A far cry from old-school Lombardian hotels, Il Sereno is pioneering a new way to stay in Lake Como. With enormous windows blending into the hillside, this 30-room minimalist boutique property could easily accommodate a Bond villain or Queen Bey.
It's the second hotel in the Contreras family and one in which Spanish architect and designer Patricia Urquiola has paid homage to the surroundings with natural materials including glass, copper, stone and wood. Her vision is complemented by a series of verticle gardens and plant installations by botanist Patrick Blanc, creating an overall feeling of warmth that's often lacking in modern hotels.
Guests and well-dressed locals fill the space. There's a come-as-you-are mentality - in the Michelin-starred restaurant you could as easily be seated next to someone who shares a stylist with Lady Gaga as someone wearing jeans and a t-shirt.
Don't miss out on the opportunity to drive one of the hotel's three custom-built Cantiere Ernesto Riva boats - there's no better way to soak up the serenity of Lake Como.
Each room has a view of the lake (albeit some better than others) and most have a terrace, with enormous floor-to-ceiling windows on which you'll never want to draw the curtains. Patricia Urquiola's design has even the smallest details carefully tuned. Expect a well-lit vanity mirror and area to do make-up as well as spacious walk-in closets. Roomy bathrooms are equipped with rather intense Japanese loos. Rumour has it that several guests loved their bathtubs so much that they've ordered ones for their own homes - the ultimate souvenir. The Lario suite is also wheelchair friendly.
The minibar is all-inclusive, except alcohol.
What's for breakfast?
Breakfast fare is of the standard variety - juices, pastries, avocado on toast, eggs any way you like - but done exceptionally well. We recommend the ricotta with berries, honey and roasted almonds. The lakeside Ristorante Berton Al Lago is beautiful with indoor and (often heated) outdoor spaces, but it's no problem if you're unable to tear yourself away from your room. With room service available at no additional cost, there's little better than starting the day dining on your private terrace.
How about lunch and dinner?
Lunch is a relaxed affair taken either by the heated swimming pool on a lounger or in the restaurant. There's food to satisfy a range of palates with sautéed salmon, club sandwiches and homemade ice cream making appearances on the menu.
Berton Al Lago comes to life at night, when locals pull up in their custom-built Riva boats for chef Andrea Berton's Michelin-starred creations. Opt for a nine-course tasting menu with wine pairing or go à la carte. While dishes offer the best haute-cuisine, portion sizes remain generous. Ingredients are seasonal and regional - arctic char, for instance, is fished directly from Lake Como. We recommend lining your stomach with all the vegetarian amuse-bouche before ordering the saffron rice with ragout.
Is there are bar?
There's an indoor bar on the ground floor, but cocktail hour can be enjoyed across the hotel. The mocktails aren't just for tee-totallers; the Allegra concoction made with rooibos comes with our seal of approval.
Take a dip in Il Sereno's outdoor heated swimming pool which overlooks the lake. Alternatively hit the gym (we'd be very impressed if you do) or chill out in the Valmont Spa.
If you do one activity during your trip, make sure it's renting one of hotel's boats. You don't need a boating license in Italy, so cruising along Lake Como is a glorious way to see some of the nearby villages. Top tip: bring a picnic.
Things you should know
The hotel is both dog- (an extra €200) and kid-friendly (cots are free and an extra child's bed in a room is €150). That being said, the hotel is more suited to couples than families due to lack of connecting rooms and the Zen vibe of the property.
A short boat ride away, Il Sereno's older sister property, Villa Pliniana, was once visited by the likes of Napoleon, Byron and Liszt. Now available for private hire, it could be yours - albeit for a hefty price tag.
Within a short walk you will find…
Many guests are so satisfied with the property, the don't venture beyond its walls. If you do, you'll find yourself in the middle of the Renaissance town of Torno. Head to the port and catch a ferry to one of the small towns nearby. We recommend going travelling away from Como towards charming towns such as Varenna.