I knew that Hotel Villa Cipressi’s spectacular setting and views in Varenna, Italy, have made it a popular venue for destination weddings—so I was a little concerned about securing a room reservation for early October. But I got lucky; none were scheduled.
Turns out, however, a movie of a wedding was being filmed there when I arrived. The Italian villa is that kind of beautiful.
A centuries old mansion on Italy’s Lake Como in the charming little town of Varenna, the Hotel Villa Cipressi is not only lovely to behold (or produce movies in), but it makes a great base for exploring this gorgeous lake and region.
Built mainly between 1400 and 1800, the hotel was once a private villa overlooking Lake Como and surrounded with stunning terraces, magnificent grounds and lush gardens that are still part of the property today.
Truthfully, it did take some maneuvering to get checked in my first night (there were electric cords and camera equipment everywhere in the entry way—and the check-in desk had china and silverware stacked on it to replicate preparations for a wedding dinner party).
Still, the friendly check-in clerk couldn’t have been more helpful, getting me the (mammoth) room key, speaking excellent English– and sharing all sorts of information about the area, ferry service, and places to see nearby.
The hotel has 32 rooms, plus four suites, and each is different. Size varies, but all are spotless with simple décor (some might call it bland) a t.v. and furnishings. Some rooms feature lake views and/or small balconies, some overlook the courtyard, while others face the street which can be noisy. If you plan to stay here, it’s worth the extra cost to reserve a room with a lake view (then the décor really does not matter!) Room rates start at approximately $187 for a standard double room with no view and go upwards.
My room (number 306) was on the first floor (in Europe, that’s second floor to U.S. folks) and a small elevator was available if I didn’t want to take the curving marble staircase next to the check-in desk. It had a side view of the back garden along with a romantic view of the lake and shoreline through floor to ceiling French door type windows.
The bathroom (shower; no tub) was modern, with plenty of hot water and good water pressure, with a hairdryer provided and monogrammed towels; but as is customary in Europe, no washcloths.
Wi-fi is free, but only available in various communal sitting areas throughout the hotel.
Continental breakfast comes with the cost and is served in a cozy ancient room arrived at by winding through various corridors and courtyards. The hotel also has a full-service (and pricey) restaurant, La Contrada, but I opted to stroll down the steep cobblestone streets to some of the town’s waterfront restaurants instead.
Non-guests have to pay to visit the hotel’s gardens so make sure to take time and wander through them if you are staying here. While not as amazing as say Villa Carlotta’s in Bellagio, the hotel’s terraced botanical gardens are still incredibly interesting to explore and offer a bewitching glimpse into another Italian era when such a paradise was private.
If you arrive by train, do know that it’s a good uphill trek to the hotel. A taxi is cheap and worth it. Oh, and PS: The name of the Italian movie being directed there and due out next year is tentatively titled (according to another guest at the hotel), “Big Family”. And unfortunately, no, it is not starring George Clooney. (I’ll also be curious if shots of all the people at the hotel windows overlooking the courtyard and watching as it was staged are part of the show.)
Review and photos by Donna Tabbert Long