The ever-magnificent Villa d’Este hotel in Cernobbio, on Lake Como

Not to be confused with Villa d’Este at Tivoli, just outside Rome, the Hotel Villa d’Este in Cernobbio, on the western shore of Lake Como, is one of those places that defies description. Words such as splendor, grandeur, magic, and opulence spring to mind. And, let’s face it, most of us will never get to spend the night there.

But, if you are lucky enough to visit — and you can: a drink at the bar (15 euro) will also include the chance to visit the lovely gardens — you will notice a strange phenomenon: there is a special welcoming feel and, after a while, you almost forget that even the least expensive of the rooms comes in at about 500 euro a night.

The 152 rooms and suites, mostly the latter, are both in the main building, and in the red-brick Casa della Regina (Queen’s House). The aforementioned gardens are exquisite, and include a water staircase.

 Can you see what looks like a ruined medieval fortress on the hillside behind the hotel?

This was built by Vittoria Peluso who, at the end of the eighteenth century, had bought Villa d’Este — at that time a private residence and known as Villa del Garrovo — with her husband the marchese Bartolomeo Calderari, who died in 1806. Two years later, the widow married Count Domenico Pino, an army general under Napoleon. In order to honour her new husband’s victories during Bonaparte’s Spanish campaign, and fearing he might get bored now he was no longer needed on the battlefield, Vittoria had the turrets and forts constructed in the grounds.

The general did not have long to play with his new toys, though. For, in 1814, the villa was sold to Queen Caroline, the estranged wife of George IV. She renamed it Villa d’Este.

More about Villa d’Este, which has been voted, at one time or another, as one of the Best Hotels in the World by Travel & Leisure, Condé Nast Traveler, and Forbes Traveler. And me, too. But I don’t count!