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Lake Como Travel Guide

A Look at Lake Como’s Glamorous Past Through One of Its Oldest Hotels

Lake Como has long been a destination of storied elegance over the decades.


rom its earliest beginnings, the towns surrounding Lake Como have served as a pleasurable refuge for the rich. It is not unheard of to hear about rare sightings of A-list actors and billionaire heiresses on holiday casually lingering among other travelers and locals. It has become a name frequented in magazines with snapshots of the ultra-wealthy coming out of the secluded vacation villas to escape prying eyes. The Italian getaway located in its northern region, a world away from major cities like Rome or Florence, has an intimate history to the wealthiest families around the globe, especially when they’re planning a carefree vacation along the water.

On the lake, image of Bellagio.Dana Givens

Upon arrival, travelers will marvel at the rolling green hills dotted with colorful homes that are spaced sparsely around the lake below. Como’s natural beauty stands alongside its small towns and next to its famous lakeside villas. During the peak season, from April to October, yachts float across the lake for private parties to enjoy the area’s peace, warm weather, and clear skies. Though the destination has long been a luxury travel retreat, visitors will find few chain hotels, and even so, the real stars are the historic villas that served as monuments to the legacy of wealth in the area. Among those giants lives the lavish Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni.

Hotel grounds Dana Givens

The Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni is a part of the town of Bellagio and debuted in 1873. The structure was intended as a holiday villa gift for Countess Frizzoni, a socialite from a noble family living in Bergamo, before being converted into the Grand Hotel Bellagio and then Villa Serbelloni to service wealthy guests from all around Europe. Today, the hotel is still at the town center and it remains a magnet for affluent travelers looking to enjoy the old-world elegance of the famed lake, preserving the rich legacy of its grounds.

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The building still retains its vintage Italian architecture that contrasts with its wonderful, natural setting. Inside, guests can marvel at the ornate design and golden and baroque touches, reminiscent of a prosperous past. Visitors are greeted by grand chandeliers that shine above its extravagant décor and invited to enjoy an afternoon tea or indulge in a cocktail with guests on the ground floor. Much of the hotel’s ambiance is evocative of the lavish European structures, like the Palace of Versailles in France.

Slide 3 - ornate staircase on ground floor lobby Photo credit dana givens
Slide 4 lobby area of hotel photo credit dana givens
1. Ornate staircase on the ground level of the hotel lobby.Dana Givens 2. Lobby area in the hotel.

The Grand Hotel Serbelloni is more than just a luxury property. While on the grounds, guests can learn about its history through the years. Through its photos and archives in its halls, visitors can follow the grand establishment’s timeline and the notable patrons who have graced its doors, ranging from members of royal dynasties, famous actors, and billionaire families throughout the 1900s. The hotel business took off once the original owners sold it to Swiss entrepreneur Arturo Bucher, whose family still operates the property today, continuing their legacy as luxury hotel pioneers. The photographs for view only offer a tiny portion of the influential and celebrated names that have graced their halls.

In the morning, guests can pull back the regal curtains to catch a glimpse of the morning sun and the water. When ready, breakfast is served to guests downstairs or prepared for private room service for a great start for the day with a bountiful spread and food options.

Daily breakfast at the hotel.Dana Givens

Beyond the hotel walls, the surrounding town of Bellagio and its villas on the other side of the lake also have their own stories. A walk around the small artisan shops and a cruise around the water will help visitors understand how this place became the setting for so many literary tales–even James Bond made an appearance here in his novels. During their stay, visitors can stroll amongst the on-property gardens and along the surrounding areas to take in the statues and sculptures that look as if they belong in an art gallery rather than a casual pedestrian walkway.

Travelers will also get to visit the Villa Serbelloni, not to be confused with its namesake hotel. The historic mansion has been converted to a garden retreat for visitors to learn about its ties to Queen Victoria and the Rockefeller family, among other descendants of European monarchs. The well-kept grounds served as the backdrop to a scenic afternoon walk.

Slide 7 fountain statue shot photo credit dana givens
Slide 8 inside structure villa serbelloni photo credit dana givens
1. Fountain statue on the lake.Dana Givens 2. An inside look at a structure by the lake.

At the end of your day of seeing the sights, enjoy the finest dining experience in the hotel’s Mistral Restaurant, with views of Lake Como to go with your five-star meal. The menu features Italian fusion fare and highlights the area’s abundance of fresh ingredients and local seafood served fresh daily.

The historical legacy of opulence in the area will continue to impress, with visitors getting to experience the long-standing luxury on the lake. At its core, Lake Como’s legacy hotels and villas will preserve the region’s history and make for a transportive travel experience.

christinajohnson0786 October 24, 2021

Your photo of Bellagio from the Lake is NOT Bellagio but VARENNA! All of the towns on the lake are beautiful, and the Villa Serbelloni, magnificent, but you need to correct this!