By Emma Krasov, photography by Yuri Krasov
Calm and serenity are the prevailing feelings at Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni in Bellagio, Italy, “the Pearl of Lake Como.” Calm, serenity, and Old World elegance and charm, and the immense beauty of the deepest in Europe glacial lake, surrounded by snowy mountain peaks of the Southern Alps, yet acting as a thermal reserve, and providing a fertile environment for olives and laurels, planted here by the ancient Romans. Calm, serenity, and beauty are endemic to this natural gem, while elegance, steeped in tradition, emanates from the stately champagne-colored building overlooking the lake, the only 5-star luxury hotel in Bellagio, the inimitable Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni, for a century now owned and operated by the Bucher family.
Staying here is like being in a constant state of reverie, so dreamy is the surrounding area, so palatial the interior of the grand hotel, so attentive the service, so delectable the cuisine and wine.
From my balcony, I can watch a blue shimmering swimming pool, flower beds of the manicured grounds, palm trees, gently swaying in the barely perceptible breeze.
In my room, with high ceiling, beautifully upholstered antique furniture, and 19th century paintings on the walls, I luxuriate in the sunlight streaming through the silk curtains, noiselessly move upon patterned carpets, and relax in a queenly bed, clad with starched linens.
In the hotel’s common areas I can’t get enough of the marble stairs, gilded cupids, potted plants, elaborately decorated vaulted ceilings, parquet floors and fireplaces, plush armchairs and settees, and the general atmosphere of quiet luxury, where everything is designed for the hotel guests’ utmost pleasure.
Hotel breakfasts are served in the most richly decorated baroque dining hall, so incredibly gorgeous that every slice of cheese, and every morsel of fresh fruit seems doubly delicious, and the food is excellent, and excellently served, not to mention the real Italian espresso that starts at breakfast, and then can be had at the bar, on a terrace, in the living room, by the pool…
A short walk through the medieval town with steep cobblestone streets and a Lombard-Romanesque basilica of St. James, opens up a treasure trove of boutique shopping in the characteristic arcades, multiple outdoor eateries under the sycamore trees, and quite a few historical parks and gardens, like Giardini di Villa Melzi, studded with classical sculptures and planted with exotic trees and shrubs.
At night, my indulgence lies at the famed Michelin-star restaurant, Mistral, a big part of the Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni unforgettable experience. Ettore Bocchia, a highly creative chef, builds dinner menu based on the freshest produce available on any given day. The Chef is best known for molecular cuisine of which he is the leading expert in Italy, applying scientific principles to his modern twist on traditional Italian specialties.
This night, however, I indulge in an old gourmet French recipe, once a staple on luxury cruise ships, like Queen Mary II, and at celebratory banquets, that’s slowly making a comeback. It’s a notorious Canard à la presse or pressed duck – a labor-intense dish involving liquefaction of duck carcass after the duck breast and legs are removed and grilled to perfection. The carcass, pressed in a “menacing looking machine” emits bloody juice that’s cooked into a sauce with added wine or hard liquor. This sauce is poured over the legs and duck breast, and really makes it taste like nothing any duck lover has ever tried before!
My decadent duck dinner is preceded by fresh house-made linguini, with shaved-over truffle; the hotel’s signature red wine, and concluded with handmade table-side vanilla ice cream, made with the help of liquid nitrogen that creates velvety texture without freezing the taste buds.
Just like everything else at Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni, this dinner is perfectly dreamy, and remains in my gustatory memory until today, when I’m writing these words, many months past my glorious visit.
The usual hotel season, from April through October, is about to begin. This year, Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni opens on April 5. Located at: Via Roma, 1, 22021 Bellagio CO, Italy. Phone: +39 031 950216.
Reservations (and an early booking discount offer) at: https://www.villaserbelloni.com/Bellagio/en/.