At this moment I’m sitting on a bed, in the dark, in a North Korean hotel. There is no hot water – no running water in fact – until 6.30 tomorrow morning, and the bathtub is filled with cold water and has a bowl bobbing around on top which I can fill to flush the toilet. My point? Thinking about the Grand Hotel Tremezzo is bringing tears to my eyes.
Any property with ‘grand’ in the title has already set itself a high benchmark, but few hotels live up to the word. Sitting on the edge of Lake Como overlooking the Grigne mountains, its own private beach and pontoon, with speedboats tailing around the lake, the art nouveau palace looks like the set of a perky Audrey Hepburn film in glorious Technicolor – and contains all her charm and cheek.
Too many hotels with the history of the Tremezzo often slip into a fusty state, dining out on their heritage, while the ceilings crack, the walls peel and the dust settles. But despite using a Pride and Prejudice-sized ballroom for breakfast and draping silk from most of the walls, the Tremezzo has pumped life and colour into every nook and cranny and stayed fresh and alive.
From enormous bouquets of blood-red roses on every dresser and table to foot-high jars of Pic’n’Mix in the lobby, the hotel is a delight for the senses. A great glass elevator sails up and down the front of the hotel, and if Ladurée designed living rooms, then the ‘sala musica’ would be their flagship showroom. Packed with sofas coloured with raging pink, orange, violet and pistachio green, the room looks out over the lake and is the perfect spot to escape from the heat with a book and a glass of spumante rosé.
Recently refurbished, the lake-view prestige rooms stick to classic elegance, with bold, gold bedheads and soft blues and greys with drapes that part to reveal a balcony view of the lake.
But the loveliest touch of all is the swimming pool which sweeps like a lagoon in and out of the hotel, allowing guests to hide under waterfall massagers in the privacy of an indoor lowlit passage, or bask in smugness in the hot tub overlooking the road.
And the cuisine? After having eaten the most leathery pizza of my life in Verona, the wettest pasta in Rome and the dullest lobster in Florence, my hopes of fine Italian dining were smashed until dinner in La Terrazza where I was wooed by smooth saffron risotto, veal with a slip of pan-fired foie gras laced with smoky black truffle and the sort of tiramisu you want to do bad things with.
It was wonderful, it was all just so wonderful. But now it’s time for me to dry my eyes – I would turn out the light but the power has gone – and go to sleep on a bed as hard as brick, and dream sweetly of the Grand Hotel Tremezzo.