We cross over the border into Como, Italy, via Switzerland, with little more than a blink of an eye. It’s our first trip to Italy, and frankly, we’re a bit intimidated and hoping it’s not overly… well, overrated.

We wind our way through the city of Como to the east side of Lake Como, or Lago di Como to the Italians. At this point in our European and UK travels, we’re comfortable traversing the small streets and quaint medieval villages in our rental car.

Lake Como is the destination for our first trip to Italy primarily because of one place: Villa Làrio, an all-suites resort in Pognana Lario on the eastern shore that is quite literally carved from the surrounding rock cliffs. I found the boutique luxury property on Instagram, via an Italian influencer’s reel, and I figured I’d never be lucky enough to be going there to photograph and experience it: but here we are.

Because of my photography, we’ve been fortunate enough to stay at quite a few posh and luxurious hotels. But we are not posh people. We’re rather simple, actually. We’re fine to lug our own luggage around and we don’t travel with 25 different photo-perfect outfits. So, a place like Lake Como can feel a bit daunting with its reputation of being the playground of celebrities.

Secretly, I’m a bit worried about not fitting in with all the other inevitable influencer-types, or so I think. We pull off to a parking spot a few minutes from the entrance of the property so I can refresh my hair and makeup. I don’t know it then, but I have nothing to worry about.

Upon arrival, we find that Villa Làrio has incredibly easy self-parking via covered parking garage. Bonus. We walk down to the first landing overlooking the property nestled within the rocky cliffs on the shores of the lake. Conveniently, there’s an elevator and we pop down to the reception office. We’re immediately greeted by a friendly and welcoming staff. We apologize for not knowing much Italian, and they assure us not to worry: the majority of their guests don’t and they’re used to speaking English for 8 hours a day.

It’s another journey further down the cliff side in the elevator to reach the “ground floor.” I’ve requested a Master Suite in the Il Palazzo, the historical 19th century building on the property. And while the old world charm is ever-present, everything feels well maintained, fresh, and new. Our suite has a balcony that overlooks their private floating dock (they call it the pontoon), and we cheers our bottle of Prosecco. The last few days in Switzerland have tired us out a bit, but now, things feel different.

Instantly upon arriving at Villa Làrio, we feel a second wind return to our sails. Safely snug against the cliffs, with no distractions other than the lake as your premiere source of entertainment, Villa Làrio feels like a world away from the hustle and stress of the modern world. The property hugs and soothes you, and the feeling of romance and serenity… and much needed rest and relaxation… floods your senses. This is Lake Como. This is Italy. It’s not overrated whatsoever. It’s a downright treasure.

Villa Làrio is a 2-acre property with private gardens. Its suites are spread out through four different buildings: Il Palazzo, Villa Bianca, The Pavilion, and The Garden Suite.

Safely snug against the cliffs, with no distractions other than the lake as your premiere source of entertainment, Villa Làrio feels like a world away from the hustle and stress of the modern world. The property hugs and soothes you, and the feeling of romance and serenity… and much needed rest and relaxation… floods your senses. This is Lake Como. This is Italy. It’s not overrated whatsoever. It’s a downright treasure.

So, we spend the next two days and two nights in the lap of pleasant and unpretentious luxury. We don’t venture from Villa Làrio, there’s plenty to explore on the huge property and we have other days in Lake Como to explore the local villages. For now, we simply want to experience this place – and there’s simply too many things to photograph anyway.

All images © Emily Sandifer

Villa Làrio photographs like a dream. There’s something about the gentle October Italian sunshine and colours that feel very much like you’ve stepped back into another simpler decade, accented with teal blues and burnt oranges.

The Garden Suite on the left. The steps leading to the terrace at the Il Palazzo building on the right.

The guests range from honeymooners to girls’ trip attendees to business associates who have popped in for a dinner meeting.

Speaking of, dinner takes place within the comfortable restaurant situated in one of the property’s other buildings: Villa Bianca, perched on a cliff overlooking the lake. Cosy sofas and armchairs make this feel more like a home kitchen with an open floorpan spilling into a living room. We are not big wine drinkers – which feels forbidden in Italy – so, both evenings we dine here, we ask our server for suggestions to go with our food. They’re incredibly helpful and patient.

The restaurant in the Villa Bianca building at Villa Làrio. © Emily Sandifer

Grabbing a few cocktails in the Il Palazzo bar and sitting out on the terrace to watch the lake is also a must before and after dinner activity. The bartender strikes up a conversation with us and then tells me, “If you’re a photographer, you should go check out the bathroom. Trust me.”

I’ll take that challenge. So, I wander down the flight of stairs to the public restroom and discover this view:

Mornings are a delight. There’s a wee seagull who seems to have lost his pals and is calling for anyone to pay attention to him. You’d think that would be unpleasant – but it’s the opposite. It’s endearing and entertaining, and actually one of the fondest memories of the experience, as well as the two swans who visit near the pontoon each day.

We head up to the restaurant for breakfast out on the terrace. We can hear bells chime across the lake, marking the hour. It’s another reminder of the medieval history of the area. It’s a slow morning: we take our time eating and the staff doesn’t rush us in the least.

Afternoons I set out photographing the property, soaking in as much of it as I can and capturing the changes in sunlight as it skirts across the mountain range to our west.

Our final afternoon at Villa Làrio, we lounge at the suspended deck near the floating pontoon, under a stone arch built into the lake wall. It’s October, but the perfect weather: not too hot with a light breeze. The pontoon and the suspended deck are both private, only accessible to Villa Làrio guests.

Il Palazzo, the floating pontoon, and suspended deck. © Emily Sandifer

Sunset turns into nighttime and it feels bittersweet knowing we’ll be checking out the following morning. We take a final stroll through the gardens back to Il Palazzo and a final round of cocktails.

Left: Our master suite balcony at sunset. Right: sunset in the reception and terrace area in the Il Palazzo building. © Emily Sandifer
The Galleria in the Il Palazzo building, which we walk through to get to our suite. On the right, the pontoon at night, as seen from the terrace of the reception area of Il Palazzo. © Emily Sandifer

Several days after checking out, we have fomo from not renting a boat while we were there. So, we get a last minute reservation via Lake Como Boat at the Nesso pier, and enjoy a sunset boat ride that passes right by Villa Làrio. Il Palazzo’s cheerful yellow facade seems like a friendly and familiar landmark, beckoning us to return again someday in the future. I hope we do.

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*This was a paid partnership, but I do not get commissions from recommending my readers to stay there.

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Villa Làrio from the water, with Il Palazzo in the foreground, and Villa Bianca directly above it on the right. ©Emily Sandifer
The Penthouse Suite at Villa Làrio, located at the top of the 19th century Il Palazzo building, which was fully restored in 2020.
© Emily Sandifer
The 20m long infinity pool at Villa Làrio. © Emily Sandifer
Master Tower Suite in Il Palazzo at Villa Làrio. © Emily Sandifer
Bathroom and the view from our suite: One of the Master Suites in the Il Palazzo. © Emily Sandifer
Views from The Pavilion. All images © Emily Sandifer
The bathroom in the Garden Suite. © Emily Sandifer
Enjoying a boat road around Lake Como is a must. Ciao!

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