Villa Làrio, Time Stands <br>Still on Lake Como

Villa Làrio, Time Stands
Still on Lake Como

Villa Làrio stands on the shores of Lake Como. Three villas and a palazzo nestled in two hectares of historic gardens, offering the privacy of 18 suites to visitors who have chosen to give Flore Pilzer and her team their valuable holiday time. Probably the most precious time of all! And it is our sacred responsibility to let go of everyday life in order to enjoy it to the full. Embracing a diametrically different rhythm as soon as we cross the threshold. A rhythm of slow-living brings together three elements “fresh water – omnipresent -, the mountain – which dominates and creates the very particular geography of the lake – and the Italian lifestyle”, all of which come together to create an experience of total disconnection. Built vertically, the house, renovated with the help of interior designer Pietro Castagna and craftspeople with centuries-old skills, puts the environment first. Every bit of the work undertaken was designed to “enhance the lake and gardens without interrupting the view”. Without denaturing the place. Creating a marriage between history and modernity that preserves the 19th-century elements – frescoes, mouldings and stucco – of some of the buildings while enhancing them with more contemporary additions. Large windows and clean lines rest the eye, allowing guests the luxury of contemplating one of the jewels of Northern Italy.

Villa Làrio, Pognana Lario – Italy. Reservations can be made at www.villalario.com, by phone at +39 (0) 315 375064 or by e-mail at villa@villalario.com

Port Villa Lario au lac de Côme
Végétation à la Villa Lario
Plongeoir à la Villa Lario
Terrasse avec colonnes Villa Lario

Flore, please can you introduce yourself?

Flore

I am a French, have been living in Italy for 7 years, and I’m mum to Cosme, who is 12 years old. Nowadays, I divide my time between Monnier Paris – a French e-tailer of luxury accessories – and the world of luxury hotels at Villa Làrio, an 18-suite property on the shore of Lake Como.

What is your background?

Flore

A thoroughly international one! I grew up in the Caribbean and studied in the USA and London. Then I started my professional life in Paris, with longings for elsewhere, specifically for Italy, for Lake Como! I also have a bit of a dilettante side – with studies in political science, media and marketing and a parallel entrepreneurial venture in gastronomy. Nowadays, I divide my time between fashion and the hotel business! There’s a sort of dotted line between the two: clients at the heart of everything we do, innovating to surprise and to anchor ourselves in our clients’ hearts ,and luxury, combining traditional know-how and a modern approach.

How did the Villa Làrio project come about?

Flore

The project was a natural fit. A green setting discovered during a walk along the lake, a palazzo forgotten for 30 years, and the lake itself … combining drama and delight. Ten years ago, there wasn’t really a destination hotel that combined a modern approach with the standards and intimate feel an international luxury clientele expects. And we wanted to achieve this, yet keep it very simple. We wanted to create the perfect holiday home on Lake Como. A home away from home for a while. And to introduce visitors to a truly Italian lifestyle, making the most of the lake and the mountain.

Can you tell us some more about it?

Flore

Villa Làrio is made up of three villas and one palazzo set in two hectares of historic gardens on the lakefront. It is a very vertical property which naturally gives it a great deal of privacy, reinforced by the fact that with only 18 suites, everyone can find their own little corner to read a book or stare out over the vast expanse of water. We brought in the interior designer Pietro Castagna, a native of Como, to help us realise our vision, drawing on incredible local expertise throughout the renovation.

Couloir avec verrière et carrelage damier Villa Lario
Paysage Lac de Côme Villa Lario
Plafond avec moulures Villa Lario
Statues grecques Villa Lario
  • How did you acquire these two hectares, which are located between water and cliffs?
Flore

The transformation of the place into Villa Larió took place over time and in several stages. We wanted to be sure that we were making the right choices for the place while offering a truly special lifestyle. Not just the umpteenth destination on Lake Como! And nothing is easy when a property is 60 m high, with lifts to four floors. So you have to take your time and not have to do anything multiple times. So we tested our philosophy: to renovate in such a way that what we were doing became a framework for enhancing the lake and the gardens without interrupting the view. We also wanted to try to combine history and the contemporary. The palazzo dates back to the end of the 19th century with original features – mouldings, stucco, graffito – that we wanted to keep and renovate, but not too much. At the same time, it has been given a new look, with large windows, designer furniture and clean lines. We were lucky enough to be surrounded by exceptional craftspeople throughout the project. They were very much in tune with our vision; I think you can sense that.

  • What styles and inspirations have you used in furnishing and decorating the four “spaces” in the Villa Làrio? Is there a common thread running through them all?
Flore

The watchwords were ‘holiday home’ and ‘dolce vita’, in the sense of relaxed luxury. This is what Villa Bianca is all about. A holiday atmosphere, the white contrasting with the grey-blue of the lake. Le Pavillon is like being on the prow of a ship, suspended above it, and the Palazzo is a kind of Italian palace with its terrazzo and frescos. It is the same interior designer who is involved in each of our designs, and we use very natural tones and furniture that is made to measure but never ostentatious. Clean lines, books everywhere, and always with the wish to put the lake in the foreground.

  • What philosophy do you want your business to convey?
Flore

By giving us their most precious time – their holiday time – our customers are giving us a special gift, but it is also a significant responsibility. That’s why it’s crucial to choose your destination carefully and to make sure it’s in line with what you want from your stay. There are some very nice hotels on the lake now, and so there is the perfect place for everyone. At Villa Làrio, we really do offer our guests the opportunity to cut themselves off from their daily lives and let them experience a different sense of time. We were already into the idea of ‘slow living’ before it became fashionable, and we want to be able to offer them the most personalised service we can so that they feel at home. In fact, many of them end up walking around barefoot during the day. That’s a sure sign!

  • What do you offer your guests to make them feel this way?
Flore

Of course, we have a concierge team that advises and helps our guests to organise their stay with plenty of tried and tested suggestions. The summer months can be extremely busy. So it is important to prepare in advance for boat trips or restaurant reservations. The chef also organises cooking classes on request for all, and if our guests cannot find their favourite dish on the menu, we offer to make it for them – if we possibly can – for their next meal! Although our lounge bar offers a cocktail menu, we also create tailor-made cocktails by listening to each person’s individual tastes and suggesting other flavours, often with aromatic herbs from the garden. In summer, when it’s time for a little ice-cream treat, we go around by the pool, in the gardens and on the pontoon with ghiacciolos. For a truly Italian summer treat! There are also yoga classes every morning, facing the lake, and there are books everywhere. Truly synonymous with ‘having time’! We have chosen not to put TVs in the rooms, or anywhere else for that matter. Moreover, you will find sculptures by Nathalie Decoster and her iconic “The Passing of Time”, always with the same idea in mind: to encourage our customers to put some distance between themselves and the rhythm of their everyday lives.

Flore Pilzer et son fils à la Villa Lario
Entrée blanche avec verrière à la Villa Lario
Sol carrelé à la Villa Lario
Chambre avec photographies et draps blancs Villa Lario

Which is your favourite place here?

Flore

The loggia. It is a combination of everything that makes you feel totally transported elsewhere. The historic frescoes, the lake, the modern furniture, a perfect place to relax with a book in the daytime and enjoy a drink at the end of the day.

How do people make the most of Lake Como from day to day?

Flore

We have the best of three worlds here: fresh water – which is everywhere – the mountains – which dominate and create the very special geography of the lake – and the Italian way of life. The lake can be experienced by boat. This is the best way to discover it, either with the public shuttles, or by renting one, or with your own boat tucked away in the darsena (a kind of boathouse hidden under the houses). And it’s a real luxury to have a private pontoon at Villa Làrio, which allows easy access. The steep surroundings of the lake offer a variety of walks and spots where you can enjoy polenta and gorgonzola, the funicular from Como to Brunate offers a breathtaking view, and the steep roads are a delight for cyclists. And the Italian way of life … With an aperitif at the end of the day watching the sunset in the Villa Làrio gardens, a boat trip to a concert at the Lacmus festival in the summer or the San Giovanni festival on the Isola Comacina. Then dinner with friends or in one of the many restaurants on the shore, then grappa on the boat as we return late across the silent, oily lake. And on a long summer night, why not enjoy a midnight swim from the pontoon when you get back.

What are the best places in the area to explore?

Flore

Don’t hesitate to take a ride on one of the many public ferries that criss-cross the lake. There is no better way to explore than out on the water. For a quick bite to eat, there’s Il Sorso in Como, Da Luciano in Laglio, and Millesimo Enoteca in Carate Urio. For lunch, Momi’s terrace in Blevio or Harris Bar in Cernobbio. Then a drink at the Villa d’Este. And for dinner in the evening, either the restaurant at la Villa Làrio, a meal at Côme in Figli di Fiori, Le Darsene di Loppia in San Giovani, l’AcquaDolce in Carate Urio or even Locanda La Tirlindana in Sala Comancina. The pizzas at Brunate in Capo Linéa, which you can reach by funicular. And be sure to spend an afternoon in the beautiful city of Como!

Lac de Côme Villa Lario
Glycines à la Villa Lario
Salon avec carrelage mosaïque Villa Lario
Vedette sur le Lac de Côme Villa Lario

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