Passalacqua Is A Spectacular New Hotel On Lake Como

One of Lake Como’s most dramatic and unique private homes has just opened as a 24-suite hotel. Passalacqua commands seven acres of terraced and manicured gardens in the village of Moltrasio, overlooking the majestic lake. I’ve visited sleepy Moltrasio on many occasions, a village about 15 minutes by boat from the city of Como, and I’ve often wondered about this vast property. It’s discretely walled off from the rest of the village and can only be really seen from the water. The gardens are truly magnificent and, like many of the lake’s most spectacular properties, there is a tunnel under the lakeside road that allows you to access a property’s private marina on the lake.

Passalacqua has a rich history on Lake Como, a place with no shortage of colorful stories. Built on land originally owned by Pope Innocent XI, the villa was constructed in 1767 by Count Andrea Lucini-Passalacqua, just north of Cernobbio. As a private home, the 18th Century villa hosted the likes of Napoleon and Winston Churchill. Composer Vincenzo Bellini made Villa Passalacqua his home in 1829, where he composed two of his most famous operas, Norma and La Sonnambula. Until 2018, it was owned by an American who rented it out on a weekly basis.

That year, it was bought by the De Santis family, owners of the luxurious Grand Hotel Tremezzo, about 20 minutes up the lake. That grand property has its own operatic flair, from its balconies and fleet of wooden Riva speedboats to its famed swimming pool that actually floats on Lake Como.

Over the past three years, the De Santis family has worked to restore and reinvent Passalacqua and its grounds, spending more than $20 million in the process. The project involved the restoration of the frescoes and a roll call of Italian artisans, such as Barovier & Toso, a 17th Venetian company famed for hand-blown Murano glass chandeliers. Fortuny was enlisted to create traditional silk-tiered lampshades while hand-made mirrors were crafted by Barbini. The details extend to the hotel staff, who are attired in uniforms designed by Giuliva Heritage.

The property features 24 suites spread across three buildings. Each suite is different and distinctive. The main historic residence, the Villa, features 12 suites, which highlight the original Italian baroque style. They have original frescoes and it’s where you’ll find the double-height music room, where Bellini composed his operas on the piano. The Pus Palazz or ancient stables has eight suites, damask walls, exposed beams and a distinctive spiral staircase. The Spa and two treatment cabins offer Barbara Sturm treatments while a sauna and steam room are located within the tunnels of the villa. At the lakeside, there is the Casa Al Lago, which has four suites, each one with a private garden. There is a shared dining area and fireplace.

There are 15 elaborate water fountains in the six terraced gardens overlooking Lake Como, venerable cypress and magnolia trees, and a Winter Garden that looks out onto a 20-meter swimming pool. A second Winter Garden will feature a state-of-the-art al fresco gym, which looks out onto the estate’s ancient olive grove. The hotel shuttles guests up and down the steeply terraced property in a vintage convertible Fiat 500 that has been converted to electric power.

Besides dreamily gazing at the lake, guests can head to the clay tennis court located lakeside or they can take a cruise on the lake. Passalacqua’s private dock has two vintage boats: Giumello is a traditional wooden boat while Didi has been refurbished with Loro Piana fabrics.

For such a luxurious and palatial hotel, the dining concept is a relaxed and highly personal approach. The theme is authentic and simple Italian home cooking, using farm-to-table ingredients. Chef Elio Sironi, formerly Head Chef of Bulgari Hotels, has designed the seasonally changing menus. House Executive Chef Mauro was a private chef for Milan’s most prestigious families for more than two decades. Guests are encouraged to visit the kitchens and speak to the team to discuss their menu for the day and then choose their own location to dine within the property, perhaps on one of the garden terraces or lakeside.

Rates begin at €1,000 per night ($1,068) based on two people sharing on a B&B basis and excluding taxes. For more details, visit Passalacqa.

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