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November 12, 2023

Must Stay: Villa d’Este on Lake Como, Italy

One of the most legendary hotels in Italy is Villa d’Este, an exclusive property on the shores of Lake Como. Originally built in the 16th century as the summer retreat of a Catholic cardinal, it’s known for its majestic architecture, beautiful gardens, spectacular lakeside setting and sophisticated Old-World style.

Artisans of Leisure works very closely with Villa d’Este–we visit the hotel each year and love booking it for our clients–and include it on many of our private Italy tours. Villa d’Este is a wonderful base for exploring the breathtaking Lake Como region.

An aristocratic residence since the 1500s and a luxury hotel since 1873, Villa d’Este has hosted royalty, fashion designers, illustrious writers, artists, celebrities and other discerning travelers for centuries.

Villa d’Este comprises a magnificent Renaissance palace (the Cardinal Building), a colorful 19th-century villa (the Queen’s Pavilion), private villas for exclusive use, extensive leisure facilities and acres of lush private grounds.

The interiors maintain an air of bygone glamour with fine art, period-appropriate antiques and sumptuous textiles.

Rooms and terraces offer panoramic views of Lake Como and the Alps.

Guests of Villa d’Este enjoy exquisite fine-dining options and state-of-the-art leisure facilities, including an excellent spa, tennis courts and access to a nearby golf course.

A highlight of Villa d’Este is the swimming pool, which floats on Lake Como.

The Canova Bar is a favorite place for an aperitivo accompanied by live music.

The 25 acres (10 hectares) of landscaped grounds and formal gardens—containing colorful flowers, marble statues and water features—are a national monument and an exquisite example of Italian and English garden design.

Caroline of Brunswick, the Princess of Wales and a resident of Villa d’Este in the early 19th century, described the gardens as “suspended in the air…a scene of complete enchantment.”

A century later, American author Edith Wharton wrote about the gardens at Villa d’Este in Italian Villas and their Gardens (1905), calling them “one of the most enchanting bits of sylvan gardening in Italy.”

The centerpiece of the gardens is the elaborate mosaic nymphaeum (a type of Greco-Roman monument dedicated to local water spirits) that leads the eye up an allee lined with cypresses to a small folly with a sculpture of the Greek hero Hercules.

Visual references to classical antiquity were a prevailing theme during the Renaissance, Baroque and neoclassical periods of the 16th to the 19th centuries when various owners of Villa d’Este designed, developed and expanded the property.

In the Lake Como region, we arrange private touring and exclusive experiences, including visits to our favorite villas and gardens, private boat excursions on Lake Como, specialty shopping (the town of Como is renowned for its silk industry), reservations at top restaurants, active touring, water sports, and private excursions to nearby Milan or to Lugano, Switzerland.

Time at Villa d’Este also combines well with exclusive touring in northern Italy (Venice, Florence, Piedmont and Portofino), the Cote d’Azur in France and Monaco (Antibes, Cap-Ferrat, Monte-Carlo), and Lausanne and the Lake Geneva region in Switzerland.

Contact Artisans of Leisure to begin planning a private Italy tour featuring Villa d’Este and the best of Lake Como.

Destinations:  Europe, Italy

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