If we can’t be George Clooney, we can at least vacation like him.
Escape the oppressive summer heat for some cool mountain air in Lake Como, Italy, where Mr C. isn’t the only one relaxing like royalty.
With palatial villas scattered amidst laid-back lakeside towns surrounded by the Alps, it’s just an hour north of Milan but feels like another world. Plus, there's Italian food. Lots of it.
While Bellagio gets all the attention (and tourists), we prefer the sleepy town of Varenna. Explore the city on walking trails along the lake and downtown’s cobblestone streets, taking in pastel-colored buildings, gelato shops and lush gardens along the way, plus a quiet pebble beach and villas guarded by ornate stone columns.
A ferry trip on the lake’s calm waters is a must. Float past dozens of charming little towns dotting the coast and wonder why you haven't quit your job and moved abroad. Ferries depart regularly from Varenna, Bellagio, Menaggio and Mandello del Lario, home of Moto Guzzi motorcycles and unmatched mountain views.
Perched high on a hill and only accessible by a funicular (outdoor elevator), the former monastery tuned hotel Eremo Gaudio is as romantic as it gets. Drink wine over homemade pastas on their gorgeous outdoor patio while watching the sunset — then tell us if there’s anywhere on Earth you’d rather be.
Via Roma 25, Varenna +39 0341 815301
Anywhere you eat in Italy is good, but our favorite was Dolce Basilico in the mountains above the town of Brunate. With the most welcoming owner/server we can remember, we were hooked up with a nonstop rotation of Italian specialties in a setting that felt like home because, for the owner, it was.
Via Mulattiera per San Maurizio 24, Brunate +39 031 221003