villa d'este

Photos courtesy of Villa d'Este








In the 16th century, Cardinal Tolomeo Gallio built a luxury villa on the shore of Lake Como as his private residence. For the next 200 years, the party-loving elite of Europe came here for a good time. Growing bored with the property, the Gallio family moved away, leaving the neglected villa to the Jesuits.

A Milano aristocrat, up there in years, bought the estate for his new wife, a ballerina at La Scala named Vittoria Peluso. She sunk a small fortune in refurbishing the villa, and the local society, who once stuck their collective noses up at her, now begged for invitations. Following the death of her husband, she married a young general under Napoleon and now became known as Countess Pino. To keep her young husband at home, she built special towers and fortresses for him. Following war games with his fellow cadets, Roman-style feasts would inevitably follow.

Caroline of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel, Princess of Wales, unhappy in her marriage to the future King George IV of England, fell in love with the estate and demanded the Countess Pino sell to her. Caroline renamed it the Villa d’Este, poured money into it, and held scandalous parties. When she ran out of money she returned to England to take her place beside her husband, who filed proceedings against her. Caroline died a year later. Against the terms of her will, the banker, who possessed the deed of sale, took title. His heirs sold the property.

In 1873 the Villa d’Este opened its doors as a hotel.

Pamela’s Perspective

You get what you pay for! This is the kind of place that’s worth working an extra job for. It’s truly wonderful. Between activities at the hotel and the precious little spots along the lake worthy of exploration, you really hate to waste time sleeping.

For the penny pinchers among us: There are public buses and boats that ply around and across the lake. Don’t feel you have to pay inflated hotel prices for an excursion to Bellagio, for example. You can easily do it on your own.


Villa d’Este

A 16th-century palace


Via Regina, 40
22012 Cernobbio
Tel: ++39 031 3481
Hotel website

Fast facts

152 rooms in main building; 27 rooms in Queen’s pavilion

Double rooms: from 590 euros
Suites: from 1150 euros
Rates include service, tax, and buffet breakfast.
Special offers available.

Open: mid-March to mid-November

Getting there

Cernobbio is on the western shore of Lake Como. Just a few km away is the town of Como, where you can find buses and boats to take you to the hotel.

What to do

On site: water sports; fitness center; tennis; squash
Nearby: tours of Lake Como; golf; horseback riding


Yes. Inquire hotel for details.


Consistently on the top 10 list of favorite resorts of the world, the Villa d’Este has catered to generations of the rich and famous.

Its fame is legendary: not for the silk wall coverings, frescoed ceilings, sweeping marble staircase, or exquisite antiques, but for its magnificent five-acre garden and park. Tranquil paths meander past cypress trees, flowers, discreet statuary, and a stunning mosaic colonnade.

Individually decorated guest rooms are equally gorgeous and accompanied with large marble bathrooms. The best rooms overlook Lake Como. A quarter of the rooms are located in the Queen’s pavilion across the grounds.

You’ll never be at a loss for things to do. Pull yourself away from the swimming pool that “floats” out over the lake and explore Lake Como, surely one of the most breathtaking spots in all of Italy.

Something special

curlicueThe incredible beauty of its location