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Villa Sola Cabiati, once the home of Charles II, king of Naples, and later the summer abode of Duke Gabrio Serbelloni, can now be your holiday destination of a lifetime. You’ll just need to gather 11 friends to share the experience and the cost of about $10,000 a day. Closed to the public for decades, the villa is now under the exclusive management of the nearby five-star Grand Hotel Tremezzo.
The bed slept in by Napoleon and his wife Josephine has been housed within the villa since it was moved there from Milan during World War II. Two upper floors have been set aside as a museum for an extraordinary collection of tapestries, ancient paintings, period antiques, and other treasures — including the bed — collected over the years by Duke Serbelloni and his descendants.
Six individually decorated bedroom suites, a heated pool, garden, and three floors of exquisitely furnished living, dining, and lounging spaces are available for guests of the villa, which must be rented in its entirety. Modern conveniences like satellite TV, remote-controlled music, Wi-Fi, and a fully equipped kitchen are available, but you might want to ignore those to truly step back in time and enjoy the fantasy of your own dukedom for a few days.
An on-site chef will prepare a welcome dinner, daily breakfast, and private meals if you desire. In addition, all the restaurants and bars at the Grand Hotel Tremezzo are yours to enjoy as a guest of Villa Sola Cabiati. They include L’Escale, an informal trattoria, and La Terrazza, serving fine Italian cuisine, both with spectacular lake views.
Villa Sola Cabiati is open from June through September, and there are ways to experience the elegant lakefront property with its symmetrical garden and ornate gates should the sleepover plans not work out. Guided tours of the two museum floors can be arranged for those who want a glimpse of the rare collection that includes Stradivarius violins that were painted black for Marie Antoinette’s 1793 funeral. Weddings, romantic dinners in the Tuscan garden, poolside yoga, and special events may be arranged as well.
A little more than an hour from Milan’s Malpensa Airport, the villa is a convenient base for exploring the Lake Como area by boat or car. Bellagio, once a Roman settlement and medieval fortification, is a fashionable town with shops and brightly colored houses. Varenna, with its narrow streets, frescoed churches, and ancient palaces is another charming town to explore. The city of Como offers shops, bars, restaurants, magnificent churches, and historic villas. Lake Como Food Tours arranges walking groups through Como for visitors who want to sample the local cheese, wines, and baked goods along with commentary on the city’s sights.
Villa Del Balbianello, situated on the tip of the Lavedo peninsula, should also be on your Lake Como itinerary. Set among lush, artistically landscaped gardens, the property evolved from a small Franciscan church to the villa built in the 18th century by Cardinal Durini as his summer residence. Through the years, the villa has been restored and for a time owned by American General Butler Ames and then finally by Milanese businessman Guido Monzino, an explorer and the first Italian to climb Mount Everest. His immense collection of art objects, souvenirs, maps, and travel memoirs is displayed along with lavish furnishings. He left the villa and its contents to Fondo Ambiente Italiano (FAI), Italy’s National Trust, to share with the public through guided tours.
Grand Hotel Tremezzo is the perfect partner for Villa Sola Cabiati, sharing its three distinctive pools, including the W.O.W. or Water on the Water pool that floats on Lake Como near its sand beach, sun beds, and T Beach for beverages and fine cuisine. The Garden Pool, with dazzling blue mosaics and floral surroundings, is inviting, especially with T Pizza and cocktails nearby. Last, the indoor infinity spa pool with outdoor Jacuzzi is the perfect place to float after a luxurious spa treatment.
Among Lake Como’s stunning villas, Villa Sola Cabiati is one of the grandest. An opportunity to visit or spend a few days behind its gold-tipped gates would be a memorable experience, even if you couldn’t sleep in Napoleon’s bed.