Inside the Italian Hotel That's Charmed Everyone from Greta Garbo to Taylor Swift

grand hotel tremezzo lake como review
Best Room At... Grand Hotel TremezzoCourtesy Grand Hotel Tremezzo

“While I never actually lived in the Grand Hotel Tremezzo,” says Valentina De Santis, the third-generation owner of the legendary Lake Como property, “I basically grew up there.” Her grandfather purchased the property in 1975, and De Santis spent summers in a family home on the property, “bothering people while they were trying to work,” she says, “and going into the kitchen for sweets from the chef who’s still with us.” In 2010, a century after the hotel first opened, De Santis joined the business—a move she says was never too far from her mind. “I knew sooner or later,” she notes, “that this would be my route.”

And why not? The hotel is among the most storied and glamorous in a region full of storied, glamorous places, drawing in a crowd of in-the-known travelers and bold-faced names to enjoy the waterfront beauty, the sprawling gardens, the fine dining, the signature scent (available, along with a selection of other well curated delights, in the Sense of Lake shop and online), and more. (Note that when Taylor Swift recently spent time on Lake Como, it was at Villa Sola Cabiati, a six-suite villa that’s run by GHT, and Como’s other most buzzed-about property, Passalacqua, is also owned by De Santis.)

grand hotel tremezzo lake como review
The lobby at Grand Hotel Tremezzo, which has been open on the shores of Italy’s Lake Como since 1910. Courtesy Grand Hotel Tremezzo

But despite the glitz that comes with running a high-end hotel in one of the world’s best known destinations, De Santis finds satisfaction in some of the simpler pleasures that her career allows: “I get to work in a very special place,” she says, “filled with wonderful memories.

Here, De Santis shares the details about her own favorite room, reveals the thing most guests never think to do, and offers Eloise-style advice on where best to peek behind the scenes.

What do you consider to be the best room at the property and why?

For me, it’s the Suite Greta, which is dedicated to Greta Garbo, who loved the hotel; she shot Grand Hotel in 1932 and even mentions us. We owe so much to la divina and so we dedicated the room to her. When I was a child, it was the suite, and one night when I was about 10 years old, my parents let me sleep over with a friend of mine—it was the greatest night of my life.

grand hotel tremezzo lake como review
The living room of Suite Greta at Grand Hotel Tremezzo. The room is named for its one-time inhabitant Greta Garbo, who was a great fan of the hotel and even name checked it in the film Grand Hotel.Courtesy Grand Hotel Tremezzo

How much does it cost per night?

The suite starts at $5,109 per night.

How would you describe the guests and the vibe at the hotel?

One of the best compliments I ever received was from a friend who says he usually classifies hotels by a specific type of client: honeymooners, families, young travelers, etc. He told me that Grand Hotel Tremezzo was the only place he’d ever experienced that he would recommend to any client. This was so meaningful because this is what we really want to be; it’s a grand hotel, of course, but we want it to feel welcoming and to meet very different needs, whether guests want to relax or explore or do anything else.

What feeling about Lake Como do you hope to impart to guests?

Lake Como as a destination is made up of two main ingredients: the first is the natural beauty of the landscape and the second is the history. Both of these are so present at Grand Hotel Tremezzo. Maybe I’m biased, but I think we have the most incredible spot on the lake to admire the view; it’s postcard perfect. You can see the town of Bellagio, you can see the mountains, they’re some of the most spectacular views anywhere on the lake. That feeling is alsoso present within the hotel. The hotel's founders, the Gandola family, were from Bellagio, and after they got married they did a tour of Europe. When they came back, they wanted to build something similar to the grand hotels they had seen in the European capitals. That’s where the style of the hotel comes from, and we’ve kept every possible historical piece of the hotel through the years. Part of the Lake Como experience is to breathe in the history.

grand hotel tremezzo lake como review
One of Grand Hotel Tremezzo’s three swimming pools sits next to an outdoor dining area and a pizza oven, where intrepid guests can try their hand at making their own pies—or can leave it to the professionals. Courtesy Grand Hotel Tremezzo

What’s a local attraction that you always recommend?

The best suggestion I can give to anyone is to see the lake from the water. You can take a super-chic Venetian-style boat with a captain and a bottle of champagne, or you can take the local ferry, but to see everything from the water lets you take in the beauty of the place and see things you can’t appreciate on land.

Also, walk up to the top of the hill in our gardens. The gardens are something that can definitely surprise guests. You might expect the lake, the view, the beach, but not how lovely the gardens can be. At the top of the hill we have a grove of olive trees, and there’s a panoramic view. It’s a place that really speaks to my heart; it’s where I go to unplug. Not every guests goes, but they should.

The other thing I would suggest is going into the kitchen. It’s fascinating to be in the back of the house of a hotel and see what goes on behind the scenes. They’re also very nice, so they’ll tell you a story and offer you something delicious.

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