Located on the east side of Lake Como’s most famous stretch, equidistant between the tourist-trodden town of Como and its more glamorous cousin, Bellagio, lies Villa Lario. Spanning four state-of-the-art properties across two acres of Italian gardens, this extraordinary 19th century villa brings together stylish design and modern luxury while still maintaining a cosy home-away-from-home feel.
The 18-room property is comprised of Villa Bianca, the main building home to the restaurant and adjacent to the infinity pool; Il Palazzo, a more recently renovated 19th century villa boasting eight luxurious suites, a downstairs bar and lakeside terrace; the Pavillion, a fully private villa; and the Garden Suite. It’s also built on varying levels of the cliff edge which means guests can enjoy views of the lake from every angle, whether you're looking down from Villa Bianca's horizon pool or enjoying a cocktail on the lakeside terrace of Il Palazzo.
Part of what makes Villa Lario so special is its serene location off the beaten track. You're far enough away from the main road to ensure the only motor you might hear is the sound of a boat cruising by every so often. Set against a dramatic backdrop of mountains and water, and with the gentle wash of waves lapping against rocks in the background, it’s truly one of the most relaxing places to spend a few days.
The hotel dates back to over 100 years ago, when the Lombardi family purchased the land as a place to store their boat collection. 25 years later, local architect and designer Pietro Castagna was enlisted to build Villa Lario, who wanted to create a private and contemporary space that still felt cosy enough to be considered a home-away-from-home. His designs are much simpler than other buildings in the area, with clean lines and whitewashed walls, so as to keep the focus on the natural beauty of the surroundings. More recently, the villa underwent a restoration in 2021, which saw the hotel boost its number of suites from six to 18 with the renovation of Il Palazzo.
Villa Lario has stayed true to Pietro’s vision all those years ago, where it now provides a serene oasis on the east side of Lake Como for guests looking to soak up the lake's supreme natural beauty.
Villa Lario Lake Como review: At a glance
Boasting panoramic, 180-degree views from every suite, Villa Lario comes out trumps for its mesmerising location. Aperitivo hour has never looked so good...
We stayed in Il Palazzo - its most recently-renovated property which offers direct access to the lake - in one of its master suites. Like all rooms at Villa Lario, we benefited from front-row views of the water, especially from the vantage point of our picture-perfect balcony. The décor is stylish and expensive looking without being overstated, and boasts a super king bed, monochrome artworks and neutral furnishings. Size wise, the room isn’t huge, but high ceilings and floor-to-ceiling double glass doors afford the space a bright and airy feel.
We like the fact that the hotel doesn’t offer televisions in any of its rooms, to encourage guests to focus on the beauty of their surroundings. All suites include complimentary tea, coffee and a welcome snack, and come equipped with a Nespresso machine, kettle and fridge. Even down to the smallest details, there’s a clear sense that no expense has been spared, from the high-spec Dyson Supersonic hair dryer to miniature Ortigia bathroom products. Il Palazzo also boasts a 250 square metre reception/bar area downstairs, where you can indulge in a pre-dinner drink while watching the sunset. We recommend staying here if you plan on doing a fair bit of swimming - the building offers direct access to the lake and a private pontoon.
Food and drink: 7/10
There is one restaurant at Villa Lario, serving both lunch and dinner, which is open to both guests and non-guests alike. The décor echoes the vibe of a swish living room with comfortable, cushion-lined sofas and pillowy wide-set seating. The hotel has been designed to maximise views of the lake wherever possible, and the restaurant follows suit. We recommend bagging a window seat if you can.
The lunch and dinner menu offers modern Italian fine dining and spans starters, pasta dishes, main courses and desserts. There is also a separate list of ‘classici’ pasta dishes available at a fixed price (think carbonara, bolognese and arrabiata) for those who fancy something more familiar. Dishes are contemporary and beautifully presented, from a starter of beef tartare served with rich parmesan cream and porcini mushroom foam, to pan-fried sole with saffron yellow bearnaise sauce and millefeuille potatoes for main course. We finished with a deconstructed take on a lemon tart: zippy notes of citrus shined through in every mouthful, and were balanced with crisp shortbread and sweet Italian meringue.
All bookings include breakfast, and you're in for a real treat come the morning. Choose to browse the buffet station for fresh fruit and smoothies, homemade bread and yoghurt, while hot items from the menu span eggs cooked any way, porridge, acai bowls, avocado and salmon on toast, cold cuts and cheese and pancakes. Dishes are small and designed to 'mix & match', so guests can try a bit of everything.
Service is attentive yet understated and no request is ever too much for the team. Our bags were delivered to our room on arrival, and staff helpfully offered recommendations of things to do in the area. A twice-daily turndown service seems to be the norm, both morning and evening. The team also left a postcard with a ‘bedtime story’ on our bed each evening which told charming anecdotes about the Lombardi family. A lovely touch!
Things to do: 7/10
While Villa Lario is certainly no adventure holiday, there are a wealth of things to do both at the hotel and in the surrounding area. Swimming is one of the main attractions, and you can choose to jump straight in the lake from the villa’s private jetty if you’re feeling brave, or opt to lounge by the 20m infinity pool if that’s more your cup of tea. Indeed, gazing out over those mesmerising views is sure to take up a fair amount of time.
The team also hosts complimentary yoga sessions on Friday and Saturday mornings in its serene Cedar gardens. We recommend getting a boat/ferry across to the beautiful neighbourhood towns of Bellagio, Menaggio and Varenna. Bellagio is also accessible by car, a 30 minute-drive up the main road, but you’ll need to hop on a ferry to access the other two locations. Those looking to stretch their legs will find a couple of hiking trails in the area where you can experience the lake from different angles.
Eco efforts: 6/10
Considering its spectacular natural location, the team have more recently started implementing sustainable policies that help minimise its impact on the environment. Only working with local producers and seasonal ingredients is one of them, as well as limiting the minimum AC temperature in rooms to 10°C, and carrying out linen and towel changes every two days, instead of everyday.
Getting there: 8/10
We do recommend that you hire a car when visiting Villa Lario - it's the easiest way to travel from the airport to the hotel, and there is an onsite car park at Lario for guests, so you needn't worry about parking. If you're planning on exploring some of Lake Como's beautiful towns and villages, the best way to access them is by car or boat.
The closest airport to Villa Lario is Milan Malpensa and the flight from London Gatwick takes just an hour and a half. Milan Malpensa airport is a 45-minute drive to Villa Lario. You can also fly to Bergamo Orio del Sol and Linate airports, which are both an hour and a half drive away.
Villa Lario is built on the side of a mountain, so the path down to the entrance is very steep. However, the hotel offers lift access throughout.
Value for money: 8/10
Rooms here don’t come cheap, but for its stunning location and impeccable facilities, we’d argue that it’s still within the realms of affordable luxury. Off-season rooms start at around £400 per night for a junior suite, which includes an impeccable breakfast served in the main restaurant. Some of the best things to do at Villa Lario are free, such as relaxing in its gardens, swimming in the lake or even participating in a yoga session. If you do plan on dining at the Villa, the restaurant is on the pricier side, with a meal for two likely to set you back about £100 a head.
Honeymoon potential: 10/10
Villa Lario is undoubtedly built for romantic getaways thanks to its breathtaking backdrop, secluded location and luxurious suites. With very few distractions, you really do feel world's away from the chaos of modern life, giving you and your other half a chance to unwind and spend some quality time. We can't imagine a better way to spend your initial days as a married couple than by lounging by the infinity pool, watching the sunset from your private balcony or taking a stroll around the Italian gardens.
Prefer to book a staycation instead? Check out the best restaurants with rooms in the UK.