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Decanter’s Dream Destination: Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni, Lombardy, Italy

Every month, Decanter selects a must-visit destination for wine travellers. This time, Alicia Miller visits a historic hotel on Lake Como where old-world glamour lives on.

To call the Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni an icon of Lake Como is to almost undersell its gilt-edged status. For 150 years – more than 100 of them under the stewardship of the Bucher family, who still own and operate it today – this palatial grande dame has dominated the lakefront of picturesque Bellagio, drawing the crème-de-la-crème of aristocracy, politicians and film stars.

The likes of Winston Churchill, JFK and FDR have graced the rambling suites overlooking the mountain-backed lake. Personalities such as Douglas Fairbanks, Al Pacino and Monica Bellucci have dined under a swirl of frescoed angels in its vast breakfast room or sipped spritzes by the piano in the gilded marble-columned lounge.

Bucher family members work tirelessly to keep the hotel looking fresh, from the hand-stitched Como silk duvets to the shimmering Murano glass chandeliers. Service is as polished as the exquisite silverware. The wine cellar is stacked with treasures. While the rest of the world rushes by in a blur of tech and modernity, within these walls time stands blissfully still.

Food and wine

The Mistral Restaurant. Credit: Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni

The bedrooms are every bit as opulent as you’d hope – particularly the pair of presidential suites. The one occupied by Churchill boasts the remnants of a historic chapel, alongside antique wood furniture and oil paintings. But for gourmands the real appeal of a stay at Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni is in the culinary programme.

Lunches of freshly landed lake fish can be enjoyed at an eatery overlooking the pool. Meanwhile casual evenings feature bergamot-infused spritzes on the open-air terrace. They’re accompanied by a parade of crafted canapés featuring king crab, lobster and caviar.

The pièce de resistance, however? The central glass-lined terrace Mistral Restaurant, overlooking the lake in all its glory. Here white-suited waiters deliver a precise tasting menu from chef Ettore Bocchia. His menus feature ethically produced Spanish foie gras from Eduardo Sousa, the hotel’s signature peacock tortellini (it may sound unusual, but it’s delicious) and expertly cooked turbot.

The wine list contains a number of exciting listings such as Col d’Orcia Brunello di Montalcino 1990, Antinori Pian delle Vigne Brunello di Montalcino 1995 and Cappellano Otin Fiorin Piè Rupestris Barolo 1998. But you can also ask the sommelier to explore more local Lombardy selections.

These include affordable reds from La Costa, such as San Giobbe Pinot Nero 2019. Or, for something truly unique, Luca Bellani’s organic Apnea Calata. This Pinot Nero spumante brut is harvested outside Milan and aged in the depths of Lake Como, where waves naturally riddle the bottles.

Out and about

Credit: Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni

Lombardy is home to some of northern Italy’s most beautiful landscapes, so it’s not hard to find appeal beyond the grounds of Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni. Should you fancy a wine-based expedition, the hotel’s concierge can arrange a trip to the aforementioned La Costa to sample the full range – from the fresh Solesta Terre Lariane IGT white blend to the sticky Calido Muscat. They’ll arrange transfers to winery Nino Negri too, an hour and a half away in Lombardy’s Valtellina, where Nebbiolo takes focus.

Closer to home in Bellagio, experiences abound on the lake. Hire a polished wood Venetian-style boat for a zip along the blue, taking in the full splendour of the lakefront towns from the water and journeying towards landmark Villa del Balbianello. If it looks familiar, that’s because it has appeared in both Casino Royale and Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones.

In Bellagio itself, there are cobbled streets full of boutiques and the manicured waterside botanical garden of Villa Melzi d’Eril. By the time you’ve finished, you’ll have earned your downtime back at the hotel. Chill out on the palm-studded beach terrace, where direct access to the lake waters allows for cooling dips in the height of summer.

Nightly rates at Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni start from €577  for a Classic Park View Room. For more information, visit the Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni website.

Credit: Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni

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