In George Clooney’s Footsteps: Inside the Luxurious Hilton Lake Como
Steam rises from the rooftop infinity pool that overlooks Lake Como as we swim a few laps. A family relaxes in the hot tub as a seaplane skims over the still water and church bells ring. It is November, but the sky is very blue.
Italy was not an obvious choice for a long weekend away. The lively, slightly chaotic scene that makes it so appealing was not normally what we were looking for – relaxation it was.
But after just a 90 minute flight from London to Milan and a 45 minute train ride to Lake Como, plus a five minute taxi ride to the hotel, you can enjoy an aperitif and enjoy views to die for.
There are ‘views to die for’ of Hilton Lake Como, says Sarah Hartley of The Mail on Sunday. Above is the beautiful infinity pool on the roof of the hotel
Hilton Lake Como’s ‘masterstroke’, Sarah says, is that it occupies a prime space just behind the waterfront
Sarah recommends a boat trip on Lake Como – you will paddle past ‘stunning, unimaginably beautiful 16th century villas’
George Clooney pictured on a boat near his home on Lake Como, in 2009
Como is known for giving visitors a sense of eerie calm, hemmed in as it is by hills and the Alps beyond. And in the low season it’s a breath of fresh air everywhere.
Gone are the days when Como was a world leader in silk production, but the heritage remains.
Built in and around a former silk factory in 2018, Hilton Lake Como’s masterstroke is that it occupies a prime space just behind the waterfront with what feels like a modern Asian atmosphere around a glass-enclosed lounge and courtyard gardens. And it’s wiped out every hotel’s post-lockdown desire: tip-top staff.
Cool loft-duplex suites are popular with couples who can pull out their glass roof and watch the stars in bed, Sarah says
Value: B&B rooms cost from €180 (£150) per night at Hilton Lake Como
Space is the buzzword. Cool loft-duplex suites are popular with couples who can retract their glass roofs and watch the stars in bed, while interconnecting suites with balconies are a bonus for families.
And it’s a hub for corporate events and weddings – 1,000 guests came to Como from India on a month’s notice for a summer wedding.
The hotel’s sumptuous array of rooms puts you at ease straight away, so it’s easy to relax in the wide and spacious Satin restaurant for breakfast or meander through the light and airy halls – a breath of fresh air for those in wheelchairs or buggies.
Unlike most hotels around Lake Como, the Hilton is open all year round
At Hilton Lake Como’s Satin restaurant, above, Sarah ate breakfast
When the clouds descend, Sarah says, retreat to the comfort of the Hilton adult spa with pool (upstairs), sauna, and steam room, where treatments include the signature Silk Touch massage
Unlike most hotels around the lake, this place is open all year round (as is the rooftop pool) and should be spectacular at New Year’s – although locals say it’s just as gorgeous in April, when azaleas are blooming. light up the hill.
When the clouds descend, retreat to the comfort of the adults-only spa with pool, sauna and steam room, where treatments include the signature Silk Touch massage.
Descend the few minutes from the hotel to the lake to find the elegant Villa Olmo, where dogs run through ornate public gardens and the statues run to the water’s edge. Follow the trail past swans, feed ducks with leftover focaccia, spot herons and take part in the passeggiata, the Italians’ premier evening walk, along the beautiful waterfront.
Hilton Lake Como’s ‘luxurious amounts of room immediately put you at ease’, Sarah writes
Getting to Hilton Lake Como is a breeze – the journey from London includes a 90 minute flight, a 45 minute train ride and five minutes in a taxi
With a bit of luck, you’ll see a seaplane gently glide down – or go on a trip yourself with Aero Club Como (from € 240,- aeroclubcomo.com). Do you want to jump on a Vespa? The hotel can arrange it for you, in addition to picnic bike rides and private boat trips. Further along the marina, a fleet of yachts marks the elegant Yacht Club Como, one of the oldest in Italy.
Besides Hollywood star George Clooney, who bought Villa Oleandra in 2001, the other celebrity in Como is Alessandro Volta, the city’s favorite son and pioneer of electricity, who is credited as the inventor of the electric battery. This explains the extravagant lighting everywhere, from the parks to the flowery clusters in the hotel.
Something that resembles a concrete water tower looms above the lake shore, but upon closer inspection, it is a monolithic World War I monument, commissioned by the fascists in the 1930s.
For a chilled out Lake Como experience, take the slow boat to Torno, pictured. The church and villas are romantic, Sarah says, and it’s quiet in the low season
The Volta Temple is a museum dedicated to Alessandro Volta, Como’s favorite son and pioneer of electricity, credited as the inventor of the electric battery
Sarah’s verdict: ‘While the big-ticket hotels’ [at Lake Como] as Villa D’Este and The Mandarin Oriental are knocked out for one night, Hilton Lake Como’s understated luxury makes for a longer, stress-free escape”
Sarah Hartley was a guest at Hilton Lake Como, where B&B rooms cost from €180 (£150) per night. EasyJet flies from Gatwick to Milan Malpensa, with a one-way ticket from £29.50. Trains from the airport to Como San Giovanni station cost €16 (£13) return.
From the wharf, choose from fast or slow boats that make stops up and down the lake, passing dozens of breathtaking, unimaginably beautiful 16th-century villas. Buy tickets first – you’ll soon be reminded of the Italian style of queuing, so be on time.
Perhaps the area’s most enchanting town, Bellagio draws lingering hordes into its maze of cobbled streets, so for a laid-back experience take the slow boat to Torno. The church and villas are just as romantic, but in low season it’s quiet so you can step onto the quayside at Piazza Casartelli and linger over an aperitivo at the Il Belvedere hotel, or join the locals for pizza at Bar Italy next door.
Back in Como, instead of tea, have a gelato before browsing designer boutiques such as Armani and Fendi in the streets around the 14th-century Duomo, which is the real star here. Take the time to admire the tombs, paintings and the surprising blue ceiling that reflects the blue of the lake. Stroll back for dinner at the glass-enclosed Terrazza 241 rooftop restaurant and bar, run with brilliance by Vincenzo. His special creation is the smoking Negroni (don’t try it at home!), and don’t miss the Lago di Como gin, served with rosemary and dried orange.
Jaded palates are refreshed with a short menu, including seafood gnocchi with black squid ink. The kids menu might be predictable, but the pesto pasta and penne al ragu were fine dining good.
It’s a quiet place to kick back. Live guitar or saxophone add to the low-light atmosphere at dinner, where couples and families mingle easily, although babysitting is offered.
While the big hotels here, like Villa D’Este and The Mandarin Oriental, are knocked out for one night, Hilton Lake Como’s understated luxury makes for a longer, stress-free, drive-free getaway.