overview shot of Grand Hotel Bristol surrounded by trees

On board a vintage motor boat that flits across the glassy expanses of Lake Como, I watch the shoreline revealed in evocative breathtaking clips as if spun from a fast-forwarding film. Italianate villas, manicured English and Italian-style gardens, inviting villages with pastel and Renaissance-colored structures, snug beaches, lavish homes, lazily slung sailboats, and pine tree-studded mountain walls compose the movie. Swimmers plunge into the water and capacious ferries chug from pier to port. Timeless, the scene could hail from any decade but for the modern cars, often red and sporty, that zip on the road that rims the lake. Going from R Collection Hotel Group’s spectacular Grand Hotel Victoria in Menaggio to posh Bellagio for a shopping jaunt, I feel as regal as Greta Garbo, who also loved to visit this storied lake, located an hour from Milan in the Dolomite’s foothills. Once docked, I wind my way up the village’s hill to revisit one of my favorite boutiques in the world, one of the few places that has remained on my personal travel-to-shop list for more than a decade.

water tax at grand hotel victoria italy
Courtesy of R Collection Hotel Group

Saraceno is a unique jewelry outpost, an atelier stocked with stunning designs by Silvia Saraceno who worked side-by-side with Giorgio Armani for 18 years. She perpetually helms the store, modeling her jewelry and bag designs, intuiting shoppers’ styles, making suggestions and crafting each customer’s new look with her cunning eye. Nobody leaves the shop without a purchase. To resist would be futile. From bags to silk scarves, from chunky resin bracelets to oversized dinner rings, her trove transcends Italian chic demonstrating the boot-shaped country’s penchant for self expression through fashion. I want to keep this place a secret, but this isn’t the first time I’ve shared the store’s name, and it won’t be the last. 

More About R Collection Hotels on Lake Como and in Other Locations

open gate surrounded by purple flowers at hotel villa cipressi
Courtesy of R Collection Hotel Group

Saraceno’s rows and rows of colorful, spellbinding bracelets — some bespeckled with Swarovski crystals — draw from both old-world traditions and new-era imaginings. Similarly, the magnificently renovated and re-envisioned Grand Hotel Victoria, replete with its world-class Erre Spa, allows fused classical elements and enhancements to fashion its well-executed vision of over-the-top luxury, deeply steeped in sense of place. The result is a hotel that feels dynamically Italian, free from the constraints of big-brand homogeneity. At the same time, no aspect of five-star hospitality lies dormant — every detail hits the mark from service to well-conceived design. Part of the Rocchi family’s Como-based textile empire, the R Collection, a growing independent entity with more hotels to come, was born to immerse travelers in a lavish slice of true Italy, an experience meant to surround guests in Italian-made delights from food to philosophy to design. The group’s flagship (or defining) hotel, Grand Hotel Victoria lords over the lake, a harbinger for pleasures to come. Steps from Menaggio’s riveting shops and buzzy square, the hotel, incorporating a golden palace and an attached villa portion, boasts high-tech features in the rooms and suites, has a glamorous central pool, stellar local cuisine, and a wellness program that stands out as a reason to travel to Italy itself. Rife with made-in-Italy products that pay homage to Italian craftsmen, with an elegantly casual atmosphere, the hotel can arrange customized tours of villas and gardens, as well as more active local pursuits, including kitesurfing, biking, horseback riding, and golf. 

hotel royal victoria's signature yellow, lake como
Courtesy of R Collection Hotel Group

In a mind-bogglingly gobsmacking waterside setting in Varenna, the yellow-hued Hotel Royal Victoria conveys a comfortingly nostalgic experience on Lake Como’s shore that may make travelers forget time as they root into place. Amid a garden that transports guests to the Italy of yesteryear with sumptuous furnishings (think velvet sofas and hand-carved wooden chairs and tables) that feel princely though unpretentious, the Royal Victoria nevertheless offers contemporary amenities throughout — including the truly stunning eatery, Visteria, and a lovely pool. Top-notch staff and exemplary concierges plan outings for guests — such as boat trips to Bellagio. For couples planning to marry, honeymooners, and those intent on romantic liaisons, sister hotel, Villa Cipressi, a dreamy throwback, dating back to the 1400s, seals the deal. 

On the Portofino Coast 

white beach umbrellas overlooking the lake at the victoria lido beach
Courtesy of R Collection Hotel Group

With just 80 rooms and suites, each a fantasy of design-centric, coastal luxury, the Grand Hotel Bristol, a pink palace, overlooks the Mediterranean Sea and the Portofino Promontory, summoning images of heyday travelers ensconced on the Italian Riviera in pursuit of repose. Redone with decadent flourishes and graced with riveting art, the hotel has al fresco nooks galore. It sits in a small town, Rapallo, awash in character. Allowing a hideaway from Portofino’s unfortunate throngs, this real-deal, five-star hotel is a new member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World. Embodying dolce vita at every turn, Grand Hotel Bristol has a cosseting spa, enchanting restaurants, and a suite with a sybaritic, round bathtub. In big news, the hotel will open a shiny new marina on the coastal waterfront in May, which will include a dock and casual restaurant. 

The Newest Hotels in the Group

dinner facing snow covered mountains at grand hotel courmayeur mont blanc
Courtesy of R Collection Hotel Group

Expanding to the French Alps on the Italian border in the mountainous wonderland of Mont Blanc, R Collection recently launched two hotels located minutes from the region’s top ski areas: chalet-style Montana Lodge & Spa and Grand Hotel Courmayeur Mont Blanc, set steps from the city center in a characteristic residential enclave. Both hotels sport peerless wellness centers, sublime for après ski or post-hiking relaxation. 

Featured image courtesy of R Collection Hotel Group