Though a thoroughly undiscovered gem for the uninitiated, Villa d’Este has a storied past full of European aristocrats, royalty and bougie old Hollywood—and you should know all about it. Perched on the shores of magical Lake Como in northern Italy, this time-tested treasure has been a trusted hideaway since Renaissance days (no joke—it was originally built as the retreat of a 16th-century Cardinal). The plush palace-turned-hotel is a nod to old-world rituals of formality and well-groomed glamour that’s hard to come by these days, and it oozes opulence from every corner. So if you’re looking for an exceptionally luxe, romantic and ridiculously beautiful summer escape where you’re treated like royalty, Villa d’Este just might be the place.
In Good Company
Let’s talk about Lake Como for a moment—this enchanting body of water (shaped much like a long-legged dancer) located nearly due north of Milan is a destination unto itself. Its shores have drawn the likes of the Versaces, George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Sting… we could go on. Needless to say, Villa d’Este's locale is a goldmine of raw, natural beauty with the dramatic surrounding mountains and placid lake to gaze on at all times of day. And then, of course, the Villa itself: the white-and-melon-colored exterior of the palatial-sized building is an invitation to extreme elegance even before you enter its doors. Just steps from the water itself, the two grand dwellings that make up the hotel (the Cardinal Building and the Queen’s Pavilion) have exemplary access to the lake’s finest offerings.
A Renaissance Dream
Once you can tear yourself away from looking at the resplendent glacial lake, the Villa’s interior is a Renaissance wonderland. Decked out in columns, grand staircases, decadent antiques and lavish upholstery, this is what we call staying in extreme (extremely swanky, that is) style. With 152 available rooms, each room and suite has its own unique touches ranging from colors to silks to velvets to views. This is the epitome of a place untouched by time, where passing trends and fads have no influence. Waiters will unfold your napkin with a flourish and place it in your lap, not to mention there are no less than 7 different places on the property to dine. Let’s just say you won’t be wanting for much of anything.
The Royal Treatment
Though you may want to repose poolside all day (in the floating lake pool, that is), there are plenty of activities to be found around the villa. With a deluxe beauty center offering every variety of treatment, a full service fitness center, a sauna and Turkish bath, practically every sport you can imagine (from tennis to squash to sailing to boating) as well as a world-class golf course—trust us, they’ve got you covered. And if it’s privacy you’re after, Villa d’Este has plenty and then some. Four private villas are available for rent, which you’ll find dotted amidst the 10 stunning acres of private gardens fashioned in both Baroque and Renaissance styles. The moral of this story? For an out of this world, absolutely alluring extravagant adventure, Villa d’Este awaits you.
Photography: Villa d’Este