Every guest feels like a celebrity at generational family-owned Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni, Lake Como, where the Bucher family preserves tradition while offering the most modern of amenities.
To visit Bellagio’s Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni on the shores of Italy’s Lake Como is to step back in time to a gracious and glorious period of first class hospitality and service. This ICONIC resort, nearly a century and a half old, continues to exude the glamour that once beguiled luminaries such as John F. Kennedy and Sir Winston Churchill, for whom its most dazzling suites are now named. During its historic tenure, the hotel and its garden-bedecked grounds have served as the vacation playground for many recognizable names. But celebrity or not, every visitor is made to feel special—this is the magic that is Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni.
Perhaps it’s the large, lakefront swimming pool that promotes a sense of stardom. Or maybe it’s the attentive, white-coated wait staff serving aperitivo on the upper terrace. It could be the bountiful breakfast, offered every morning in the Murano-chandeliered Royal Hall that makes guests feel like a million bucks. It is most definitely all of it, including a Michelin-starred restaurant, a sumptuous spa, top-of-the-line Etro bath amenities within sparkling new marble bathrooms, and a commitment by owners that the Bucher family is never to compromise. This commitment is well-illustrated by the traditional down bed coverings in each room, for which general manager Jan Bucher specially orders the colorful silk duvets.
During its historic tenure, the hotel and its garden-bedecked grounds have served as the vacation playground for many recognizable names. But celebrity or not, every visitor is made to feel special—this is the magic that is Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni.
The resort may have a throwback vibe, but Jan, the resort’s fourth-generation owner, continues to discreetly add state-of-the-art touches in order to serve a modern and refined clientele. Spacious, gleaming white marble bathrooms are ultramodern. Sustainability is demonstrated by an electrical system that requires the punch of a room key. A surround-sound system delivers soft, mood-appropriate jazz throughout the opulent common areas. But the truth is, most who visit more than desire the escapism provided by the ornate Empire, Neoclassical, and Art Nouveau design; they just want their Wi-Fi as well.
Originally built in 1854 as a vacation home for an aristocratic family from Bergamo, the building was sold in 1872 and opened as a hotel in 1873. In 1918, Jan’s great-grandfather, Swiss businessman Arturo Bucher became the owner. Today, Jan can be found on property daily, elegantly dressed, greeting staff and guests. His is a hands-on operation. He takes great pride in his resort being one of Italy’s oldest family-owned hotels. For him, management of the hotel is extremely personal. “I grew up here, playing in the garden and in the lake,” said Jan, who honed his management skills with other hotel brands in several other countries before returning to what might be called his destiny. “This is my home.”
And what a home it is. Original artworks, many from the Bucher family’s personal collection, hang on every wall, as do tapestries and ancient maps. Original frescoes, gold-gilt pillars, crystal chandeliers, Persian rugs, and trompe l’oeil are abundant. Within the ‘piano nobile,’ the original villa’s reception room atop an ornate marble staircase, sits a piano played by Franz Liszt. This is more than a resort; it’s living history, well-illustrated by the photos, letters, and newspaper clippings on display in the basement portico, which together tell the resort’s complete story, such as how the property served as a refuge during World War II when its Swiss ownership allowed for diplomatic protection for those fleeing the regimes of the time.
Every spacious, high-ceilinged room and suite at the resort is unique, and each is authentically original. Boasting views of the lake, the gardens, and in some cases both, each features pristine and prestigious period furnishings that contrast with flat screen televisions, central AC, and minibars. Six different room categories provide choice; even the smallest – a Classic room – delivers the same lavishness as the immense Imperial Suite that adjoins five different rooms into one private space. And for the ultimate in luxury, it’s the deluxe Senior Suites for which the cognoscenti clamor.
The hotel’s fine dining restaurant Mistral, helmed by Executive Chef Ettore Bocchia, known as the father of Italian molecular gastronomy, boasts a Michelin star. Bocchia is passionate about Mediterranean cuisine, and is peerless in his hunt for the highest quality ingredients, as well as the finest wines. The restaurant features more than 400 International labels. La Goletta offers a more casual environment. Overlooking the pool with a spacious outdoor patio, this is the spot for traditional pasta, meat, and fish dishes.
For the ultimate indulgence, book a treatment at the resort spa, an oasis of tranquility adjacent to what might be the only indoor swimming pool in the region. And if the steep steps of neighboring Bellagio fail to increase your heart rate, a visit to the fitness center can do the trick. There, you’ll find a Pilates studio, a squash court, sauna, and Turkish bath.
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Finally, a visit to Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni is not complete without a day on the lake. The resort works closely with Ezio Gilardoni of Taxi Boat Service, who captains a small fleet of classic wood boats that he skippers directly to the resort’s private dock. Gilardoni proves the perfect guide, whisking guests along the shoreline as he points out Lake Como’s most lavish villas – providing a ‘peak of life’ moment not soon to be forgotten, further illustrating the magic that is Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni.