The Grand Hotel Victoria, Lake Como’s newest five-star property, makes a great base for exploring cute villages, gourmet dining, and spas.
For years, jet setters have come to Lake Como attracted by picture-perfect Italian towns, superb Italian cuisine, luxury villas and hotels, celebrity residents, and sparkling water. With the opening of the area’s newest five-star hotel, The Grand Hotel Victoria Concept & Spa, by R Collection Hotels, travelers have a new place to call home on the lake.
Just steps from the lake in the medieval town of Menaggio, R-Collection’s The Grand Hotel Victoria rises on what was once an ancient convent in a completely renovated 19th-century neoclassic building.
My husband and I are greeted with a big “Buongiorno” when we walk into the cool, calming, white-marbled lobby. After completing the paperwork, we were handed a glass of Prosecco and ushered to a lounge area on the expansive lawn fronting the lake. After a three-hour drive from Switzerland, it was the perfect way to unwind and get in a laid-back lake state of mind.
A Suite Time
After finishing our bubbles, we headed up to our lake-view suite. Upon opening the door, I was first struck by the incredible scent, which I later learned was the hotel’s signature Victoria fragrance. We loved it so much that we bought a diffuser to bring the smell of Como to our house in Phoenix.
The second thing I noticed was the view outside the window, and I could tell this would be another room I wouldn’t want to leave. The furnishings in the suite include the best in-room bar I’ve ever seen and a wall that swivels to turn the TV into the living room or bedroom. In the bathroom, I discovered well-appointed his and hers toiletry bags.
The hotel’s Erre Spa is Lake Como’s largest spa and, without a doubt, its best. The spa boasts a large pool with built-in places to sit or lounge and enjoy a cascade of bubbles that aim to soothe and relax. The chromotherapy at work in the pool, jacuzzi, and Kneipp passageway areas adds another layer to the spa experience.
Different aromas and essences filled my nose in the rain shower area, The Himalayan Salt Room, and saunas. I admit that hating anything cold, I skipped the Ice Room in favor of the Fire Relaxation room, equipped with a faux fire and hanging cocoon chairs. While the spa amenities are inherently relaxing, guests should be forewarned that the spa accepts young children and, at times, the pool area is less than tranquil.
For total solitude, book a personalized massage tailored to your needs. Despite having had a recent massage, my persistent knots challenged my therapist. While I felt better after the treatment, she suggested I might need a physical therapist or weekly massages (my fantasy).
Dream Dining at Lake Como
One of the best things about eating in Italy is the aperitivo. Far more than happy hour, the pre-dinner drink includes substantial appetizers. Sitting back on the hotel’s lawn enjoying the food, view, company, and a classic Aperol Spritz, it was hard to remember the stresses of “real” life.
We enjoyed dinner on the Lago Restaurant terrace, starting with a bottle of Opera, a crisp white blend from the Lombardy region that paired perfectly with our starter of amberjack ceviche with rhubarb and radish and a main seafood course.
The next night, we headed to our favorite town in the area, Varenna, and dinner at another R-Collection property, The Hotel Royal Victoria. The fine-dining Visteria Restaurant is a modern seven-top restaurant with panoramic lake views.
In this intimate restaurant, Chef Francesco Sarno turned out a gourmet feast with a Mediterranean flair. The meal started with the most stunning amuse-bouche presentation I’ve experienced. Different bites were presented on five white pedestals of varying heights. Between these small tastes, I’m afraid I’m already a bit full before the first course of a perfectly cooked octopus arrives. Whatever you order, make sure the lemon risotto with scampo is part of your meal, and if you order a dessert, be forewarned that a decadent platter of petit fours will still follow.
With Mennagio’s enviable central lake location, it’s easy to explore other lake towns using the local ferry. Rides cost about $10, and in 15 minutes, you can be at two of the most popular spots on Lake Como—Bellagio and Varenna.
I was excited to visit Bellagio because of its popularity and having just read a book set in the town. However, it ironically ended up being my least favorite lakeside village. While the hillside town offers plenty of shopping, it is also brimming with tourists and grumpy workers. After a quick pizza lunch, my husband and I grab the ferry to Varenna.
Across the lake, Varenna is worlds away in energy and attitude. Here, the pace is slow, the buildings are colorful, and you have better access to the lake. We disembarked the ferry and jumped on the Passeggiatta degli innamorati or Lover’s Promenade, a short walkway rimming the lake that took us on a scenic walk to the center of town.
With its cobblestone streets and narrow alleys steep with stairs, Varenna looks precisely like you’d want an old Italian town to look. We wandered down any path that sparked our interests, eventually stumbling upon an artist’s studio. As the artist worked on a new piece, we perused the pretty watercolors that perfectly captured Varenna and bought two to bring home.
Before having dinner at Visteria, we took in the gardens at Villa Cipressi. The impressive gardens were constructed between 1400 and 1800 and featured a wide variety of plants and flowers from around the world. Thanks to the QR codes on all the signs, it was easy to learn about what we were seeing. As we wound through slopping terraces and staircases, it was hard to decide which was more beautiful—the garden or the view from it.
Articles Related to Visiting Italy
Lakeside in Lake Como
While most travelers visit Florence for its museums, Rome for its history, and Milan for the fashion, I believe the more relaxed pace, smaller towns, and tranquil environment found around Lake Como deliver the true la dolce vita we’re all hungry for. We invite you to explore Wander With Wonder for more things to do when you visit Italy.
Lakeside Luxury at Lake Como