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BELOVED BELLAGIO - A TOWN OF TRADITION, BEAUTY AND STYLE
 
(2013 - Spring/Summer Issue)

Writer: CHRIS RYALL



You won’t find slot machines, glitzy shows or gamblers here.

The real Bellagio—not the Las Vegas version—is definitely a neon-free zone. What you will find here and in the Lake Como area located in northern Italy near the Swiss border are friendly hospitality, breathtaking scenery, beautiful Italian gardens, narrow cobblestone streets, centuries-old villas, boutiques, cosy cafés and award-winning cuisine.  

At 400 metres, Lake Como is one of the deepest lakes in Italy with 170 kilometres of stunning shoreline. Bellagio sits at the extreme point of the promontory, which divides the two southern branches of Lake Como.   

Celebrity Central

Hollywood icons, presidents, royalty and avid travellers have been coming to the Lake Como area for decades. However, it was George Clooney who bought a villa in the village of Laglio in 2002 that led many more such as Madonna and Richard Branson to invest in property here. Faster than you could say “cheese,” Lake Como was on the “must-visit” map for star-crazed paparazzi. 

Celebrity status aside, the area’s attraction is not in a star sighting but in the almost stoppage of time. Sips, not gulps, are taken at village cafés. Leisurely garden strolls are the norm. The hustle and bustle of modern life comes to a halt in towns like Bellagio. Church bells still echo as old friends and families gather at cafés, restaurants and gelato shops around town or just relax on the waterfront’s park benches. Tradition matters here.

Bellagio doesn’t hit you with a full frontal assault of neon lights and glitz. Instead, it seduces you gently as you observe life in slow motion. 

Grand Experiences

You have hit the jackpot of guest experiences during your stay at Bellagio’s crown jewel—the five-star Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni. Situated near the promontory’s edge, guests enjoy the view of Lake Como’s shimmering blue waters and the Swiss Alps in the background. 

Seventy-three guest rooms and 22 elegantly appointed and spacious suites, which exude a sophisticated style from its Italian and aristocratic past, have been enhanced with modern touches and conveniences that today’s travellers expect. Patrons admire the detailed frescoed ceilings, art masterpieces and antique furnishings that adorn their quarters and other areas throughout the property. While some keep fit in the indoor and outdoor swimming pools and fitness centre, others may choose to be pampered at the Villa Serbelloni spa.   

The hotel’s exceptional service doesn’t come with a heavy dose of pretentiousness but rather genuine friendliness. Its distinguished service keeps guests coming back. And what a guest list it is. 

I peek at one of the most treasured items at the villa—the guest book, which dates back to 1925 with iconic figures from the world of politics, royalty, business and the entertainment world leaving notes of gratitude. Among them are many queens, princesses and princes from European and Russian families. Other noteworthy patrons include Mary Pickford, Winston Churchill, John F. Kennedy, Deepak Chopra, Gloria Gaynor, George Lucas, Robert De Niro, Clark Gable, Robert Mitchum, Douglas Fairbanks Sr. and more.

You don’t have to be part of the Hollywood elite to stay here or even visit Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni. Many visitors to Bellagio come just to treat their palates to flavour-bursting dishes prepared by Michelin-star executive chef Ettore Bocchia in the hotel’s Terrazza Serbelloni fine-dining restaurant and Mistral, its more informal restaurant. Revered in Europe, Bocchia is an innovative leader in creating a full-tasting menu of molecular cuisine. One of his most famous dishes is a filet of turbot mixed in melted sugars—it literally will melt in your mouth. The hotel’s rich history, ornate surroundings, decor and impeccable service make it a truly memorable experience that must not be missed when visiting Bellagio.

Famous Shrines

Bellagio boasts a number of churches, gardens and other attractions, some of which date back to Roman times. However, a famous landmark right next to the Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni is the Villa Serbelloni Gardens owned since 1959 by the Rockefeller Foundation. Its history dates back centuries. Take a tour of its lush gardens once frequented by Leonardo da Vinci, numerous artists, scholars and world leaders. 

Two-wheeler enthusiasts consider the Bellagio area a cycling mecca. If you don’t mind a 20-minute hair-raising switchback drive up mountain roads, visit the Madonna del Ghisallo where you will find a shrine to cyclists. Inside the small monument burns an eternal flame that was blessed back in 1949 by Pope Pius XII. Memorabilia from cyclists, jerseys and even vintage bikes line the walls of the shrine. Situated at the summit in Magreglio, it features spectacular views of Lake Como and the surrounding mountain countryside. Beside the shrine, the Museo del Ciclismo details the fascinating and proud cycling history of Italy and beyond.

Feeling presidential? Drop by Arte & Moda boutique in Bellagio where you will find stylish and famed art clothing creations by Pierangelo Masciadri who designed ties made of the finest silk for U.S. presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. In fact, the Como area is world-renowned for its silk so, if in Como, drop by the Silk Museum of Como.  

Indulge in homemade gelato, then head down to the waterfront and rent a kayak or a boat or tour Lake Como by private water taxi or the public ferry to find out why they call Bellagio the Pearl of Lake Como.

Travel Planner

Take a 30-minute train ride from Milan’s central station to Como then take a bus, taxi or boat to Bellagio. For more information on Bellagio, Lake Como and Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni, visit: 

PromoBellagio: bellagiolakecomo.com

Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni: villaserbelloni.com

 
 
 
 
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