Albergo Milano, Varenna, Italy $$$$
Concierge.com's insider take:
The Milano was simply a poky little pensione with a million-dollar lakeside view until 2002. That's when Bettina Mallone and her Swiss husband, Egidio, transformed it into a budget boutique hotel—before that term was even known in Italy. They fitted the eight simple rooms with modern art and gauzy curtains to catch the lake breezes, mixed creaky peasant armoires with compact Deco desks, and wisely retained the house's original stone floors. All rooms come with balconies and at least lateral lake views, though the vista is best from rooms 1 and 2 (each has a small private terrace) and from 5 and 6 directly above. The Mallones' infectious enthusiasm and stylish sensibilities bring a loyal repeat clientele of mostly middle income, middle-aged (and often American) visitors. The Mallones also converted the front room and shared terrace into a restaurant where Egidio creates three-course Mediterranean meals at guests' request.
Closed mid-November through February.
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