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Villa d'Este, Cernobbio

$400 or more
Editor's Pick
Italian Lakes, Italy, Europe
40 Via Regina
Lake Como
Italy 22012
Tel: 39 031 3481's insider take:

Everything about this grande dame of lakeside hotels oozes luxury. Rooms have enormous marble bathrooms and walk-in closets and most have a balcony or terrace. The Empire-style furnishings swathed in Como silks actually date to the time when Napoleon himself was a guest and the villa belonged to his aide-de-camp. The 152 rooms and suites are split between the main villa and the Queen's Pavilion, a pinkish 1860 Moorish-Venetian palazzo at the far end of the 25-acre property. The heated outdoor swimming pool is built within the lake itself, and the indoor pool is flanked by a sauna and Turkish bath. Activities include tennis on the hotel's eight courts and teeing off at the indoor golf and putting green (the private, Peter Gannon-designed 18-hole course is seven miles away), plus sailing, canoeing, and waterskiing on Lake Como. Built in the 16th century as the summer palace of Como's Cardinal Tolomeo Gallio, the main villa served as a home to royalty, from Caroline, Princess of Wales (in the early 19th century), to the last private owner, Tsarina Maria Fedorovna of Russia, before being transformed into a hotel in 1873. Since then it has hosted such cultural royalty as Mark Twain, Clark Gable, Madonna, and Liam Neeson. Besides celebs, you'll see well-heeled older travelers, expense-accounted businessmen, and honeymooners who would never dare spend this much on an ordinary vacation, as well as young families splashing out.

Closed mid-November through February.

From the readers of Condé Nast Traveler:
Overall Score: 91.4
  • Activities: 86.0
  • Design: 94.2
  • Food: 92.1
  • Location: 97.4
  • Rooms: 89.5
  • Service: 88.9
At this 16th-century noble summer estate—and longtime celebrity retreat—"it seems you go back in time to a sophisticated old-world villa" that's surrounded by "fountains, statues, and flowers." Veranda restaurant's glass panels give way to lakeside breezes at the flip of a switch. "The concierge was so distressed that the dry cleaner lost my jacket's shoulder pads that he had new ones made." Rooms, all individually decorated, come with antiques, velvet, and silk brocades.

(152 rooms)
—2011 Gold List

Amenities: Pool, Spa, Tennis, Water sports

Information may have changed since the date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.