When you think of Lake Como, the romance of this truly beautiful lake comes to mind. But it’s not until you see the Grand Hotel Tremezzo that you truly understand why Lake Como is so special.
The sparkle and splendour of Lake Como, with its dramatic backdrop of the Alps and its grandiose villa-lined shores had never seen a hotel until 1910.
It would need to be something special – something iconic – to fit with the elegant, sophisticated glamour of such a place. Lake Como was at the time a destination only for the world’s wealthy and elite.
What happened next was very special indeed.
Signor Enea Gandola and his wife Maria, who were from Lake Como, envisaged a hotel that would suit this illustrious class of international traveller. And so the Grand Hotel Tremezzo was born.
Prior to 1910, visitors would stay in the private villas that still punctuate Lake Como’s shores like jewels. The Grand Hotel Tremezzo brought the lake’s visitors the elegance, space and privacy they were used to, but with hotel service that would complement this elegant art nouveau palace.
These days, the Grand Hotel Tremezzo still offers its 5-star service; it still upholds its old-world charm. The difference is it’s more approachable, more modern and somehow more beautiful than any of its pictures.
We’ve also created a video walk-through of the Tremezzo. You can see it here:
Grand Hotel Tremezzo, Lake Como
Christina and I were lucky enough to stay two nights in this truly remarkable hotel. Here’s what we found while we were there.
Arriving at the Grand Hotel Tremezzo
If ever you want to feel like a genuine film star, arrive at the Grand Hotel Tremezzo by car. They can help source a Ferrari if you like, but even in our Fiat rental we still felt pretty cool.
To get to the Tremezzo, you drive a pretty wiggly tight road around the lake’s western shore. Coming from the north would make things easier, as you can simply turn off into the valet reception.
We came in from the south and had to turn across traffic. But the staff, who man the front all day, stop traffic for you to turn in! They take your car, park it for you and before you know it, you’re being guided to the mirrored archway of the glass elevator as if they’ve been preparing for your arrival their whole lives.
The elegant lobby, with its original parquet wooden floors, opulent furniture and lofty ceilings has the impact you’d expect from a hotel of this calibre. What you’re not expecting is the personal, friendly and open service you get at reception and concierge.
The lady who checked us in also took the time to take us on a mini orientation, showing us where the bars and restaurants are, where breakfast is taken and also – most importantly – the self-service sweets station.
Perhaps because the Tremezzo had to compete with the lake’s villas early on, it needed to make its lobby feel more like coming into a private residence than a hotel. The reception and concierge aren’t immediately obvious when you come out of the lift.
Going against the modern pre-set of large, conspicuous the check-in and information desks front and centre, the Tremezzo’s are small, discreet and set back in an alcove away from the lobby.
There are few room types available here. Ours – a Lake View Prestige room – came with a balcony that looked out over the lake towards Bellagio and the Riviera delle Azalee.
Although the room is on the small size for a hotel of this class (a common feature in Europe anyway), all the natural light and the clever layout and décor fools you into not noticing you’re only in 375sq.ft (35m²).
The short corridor to from the front door past the bathroom into the main room gives the feeling of more space, plus it hides the bathroom door a bit.
Of course, the best thing about the room is the double French doors that open out onto the balcony. The view from here is just incredible. And facing east means you can enjoy sunrise over the lake without leaving your bed.
Everything – from the ornate golden headboard over our oversize bed to the beach tote bag they provide – is beautifully branded, of high quality and carefully thought out. At all times, you’re reminded that you’re in a place of unique luxury that’s there for you to enjoy. It’s a lovely feeling!
We also had the luck of seeing the hotel’s most important historic suite: the Greta. Inspired by one of Hollywood’s finest, Greta Garbo, who loved to stay here and even mentions the hotel in The Grand Hotel (1932).
The suite is an ode to the actress and is suitably lavish. Its 860sq.ft room is only bettered by the enormous balcony that looks out over the lake from the 1st floor.
The bar and restaurants
It’s clear that the Grand Hotel Tremezzo really understands its clientele. There are so many enticing places to eat and drink in this hotel, it’s very tempting to stay in and not explore the area around you.
Is that a criticism of the Tremezzo? Possibly – but it’s a pretty good one if it is, isn’t it?
But there really is so much choice of where you can dine or drink here. La Terrazza Restaurant, which is also where you have breakfast, has incredible, unbeatable views out over the lake from its broad balcony.
One floor below La Terrazza is L’Esacale Trattoria, a beautiful stone-clad wine room, with a balcony overlooking the lake too. This is a more intimate, yet relaxed dining option, though the Tremezzo’s T Bar is probably the place to go for an even more informal experience.
T Bar, with its balcony that mirrors La Terrazza, also has a ‘50s style bar room and a wonderfully modern main room inside. The bright colours of the chairs works cleverly against the traditional bar room.
But if it’s al fresco dining you want, you need to check out the hotel’s pools.
The Grand Hotel Tremezzo has 3 pools – each more unique than the next. The most obviously striking pool, is the one we could see from our room and the one that’s almost as famous the hotel itself.
Floating in Lake Como itself is Water-On-Water. We couldn’t wait to go for a dip in this incredible pool – it featured in a previous post we published on bucket list hotel pools. The strangest thing is when a large boat goes past, the pool moves. You can feel the waves in the lake, but you’re not actually swimming in the lake itself.
This pool also has a casual dining restaurant, though the food isn’t casual. The standard is actually quite startling. There’s also a beach here, where you can sunbathe on loungers and dry off after your swim. The pool and beach are only available to hotel guests, but the restaurant here is open to all.
The second pool is behind the hotel and no less impressive. This heated pool is set amidst the flowers and trees of the garden and therefore quite sensibly called the Flowers Pool. It also a has a wood-fired pizza oven near at hand should you get peckish.
Finally, the T Spa Infinity Pool is almost a work of art. Looking out from its own balcony, the infinity pool runs for several metres until it disappears into a tunnel inside the hotel. The grotto within has three different sensory jet spas to enjoy: a horizontal jacuzzi that you can recline on, a water spout the sends water rushing up your legs where you stand and a heavenly waterfall that pours massaging torrents over your head and shoulders.
Breakfast is a serious business in the Grand Hotel Tremezzo. From the large dining room, you carry your breakfast haul to your seat on the veranda and the perfect views of La Terrazza Restaurant.
What food is there?
It would be easier to ask what food isn’t there. From freshly made crepe, cannoli, incredible fudge all the way to exquisite smoked swordfish sashimi and an entire table of cheese. This is what I a hotel breakfast. And unfortunately, what I’ll be comparing every other hotel breakfast to from now on.
The grounds and facilities
The Tremezzo’s gardens are – as you’d expect – pristinely tended. The abundant beds overflowing with beautiful white flowers border paths and avenues that lead you through the private and very romantic grounds.
Past the outdoor pool and pizzeria at the back of the hotel is a short but elevating hike that takes you high above the Hotel Tremezzo. The views from the top are quite incredible, up all the way to the peaks of the Alps and down south towards Como and Milan.
We were tempted by the pamperings of the Tremezzo’s Espa, but in the end settled for a dip in the infinity pool and a sip of the delicate infused water on the terrace. We were also tempted by the gym too, which is on three floors of one of the adjacent buildings.
It’s probably one of the most complete gyms we’ve seen in a hotel and is cleverly divided by floors: 1st floor is Cardio, 2nd Strength and 3rd is Functional. Bathrooms are also on the top floor, so if you need to go, you already have to be fit!
There is also a little boutique here selling not just Tremezzo merch, but also a really quite lovely range of clothing. We both fell in love with the soft silkiness of the woven birch clothes – yes, apparel made from wood.
I did buy a new shirt though, which I really do love – even though it’s not made of tree.
One of the loveliest additions to the Grand Hotel Tremezzo is Ruy. This restored 1950s Venetian style speed boat was donated by the owner’s father, who also once ran this beautiful hotel – as did her grandfather.
You can charter Ruy for 1-3 hours, and she will take you around the lake. Her driver can give you a thorough history of all the lake and the shoreline villas as you fly by. Of all the moments of our time at the Grand Hotel Tremezzo, this was the absolute highlight. I don’t think I’ve seen Christina as happy or excited!
It’s the little touches that make the difference
Everything about the way the Tremezzo is run has that feeling of relaxed elegance, though nothing happens slowly. Like that well-used image of a swan swimming, above the water it all looks serene, but below decks, the engine room is going like the clappers. This pays tribute to the fact that this is very much a vacation hotel not a business hotel.
From parking, the staff were able to radio up to reception and tell them we had arrived. Reception knew who we were and had our paperwork all ready for us.
The Grand Hotel Tremezzo has developed its own fragrance – Aqua Como. The scent is used in complimentary toiletries in your room and in Espa, but you notice it throughout the hotel. The combined floral aromas of rose, violet, jasmine, lily of the valley, white musk, cedarwood, and green notes of comino and cloves create the kind of perfume that makes memories.
The turn-down service is simply fantastic – a surprise and delight. Every evening, we found a beautiful hand-written card with messages like “Laughter is timeless, imagination has no age, and dreams are forever. Goodnight.” Lovely.
Since its opening, the Grand Hotel Tremezzo has only had 3 families as owners. Since the Gandolas first opened the doors in 1910, the Sampietros took over in the 1930s, and then the de Santis family bought the keys in 1975. Now the third-generation owner and CEO Valentina de Santis has been in charge since 2013.
Valentina’s modern touch and keen understanding of what the Lady of the Lake should be about has given the hotel a feminine quality that adds a delicate nuance and extra glamour to this already stunning property.
The best thing about so few people being at the Tremezzo’s helm for so long is that the old charm it started with hasn’t left. It’s simply evolved.