Trying to find a place in Europe at this time of year with affordable but luxurious accommodation, uninterrupted sunshine and little or no tourists, all of which are in relatively easy access from one’s abode, is truly a challenge. So George Clooney’s summer hangout in the picturesque town of Laglio on the shores of Lake Como came through as an unlikely destination for a quiet getaway.
The criteria for me and my wife was simple; we had managed to bribe my sister to look after our daughter for a weekend and therefore give us are first break away as a couple since she was born. Soon we would have a glorious chance to catch up on a half normal sleeping pattern and have at least a couple of drinks safe in the knowledge of no wake up calls the following morning.
I had always wanted to go to Lake Como. To be fair to George Clooney and his Oceans 11 buddies, they had sold the concept of Como very well to me in the past by cavorting with scantily clad beauties at his luxury mansion amidst stunning Como scenery. We found the Villa Relais Vittoria in Laglio courtesy of Mr. Google, having been immediately taken in by the photos of a grand, traditional Italian villa with prices that wouldn’t terminally break our wallets.
Despite a weekend’s peace and quiet, my wife understandably felt sad leaving our daughter for a first weekend in two years. As did I, of course, but these thoughts on the drive down from Zug were soon to disappear when faced with the terror that is Italian drivers. Taking the road into Italy from the Swiss border we had little time to admire the beautiful views of the lake. This was due to concentrating on surviving the main road before turning off into Laglio’s impossibly thin side streets to find the Vittoria. Patience, negotiating roundabouts (we were later to witness a lorry parking in the middle of one in Cernobbio), speed limits and the Highway Code are not on the list of priorities for an Italian driver.
First impressions of the Villa Vittoria were everything we hoped it would be. This stunning country house has uninhibited views of Lake Como and is built in a classical Italian manner. A subtle, rustic interior is complemented by an intimate but well-groomed garden complete with a luxurious infinity swimming pool.
The principal appeal of Vittoria is that there are only 13 suites, meaning that however busy it maybe outside the hotel walls you will always have space and tranquility inside. Crucially, you can get a sun lounger close to the pool without being barged out of the way by a German and you can switch off very happily within the comfy confines of Vittoria’s gardens.
As happy as we were in our hotel, Lake Como is far too attractive for you to be stuck indoors, particularly in soothing mid-twenties temperatures, which kindly stayed with us until we left. The Vittoria ,in keeping with Italian time’, provided breakfast no earlier than 8.30 am which left us gnawing at the bed frame given our internal parental alarm clocks going off without fail at 6.30 am.
That said, slipping into Italian time’ did us no harm at all as we lazily sauntered onto the ferry from Cadenabbia to Bellagio upon request of my wife wanting to sample the shopping around these parts. This was daunting, given that Bellagio is the kind of place George (known as the l’effetto George around these parts) and his mates will go to with plenty of designer labels in residence. Bellagio is a headland of grand hotels on the waterfront at exorbitant prices catering primarily for Americans and Russians, judging by the accents. However, don’t put be put off, there are plenty of delightful cobbled walkways which are home to an assortment of enticing wine shops, silk outlets and, of course, delicious restaurants.
You cannot go to Italy without having some kind of interest in food, especially if you are keen on pasta or pizza. Sample the ravioli at the Bilacus restaurant in Bellagio and you will not be disappointed. Clinking with bottles of Lombardian reds from a delightful wine shop called the Entoeca Principessa, and with my wife being equally happy with her garment haul, we left Bellagio behind just in time before the temptation of splashing out further became too great.
Cernobbio, close by Laglio as you drive towards Como, is attractive although don’t go on a late Sunday afternoon when evening mass is on – the entire town and most of Italy seemed to be looking for a car space. There are some delightful shops selling traditional Italian produce including popular silk attire, dozens of different types of pasta as well as wine. The town is laid back to say the least (well, on a Monday) judging by the local polizia who stood by their cars in the hazy sunshine, unshaven, smoking Marlboro Reds whilst nodding in approval to the local female talent passing by on the waterfront. You have got to love Italy.
The Vittoria more than made up the rest of our weekend. Unashamedly, we made use of the deserted sun loungers, slumped very contently with an appropriate drop of red whilst snoozing to the gentle sounds of Lake Como lapping against the villa gates.
Occasionally we did venture out of our slumber to explore options for lunches and dinners. We found two gems close to Laglio. If you want a good pizza, head to nearby La Piazzetta in Argegno. You will leave richly fulfilled and wishing that you had never eaten at Pizza Express. However, the absolute winner was the Crotto dei Platani, idyllically located on the lake’s edge five minutes drive from the Vittoria. At very reasonable prices you get wonderful service including a welcome glass of Prosecco and a wide variety of classical Italian dishes including home made pasta and porcini. Mix it in with a breathtaking view, a cracking wine cellar and you have a truly, wonderful culinary experience.
Lake Como and the Vittoria combined marvelously well for a perfect weekend getaway. We mercifully did not run into Mr. Clooney (well, perhaps my wife wouldn’t have minded). Credit to George though, he has put Laglio on the map and clearly has very good taste in choosing summer villas.
TOP IMAGE: One of the many stunning mansions you glide past on the waters of Lake Como (Via EzPzPics/Pixabay)