La Bella Signora, Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni
The Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni Bellagio sits majestically on Lake Como looking out toward the Swiss Alps. A luxury hotel offering both tradition and contemporary innovation.
I had the great privilege of experiencing a personalized tour, lunch at the La Goletta restaurant and meeting the owner, their Michelin star chef and other members of the unimpeachable staff.
If the Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni were a woman, she would be strikingly beautiful, sophisticated, and proudly traditional. She’d be a woman of prestige, impeccably professional and highly respected. You may even think she were aloof and detached until she invites you in for tea. You surprisingly realize how warm and approachable she is. You discover that her seemingly old-fashioned style is weaved together with modern art and molecular cuisine revealing her cool, edgy side. She quickly warms your heart and she becomes a trustworthy and comforting friend.
Located in Bellagio looking out to the sapphire waters of Lake Como towards the Alps, the Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni has one of the most admired positions on the shore. Situated lakeside, just steps away from the ancient medieval town center, it offers the peace and tranquility of a secluded getaway, yet the convenience of being near shopping, transportation and sightseeing.
The central part of the hotel was once a private villa and after changing hands first from the Sfrondrati family to the Serbelloni family it is now owned and managed by the Bucher family.
Celebrating 100 Years of Hospitality
The Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni of Bellagio has been in the Bucher family history for three generations.
Gianfranco Bucher’s grandfather bought it in 1918 after it had already been converted into a hotel. The Bucher family have always had their private residence on the property.
A difficult man to find, I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Bucher. He graciously offered me a coffee and invited me to sit in the hotel sitting room; a large open salon with original nineteenth-century furnishings, rare Persian carpets, gilded ceiling roses and Murano chandeliers.
I asked him what it was like growing up in this “house”. He laughed as if recalling fond, childhood memories. He explained, “It’s all I know. I’ve always shared my home with other people. When families used to come with children, we would all play and go swimming together. It’s the same today, children run around and play with my grandchildren. I like to think of clients as my personal guests. I’m happy to open my home to them and make them feel welcomed.”
Mr. Gianfranco Bucher is CEO and head of the household, his wife Dusia manages the Villa Serbelloni Spa, sons Paolo and Jan are studying and being groomed to step into his shoes one day. Their daughter Alessandra has followed her heart to America but visits frequently and spends her summer vacations here.
Mr. Bucher tells me, “I’m looking forward to delegating some of my work. Not all of it, just some!” The love for his job is written on his face. Even as we are having coffee, he is observing the other guests making sure they are at ease and comfortable.
My curiosity gets the best of me and I ask, “You live in one of the most beautiful places in the world, where do you go on vacation?” He promptly replies, “I love the fresh air of the mountains. Sometimes I will go somewhere here in Europe or to America to visit my daughter.” With a loving smile, he adds, “I have to see my grandchildren!”
The whole complex is spread out on a large estate surrounded by a lakeside garden. Two wings had been added to the central house and after new renovations, today there are 73 rooms, 22 suites and a 13-apartment residence. Available are also reception rooms and a conference center each for up to 300 people. On the lower level, you’ll find the Villa Serbelloni Spa, an indoor pool, an outdoor pool, gym and tennis courts. There are two restaurants; the poolside La Goletta and on the upper level, Mistral, a Michelin star restaurant with avant-garde, molecular chef Ettore Bocchia at the helm.
Room sizes run from the Classic double, 29 m2 (312 ft2) to the Senior suites, 60/75 m2 (645/807 ft2). All rooms offer stunning views and rates vary according to size and availability.
I had an exclusive viewing of the stately suite dedicated to Winston Churchill. Play video
Sober, nineteenth-century furniture, an oversized bed covered with a fine, silk-cotton blend summer duvet fill the room. High ceilings with hand painted, trompe oeil frescos make you look up. Towering arched windows offer views that you will dream about for years to come.
A private sitting room with an antique desk evokes the image of the statesman sitting in contemplation writing the letter to his wife Sarah, in September 1945.
“An air of complete tranquillity and good humour pervades these beautiful lakes and valleys, which are unravaged by war,” Churchill wrote. “There is not a sign to be seen in the countryside, the dwellings or the demeanour or appearance of the inhabitants which would suggest that any violent events have been happening in the world.”
Beauty Farm, Spa & Sport
On the lower level, a zen-style room with a self-serve detox refreshment buffet is available for guest who just want to sit and unwind.
Spa treatments and expert estheticians are available for guests needing extra pampering and attention. They only use quality products such as Sothys and Payot as well as traditional formulas made with essential oils. There is even a double massage room to enjoy a treatment with your partner or best friend.
For fitness fanatics, there is a squash court, two tennis courts, an indoor pool, an outdoor pool, and gym. If you love golf, a boat will bring you across to Lake Como’s historical Menaggio Golf resort.
Brides getting married in Bellagio or planning a wedding at the Villa Serbelloni can have the special Oxygenation facial that leaves skin glowing.
I enjoyed a poolside lunch at La Goletta with Carla, my guide and Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni liaison. She knew the menu back to front and made her recommendations, “My favorite starters are the Baccalà, sauted cod or the Piovra, octopus salad.”
We decide to share the Baccalà starter and for our main course the Riso alla Bellagina, a light risotto with the fresh catch of the day.
For dessert, I chose a dreamy tiramisù and Carla ordered the homemade ice cream.
The Mistral Restaurant is located on the upper level. It was first awarded a Michelin star in 2005 and has maintained it’s standing thanks to Ettore Bocchia.
Bocchia launched the first molecular menu in Italy in 2002 and is considered the original pioneer of Molecular Cuisine in Italy. His resumè is filled with not only culinary prizes but also scientific accomplishments, research and a book.
As the executive chef he oversees both La Goletta and Mistral. He came to our table to greet us. I asked, “How did your interest in molecular cuisine begin?”
He told me, “I always loved cooking and during my studies whenever I asked ‘why do we have to do it like that?’ the answer was always ‘because that’s how it’s done.’ I was never satisfied with that answer, so when I was in New York in the 90’s, I saw what they were doing with science and cuisine. I knew that’s where I would find my answers!” The rest is history.
What struck me most during my visit to the Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni was the precision and care given to every detail. Nothing was dusty or out of place. Passageways were clear and accessible. Every staff member from valet to concierge to housekeeping and service were professional, courteous and welcoming.
It was an absolute pleasure getting to know this bella Signora and her family.
Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni
Via Roma, 1
22021 Bellagio, Lake Como – Italy
Article and photos by Celia Abernethy
with the exception of the Bucher family portrait; courtesy Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni press office
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