By Eileen Ogintz
LAKE COMO, Italy (Day Three) — Where’s Bobo?
He’s the giant teddy bear mascot of the Grand Hotel Tremezzo overlooking Lake Como. Kids race up the garden path behind the hotel to find him and pose for pictures; they each are given a mini Bobo to bring home — and maybe pose for pictures elsewhere on their journey.
This family-owned hotel dating back to 1910 may be one of the most pricey around—rooms in season in summer can be nearly $1000 a night — but it is also incredibly welcoming to families from the jars of “help yourself” candy in the lobby to the three pools — one set right in Lake Como and one indoors in the spa. It also has tennis courts (lessons can be arranged), extensive gardens ideal for hide and seek, pizza parties and, on a rainy day like today, the sherbet-colored comfortable chairs in the lounge ideal for relaxing with a hot chocolate or a cup of tea.
People I know are of two schools about expensive hotels—some travelers, no matter what their vacation budget, think they are a waste of money; others want to be spoiled with good service and beautiful surroundings and think the hotel is part of the vacation experience. There is always someone on call to do your bidding with a smile.
This trip, because we are traveling with extended family who like to cook, we’ve opted for a villa on Lake Como a short drive from this town in the village of Laglio where George Clooney famously summers.
It’s nice when a hotel can make the experience special for the youngest guests as well as their parents and those who may be here to celebrate a birthday, anniversary or an engagement. There is even a secluded table in the gardens designed for proposals where a special dinner can be served!
The spa is so popular it is being expanded. I meet one youngster in pint-sized bathrobe in the elevator heading to the spa pool—what better way to spend a rainy afternoon?
We took the ferry – a ten minute walk and about 10 Euros (a little more than $12) le across the lake to the famous town of Bellagio, where we wandered up and down narrow cobblestoned streets, potted geraniums everywhere, stopping to look at scarves (a lot of silk is made in Como), a church dating back to the 10th Century, a hidden pizza place here, a café there.
Earlier, in a downpour, we had slogged our way up a steep cobblestoned road to Sacri Monte di Ossuccio on Lake Como, a UNESCO heritage site with a series of niches and chapels containing statues that recall episodes from the Bible and a church at the top. There were amazing views of the lake and villages—at least there would have been if it hadn’t been pouring. These sacred mountains, we learn, were originally conceived as a place to offer a safer pilgrimage experience in respect to that made to the Holy Land.
We ended the day La Terrazza Restaurant, sipping Prosecco as we watched the lights twinkle on in villages that line the lake—almost like a Christmas card before we adjourned for dinner at the hotel.
The prize winning Chef Gualtiero Marchesi is famous in Italy and this meal is one for the memory books—his risotto with saffron, his perfectly prepared pastas with clams, the salad mixed table side with olive oil and aged balsamic vinegar, the veal with black truffles and fois gras… crepes suzettes for desert.
It is one of those meals we’ll remember for a long time. Of course the hotel offers more casual fare including a beach barbeque every Saturday in summer as well as pizza parties the kids love.
Many of those who stay here, I learn, are Americans and Australians who come to relax at the end of a trip touring Italy.
So what if it rained all day, we say, now that we are dry. So what if we didn’t make it to every place we had wanted to see today. We were tasting a bit of Italy—literally—and loving every bite.