The executive chef at Grand Hotel Tremezzo, Osvaldo Presazzi, on this northern Italian beauty spot
Como is rich in history and beauty, making it an ideal holiday destination for anyone with a thirst for exploration and sightseeing. First up, I recommend a trip to Villa Carlotta in Tremezzo. This gorgeous residence was built at the end of the 17th century and is famous for its botanical garden decorated with sculptures, ancient stairs and fountains. Lake Como is actually bursting with spectacular residences, another of which is nearby and worth a visit. Situated at the tip of a peninsula jutting into the lake, Villa del Balbianello is quite cinematic, and was used as a filming location for the James Bond movie Casino Royale, as well as Star Wars II: Attack Of The Clones. Across the lake from Tremezzo lies the town of Bellagio – often considered the Pearl of Lake Como, it boasts gorgeous views backed dramatically by the towering Alps.
This entire region is known for its cuisine, and some of my favourite places to dine are in typical mountain grottoes. These are natural cavities that were once used to store food and beverages, but have now been transformed into unique restaurants. Booking into any one of them guarantees a great experience and really helps you connect with part of Como’s past that gourmands definitely shouldn’t miss out on.
Artists and culture vultures will be equally enraptured by Como’s past. Thanks to its Latin origins, the lake has inspired many writers including Plinio il Vecchio and has been an elite tourist destination since the 17th century. Renowned artists and composers – such as Liszt, Bellini, Rossini, Verdi and Wagner – all resided here. Happily, the city has preserved all that charm and glamorous La Dolce Vita atmosphere to this very day. If you happen to be here in summer, make sure you take in the Lake Como Film Festival, which has been growing in popularity since it started in 2013. Presented in a beautiful open-air setting, it showcases a plethora of international films with Lake Como as a very apt backdrop.
If fashion is your forte, I would recommend a stroll downtown, where narrow lanes are full of local artisan shops and a unique, historic atmosphere pervades. Fashion and heritage go hand in hand here thanks to Como’s long history and tradition of silk production – something that has been in existence here for over 4,000 years. A wonderful place to buy local silk is the ivy-entwined Villa Sucota; the upstairs boutique here simply brims with all sorts of beautiful handmade crafts made by the Ratti silk company.
Personally, one of my best-loved activities in Lake Como is walking. A favourite route is through the Greenway – a leisurely, pleasant walk of around 10km that will lead you from Colonno to Cadenabbia. It follows traces of the Antica Strada Regina – an antique connection road – and passes through Tremezzo. On Lake Como and in the surrounding province, it’s easy to find beauty and peace for the soul, no matter where you look.