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Il Sereno hotel review: Modern luxury on the shores of Lake Como

Laura Hampson discovers that Italy’s famed body of water really does live up to the hype with a stay at one of its more contemporary lodgings

Tuesday 05 July 2022 11:43 BST

In a nutshell: A modern hideaway with a prime patch of Como real estate.

Price point: £££

The neighbourhood

A short drive from Como’s main station, Como San Giovanni, Il Sereno sits at the end of a winding road in the quaint commune of Torno. When you can peel yourself away from the sunbeds, or your room’s private balcony, the surrounding village is well worth a wander, and you’ll soon discover it makes a case for being one of the prettiest settlements on Lake Como. The town square offers spoils like the Saint Thecla church (go inside for a mix of marble, dusty rose-hued walls and painted ceilings), lively restaurants and Instagrammable alleyways leading to the star of the show: the lake.

The look

Designed by Milan-based architect Patricia Urquiola (who also designed Mandarin Oriental Barcelona and the Missoni boutique in New York City), Il Sereno is the antithesis of what you would expect a Lake Como hideaway to look like. Gone is the neoclassical mansion; in its place, a striking building of walnut wood and vertical gardens. Here you can certainly judge a book by its facade, as Urquiola’s sleek designs extend to the interiors, where a floating staircase leads to the lake-level restaurant and neutral-toned common areas. Everything feels new, shiny and expensive, without ever tipping into pretentious.

The vibe

Any visit to Lake Como can leave you feeling like an A-lister, but Il Sereno is one of the few hotels in the area to have received the celebrity stamp of approval. Miley Cyrus spent some time here in 2019 (scroll back through her Instagram and you’ll spot her perched next to the hotel’s infinity pool). The clientele is an eclectic mix of well-to-do young Europeans and older Americans, but everyone is after one thing: a break from reality. Luckily, it’s easy to find, whether by taking out the hotel’s custom-built Riva boat, booking into the lakeside jacuzzi, or lazing on the room’s private balcony and watching the activities on the lake.

Bed and bath

You can’t go wrong with an all-suite hotel. Each of the 40 rooms offers private balconies and views across the lake - best taken in from the plush King-size bed by way of the floor-to-ceiling windows. Urquiola’s soft furnishings and warming tones continue here, and murals of soft greys and blues sit above the beds to reflect the lake. Bathrooms are bigger than most London flats, with deep-soak tubs and rainfall showers. The balcony, again, is the star, and it wasn’t easy to pull ourselves away from it - other than to delve into the minibar, where most of the treats (including chocolate-covered hazelnuts) are complimentary and replenished daily. If you’re really looking to up the ante, the recently opened penthouse suite is a sprawling 200 metres squared and has a private terrace with its own jacuzzi looking over the lake.

Food and drink

Dinnertime at Il Sereno al Lago offers an intimate atmosphere, as the lake goes from dusk to nightfall and the mansions across the other side turn on their twinkling lights. The tasting menu is certainly for an acquired taste; dishes include rice with pollen, bread and butter; asparagus creme brulee; and several “sweet” plates which wouldn’t cut it even for the most hardened sweet tooth. Breakfast, on the other hand, was a real treat. Served in the dining room each morning (or to the room for an additional cost), the a la carte menu includes perfectly sized portions of eggs benedict, waffles with chocolate hazelnut spread, freshly-baked pastries, fruit bowls and a charcuterie board.

Pools, spas and public areas

The pool is the hotel’s pièce de résistance. The azure blue of the infinity pool, surrounded by green sunbeds that pepper its perimeter, stands out against the lake’s darker, deeper hues. The lobby entices visitors with cushioned couches and soft lighting, while the Valmont spa is neatly hidden away in a converted boathouse, where floor-to-ceiling windows contrast with the centuries-old granite walls in the treatment rooms. The windows give views of the lake - and a privacy curtain is discreetly drawn by masseuses at the beginning of a session. The Rejuvenate by the Lake signature treatment (€250) is worth the money - a glorious 90 minutes spent being exfoliated and having knots you didn’t even know you had being worked out of your back.

Nuts and bolts

Room count: 40 suites.

WiFi: Free

Extra charges: Activities and spa use come at an extra cost, and there is a city tax charge of £4.20 per person, per room.

Disability access: One room is equipped for guests with disabilities.

Pet policy: Pets are welcome for €200 (£170) per booking.

Bottom line

Best thing: The balcony. My book went unread as I was too enamoured watching the boats whizz by on the lake.

Worst thing: Getting around. Public transport is irregular and taxi prices are high. Unless you hire out the boat it’s hard to leave the hotel and see more of Lake Como, which can be frustrating for on-the-go travellers.

Perfect for: Honeymooners, and those who want to pretend they’re an A-lister for a weekend.

Not right for: Kids and families - while not explicitly said, it feels like an adults-only oasis.

Instagram from: Just about anywhere. Make like Miley and go for the classic pool shot, or take one of the boats out to get the money shot of the hotel itself.

Room rate: From €750 (£639) per night during low season (16 October-31 March), and €950 (£809) per night during high season (19 May-24 September). All rates include full à la carte breakfast and complimentary mini bar (sans alcohol).

Book now

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