admin November 15th, 2011
I recently Googled the 10 most beautiful lakes in the world, and, I think I need to speak to the judges. Lago di Como did not make the cut, and I wondered about the criteria. I suppose it would be impossible to judge a place on the way it makes you feel. Well, not for me it isn?t.
For visitors, Lake Como has two distinct faces. One really fun and alive, with this big blue beautiful backdrop but focused on the shore, and the other focused right smack on “The Lake.? For me, it all depends on where you stay. I have visited both faces and prefer strongly to focus on the lake. I can shop anywhere.
For over 30 years I have held onto a small, really dated brochure on a place I’d written to before email. This brochure has been suspended over the trash bin several times, but I had a hunch. Something about this hotel drew me in, and someday, I thought, I would at least give it a drive-by. Finally, after all these years and many visits to Lago di Como and some of her very pretty hotels, we spent five beautiful days at the Hotel San Giorgio, in Lenno, and now I know that my hunch was right, because this place is a treasure.
Even though many villa-hotels dot the lakeside, none that I could find have the magic ingredient
that the San Giorgio has, and that is the huge rolling lawn and garden that sweep from the hotel down to the lapping edge of the lake. Dotted with chaise lounges, chairs, and small tables all facing the lake (and Bellagio on the opposite shore), it is quiet, restful, and magical. Whether we started our day there in the sun, or ended our day with the sunset, it is what sets the Hotel San Giorgio apart, and it is why I want to share it with AHA guests who surely will love it. Another discovery of a 3-star+ property with a 5-star location?my favorite combo.
Always fun is a boat ride/day trip to beautiful and hopping Bellagio. Thanks to Maggie McKenny-Harris, our intrepid researcher, we experienced a lunch
there that we won’t forget. While all the bustling crowds are winding around the pretty alleyways of Bellagio, Chiara picked us up and whisked us away, up, up, up above the city to the slow food, farm-to-table Trattoria Baita Belvedere, where we were the only English speakers, and we love that. The homemade cheeses, succulent simmered boar, and fresh porcini mushrooms were fabulous, as the back of the Swiss Alps stared across the lake at us, and we looked down on the top of Bellagio. Peace and beauty.
From Villa Melzi, owned by Napoleon and by Liszt, to Villa Carlotta with its fantastic gardens, the prize- winner for me was the old monastery converted
into Villa Balbianello.?Perched on a promontory that juts out into the lake with water on three sides, it is as if it were floating. A short boat ride from the Hotel San Giorgio, this villa, it’s history, collections, and gardens are absolutely staggering.
Isola Comacina is the only island in the lake and a must-stop for lunch on any Lake Como itinerary. And why would anyone pass a seven-course lunch on a stone terrace, overlooking the lake and under spreading shade trees? Please! The freshest ingredients served simply over a lazy three hours include twelve different vegetables, gorgeous pink trout, chicken, and aged parmigiana scooped out of the wheel and plopped right into your palm. And every course is bottomless. Everyone finishes with ice cream and oranges, highlighted by a coffee ceremony featuring sweet scalding espresso and an intriguing tale of island history. OK, I’m there. Back on the mainland, we were thankful we had walked along the pretty greenway from the hotel. We hoped we could negotiate the winding walkway back, but the lounges on the lawn at the Hotel San Giorgio were calling to us, shhhh, nap, nap, nap. Lago di Como has become, or more likely always was, a place to run to, escape into, a place to let down and go limp.
Art History Alive will be traveling to Lago di Como in the Fall of 2013. All of the above-mentioned places will be part of the itinerary, and there will be other surprises as well. Group size will be 6. Start dreaming.