Even as newer accommodations sprout up along Lake Como's shores, there's one hotel that remains the crown jewel on the water. The iconic Villa d'Este has enjoyed a sparkling reputation since it opened as a hotel in 1873. The original villa was built for Tolomeo Gallio, the Cardinal of Como, in 1568 and the 19th century Queen's Pavilion was added later. In its nearly 150 seasons, the hotel has hosted everyone from Edith Wharton to Elizabeth Taylor, who reportedly began her romance with Conrad Hilton there. Alfred Hitchcock was such a fan of the property, he set his first feature film, The Pleasure Garden, on its grounds. Frank Sinatra, Clark Gable, Rita Hayworth, Ava Gardner, and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor have all enjoyed Villa d'Este's legendary hospitality. George and Amal Clooney often dine at the hotel's casual restaurant, the Grill, when they're in residence on the lake.
"Our guests usually say they come here for the first time for the Villa d'Este reputation and then continue to come back because of the staff," explains Giorgio, the hotel's longtime concierge, who has been a loyal staff member for 44 years. "They feel at home; they know they will find the same people who already know their needs, preferences, and tastes," he says, adding, "They become part of our family."
The hotel's loyal returning guests come back year after year precisely because they can count on the property to remain the same grande dame they've always loved.
At Villa d'Este a revolutionary redesign would be out of the question. The hotel's loyal returning guests come back year after year precisely because they can count on the property to remain the same grand dame they've always loved. In the decades he's been concierge, Giorgio remarks, "I would not say it has changed. It evolves and makes improvements every year to remain the same."
That means every guest can experience the same warm hospitality, wander through the manicured gardens with the gorgeous 16th century mosaic nymphaeum, sip an Aperol Spritz on the lakeside terrace of Bar Canova, savor the same specialties at the Veranda (the hotel's formal restaurant) or the Grill, swim in the famous floating pool, and return to the same suite year after year. Guests might find improvements, like the addition of a new villa or two, but they can count on the property being exactly as they remember it.
Moreover, they know the staff will welcome them back with the same warm hospitality every time they return. Giorgio and his colleagues have organized many special things and satisfied many unusual requests, from simple jaunts around Lake Como aboard a speedboat to adorning the Mosaic Garden with 60,000 roses for a guest's wedding proposal. When Giorgio says that what sets Villa d'Este apart from other luxury hotels is "the attention to every single detail," it's not an exaggeration; it's just how Villa d'Este operates.