings, vivid red velvet sofas, elegant curtains and glistening marble floor and pillars. Scroll-arm chairs in candy-cane-color fabrics lie temptingly in a large Sala Musica where guests are serenaded every evening with eloquent piano playing. Sipping on a Gold Martini cocktail, one could almost swear Ludovico Einaudi was playing his own sonatas himself. A cozy games room with a delightfully carved 20th century billiards table presents an entirely different evening activity.
This 76-room, 14-suite five-star hotel is the gran dama of this rugged region of northern Italy, with an illustrious history dating back to 1910 and its first owners, Bellagio native Enea Gandola, and his wife, Maria. Then Europe’s elites were in the habit of embarking on annual months-long European grand tours and this splendid hotel attracted rich guests from countries across the continent, and even Russia. During the First World War it was turned into a military hospital but then the Sampietro family bought it in the 1930s and celebrity status returned, among whom, it was said, was movie legend, Greta Garbo. In fact, her character in the 1932 movie ‘Grand Hotel’ refers to Tremezzo as “that happy, sunny place” – not a bad chunk of publicity. In her honor, suite Number 113 still bears her name.
Historical heritage is a fine thing but regular modernization is imperative for client satisfaction. Enter Valentina De Santis, owner, CEO and a member of the owner family, who supervised a multi-million euro renovation. As well as the rooms, this included the transformation of the 18th century Villa Emilia into a new signature, 1,000 sqm T Spa operated in partnership with ESPA-UK. Designed by studio Venelli Kramer, also responsible for the luxury rooftop suites and the indoors infinity pool – where several hours reading, relaxing and eye-feasting on the mountainous vistas passed all too quickly for us.
The three-floor complex comprises five treatment rooms with warm wooden cladding, teak timber floors and handcrafted wood furnishings made by Italian artisan workshops, a Hamman and nail bar. In addition to the interior infinity pool, the hotel – a member of Historic Hotels Worldwide – also has an open heated pool in the rear gardens with a nearby sauna, as well as a floating pool on pontoons beside its private beach fronting the lake.
Our room, 115, a romantic nest of soft cotton, silks and velvet in turquoise tones, framed oval-shaped sketches and attractive rococo-style bed board, invited me to step back in time and bathe in nostalgia. Highlight was a little open-air balcony large enough for two chairs directly across from the pretty town of Bellagio, known as the ‘Pearl of Lake Como,’ and the Grigne mountains.
Impressive buffet breakfasts are served in the glass-fronted La Terrazza facing the lake, with six types of honey, from chestnut and wild flowers to acacia, as well as local cheeses and meats and five types of teas, ranging from Lapsang Souchong to white, as well as a chef on station cooking eggs to order.
As the difference between standard and luxury hospitality is in the detail, mention must be made of the hotel’s services. Not only was it efficient, warm and personable with a high ratio of personnel to clients, staff also seemed to remember the names of all guests and greeted them as such, an uplifting way to begin a day. In turn, handwritten cards delivered with nightly turn-down – one being that well-known aphorism, “Life is not measured by the breaths we take, but the moments that take our breaths away” – was an uplifting way to end a day.
Under the direction of Italian chef, Gualtiero Marchesi and executive chef, Osvaldo Presazzi, the dinner menu at La Terazza is wide-ranging with more that 30 choices available. Changing seasonally, dishes are creative to intrigue yet classic to reassure – with scallops with truffle hearts and salad; veal kidney Calvados flambé, tiramisu and crepes Suzette served flambé with Grand Marnier among items on the menu.
The L’Escale Fondue and Wine Bar is a more informal option with meats and fish fondues and grills as the main fare. Weather permitting, pizza is served in the garden and barbecues and snacks on the lakeshore beach. The T bar is a candle-lit lounge perfect for sunset-watching cocktails or seeing moonlight glistening on the water – we relaxed with a fascinating saffron creation and a basil mojito.
In terms of activities, aside from its spa, gym and swimming pools, the hotel also organizes art classes, lake excursions on its own restored 1961 Venetian Lancia motor boat and yoga sessions. Tennis lovers have access to the floodlit clay court just beyond the outdoor heated pool. The garden itself is worth noting, consisting of 20,000 sqm of bosky pathways, topiary and crew-cut vines. Traipsing along its main pathway up a hillside you’ll be rewarded with wonderful lake views and a meeting with Bobo the Bear, the hotel’s mascot gazing serenely over his domain.
For an intimate romantic rendezvous, the “Dis-Moi-Oui” in a secluded corner of the gardens is ideal, while private parties and functions take place on La Terrazza, Regina or Contessa ballrooms or on the private beach.
The Grand Hotel Tremezzo provides a central location for short trips around the lake. On our reliable Auto Europe rented jeep, we drove to the town of Donga, to visit a little war museum focusing on the intriguing capture of Italian Fascist leader, Benito Mussolini, at the end of the Second World War and crossed the lake to the quaint town of Bellagio for some shopping.
Finished exploring the area? Ready for relaxing? Simply adopt the Italian “dolce far niente,” meaning “sweet doing nothing.” It’d be hard to find a more suitable place to indulge in blissful laziness than the graceful Grand Hotel Tremezzo on Lake Como.