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By Elaine Markoutsas | Photo: Photography courtesy of Il Sereno Lago di Como | July 6, 2017
Designed by Patricia Urquiola, the recently opened Il Sereno Lago di Como offers a stylish and modern retreat to escape to and indulge in all Lake Como has to offer.
The first time I arrived in Lake Como, Italy, it took my breath away. The inspiring landscape of lush vegetation, terra-cotta roofs and pastel architecture rising above chameleon waters against a backdrop of the snowcapped Italian Alps is unmatched.
Most of the luxury accommodations in the area date back to the 16th century. However, it’s the newest jewel, Il Sereno Lago di Como on the southeast shore, generating the most buzz. From the moment I heard about its opening last summer from its Milan-based designer and architect Patricia Urquiola and her business partner-husband, Alberto Zontone, I couldn’t wait to visit. A trip to the annual Salone del Mobile in Italy’s design capital offered the ideal opportunity for a brief getaway.
Como, a charming town known for centuries for its silk production, is about an hour by car from Milan, a little less by train from the central station. From there, a 10-minute taxi ride delivered me to the village of Torno. Once on-property, I was escorted by a staff member up a path enveloped by orange trees, blue hydrangeas, roses, flowers and grasses to the hotel perched on a cliff in the distance.
The architecture is a stark modular grid of five stories of wood, glass and stone set on a centuries-old granite foundation. Its look is more midcentury than the familiar neoclassical or baroque buildings common in Como, thanks to slatted poplar louvers on the facade that shift with the light throughout the day to provide shade.
I walked through a narrow, dramatic passage with a soaring living green wall on one side to a green stone reception desk. Casual seating includes a pair of the designer’s colorful Lilo lounge chairs, but it’s the living sculpture designed by French botanist Patrick Blanc—to emulate aerial roots seen in mangroves and banyan trees—that dazzles. Everything here is understated and sophisticated—the signature style of the Spanish-born designer.
Urquiola used the setting as inspiration and chose a neutral palette with accents of blue, green and apricot in organic materials such as leather, wool, wood, copper and stone. She fashioned everything from the outside in, with extraordinary attention to detail using an arsenal of her own products from the likes of Moroso, B&B Italia and Flos, along with many custom pieces. Ceppo di Gré stone was used for the facade, paving stone is Pietra di Fossena and Venetian Terrazzo is the floor of the restaurant—where she chose everything down to the wire copper breadbaskets.
I’m given a tiny linen-clad booklet that holds my room keys as well as foldout watercolor sketches of the hotel and a map of the entire lake. A staff member leads me to the bar for a welcome drink, just beyond a spectacular walnut staircase with bronze-detailed floating stairs within an impressive cage of crossing copper tubes. With options like a large library and wraparound terrace to lounge in, it’s easy to get comfortable, and I find a cozy spot outdoors by the living wall. My spacious suite, one of only 30, has a foyer anchored by a lovely cabinet, which doubles as a bar with amazing snacks in glass jars bearing the hotel’s own label. The stunning bath features an integrated floating Travertino Noce sink and Urquiola’s own fittings for Hansgrohe Axor with toiletries from Ex Voto Paris that are perfect after a soak in the sculptural freestanding tub or a soothing rain shower.
Plush terry robes and towels are from French luxury brand D. Porthault, as are the linens in the bedroom. Stylish globe sconces hang on an upholstered wall featuring a digital print of water. Hidden reading lights are a welcome touch.
The spa, which opened in June, is built in the darsena, or boathouse. There is a private small sand beach with handcrafted polished mahogany and cedar boats you can take for a spin around the lake and a deck with a 60-foot-long infinity pool.
At dinner in the Berton Al Lago, four-star Michelin chef Andrea Berton specializes in northern Italian cuisine and local fare, such as saffron risotto, with wines and cheese from region. The pistachio parfait, more the texture of a panna cotta with teeny berries is extraordinary.
What to do next? I could take a funicular ride for a bird’s-eye view or pad about town and check out the silk shops. I could always visit the beautiful villas and gardens... but the truth is, I didn’t want to leave the hotel. When my taxi finally pulled away after a too-brief stay, I felt refreshed in body, mind and soul, with indelible picture-postcard images that will last a lifetime. Room rates from $950 per night, Via Torrazza 10, Torno, Como, 39.031.5477.800