WRITTEN BY TERESA GRECO
On the shores of one of the most romantic lakes in the world and surrounded by a panorama of rare beauty lies the magnificence of Villa d’Este. Enjoy the ‘dolce vita’ on the foothills of the Italian Alps in Cernobbio, Italy, close to Como and just 30 minutes from Milan. Built in the 16th century as a summer residence overlooking the lake, crossing Villa d’Este’s threshold is like entering a world apart, where ancient splendour is eternalized in the architecture and an atmosphere that denotes timeless elegance.
A proud member of The Leading Hotels of the World, Villa d’Este is the flagship of the homonymous hospitality group who also owns Villa La Massa, a luxury resort in Florence. This year Villa d’Este celebrates its 150th season with many exclusive events scheduled until January 2023. “Our 150th celebration will be something unique; a once-in-a-lifetime experience that cannot be missed!” expressed Davide Bertilaccio, CEO & Managing Director Villa d’Este Hotels.
After being home to numerous prominent figures for over three centuries, in 1873, Villa d’Este was transformed into a luxury hotel. It became a discerning holiday destination and an essential stopover for the Grand Tour for the European aristocracy and upper-middle class. Fast forward to today, where countless celebrities have since stayed at Villa d’Este over the years: Alfred Hitchcock, Rita Hayworth, Orson Welles, Elizabeth Taylor, Nick Hilton, Frank Sinatra, Ava Gardner, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Bruce Springsteen, Orlando Bloom, Jennifer Aniston, George Clooney, and Al Pacino, to mention a few.
Villa d’Este is surrounded by a private park of twenty-five acres with countless sycamore trees, centennial plants, and architectural and landscape wonders like the Shepherd’s Arch, the Temple of Telemachus, small fortresses, Hercules’ perspective and the Nymphaeum, also called the ‘Mosaic.’ In the Villa d’Este gardens, visitors enjoy a blend of different styles — the Italian and the Picturesque, the Baroque and the Romantic. The essence of the gardens was captured over 100 years ago in Edith Wharton’s book Italian Villas and Their Gardens: “In the gardens of Villa d’Este there is much of the Roman spirit-breath of design, the unforced inclusion of natural features, and that sensitiveness to the quality of the surrounding landscape which characterizes the great gardens of Campagna.”
The halls of Villa d’Este are adorned with old-world vaults, plasters, arches, statues, art, and Murano chandeliers. Stay in one of the 152 rooms and suites that are divided between the Cardinal Building and the Queen’s Pavilion, with views over the lake, park, or the gardens. The rooms are refined and spacious, with period furniture, marble bathrooms, and velvet and brocade fabrics.
Immersed in the centuries-old park of Villa d’Este, there are four splendid villas, which can be rented by guests who wish to enjoy all the services of the hotel combined with the privacy and exclusivity of a private villa. The furnishings and design of the villas have been conceived respecting the atmosphere of the patrician residences of Lake Como and the tradition of Villa d’Este. Ranging from one to six bedrooms, the villas have views of the lake and the famed gardens.
Experience luxury dining at one of Villa d’Este’s restaurants and bars, which welcome guests in refined ambiences. The Veranda is the hotel’s main restaurant. Upscale and elegant, it offers a magnificent panorama over the lake, and its expansive windows accentuate the feeling of being immersed in the park. The wonderful terrace is available for “pieds dans l’eau” dining in the warmer months.
The Grill offers traditional Mediterranean dishes in a more informal yet chic atmosphere. In the summer, dine in the garden amidst the shade of majestic century-old trees. Il Platano, the most intimate of Villa d’Este’s restaurants, proposes creative international cuisine. For a drink or light snack, guests may choose between the elegant Bar Canova and its lake terrace or the more relaxed Sundeck by the floating pool.
The timeless location, surrounded by the beauty of Lake Como, is a combination of ancient charm and modernity. Villa d’Este is considered the destination for first-class international events.
The Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este is one of the most prestigious yearly events dedicated to vintage cars worldwide – celebrating all-time creativity and design since 1929.
Villa d’Este Style One Lake One Car is a must-see event that commemorates the elegance, design, style, and culture of the Belpaese. This exclusive event celebrates the Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 SS Coupé Villa d’Este, the only car in the world named after a hotel, created in 1949 by Carrozzeria Touring. In May 2011, Villa d’Este bought one of its 25 prototypes and has since organized a yearly gathering with the owners of the other Coupé Villa d’Este.
Villa d’Este Vintage Yachting is an event that hearkens to the fascinating world of vintage and classic boats. In contrast, the Villa d’Este Electric Yachting is dedicated to electric mobility, sustainability, and innovation on the lake. Villa d’Este itself owns the ‘Vaporina Cranchi’ (a typical wooden boat dated 1960), the ‘Abbate Villa d’Este Super’ (dated 1961), the ‘Lucia’ (the Lake Como traditional boat dated 1971), and the ‘E-Next – Villa d’Este,’ a new electric model designed for day cruisers and sporting use. At Villa d’Este there are also five electric car recharging points (two of them for Tesla and a charging station for electric boats).
Guests at Villa d’Este will delight in aperitifs on the lake terrace, gala dinners with live music in the Mosaic garden, and fireworks on the lake at scheduled events throughout the year like the Midsummer Night Gala (August 15th). In commemoration of the 150th season of Villa d’Este, “The events and activities we have thought of for this important milestone are all meant to celebrate not only the history of Villa d’Este and the people who contributed to its creation, but also those who help make what Villa d’Este is today and in the future,” shares Gregory Bradelle, Sales and Marketing Director Villa d’Este Hotels.
For those looking for a relaxing environment to rejuvenate the mind and restore the body, the Beauty Center of Villa d’Este is where expert beauticians offer cutting-edge treatments, including diverse types of massages and aesthetic therapies for the face and body.
To make your stay even more fun and dynamic, the Sporting Club provides services to take care of your wellbeing: a gym with state-of-the-art equipment, sauna, Turkish bath, eight lakeview tennis courts, jogging path, squash court, electronic golf simulator, putting green, an indoor heated swimming pool, an outdoor heated pool for children and the iconic heated swimming pool that is floating on the lake. For water sports lovers, there is windsurfing, water skiing, sailing, canoeing, kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding. Within a few kilometres from the hotel, there are six golf courses, including the renowned Golf Club Villa d’Este, an 18-hole course considered one of the most difficult ‘par 69’ in Europe.
Everything at Villa d’Este recalls the art of living: the beauty and elegance of the location are the perfect backdrops for exceptional service, thanks to their staff’s care and attention to detail. “The bespoke experiences we offer are all meant to convey the sense of place and highlight the bond with the territory,” explains Bradelle.
To make your stay at Villa d’Este an unforgettable experience, the hotel offers personalized adventures, such as romantic excursions with a private motorboat and skipper to see the lake from the best possible viewpoints, private helicopter sightseeing tours to nearby cities like Venice, Portofino, and Montecarlo, or intimate food and wine tasting tours in Barolo and Franciacorta.
To capture Villa d’Este’s timeless elegance and attention to detail, the on-site Gift Shop and Villa d’Este La Boutique, their new e-commerce platform, offer an exclusive selection of customized and refined products and accessories. The entire Made in Italy collection can be found online at www.villadestelaboutique.com.
Visiting Villa d’Este means immersing yourself in a dimension of luxury characterized by classical perfection and unparalleled privacy. Proceeding through its entrance gate is equivalent to entering an exclusive oasis with no equal in the world. Villa d’Este is more than a hotel and historical palace; it is a legend of all time.