A weekend in the Grand Hotel Tremezzo on Lake Como

If you want to know how optimistic I am, I owned a convertible car for five years. In Ireland.

To be fair, I got quite a lot of use out of it ? I averaged about 60 days a year with the top down, not a bad return. The lady at the car hire desk at Milan airport knew what she was doing when she focused on me while asking did we want an upgrade to a cabriolet after we’d told her we were heading to Lake Como. My partner would have happily plumped for a bigger car, I just wanted a retractable roof.

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He agreed with my choice, however, when we got out of Milan traffic and hit the shores of the lake. We were heading towards Tremezzo and had consulted Google Maps, which gave us two options of similar duration.

One, however, was a vastly shorter driving distance and included a 25-minute ferry at the end from Bellagio.

a weekend in the grand hotel tremezzo on lake como

Villa at Lake Como, Italy. Pic: Shutterstock

Perhaps unsurprising in the home of Ferrari, but Italians are rather hasty drivers and, of course, there are the ubiquitous mopeds. As the roads narrowed when we got closer to Bellagio, it got pretty tight on certain corners so we were glad of our compact car.

What makes it even harder is that the views are so stunning, it’s hard to tear your eyes away from them. Every bend opens up a new vista, with crystal water, stunning villages, and blooming plants and trees.

Parking spaces are at a premium everywhere you stop. We couldn’t find one in Bellagio so headed straight for the ferry. It can be a little confusing to work out where you should be lining up but the guard in charge spoke perfect English and encouraged us to leave the car in the queue and go exploring as the next ferry wasn’t for half an hour. It was just enough time to take a quick walk around this stunning village.

a weekend in the grand hotel tremezzo on lake como

Bellagio, Italy. Pic: Shutterstock

Beautiful shops and restaurants line up along the waterfront but the real charm is in the little nooks and crannies tucked away up steep steps. Some dining tables were placed on impossibly teetering ledges as staff bustled in and out.

We got gelato in a quaint shop my coeliac partner was thrilled that all their options were fully gluten-free, including the cones and strolled back to the car.

From the ferry, we could already spot our hotel, the striking Grand Hotel Tremezzo, across the water. With more than 100 years of history as the first hotel on Lake Como, the iconic building really stands out. Founders Maria and Enea Gondola brought the best of their European travels to bear in their labour of love.

a weekend in the grand hotel tremezzo on lake como

The stunning foyer, Grand Hotel, Tremezzo, Italy. Pic: Roberto Bonardi

A valet took our car and we entered the stunning Art Nouveau palazzo. A split staircase veers up the front of the facade, surrounded by colourful blooms, to the reception on the first floor.

Beautiful oversized floral displays are peppered throughout the property, with lush roses, perfect orchids and pristine lilies offering indulgent sights and smells.

We were shown to our junior suite, one of the hotel’s recently renovated rooms, which offers huge space a living area, walk-in wardrobe, stunning bathroom and two sets of patio doors opening onto twin balconies overlooking the lake. A TV rises and contracts from the end of the bed when down, the view is straight out over the lake from your pillow.

a weekend in the grand hotel tremezzo on lake como

Linda Maher outside Villa Carlotta, Italy. Pic: Supplied

The hotel is surrounded by a private park, with spectacular walks and multiple viewing points. The location can also be lapped up from the T Spa, which has floor-to ceiling windows overlooking the landscape. Discreet nooks and crannies offer the perfect hideaways with a good book and an Aperol Spritz. Bliss.

There is a heated outdoor pool too, surrounded by bright orange umbrellas, offering picture postcard perfection. Another pool is located out the front of the hotel, actually floating on the lake, attached to the uber-cool Beach Bar, which is where the beautiful people come to be seen.

A short walk away is the beautiful 17th century Villa Carlotta. The €12 entry fee is well worth it, as inside you’ll find botanical gardens and a museum featuring works by sculptors Antonio Canova, Bertel Thorvaldsen and Giovanni Migliara, and painters such as Francesco Hayez.

a weekend in the grand hotel tremezzo on lake como

Grounds of Villa Carlotta on Lake Como. Pic: Shutterstock

A short drive or boat ride, the favoured way of travel in this area in the other direction will take you to Villa del Balbianello in Lenno. Equally historically important, it also has contemporary interest too as it’s been the setting for scenes in Star Wars: Episode II, Attack of the Clones and Casino Royale.

All this villa-visiting works up quite the appetite and the Grand Hotel is happy to meet any tastes. There are five bars and restaurants, the most highly rated of which is the fine-dining La Terrazza Gualtiero Marchesi. The tasting menu features lobster in a sweet pepper sauce, seabass with celery and black truffle or a veal fillet with foie gras and black truffle, and a millefeuille with mascarpone mousse and wild berries.

But the highlight is the second course, simply described as ‘rice, gold and saffron’. A signature Gualtiero Marchesi dish, the stunning yellow risotto is topped with a square of actual gold. A sublime dish.

a weekend in the grand hotel tremezzo on lake como

La Terrazza Gualtiero Marchesi. Pic: Facebook

Try not to over-eat at dinner though as another of the hotel’s highlights is the breakfast buffet. This is not your average buffet, featuring usuals such as fruit, yoghurts and cold meats, sausage, bacon, salmon and hash browns, but also swordfish, crab and mackerel. The boiled eggs come in vintage brass cups and are marked at three, six and nine minutes ? all cooked to perfection.

The desserts are divine too, including a stunning white chocolate and hazelnut butter which screams to be spread on the fresh croissants. Oh and there’s wait staff on hand to serve you all of this.

This is a hotel that exudes luxury and romance. During a renovation in the 1970s, heartfelt letters written by unknown former guests were found hidden in the walls. Some are shared with guests alongside a chocolate for turndown service.

a weekend in the grand hotel tremezzo on lake como

Grand Hotel, Tremezzo. Pic: Facebook

This personal touch is the very essence of a stay here. In the 1932 film Grand Hotel, Greta Garbo referred to the Grand as ‘that happy, sunny place’. More than 90 years later, the sun still shines and happiness reigns.

Travel facts: Ryanair (ryanair.com) and Aer Lingus (aerlingus.com) fly from Dublin to Milan, from €60 return. Car hire from €24 per day, see hertz.com. Rooms at the Grand Hotel Tremezzo cost from €765 per night including breakfast, see grandhoteltremezzo.com.

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