Monday, July 10, 2017


If the Mediterranean summer is too hot for you, we suggest a sublime lakeside spot in Italy. Luxury travel advisor Collette O’Connor visits two hotels by magical Lake Como….CastaDiva and Il Sereno.

In summer Lake Como offers a true Mediterranean ambience without the humidity. Lying at the foothills of the Alps, Italy’s third biggest lake has fresh, clean air, while Italian charm suffuses small lakeside villages with bell towers and churches in natural stone. Beautiful villas are surrounded by magnificent gardens with steps adorned with statues leading down to the lake.

Part of the mystique is the depth of the lake which goes down to 200 metres below sea level.  

In this setting stand two rather different but equally delightful hotels – CastaDiva and Il Sereno – both in beautiful landscaped gardens with lake views. They make a memorable introduction to Lake Como for those who may have exhausted the Amalfi Coast and other Mediterranean options – or want it cooler.

Stunningly positioned lakeside, you can explore authentic and charming Italian villages by boat over the still waters with mountains framing the horizon. 

The area also offers a plethora of sporty activities from gentle to extreme. We have to include shopping as an extreme sport for we are in Italy!  Como city is a true shopping haven with options for all budgets;  high end fashion retailers compete here with standard high street options and independent boutiques.

As Como is easily accessible from Milan by rail, a stay by Lake Como can easily be included in a grand Italian tour, especially for honeymooners or those celebrating a special anniversary or life milestone.

Arrive by boast to charming towns and villages asround the lake

Hotel CastaDiva

CastaDiva offers a stunningly romantic position on the lake front set in beautiful manicured grounds, with the largest spa on the lake. The property has an exclusive feel, albeit with a convivial ambience especially on the weekends when stylish families and couples from Milan descend.

It is the former home of Opera singer Giuditta Pasta, and her image and musicality is evident throughout. Colourful lounges in the main Villa Roccabruna set against the lake vistas make for an aesthetically appealing first impression, especially when you arrive by boat.

Villa Roccabruna

The hotel is perfectly positioned to explore the nearby city of Como or take boat trips on the lake to neighbouring villages for lunch stops and shopping. Or simply lounge beside the hotel’s floating pool for vistas of lake and mountains.

The pool floating on the  lake

This is also a sublime environment for a spa holiday. The sophisticated spa is beautifully appointed: designed by Paolo Bodega, over an area of 1300 sqm. It is the largest one on Lake Como and offers beautiful unique spaces, where guests can enjoy a truly sensory experience among water features in an environment that reminds of an old steamboat, or sitting on comfortable chaise lounges on a glass floor, suspended over a 19th century dock. This is the perfect place to unwind.

Spa indoor pool

Food and restaurant service are excellent. The Orangerie restaurant offers a gourmet menu which is served only for dinner, together with refined and new tasting menus. Giardino Dei Sapori offers typical Italian cuisine on the breathtaking terrace for lunch and a traditional luch is served on the terrace L´Orangerie restaurant for your "alfresco meal". The culinary proposal of the resort is enriched by the CastaDiva Gorumet Pizzas menu and rich BBQ offer. Bar Bellini has a luxurious ambience and a breathtaking view over Lake Como especially from its outdoor terrace. Perfect as a meeting place, it offers a tasty range of light meals, salads and snacks at lunch and dinner, as well as cocktails, signature and classic drinks.

The rooms and suites are housed in a series of villas, the original being the RoccaBruna Villa. This is also home to the public lounges, front desk and guest relations, spa and a beautiful stair case modelled on La Scala in Milano.

Each room/suite varies hugely even within the same category. It is wise to request a floor plan and images when booking as there are better solutions in each category and some rooms have small windows.

Penthouse suite in Villa Gilda

Do book a lake view room with balcony...

Double deluxe room with balcony in Villa Dorabella

We especially liked the Junior suite lake view for spacious contemporary living with pleasing decor/colour schemes, but if money is no object go for Suite Fiordiligli – for privacy and stunning terrace.

CastaDiva offers pleasant rather informal service, and is especially suited to younger couples and families newer to luxury travel, who like to seek new adventures and experiences.

No. of rooms:  73 rooms, 58 of them are suites and junior suites and 2 private villas
Distance from airport: 50 mins by car. By train – 1h 20 mins from Milan Malpensa to Como Lago Nord – with one change enroute in Saronno then 2 mins walk and arrival in style by hotel boat (10 mins). Train from Milano Centrale – Como Lago Nord is only 45 minutes.
Distance from nearest town/shops/restaurants: 5 km to Como City, Blevio village is approx 15 – 20 mins walk.
Spa: sophisticated facilities include sauna, steam bath, Mediterranean bath, relaxation pool with side jest, Vitality Pool with hydromassage and chromotherapy, Kneipp circuit, balancing Himalayan rose salt room, refreshing ice cascade, emotional showers with peppermint and exotic fragrances.
Gym: Kinesis and state-of-the-art equipment by Technogym.
Watery activities off site arranged by the hotel: jet skiing, waterskiing, watersports, fishing – and on land hiking.
Lake Como (Lago di Como): area of 146 sq km, third-largest lake in Italy, after Lake Garda and Lake Maggiore. Over 400 m deep, it is one of the deepest lakes in Europe, with lake bottom more than 200 m below sea level.
Who to stay:  those who appreciate classic design and tranquility.

Il Sereno

Among the opulent aristocratic residences of Lake Como is this new sleek hotel – the only property of its type on the lake amongst the established classics. The all-suite Il Sereno is the epitome of modern living – pared back design with clean lines and love of natural light, the creation of Patricia Urqioula. Sure to appeal to jet-setters and hip young professionals, particularly from the world of fashion, media and design.

Infinity lap pool at Casta Diva - heated

Il Sereno is the most perfect place to spend a long weekend.  The design aesthetic coupled with lake vistas and clean air will embrace you from arrival.  The immediate sense of calm relaxation reminded me of the feeling you get when you reach the Maldives…minus the jet lag.  

Calmness continues in spacious suites and bathrooms, and extremely comfortable beds.

You have direct access to the lake which is rejuvenating and refreshing to swim in.  The backdrop of the mountains is really dramatic and exhilarates whilst you work out in the water!   
For a bit more warmth, the infinity lap pool is at 30 degrees. There is a beautiful decked area with comfortable sunbeds and day beds to relax on. 

Mealtimes are another source of satisfaction, and you will browse a fabulous wine list. Chef Berton presents modern Italian cuisine in a relaxed yet refined atmosphere for breakfast, lunch and dinner. At Ristorante Berton Al Lago the menu encompasses regions near Lake Como. The lake with its fish and aromatic herbs, the mountains of Valtellina known for its incredible wines, cheeses and meats, and the nearby Pianura Padana, known for its risotto and other fantastic ingredients, are all incorporated.

At the Bar, the head bar man is quite the Alchemist – try the non-alcoholic Negroni whilst breathing 
in the lake air on the terrace!

Our favourite rooms to book include Grand Suite Lago (to ensure a full lake view) and the Penthouse Suite with jaw-dropping views and large skylights filling the bathrooms and corridors with natural light. 

As is the case for all the suites in the hotel, the exquisite interiors and furnishings are by Patricia Urquiola.

Corner suite

Darsena suite showing the richly mellow and textured decor 

Darsena Suite (for 4) right at water level with direct lake access and the large terrace touching the gentle waves - but lower down has a less dramatic view.

When the sweet life at the hotel surfeits, aim beyond the gym for exploration and exercise.
Boating is a splendid way to visit charming Italian towns like Como City, Moltrasio, Cernobbio and Bellagio. The hotel has 3 custom-made Cantiere Ernesto Riva boats available for excursions; and 2 jetto’s – horse power 40 – can be hired for private use, with no licence needed. Public ferries are another option and they go on time. Since taxis are so extortionate in this area a good solution is to lunch out and dine in the hotel or at Il Vapore in Torno, a stroll away. 

Many hiking options are available in the surrounding mountainous area – gentle walks or much more challenging if desired.

And then don't forget the ultimate Italian sport - shopping.

Location: on the eastern shore of Lake Como 6km North of Como City
No. of rooms:  30 suites
Distance from airport:   55 mins by car; or by train from Milan Malpensa to Como Lago Nord /1h 20mins with 1 change en-route, then 2 mins walk and 10 mins by Riva boat. Milano Centrale – Como Lago Nord is only 45 mins.  
Distance from nearest town/shops/restaurants:  6 km from Como City, 5 mins walk to tiny village Torno
Service: as expected in a new hotel it needs to time to get into full swing.
Spa + fitness: due to open July 2017 with floor to ceiling lake views and state of the art fitness facilities. Hotel guests only.
Activities: boat hire at the hotel, cooking lessons, fishing, helicopter rides. Off site options: Vespa and Ferrari tours, kayak, canoe, water ski, horse riding, parasailing, hot air balloon. Surf, soccer, seaplane tours, tennis, paragliding, cycling, rafting in Valtellina, natural reserve cruise, wine tasting.
Who to stay: those who appreciate modern design and tranquility.

Sunbeds at the pool

This blog is based on a report by Select Collection travel advisor Collette O'Connor after a long weekend visit to Lake Como. Images by Select Collection, CastaDiva, Il Sereno & Collette O'Connor.

More about Il Sereno on Select Collection website HERE.

More about CastaDiva on Select Collection website HERE.

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