Because it was the nickname I used as a child to call my grandmother on my father’s side, born and raised in Cernobbio, who left me this house, which she inherited from his dad, grand-grandfather Carlo.
Giving the holiday house her name is my way to thank and honor her.
Grandmother Zizi and Grandfather Alfredo owned a hairdressing salon/perfumery inside the famous “Grand Hotel Villa d’Este”, a smaller one in Cernobbio Main Street, the so-called “Strettoia” (“Bottleneck” in English), and a third one inside the Sanremo “Grand Hotel Royal”. They used to spend the six summer months in Cernobbio and the six winter months in Liguria, in Sanremo.
In these prestigious hotels, they had the chance to meet the leading figures of the 20thCentury, famous actors and directors, politicians and athletes, who, just as it happens today, chose Villa d’Este as the perfect annual destination for a relaxing and discreet stay.
Long before George Clooney, to whom much is owed for advertising our lake, before Robert De Niro and Brad Pitt, Hitchcock was a regular guest of Villa d’Este.
I happen to be the lucky recipient of one of his autograph, which includes the famous profile line that marked many of its productions.
Grandma Zizi told me a lot of curious stories and among the pictures taken over the years there are several photos of famous celebrities and movie stars. In particular, one portrays Silvana Pampanini, with a special dedication to my grandmother; another one portrays Rita Hayworth, here captured on the staircase to the lake in front of Villa d’Este.
But way ahead of actors and VIPs, in the 19thCentury Lake Como used to be a “must-stop” of the aristocratic and cultural Grand Tour that brought artists and intellectual to Italy.
Stendhal, in his novel La Chartreuse de Parme, wrote this well-known passage:
“Nothing in the universe can be compared to the charm of these feverish summer days spent on this lake […] the Lake Como, so voluptuous, which proceeds towards Lecco with such austerity: such sublime and beautiful features”.
The American writer Mark Twain, in his The Innocents Abroad describes Lake Como as
“a paradise of tranquil repose”,
while English poet Shelley writes
“This lake exceeds anything I ever beheld in beauty”.
On Lake Como shores there is always the chance to have interesting encounters and come across celebrities, such as the above-mentioned George Clooney, as one of our guests writes in his nice review:
“Luca’s property is absolutely lovely, clean and well appointed, the stairs are steep so no good if you are unfit or scared of heights, luckily we are neither of these, the apartment is very well placed and near to restaurants and the waterfront, it is also near the local church, so you have to get used to the bells, but I have found that one of the endearing qualities of the property, you really feel immersed in local Italian life, also on our last night we were having a meal at Harry’s Bar (Which is just around the corner from Luca’s apartment) when we bumped into George Clooney and his Wife who had gone there for dinner, which was definitely a high point of our stay! I would highly recommend Luca’s property and Cernobbio and Lake Como, in general, it is just beautiful I do not think you can get bored of looking out over the lake, and mountains, thank you again Luca for being such a great host. Best regards, James”.