Leonardo was first again. The man from Vinci regularly came to Lake Como from his home in Milano because he was interested in water in all its facets. The universal genius studied the aesthetics and effects of a karst spring falling from the steep slopes in Torno.
Around 50 years later, the Villa Pliniana was built in the magical place, today one of the oldest on the lake. It was named after the two Pliny born in Como, who had also sensed the magical charm of the place around 1400 years earlier.
The waterfall meanwhile tumbles through the middle of the magnificent building. Many of Leonardo's sketches created in Torno are now owned by the British royal family and are therefore largely inaccessible. Unlike the villa itself. You can rent it for around 17,000 euros a day – otherwise it is not accessible.
17 bedrooms, helipad, butler service and two ballrooms are included in the price. In addition, there is the pool table, at which Napoleon is said to have played, and the piano, on which the still young Gioachino Rossini composed parts of his opera Tancredi. It is always rented exclusively to one customer, who can then feel like a Lombard duke of yesteryear in today's furniture.
The villa is the 500-year-old sister of the ultra-modern design hotel pearl "Il Sereno" in the same place. Sereno owner Luis Contreras explains why the two go so well together: “Both correspond to the same philosophy – they each represent the aesthetic pinnacle of their time. Built with local materials and furnished with furniture and fabrics from the leading local craftsmen and producers.”
In the case of “Il Sereno” these are companies like Molteni, B
A dilapidated palazzo from the 17th century, which had been rebuilt several times, had to make way for the hotel. The round arches made of Moltrasio stone of the former boathouse have remained - today the right place for Raffaele Lenzi's cuisine, which has been crowned with a Michelin star.
Its open kitchen draws the gaze of guests just as much as what is happening on the lake: Elegant vaporinas head for the trendy restaurants on the lake, small sports boats bring rejoicing families home from a trip, the small passenger ferry between Moltrasio and Torno makes its last trip and chugs around the standup paddlers.
For many guests, the morning begins with downward facing dogs and cobras - in the yoga class with Lynn Martyn. Like her boss, she is originally from New York. She almost always gives her yoga classes outdoors, preferably on the terrace by the waterfall of Villa Pliniana. Always at the beginning with closed eyes in order to arrive in the now with all five senses: "We feel the breeze, smell the plants, hear the birds and the waves." And the motor boats? Lynn laughs and says: "Yes, the boats too, they are part of it."
Of course, the best way to get to the hotel from Como or Cernobbio is with a classic Vaporina. Skipper Giorgio turns the water taxi ride into a loving presentation of his home lake. He knows them all - the stately villas from several centuries that make the Y-shaped lake look so stately.
The Villa d'Este in Cernobbio starts things off, but Giorgio also knows which stately home has previously belonged to a Russian oligarch. He shows the palace in Urio, which belongs to the Catholic Opus Dei and attracts attention from afar with its many terraces, statues and balustrades.
The Laglio estate of George Clooney, the most prominent part-time resident of the lake, is more modest. Skipper Giorgio also knows how the Hollywood star discovered the lake: "Clooney once had a motorcycle breakdown here, simply rang the bell, got along well with the owner - Mr. Heinz, the ketchup producer - and later gave him Villa Oleandra Bought it.” In the meantime, two guest houses have been added and a mobile privacy screen system to make working life as difficult as possible for the paparazzi lurking on the lake.
Here on the southwestern shore of the lake, the enormous density of stately villas and country estates from over six centuries is particularly striking. In addition to the Villa Pliniana and the "Il Sereno", the village of Torno, which has 1150 inhabitants, also has the castle-like Villa Taverna from the 18th century and, on the outskirts of the village, the Villa Roccabruna from the early 20th century, run by Mandarin Oriental. And that's just the big waterfront villas.
Things are a bit more modest in the town centre. The hotels "Vapore" and "Belvedere" are located to the left and right of the picture-book church square with its miniature harbour. Both blessed with beautiful lake terraces and affordable restaurants, where of course the lake specialty Lavarello, a species of whitefish, is served.
The guests of these two hotels come from all over the world and relatively few from Italy. A local table neighbor on the lake terrace explains why that could be: “Italians love the sea – and the mountains. But they do not feel the same love for their many beautiful lakes.”
What catches the eye when you look at the water: No oversized Protz yachts are cruising here, but rather elegant wooden boats from Colombo, Riva or Frauscher. Of course, there are also speedsters who make more noise with their jet skis than an entire armada of boats.
Many of the sports boats now have electric motors - an innovation that would not be conceivable without another famous local: Alessandro Volta, the inventor of the electric battery, lived and died in Como.
Fortunately, the plan of a highly productive resident of Milan when it comes to hydraulic engineering never got beyond the planning phase. He had the idea of connecting the city and Lake Como via a canal. In the summer months, when there is already a lot of activity on the lake, this waterway would almost certainly have been as congested as the narrow shore roads on land. The brain that came up with this idea, of course, belonged to Leonardo da Vinci.
Arrival: If you don't want to travel by car or train, take a plane to Milan or Bergamo. Eurowings, for example, offers direct flights.
Accommodation in Torno: The "Il Sereno" is the most modern of all five-star hotels on the lake, overnight stays in the low season from 750 euros, serenohotels.com/property/il-sereno. The luxury hotel "Mandarin Oriental" on the outskirts of Torno scores with a floating pool, panoramic terrace and spacious rooms and suites, overnight stays from 1400 euros, mandarinoriental.com/lake-como. The friendly three-star hotel "Il Belvedere" has a few rooms with a south-facing lake view and an upscale restaurant with fish specialties, overnight stays from 230 euros, hotelilbelvedere.com. The family-run two-star hotel "Vapore" next to the village church of Torno has a wonderful terrace with a view of the lake and simple rooms, some with a view of the lake, overnight stays from 130 euros, hotelvapore.it.
Information: The official website of Lake Como is lakecomo.it. There you will also find information about the many movies, some of which were filmed on Lake Como, from James Bond to Star Wars. Italian National Tourist Board: enit.de
Participation in the trip was supported by Sereno Hotels. You can find our standards of transparency and journalistic independence at axelspringer.com/de/Werte/downloads.