One of Italy's most buzzed-about hotel openings of 2016, Il Sereno Hotel on Lake Como opened to much acclaim, with the restaurant on-site garnering a Michelin star within its first year of operation. Since then, the boutique 30-suite hotel has kept up the ante with a bespoke approach to service (inclusive of a Maserati Quattroporte house car) and a flawless setting for guests to enjoy. The modern architecture is complemented beautifully with interiors by designer Patricia Urquiola, whose focus was on using natural materials to create timeless spaces.
We recently spoke with Samy Ghachem, who’s the managing director of Sereno Hotels, and got the whole story of Il Sereno’s design concept, service style and what they’re doing differently from the other luxury properties on Lake Como. He also told us exactly what to order at the restaurant, even if you’re a vegetarian.
Photography courtesy of Il Sereno
What is the concept for Sereno Hotels and Il Sereno specifically?
The Sereno Hotel guest expects a property that has a strong sense of place, well-developed design sensitivity and exceptional dining, while balancing exclusive, sophisticated and very high-end services in a relaxed and simple manner. To achieve this, Il Sereno has a small number of rooms (all suites in this case), terraces and lake views, Patricia Urquiola-designed interiors, exquisite dining at Michelin-starred restaurant Berton Al Lago, and more. Sereno Hotels’ overarching concept is personality married with timeless design that is never trendy, while being generous and creative with guest amenities.
What sets Il Sereno apart from the luxury properties of Lake Como?
The majority of luxury properties of Lake Como feature renaissance or neoclassic designs. While Il Sereno is born in the tradition of the grand lake hotels, the hotel offers a contemporary view both in design and in service. In addition, we also offer private docking facilities and three custom-designed Riva Boats from the acclaimed Lake Como-based designer, Ernesto Cantiere Riva. The boats are available for private transfer and daytime excursions, as well as our new evening shuttle service designed to help our guests properly experience the lake and facilitate access to Lake Como’s best restaurants.
The hotel is stunning - can you share about the design process and any special influences or touches?
We worked with celebrated Milan-based designer, Patricia Urquiola, to create a contemporary look with understated décor. Paying tribute to nearby Milan’s reputation in the design world, our goal was to create a new vision and contrast to the classic designs that can be found around Lake Como. Patricia used natural materials (stone, wood, wools and other fabrics) to create a timeless, yet natural aesthetic.
What kind of experience can guests expect upon arriving to Il Sereno?
Guests arriving to Il Sereno can expect a contemporary and more relaxed interpretation of luxury, design and personalized service. It’s a stylish and private sanctuary for guests to experience the best that Lake Como has to offer, from a Michelin-starred restaurant to a Maserati Quattroporte house car and everything in between.
What do we need to know about the tasting menu at Berton Al Lago? Any course highlights we should look out for?
We actually have two new tasting menus for 2019! The first is a seven-course vegetarian menu called “Tuberi E Radici” which translates to Tubers and Roots. Even meat eaters will love it, with dishes including Blackened Yucca Bark and Cardoncelli Mushrooms with Lotus Root and Fresh Mint Pesto. Our other new menu is the nine-course “Fidati” (“Trust Me”) tasting menu. This is Berton Al Lago’s take on an omakase experience, and Chef Raffaele Lenzi changes the menu daily, utilizing fresh local and seasonal ingredients such as the lake fish, Lavarello, artichoke and more.
What is a dream day itinerary you would plan for guests who want the ultimate Lake Como experience?
I recommend starting the day with an early morning hike to Villa Pliniana, which is about 25-30 minutes each way. As long as it’s not occupied, we can arrange access to the 16th century palazzo overlooking the lake.
Next, you have to take our custom-built Riva boat out for a 2-3 hour tour of the lake. The coastal lines of the lake and architecture are a large part of what makes Lake Como such an amazing destination, and this is hands down the best way to see them.
Next, I recommend walking into the village of Torno and grabbing lunch at a great little waterfront restaurant called Vapore. If you’d rather do a bit more lakefront exploring for lunch, there’s a charming little village called Varenna, which you can get to on the ferry if you go up past Bellagio. It’s a fun afternoon trip for lunch, sitting in a café and exploring.
After lunch, come back and spend some time by the pool (2-3 hours) or head over to The Spa to recharge. We get sun all day long in the summer (11am-8pm), so you can lounge poolside at your leisure.
For dinner, our new boat shuttle can drop you off in Como where there are so many world-class restaurants to choose from. I love grabbing a gelato after dinner and strolling around the cobblestone streets there.
Sound dreamy? Book your stay at Il Sereno Lake Como →