There are few places I have been to that have literally taken my breath away. Lake Como is one of those places, with its serene waters, majestic mountains, and classic Italian charm. Many quaint towns and villages surround the lake—located in Northern Italy, not far from Milan. It was the last stop on our Eurotrip this year and my favorite, by far.
One thing I noticed is mostly all of the hotels in Lake Como are old, gilded and filled with crushed velvet. As much as I truly appreciate and respect the classic style, I personally prefer the comfort and luxury of a more modern hotel. Lake Como’s newest luxury hotel, Il Sereno, has that cool modern aesthetic but still pays homage to the traditional attributes that make this popular retreat so charming.
Renowned Milan-based designer Patricia Urquiola put careful thought into the hotel’s hidden attributes that honor Italian tradition. The materials used in the design and structure of Il Sereno are all natural with many custom-designed furniture pieces from top Italian names like B&B Italia, Cassina, and Molteni—all sourced nearby. Urquiola designed the terrazzo flooring of the hotel’s Michelin-starred restaurant to mimic the decorative fan pattern of the hair combs historically worn by the women of Lombardy. This motif also appears on the wall of the hotel’s restaurant level. Other parts of the floor display a lace pattern which pays homage to the lace traditionally worn by the women of Lombardy.
The boutique hotel, located in the small village of Torno, has only 30 suites which all have lake-views. They have three beautiful mahogany and cedar wood boats designed by Urquiola and crafted by the famed luxury boat builder, Ernesto Riva. Guests can rent and drive the two smaller boats. The third boat—a larger boat that can only be operated by a boat captain—is used as a water shuttle and to give lake tours. World-class botanist Patrick Blanc created Le Mirroir Vert du Lac (“The Lake’s Green Mirror”), one of two vertical gardens created for the hotel. It’s made up of 2,000 individual plants and more than 130 individual species.
Beyond the stunning design of this unique Sereno Hotels property, I found that one of the best parts our stay at Il Sereno was the helpful and friendly staff. The concierge set up a fantastic day for me and my boyfriend during our stay. It started with a sea plane ride over the lake with aerial views of the towns and villages surrounding it. Then, we walked around the town of Como before heading back to the hotel to relax by the pool. After resting for a few hours, a driver from the hotel dropped us off a few miles away in the stunningly beautiful town of Bellagio where we shopped and walked around for about an hour before boarding a boat to the secluded Island of Comacina. We enjoyed a lemon sorbet cocktail at the small bar ‘La Botte’ right before heading up the hill to one of the most amazing restaurants I have ever been to…
The name of the restaurant—Locanda dell’Isola Comacina—is easy to forget, but the experience is truly unforgettable. We arrived at 7 pm, right when they open, so we could catch the sunset during our meal. The view from the restaurant is absolutely stunning, but don’t expect any Michelin stars or fancy concoctions here. It’s super casual and everything on the menu is simple and fresh—well, they actually don’t even have a physical menu. The owner, Benvenuto Puricelli, serves you as if you are a guest in his own home with classic Italian hospitality. It’s no wonder that Benvenuto attracts many high-profile celebrities, including George and Amal Clooney, to this remote dining locale.
The whole experience is about five courses. First, they bring a bottle of Soave, a loaf of fresh bread, and fresh tomato with a lemon slice. The second course consists of seasonal fresh vegetables (celery, carrots, baked onions, sweet peppers, courgettes, beans, cauliflower, and beetroots). On a separate plate, they serve Prosciutto Tipo Praga and air-dried and aged beef. Fresh salmon trout grilled on a wood grill follows. The server de-bones and dresses the trout in in salt, lemon, extra virgin olive oil and pepper. The fourth course includes chicken, or a pasta if you are vegetarian, followed by a mini-course of parmesan cheese.
For dessert, they serve a simple yet amazing combination of sliced oranges with ice cream and the traditional “crema all’isolana”. Lastly, It is tradition that the host burns brandy in a large pot while telling the history of the Island. Benvenuto then serves the brandy with sugar and coffee. The cost of the whole meal including the wine and water is only 75 Euros per person. A must-do when visiting Lake Como!
Il Sereno’s unique concept is one of the most interesting in the area. Urquiola has created a modern hotel which blends with its environment and plays on the natural beauty of the lake. She has successfully merged contemporary with classical by including discrete design details which honor the longstanding tradition of the area. Il Sereno is truly a work of art. Thanks to the Sereno Hotel Group for an amazing stay. I look forward to returning one day in the future.