There are no bum notes at Passalacqua on the shores of Lake Como, a casa that rivals chez Clooney and was once the home of the composer Bellini. Staff have removed the word ‘no’ from their vocabulary, so meals can be wherever you want them, starting with a rose-garden breakfast. Beneath the villa, there are tunnels providing a secret escape route to the marina for anyone feeling especially dramatic. The seven acres include centuries-old cedars and magnolias and even the gym is in an olive grove. And, when you’re ready to drag yourself away (it may be a while), Beppe the boatman is waiting to set sail into the sunset.
Get this when you book through us:
A signature cocktail each, plus a treat in your room on arrival. GoldSmiths will also get a cooking class with the chef (must be booked in advance)
Double rooms from £659.66 (€770), including tax at 10 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of €5.00 per person per night on check-out.
Rates usually include breakfast.
The musical maison is just as tuneful today – sound-systems in the rooms have three channels with Passalacqua playlists, one of which plays Bellini operas on loop, of course.
At the hotel
Free WiFi throughout, yoga classes, cinema nights, bocce court, clay tennis court, lake-facing gym in an olive grove and five free items of laundry. In rooms: Smeg kettle and Illy coffee machine, Bluetooth sound-system, free minibar with treats from the chef, TV and bespoke bath products.
Our favourite rooms
The rooms are set across three buildings: the main villa, the Palazz and Casa al Lago, whose four suites can be booked as a whole. Composers in need of inspiration should book the Bellini Suite and let the music play.
The third-biggest lake in Italy (not to mention the 11 fountains) may be beckoning, but the hotel’s waterside pool is just as refreshing.
There are treatment rooms in the Palazz, plus a Turkish bath and sauna – but you’ll have to navigate a secret staircase and 300-year-old tunnel to find them. For something more modern, guests can book a Dr Barbara Sturm facial.
The unabashedly opulent interiors may put the more weary items in your suitcase to shame – pack for late-18th-century splendour (without the periwigs).
The 18th-century building is not easily accessible for wheelchair users.
Cots for under-threes and a sofa bed (available in certain categories) for one child under-13 are both free. Sofa beds for older kids are €220 a night. Babysitting can be arranged on request (sadly not with the hotel’s chick mascot, Paolino).
There is an official restaurant, but wherever you’d like to eat, staff will set up a table for you (it’s that kind of place).
Phantom of the opera.
Guests can wander freely in and out of the relaxed restaurant’s kitchens to see what’s cooking (some all-Italian deliciousness undoubtedly). They want you to be able to enjoy their homegrown dishes whenever, wherever and however you’d like them – experiences to try include farm-to-table tasting menus or doing a bit of the cookery yourself.
There’s a mirrored bar in the villa with tables inside and out, and a pool bar overlooking the lake, too. Guests can also enjoy drinks in the library. It’d be rude not to toast the famous former resident with a peachy Bellini.
Breakfast is served from 7am to 11am, with lunch and dinner at whatever time you want them. Afternoon tea can also be served on request. The bar is open until midnight. The pool bar is open from 11am to 7pm.
Unsurprisingly, given the hotel’s hospitable spirit, room service is available around the clock.
The hotel is on the south-west shores of Lake Como, close to the Swiss border and near the comune of Moltrasio.
Milan’s three airports are all within driving distance: Malpensa is 40 minutes away, Linate is a 50-minute drive and the journey to Bergamo should take an hour and 15 minutes. Hotel transfers can be arranged to and from all of these hubs, starting from €190 each way.
The nearest train station is Como San Giovanni, a 10-minute drive away from Passalacqua. Hotel transfers cost from €50.
The preferred mode of transport in Como is by boat, but if you have come by car there’s free valet parking.
The hotel has its own dock for guests arriving by (preferably Riva) boat and there’s a helipad nearby in the village.
Worth getting out of bed for
You could happily while away your time here in the 18th century, with the villa’s Murano chandeliers, frescoes, winter garden and grand staircases for authentic company – swimming in the pool, walking in the woods, playing tennis or bocce, or practising yoga under the magnolia trees. But lakeside towns worth leaving the grounds for include Como, a 20-minute drive south, and Bellagio, a little further north and best reached by boat. Rent a Riva to cruise the lake or, for less glamour, catch the ferry. Guests can also head over to sister property Grand Hotel Tremezzo for a treatment in its T Spa Suite, which has its own hot tub, sauna and steam bath; or, back at Passalacqua, pick something in the garden and cook it with the chef.
For a lakeside setting rivalling Passalacqua’s, book a table on the terrace at Aquadolce in the western-shore town of Carate Urio, or at Al Veluu in the comune of Tremezzina. The theme continues at Trattoria del Glicine, which has tables on a terrace above the lake. Stop by family-run Ristorante Trattoria del Glicine for an authentic Italian gourmet meal without the ostentation. Sip a sommelier-selected wine while sampling the porcini mushroom risotto under 100-year-old vines. If you’re looking for a more laid-back choice, Trattoria La Moltrasinais ideal. Go classic with a diavola pizza, or branch out and try the catalan-style shrimp tails. We recommend asking for a table on the terrace for the best views.
Cernobbio has its own Harry’s Bar, so you can toast Passalacqua’s former landlord and his namesake peachy fizz (even if the cocktail was inspired by another Signor Bellini altogether). And more ridiculously romantic views of the water await at Una Finestra sul Lago (literally: a window on the lake).
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this historic hotel in Italy and unpacked their Como silks and confections, a full account of their lakeside break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Passalacqua in Lake Como…
At Passalacqua – sister property to legendary Como lair Grand Hotel Tremezzo and once visited by Churchill and Napoleon – staff take a ‘whenever, wherever’ approach to service. But it won’t be Shakira supplying the soundtrack – things are a little more highbrow around here. The villa is where the composer Bellini (its former landlord) dreamt up his operas Norma and La Sonnambula.
The actual Bellini beverage, created at Harry’s Bar in Venice, may have been for a different Bellini altogether (and the colour of a toga in one of his paintings) – but there’s always a reason for fizz with peach purée, and you’ll have plenty to toast (namely: discovering this hotel) and eight terraces to do it on. Don’t forget to look up (it’ll be impossible not to) – there are restored frescoes adorning the ceilings, along with outrageously elaborate Murano chandeliers and original stuccoes. La dolce vita may already be sugar-coated, but it can’t get much sweeter than this – the fat lady has sung and everyone else can go home.