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If ever you fancy a rest in perfect luxury in one of the world’s most beautiful places, there is one place well worth staying, the Grand Hotel Tremezzo overlooking Lake Como in Italy.
I don’t normally wax lyrically about hotels but having had a week on Lake Como ( and in case you are wondering not a journo’s freebie) and stayed in a family run hotel with beautiful surroundings, superb food and a very comfortable and large double bed, it is difficult to avoid it.
My view may have been coloured by the warm spring weather – enough for the Italians to open the hotel’s outdoor garden swimming pool early – and the magic of dining every night in a restaurant with a panoramic view of Lake Como. Or it could have the stunning situation next door to the Villa Carlotta with its huge gardens full of camellias and wisteria. Or the boat services on the lake to Como and Bellagio, a lovely city and a town full of alleyways.
The Villa Carlotta is remarkably disabled friendly – which was great for my wife Margaret – given the fact it is built on a mountainside. There are lifts to two levels of the garden and a lift to the top floor of the villa itself.
Named after the daughter of the King of Prussia who married Georg, the Grand Duke of Saxe Meiningen – she is responsible for the design of the garden – but sadly only lived there for five years before dying at the age 23 in childbirth in 1855 after having three children. He lived on until 1914, remarried twice, collected hundreds of species for the garden, and took an interest in theatre. The top floor of the villa is full of furniture, china, paintings and a flag from their stay there.
The stunning beauty of the lake has always attached the wealthy – in the past rival aristocrats and politicians who vied with each other for the most stunning villas. Now it is the haunt of global celebrities whether Greta Garbo ( who stayed at the hotel) or more recently George Clooney (said to have a £7.5m lakeside villa in Laglio), Madonna and fashion designer Versace.
Travel on the lake is also disabled friendly – the local boats and faster hydrofoils – have easy access on level gangways.And they had disabled loos. Elderly tourists get a 20 per cent discount through Britain’s EU membership ( though for how long this will be is not clear).
Bus services run from Como to Menaggio along the lake – where it is not clear whether the elderly have free travel, but we were not charged for using the service, ending up by mistake at the town’s bus depot rather than the prettier centre.
The centre of Como and most of the waterfront has also been pedestrianised allowing easy access to the cathedral which intriguingly pays homage to both the pagan Romans Pliny the Younger and the Elder as well as Catholic saints.
If you fancy splashing out and enjoy beautiful scenery or are feeling a bit romantic this is the place for you. And a welcome rest from the grim national and international situation. No wonder the rich like it.