In a scene that wouldn't look out of place in The Grand Budapest Hotel, we are dispensed from a tiny glass-and-brass elevator into a magnificent lobby. Behind us, well-heeled lobby boys cope remarkably well lugging our luggage in the Italian sun.
It's September and still boiling - though you wouldn't know it as you step into the crisply cool, rose-scented air of a reception set on a floor so high that sublime views stretch out across Lake Como to San Giovanni and Bellagio beyond. Inside, between fresh flowers and huge candy bowls stacked with sugar canes and sherbet bonbons, you check in effortlessly for one night at Grand Hotel Tremezzo. It's a hyper-real atmosphere of incredible systematic function and whip-smart staff dressed to the nines. The hotel's symmetrical facade is one of epic grandeur; one can only assume Wes Anderson paid a visit some time back.
Whether you envisaged a Como break that is all fresh fish and pressed-linen trouser suits or something more casual, Grand Hotel Tremezzo is surprisingly apt in catering to each guest's needs. I see old, I see young, I see analogue cameras and I see selfie sticks. The quirky design details are certainly not lost on the IG crowd; though it's got to be said that the golden hour's light paired with the reflections of magenta, orange, yellow, purple and blue furnishings smattering the hotel's insides mean that no filter is really necessary.
Reached easily by bus, taxi or water taxi after you arrive in the region by train, Grand Hotel Tremezzo has become quite an institution for seasoned Como-lovers, but its very recent facelift makes it the perfect SUITCASE stay: sharp yet welcoming, cosy yet epic. After days spent idling at the waterside T Beach club, where retro sun loungers gaze over the floating lido, make your way to the outdoor pizzeria. A few slices go down very well with a cocktail pairing - no one here will look down on you for wearing a bib while imbibing that marg-marg combination.
Those running the hotel are that remarkable grand-dame type who are able to read a guest in a heartbeat - either that or they're nifty enough to scroll through your socials to see what kind of colour palette you're drawn towards, because these guys were bang on. Our lake-facing purple boudoir was a snug, glorious little thing with a stash of chocolate, fruit and prosecco waiting on a silver table next to the balcony doors. A spacious marble bathroom with a tub you can practically swim in is kitted out with locally made bath salts, Bluetooth speakers and ample, brilliantly lit mirrors ideal for pre-aperitif preening. Upgrade for a hot tub, terrace and in-room silver-service dining, and prepare to experience the best pillows you've ever laid your head on - no pillow menu necessary.
What's for breakfast?
The question really should be: "what's not for breakfast?" Thank goodness there's a gym and three swimming pools is all we can say. For starters, there were fresh fruits that looked like jewels and what seemed like every cheese ever churned on this planet. Next up was the usual hot Full English et al, as well as the more dainty cured salmon and perfectly pretty tins of sardines, bubbles on ice and bread so fresh that the smell makes your mouth water.
What about lunch and dinner?
The pizza-and-cocktail pairing in the garden pizzeria will wow even those who are unenthusiastic about pizza and al fresco dining (though we wouldn't recommend brining these types to Italy). The marg-marg pairing is wild. Order the zucchini fritters to accompany. For something slicker, try the restaurant's trattoria La Terrazza Gualtiero Marchesi; it's whispered about all around town. You can also arrange private cooking lessons with the restaurant's seasoned chefs. Expect the usual: fresh pasta, lightly falling-apart baked lake fish, salads, flavourful oils and wine, wine, wine - typically of the Lombardian variety - before grappa, grappa, grappa.
Is there a bar?
If you're still standing after dinner, undo a few buttons on that cream linen suit you just knew would suit Como, in fact maybe go for an outfit change. Because if you're hitting the bar, you will likely be dealing with Campari at some point and what with the breeze of the evening, the twinkling of the stars above the lake, the piano melodies coming from the terrace and the amount you drank at dinner, you're going to have had more coordinated moments - but you won't have had a more brilliant night.
The allure of this art-nouveau space alongside its lake-floating swimming pool and pizza parlour is the award-winning T Spa in which to pamper should it rain. Products used are made at Florence's Santa Maria Novella Pharmacy, the world's oldest serving pharmacy. Here, 17th-century monks created a batch of smelling salts called Aceto dei Sette Ladri, or "Seven Thieves Vinegar", after a band of seven corpse robbers during the plague who doused themselves in strong smells to protect themselves from the disease. The salts are still produced on-site today, though no longer by monks.
Opened in 2020, the waterside T Beach club evokes the yesteryear glamour of Como with red-and-white striped sun loungers gazing out over the hotel's floating lido. Start the day with a wellbeing session by the pool before quaffing cocktails as local DJs serenade the sunset.
Things I should know…
If kayaking isn't your thing, be sure to get out on the lake waters some how. Boat tours from Bellagio Sailing are designed to let you see all corners of Como's vast stretch at leisure. Such an excursion calls for headscarves, wide-brim boater hats, extremely high factor sunscreen and sunglasses (Valentino or nothing in this locale, darling). If being a passenger feels too hands-off, you can also do some light sailing under the supervision of the captain and company CEO Carlo Tettamanzi, who is from noble origin and we like to imagine has been privy to a notable tale or ten. Arrange a sailing tour on the charming sailboat Dama di Bellagio with him, or on the larger sail yacht, Stai Serena, designed by Philippe Starck.
Within a short walk I can find…
The epic mountains plus low key cafés and restaurants, artisanal souvenir shops, a bus stop and not much else. There's so much going on at the mini-nirvana complex that is Grand Hotel Tremazzo that you won't need to stray far. Lay on one of the gigantic orange beanbags and read an in-house hardback history book on the glitz, glamour and transformation of the locale, its guests and the wild nature that surrounds.