BELLAGIO, ITALY: Hotel du Lac is a wonderful landmark luxury hotel in the gorgeous town of Bellagio on the tip of the peninsula overlooking Lake Como. Run by the Leoni family since 1956, the hotel has been a fixture in Bellagio since 1865. With a stunning location, incredible views of the lake, and a wonderful restaurant on the ground floor, Hotel du Lac is the perfect place to turn an escape to Bellagio into an awe inspiring adventure in Lake Como.
Owned by Luca and Jane Leoni, Hotel du Lac is a family affair, with their son Daniele manning the reception desk. They also own and operate the nearby Hotel Bellagio. Hotel Manager Graziano Gandola has been with the Leoni family since 2002. They are a seamless team creating experiences and memories of Lake Como that will last a lifetime.
Fully renovated, while keeping many historic touches of the original hotel, Hotel du Lac is a lovely combination of the historic past with a modern sensibility at the heart of the scenic wonderland that is Bellagio.
Hotel du Lac in Bellagio, a gem on the shores of Lake Como
Located right at the waters edge across from the ferry landing, Hotel du Lac is perfect for guests arriving by boat or ferry. Bellagio is a hub on the tip of a peninsula at the center of Lake Como. It is particularly well suited as a central destination from which to explore the towns of Tremezzo and Varenna on either side of the lake. Ferries run on a regular schedule well into the night.
Arriving by car is particularly lovely along a winding road that soars high above the lake coming in from the town of Como. Bellagio is a scenic wonder, filled with tiny shops and boutiques. The road into town winds along through the upper part of the town before turning the corner onto the main avenue along the lake. It is easy to understand how it has been a cosmic retreat for the senses for over 100 years.
Hotel du Lac: In the very heart of Bellagio
In the center of it all is Hotel du Lac. Its golden edifice rising 5 stories above the lake. It has 42 rooms on 4 floors of the hotel, and a gorgeous rooftop sun deck with an outdoor bar on the 5th floor of the hotel. The entrance to the hotel lobby is under a series of colonnades that stretch the length of the front of the building.
The Bellagio Ristorante occupies the ground floor. Outdoor seating under the colonnade is always busy. Inside a lovely dining room is filled with diners from all over the world. The colonnade of arches reflected in pink light through the window create a relaxed romantic atmosphere.
The lobby has some of the original features of the hotel, including stunning marble floors and wrought iron banisters. The hand painted wooden reception desk dates back to the 1960s. The feel and atmosphere is authentic, friendly, and very welcoming.
Hotel du Lac: Room with a view
Our third floor room is comfortable and airy. A floor to ceiling glass door leads to a balcony overlooking the lake. A sumptuous king size bed dominates the center of the room under a white leather headboard. Cream colored walls rise to the top of the 10 foot ceilings. An art deco lounge chair sits in one corner.
The bathroom has modernist fixtures, porcelain tile, and a sizeable rain shower stall with a hand held spray. Furnishings throughout the room are simple but warmly hospitable. Blond wooden laminate floors match the headboard and lend to the calming atmosphere of the décor.
The room is a wonderful redoubt from which to gaze out at the changing wonders of Lake Como. The far shore of Lake Como gleams under stirring mountains risking to the sky. At night the lights shimmer and reflect off the surface of the lake. It is a scenic wonder from out of a dream.
Ristorante Bellagio: An evening with Mauro Botta
Dinner at Ristorante Bellagio is an excursion through the culinary traditions of northern Italy. The owner, Mauro Botta, is a genial man with a passion for cuisine. He creates an atmosphere of relaxed casual dining throughout the day. In the evening he is the maestro of a uniquely special evening in Bellagio.
Mauro started working in the restaurant for Luca Leoni at age 14. Twelve years ago he purchased the restaurant and has worked hand in glove with the Leoni family to make Bellagio Ristorante a powerful experience while adding his own unique touches. He refers to Luca as being as close to him as his own father. He has assembled a team of people around him with a similar familial passion
The restaurant sizzles with the aura of a grand gathering seeking a unique experience here on the secluded shores of Bellagio. The day menu has casual food across a range of cuisines. From hamburgers to chicken curry to Gragnano spaghetti di mare with mussells shrimp and clams.
Ristorante Bellagio at Hotel du Lac
At night the dining room is all Italian featuring the specialties of Piemonte and Lombardy. The bar is a centerpiece of the action. In one corner is a domed corridor with a series of romantic banquets. Green stone tiles in an intricate pattern spread from the corner booth to wrap around the back wall of the bar from floor to ceiling. The main room is a beehive of activity under 12 foot ceilings.
Locals mix with tourists in a spectacular pas de deux of a gathering place for the ages. Mauro has gathered a team of colleagues who work in synchronicity like a fine Swiss Watch. Simone has been with him for 12 years, while Luca, Jacopo, Beatrice and the whole team are a seamless whole that are as much family as co-workers.
Ristorante Bellagio: Dinner begins
Mauro suggests a selection from the menu featuring the specials of the day. A seafood salad is a beautiful starting course, filled with fresh shrimp, octopus, calamari and local greens. A primi platti of tiny raviolis under shaved black truffle is fantastic
Saffron risotto covered in rich osso bucco is sensational. It sings with each tantalizing bite. A special sirloin of Fassota beef from Piemonte with artichokes and tomatoes is outstanding, tender and juicy. The meal is accompanied by a bottle of Masseria dei Carmelitani Vite Colte Gavi di Gavi. It is a light, dry, but full-bodied white wine from Lombardi.
Pastry Chef Deborah Bleve completes the evening with a signature Panna Cotta taken from a special recipe using yoghurt under a topping of passion fruit. It is a spectacular finale to a brilliant meal.
Hotel du Lac is the soul of Bellagio
We are here at the end of the season for Bellagio. Mauro will attend to his other business in Como, a series of specialized apartments he rents under the name ComoNFive featuring five different accommodations named after the villages of Lake Como. In March Hotel du Lac and Bellagio Ristorante will reopen and the mad rush of another season will begin again.
Mauro and the Leoni family exemplify the spirit of Bellagio. At the restaurant there are as many locals as there are tourists. Like the Hotel du Lac, Bellagio is a gathering place for people from around the world to experience the meaning of family here on the shores of Lake Como. It is an unforgettable, irreplaceable experience.
Luca Leoni and his family have taken 63 years of their stewardship of this special place and made it a landmark experience. Daniele Leoni is gradually taking the reins of the family business, mixing tradition and stunning beauty with a modern take on a destination resort.
In summer months the rooftop bar on the 5th floor is a sensational gathering place. The lake shimmers off the water in every direction. From the sky Bellagio is the tip of a finger extended deep into the center of Lake Como. The 2nd deepest lake in Europe, it is a majestic place in a magical location.
Hotel du Lac in magical Bellagio
The town itself is a magical incantation of the past and the present. Tiny shops adorn cobblestone alleyways. The Rockefeller Foundation hosts a series of writers in residence on sabbatical, keeping alive the traditions of Bellagio as a haven for artists and writers at the end of the 19th century. Hotel du Lac has been an intimate part of that grand tradition since 1865.
For 63 years the Leoni family have kept that spirit alive. They will pass it on for another 63 years under the guidance of Daniele and eventually his children, and their children. When a visitor arrives in Bellagio 60 years from now it will still be a beacon of light in a harbor of beauty.
It will always remain a shining example of tradition and style, art and commerce on the shores of Lake Como.
Where a member of the Leoni family will carry on the grand traditions of the past. Where Daniele’s grandchildren will welcome a new generation of visitors to be charmed by the singular joy that is Bellagio and the history and presence of the beautiful Hotel du Lac.
Joel Berliner is a travel writer based in Los Angeles. @JoelBerliner
All photos except where noted by Alison Reynolds. @BigAlPeoplesPal