ONCE UPON A LAKE

VOGUE Living Australia - - CONTENTS - VL Visit grand­hotel­tremezzo.com/en/villa-sola

Owned by the same Ital­ian no­ble fam­ily since the 1700s, the Villa Sola Cabi­ati in Tre­mezzo on Lake Como is filled with ob­jects drip­ping with his­tory

In the 1932 movie Grand Ho­tel, Great Garbo seeks to en­tice her lover with the words, “We’ll go to Tre­mezzo. I have a villa there. The sun will shine… We’ll be happy and lazy.” We can’t all be like Garbo, sport­ing a villa in Tre­mezzo — one of Lake Como’s most ex­clu­sive vil­lages — but we can get a taste now that the lake’s most pres­ti­gious ho­tel, the Grand Ho­tel Tre­mezzo, has added the Villa Sola Cabi­ati to its port­fo­lio. The six-bed­room villa is now the ho­tel’s most lux­u­ri­ous suite, fre­quented by roy­alty and Hol­ly­wood stars.

“The Villa Sola Cabi­ati is one of the great, iconic vil­las on Lake Como,” says Valentina De San­tis, whose fam­ily owns the Grand Ho­tel Tre­mezzo. “Lake Como is dot­ted ev­ery­where with beau­ti­ful vil­las, but few of them have spe­cial his­tor­i­cal value. Most of them are now open to the pub­lic, but the Villa Sola Cabi­ati is not one of them — it’s the only one that has al­ways re­mained pri­vate.” Built in the 16th cen­tury, the villa was ren­o­vated by the no­ble Ser­bel­loni fam­ily when they pur­chased it in the 1700s. It has re­mained in the fam­ily ever since. “When they ac­quired it they added two wings, up­graded the façade, and added the marvel­lous Ital­ian gar­dens that are in front of the villa,” ex­plains De San­tis. “They also called in im­por­tant Ital­ian artists — the fres­cos are from the school of [Gio­vanni Bat­tista] Tiepolo.” ››

‹‹ Walk­ing through the gar­dens and into the villa, you en­ter into a lobby drip­ping with grandeur — or­nate stucco and pas­tel-toned fres­cos are sur­rounded by an­tique fur­ni­ture. Up­stairs, over­look­ing the lake, the Sala Degli Stuc­chi fea­tures fres­cos on the walls and ceil­ing that de­pict Vir­gil’s Aeneid. Here, guests en­joy long, lin­ger­ing lunches with win­dows wide open to the glis­ten­ing blues of the lake. The rest of the af­ter­noon might be spent laz­ing by the pool set among the ram­bling Tus­can-style gar­dens be­hind the villa. When you stay here, every­thing is cov­ered — in­clud­ing your own pri­vate chef and a boat for trips around the lake.

The villa pos­sesses pri­vate mu­seum rooms that can be ex­plored with a guide. A high­light is a bed that once be­longed to Napoleon Bon­a­parte, whose bed­room was moved to the villa in its en­tirety from the Ser­bel­loni fam­ily’s Mi­lanese res­i­dence dur­ing World War II. “One night, hid­ing every­thing, they moved all the fur­ni­ture from Napoleon’s bed­room in Palazzo Ser­bel­loni,” De San­tis re­counts. “Shortly af­ter­wards that wing was bombed and com­pletely de­stroyed. They saved it.” Even the clothes of Napoleon’s wife, Joséphine de Beauhar­nais, re­main, ten­derly folded in a chest. Ev­ery ob­ject and room seems to tell a story — from the hal­berds used at the Bat­tle of Lepanto and black Pi­etro Gio­vanni Man­tegazza vi­olins played at the 1780 fu­neral of Holy Ro­man Em­press Maria Theresa, to the per­fectly pre­served up­per apart­ments of poet Giuseppe Parini and math­e­ma­ti­cian-cumas­tronomer Paolo Frisi, who spent their sum­mers tu­tor­ing the child Gian Galeazzo Ser­bel­loni. Each of to­day’s guest suites projects its own per­son­al­ity — some fea­ture walls lined with silk; some are bright and up­lift­ing, oth­ers are dark and som­bre. For De San­tis, the villa of­fers some­thing few ho­tels can. “Stay­ing at the villa means you take a step back in time; to re­ally live like 200 years ago. The villa breathes its his­tory ev­ery­where, and you are liv­ing that his­tory.”

la. op­po­site page, in fres­cos; hal­berds panto; break­fast is the ex­clu­sive villa.

this page, clock­wise from right: the villa’s pool; guests can en­joy boat trips on Lake Como as part of their stay; the prop­erty from the rear. op­po­site page: the Sala Degli Stuc­chi of­fers views over­look­ing the lake.

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