I have always wanted to go to Villa d’Este situated on beautiful Lake Como. We have friends who have sung its praises for years. This year, for our anniversary, we decided to fly to Milan, visit our friend there, and then spend three days at Villa d’Este. We flew from Los Angeles to London, had a layover and then flew to Milan in mid-June. To say Milan is hot in the summer is not an understatement. It is a fact! Milan is a charming city but when it is hot, it is a steam bath! We got out of Milan as fast as possible and booked a car to drive us to the Villa d’Este, a mere thirty to forty minutes away. The scenery was beautiful as we neared the lake but when we pulled into the Villa, we were mesmerized by it’s beauty.
It is such a grand hotel with views of the lake. The Villa d’Este was commissioned by Cardinal Ippolito II d’Este, son of Alfonso I d’Este and the infamous Lucrezia Borgia. From 1550 until his death in 1572, when the villa was almost completed, Cardinal d’Este created a palatial setting surrounded by terrace gardens, in the style of the late-Renaissance. We were lucky enough to have a view of both the lake and the beautiful Mosaic building in the front. Our terrace was a lovely place to sit in the afternoon looking out at the Mosaic garden.
The Villa d’Este is ALL about service. From the time you drive up to the door you are treated like royalty. The goal is to have the guests relax and enjoy the magnificent setting. The rooms are elegant and yet modern in conveniences. For those of us hooked on techie devices, there are outlets in every corner of the room. The closets are huge and extravagantly ample. The ease of check in was amazingly swift after which we were escorted to our huge room by a charming woman who was a cross between Catherine Zeta-Jones and Sophia Loren. From our balcony we could see the lake and at night, the enchanting twinkling lights of Como. We got settled in quickly and took a quick walk through the gardens and down to the pool. We chose the Grill for dinner where the wonderfully friendly waiters who spoke very proficient English, guided us through a delightful dinner. We sampled the buffet of salads and a refreshing prosciutto and melon topped with fresh mint from the garden and a splash of fragrant virgin olive oil. I had the gamberi large shrimp served lightly over sautéed fresh vegetables. My husband Peter had the deliciously creamy homemade pasta with speck ham and cheese. We had fresh gelato and cookies and then cappuccinos, looking out over the lake on the terrace.
The buffet breakfast each day is a vast array of foods for any palate and every nationality. One can choose from fresh fruits and yogurts, cereals, pastries, meats, cheese, eggs to order and more. It was so tranquil and beautiful (tranquil, beautiful and, very romantic) to eat breakfast at the Villa sitting outdoors overlooking the lake. We have been to the Quisisana in Capri many times, but the Villa d’Este is truly paradise.
I was lucky enough to be allowed to accompany the Executive Chef, Michele Zambanini, on his traditional daily walk to il guardino dello chef (the chef’s garden) to pick fresh herbs that he uses to prepare the day’s dishes. His visit to the garden quickly became a cooking lesson. I began in the kitchen and saw the pasta in long sheets ready to be rolled. I saw all the different areas where the chef organized the meats, fish, cheeses, and sauces. The kitchen is huge, well- organized and immaculate. We then proceeded up the hill to see the array of herbs planted in beds. This is a rare and recommended treat at Villa d’Este open to any interested guests.
It was a beautiful day so we walked through the town of Cernobbio and then came back to swim in the floating swimming pool in the lake. There is also an indoor heated swimming pool and an outdoor pool dedicated to children. There is a relaxing jacuzzi in the lake pool as well. If you want massages, there is an array of styles from Swedish to Shiatzu. The fitness center is well equipped but jogging and walking are the best to do in the beautiful setting. There is also boating, golf, water-skiing, tennis, and sailing.
On two separate occasions, we ate lunch next to the pool in our bathing suits looking out at the majestic view of the lake and the mountains. It is relaxing and surprisingly elegant even in your swimwear!
I also recommend dining at La Veranda, which allows one to dine, weather permitting, with the patio doors open to the terrace. It is a more formal atmosphere with fabulous elegant cuisine in a breathtaking setting. We loved having an aperitif on the patio before dinner. At Villa d’Este, it is all about the view. If you are lucky enough to visit Villa d’Este on a weekend, there is a “night club” on Fridays and Saturday nights from 10:00 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. with a live band playing music for your listening and dancing pleasure. If you prefer something quieter, there is a piano bar open every night from 7:30 p.m. to midnight.
The concierge at the hotel also recommended Navedano, a famous restaurant located at via G. Velzi in Como +39 (0) 31 30 80 80 www.ristorantenavedano.it. It is about a 20 minute taxi ride to get there but well worth the trip. This restaurant has been in the capable hands of the Casartelli family since 1896. Our meal was truly memorable starting with pappa al pomodorro soup and fresh vegetables with the inside of the burrata cheese. I had never tasted the milky white cream which was truly extraordinary. We had a lobster special pasta with homemade noodles presented in a Parmigiana Reggiano Vacche Rosse crust. This type of Parmesan is nuttier, fruitier, and richer than most cheeses. Amazing. For desert we had the Italian version of Ile Flottante (uova alla neve) I think I will dream of this desert for many years to come. It is a great thing that there are no scales in the room. If they did, I would have to get an app to convert the kilos to pounds. Better to keep eating and worry later.
The Concierge also suggested that we take a ferryboat from Cernobbio to Como which costs five for a round trip ticket. This summer, on Wednesdays and Sundays, there were day boat trips offered at the hotel, which are definitely worthwhile. There are private boats to hire as well for longer jaunts to Bellagio and the other parts of the lake. It was so beautiful to be on the lake even for the short ride. We marched around Como window-shopping, but didn’t buy anything. We walked into the beautiful Cathedral and then took the boat back to have lunch al fresco poolside at the Villa d’Este. There is just no prettier view!!!
After three days we were sorry to leave paradise at the Villa D’Este. The sun was glistening on the lake as we left and and it was another glorious day. We are not too sad since Paris is our next destination. It’s a rough job but someone has to do it. When we called for the porter for our bags, he replied in a thick Italian accent “Yes sir, right away tomorrow.”
We were very sad to leave the Villa. Not only is it splendid but, the weather was magnifico. It was restful and restorative and I recommend this mecca of paradise to all!