Nestled within a lush green 11,000 square meter park, the Sheraton Lake Como Hotel conveys the impression of rural seclusion- but that’s only part of the picture.
Within a 10-minute walk one way is the scenic town of Cernobbio, laced with pretty lakeside cafes, restaurants and villas while in the opposite direction is the ferry for the short 15-minute ride to Como itself with its 12th century walls, Romanesque cathedral and Broletto (medieval town hall). The ‘Fashion Queen of Europe,’ Milan, is just over 45 minutes away while the Swiss border is even closer with FoxTown, a luxury outlet in Mendrisio, less than a half-hour’s drive.
Opened this Spring, following a multi-million euro renovation of the old Grand Hotel di Como, under architect, Ruggero Venelli, this 116-room, hotel is the first international upscale hotel chain on the lake. Cactus and bamboo plants help create a natural ambience as you enter the spacious lobby with wide marble stairs leading up to an open space housing its ‘Bar Fresco.’ Relaxing music, leather wenge-colored seating and low-slung tables bordered by shelving decorated with books and ornaments create an attractive contemporary setting for social get-togethers or informal business networking. Here, early one evening, we tried the innovative ‘Sheraton Paired,’ an Italian aperitif concept with the motto, ‘Savor the unexpected’ by which small plates are matched with premium wines selected by ‘Wine Spectator’ and craft beers.
Suggestions include humus and roasted octopus with garlic and rosemary served with northeastern Italian chardonnay Jerman; and slow-roasted pork loin with mashed potatoes and rosemary served with Piedmont Barbera d’Asti uvà.’ Craft beers such as the amber Aqua Dulza ‘3Mezzina’ are paired with a crunchy treat of pork fat and spices while ‘Innstadt’ draft beer comes with a typical Neapolitan savory biscuit with pork fat, pepper and almonds.
For a complete dinner menu, next door to ‘Bar Fresco is the casual ‘Gusto’ restaurant supervised by Chef Carlo Molon who worked formerly at the Sheraton Milan Malpensa Airport Hotel Conference Centre. Contemporary in style, it is casual yet elegant, with natural wood flooring.
For guests occupying the club rooms and executive suites, exclusive access is provided to the ‘Club Lounge,’ a quiet two-room retreat for clubroom or suite guests, with complimentary drinks, hot and cold snacks, newspapers and a large screen TV room.
The hotel makes full use of its natural park setting, organizing live music in summer with an outdoor barbecue and wood-oven pizzas on a gazebo at its ‘Kincho’ restaurant (from ‘quincho’ meaning South American grill) near a heated swimming pool and hydro-massage bath. Sports enthusiasts can also enjoy free sessions on certain days with personal trainer, Iris Ley Aguero, who spent more than eight years with the Cuban national athletics team. A special agreement with ‘Tennis Delle Vigne’ sports center five- minutes walk away allows guests access to three tennis courts and a five-a-side soccer field.
Businesses are well catered for at the Sheraton with Spazio Como, designed by architect Attilio Terragni, a futuristic, glass-and-metal polygonal, multipurpose auditorium that resembles a giant space capsule. Delightfully, the abundance of glass means it is filled with natural light and it offer views out over the park. It’s big enough to be a car showroom and can accommodate 350 people. Our experience of it – a ‘wear something gold’ party to launch the latest edition of Russian Ozero Komo magazine– featured a comprehensive buffet including saffron-flavored risotto and Barolo wine, a multi-media presentation and a performance by Italian singer Enzo Ghinazzi, better known as ‘Pupo.’ In addition, the hotel’s convention center with ten modular rooms can handle 1,000 guests.
Location of the Sheraton Lake Como Hotel – one of 24 Starwood hotels in Italy – means daytrips to many of the area’s best-known sights are easy. Of the many ornate villas lining the lake, the 17th century, four-floor Villa Balbianello stands out.
Renting a jeep from Auto Europe, we arrived there within a half-hour and spent a whole afternoon wandering through its spacious Italian gardens and enjoying a guided tour that took in an intriguing secret tunnel and hidden stairs, hundreds of glass paintings and 18th and 19th century engravings of Lake Como. Originally built for a cardinal, it was bought in the mid-1970s by the rich explorer, Guido Monzino – trophies from his travels fill one room of the villa. It is now owned by the Italian National Trust. Such is its splendor that scenes from several well-known movies have been shot there, including the James Bond classic, ‘Casino Royale’ and ‘Star Wars: Attack of the Clones.’ Known as the ‘Pearl of Lake Como,’ the town of Bellagio, is also a short car drive and ferry ride away. Suspended like a pendant on the promontory where the lake’s western and eastern arms split and head south, it features an historic square surrounded by quaint cafes and stores.
With further upgrades planned over the coming months to make it even more luxurious and with its scenic location close to many Lake Como highlights, the Sheraton Lake Como Hotel is an oasis of relaxation.