Take a Peek Inside Lake Como's Grand Dame Hotel

The celebrity-favored luxury resort Villa d'Este has a rich-and royal-history.

From the moment you step foot into the ornate lobby of Villa d’Este, you feel as though you’ve been transported to a bygone era. Crystal chandeliers dangle from intricate domed ceilings. Rows of hulking marble columns extend as far as the eye can see. The scent of freshly cut flowers wafts through the air.

It’s easy to imagine what it must have been like here more than a century ago, when Villa d’Este was frequented by European aristocracy and jetsetting royals. Though the destination has changed since the hotel first opened in 1873 (Lake Como is now synonymous with George Clooney and fancy floating pools) the tradition of old-world hospitality remains the same.

Even for the well-traveled, it is a property quite unlike any other, which is why regulars continue to return year after year. In fact, the hotel’s longest returning guest—who’s been visiting the resort for 55 years—can recall when rooms were just $38 per night. Sure, there are more modern places to stay (St Barths-based Sereno Hotels just opened Il Sereno across the lake) but the kind of people you’ll find at Villa d’Este aren’t concerned with what’s hot and new. They’re traditionalists—many of whom insist on staying in the same room, during the same week, year after year.

The hotel’s rich history can be felt in every crevice, and there’s a story to be told about each detail. Here are few of our favorites.

The property, a member of The Leading Hotels of the World, has hosted an impressive roster of guests.

Among them? Bruce Springsteen, Madonna, Ralph Lauren, Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones, Calvin Klein, and Robert De Niro.


Elton John sent his personal chef to "school" at one of Villa d'Este's restaurants.

Years ago, the legendary musician visited for dinner (he was staying at Gianni Versace's nearby Villa Fontanelle) and was so impressed with the food, he asked if he could send his personal chef to take lessons in the kitchen. She ended up staying for a few weeks—and learned how to prepare 15 different types of pasta.

It's long been a hangout for the Hollywood elite.

From 1988 to 1992, Villa d’Este hosted the Hollywood Festival, which featured stars and starlets like Bette Davis, Lauren Bacall, Robert Mitchum, Gene Kelly, and more.

It was the first hotel to start the "floating swimming pool" concept on the lake.

The original pool was created in 1966. It was replaced several years later with the pool that's still seen floating on the lake to this day.

The staff is massive. During high season, it employs 340 people for 167 rooms.

The hotel plants approximately 80,000 new flowers ??each year.

The property was built as a private residence for an Italian cardinal in 1568.

It became a luxury hotel three centuries later, quickly attracting European royalty as guests.

There are 47 chefs on staff.

With a team that large, it's no wonder the hotel recently revamped its kitchen, which now spans more than 8,000 square feet.

The grounds are expansive.

There are 8 full-time gardeners that tend to its 10 acres of park.

Villa d'Este has both hotel suites and private villas.

Villa Cima, seen here, was built in 1814 by Caroline of Brunswick. It has three stories and four bedrooms, spanning 7,000 square-feet.

This story originally appeared on
* Minor edits have been made by the editors.

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