Italy Posts

About the breathtaking photos of Lake Como – they’re real!

by Damien Martin, Italy Specialist


Lake Como is a true beauty!

It’s not that reading descriptions and viewing pictures of Lake Como can’t prepare you for its beauty. It’s more that those pictures are so stunning you halfway convince yourself that they can’t be real, that no place can really look like that. Until you get there.

Como Villa d’Este gardens

Elegance defined

Carved by glaciers, ringed by the Alps, dotted with ornate villas and a playground for the rich and famous since Roman times, the lake is just one of several in northern Italy, but its unique elegance steals the breath right out of you. You can find Renaissance architecture in lots of places. You can find alpine lakes in fewer places. And you can find lush sculpted gardens in still fewer places. If you want them all, you go to Lake Como.

Como Villa la Cassinella

Best views are from the lake

Your first glimpse comes from the road that winds its way around the lake — and if you’re driving up from Milan on the weekend, you’ll have plenty of time in heavy traffic to admire the view — but Lake Como is best enjoyed from the water.

Como Bellagio from Capella degli Alpini

Bellagio – the pearl of Lake Como

Head over to Bellagio, the pearl of the lake, situated on the peninsula that divides the water into three forks and find your own gems in its many boutiques. Grab lunch on Isola Comacina and take part in the traditional toast that staves off the curse placed on the lake’s sole island by a medieval bishop. Soak up the old-world glamor of Villa Melzi, Villa Carlotta and Villa del Balbianello. Wave to George Clooney as you pass his villa in Laglio.

Como Staircase

Dining, hiking, and to-die-for views

If you still have energy, you can burn off some calories — trust me, there are plenty of calories to come by — hiking one of the many trails with panoramic views offer yet another perspective. The sight of Bellagio ringed by the three forks of the lake is simply spectacular.

Como Pool at Grand Hotel Tremezzo

Lake Como is a MUST!

So before I run out of adjectives attempting to describe the beauty, let me just say this: Lake Como is absolutely something you need to see for yourself to truly appreciate. As they say (whoever “they” are), “Seeing is believing.”

Want to know more about Lake Como? Let’s talk! Ciao! Damien

No words … heartfelt prayers

#Pray for Nice

Boundaries divide – Travel unites

When I meet someone, whether from another city or another country, I have the opportunity to be a citizen ambassador. Interacting with another human being, looking into each other’s eyes has a lasting effect and perhaps it will counter anything negative that they might have heard about me, about my country. Traveling is a privilege to share who I am and to gain more insight into others. I believe with all my heart this helps foster peace.

We pray for Nice and for the world. Spread love. Help others. Live in peace.

Unforgettable Milan

b image3

Milan – the fashion and financial center of Italy

Damien Martin, our Italy specialist, recently returned from a wining, dining, hotel inspecting tour in Italy. Enjoy his blog post about Milan and contact Damien for expert advice on traveling to Italy.

Milan – A blend of nationalities

Walk around Milan and you’re liable to encounter people from all over the world. About 20 percent of the residents of Italy’s most cosmopolitan city are foreign-born. What you won’t see — at least relative to Italy’s other destinations — is a lot of Americans.
Sure, many Americans fly into Milan on their way to Lake Como — and who could blame them? — but the fashion and financial capital is worth taking a couple of days to explore.
Hosting the 2015 Universal Exposition and this year’s Champions League final — the Super Bowl of European soccer — have helped raise the city’s international profile and revitalize certain areas. This being Italy, there’s plenty of history, too.

b image1

La Scala, Duomo, and Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II – Ahhh, Milan!

Clustered within a few hundred feet of each are the city’s main sights: the famed La Scala opera house, the many-spired Duomo and connecting the two, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, one of the world’s oldest shopping malls.
While the Galleria offers enough haute couture to overhaul your wardrobe, it just scratches the surface of Milan’s high-end shopping. The whole city is more or less an open-air mall, from the Via Montenapoleone area — where you’ll find Armani, Ferragamo and Versace storefronts — to the arts district of Brera.

b IMG_3481

Leonardo da Vinci called Milan home

The most famous artist to have called Milan home is none other than Leonardo da Vinci and no trip would be complete without a viewing of “The Last Supper.” But make sure to get tickets well in advance — entry is restricted to 25 people per 15-minute viewing. The limited numbers and a series of air locks are to preserve the fragile masterpiece as well as possible.
Because Leonardo painted on the dry wall instead of into wet plaster, the paint began fading almost as soon as it dried. Unlike fresco, the technique allowed Leonardo to make alterations as he worked. This technique resulted in the brilliant capturing of one of the Bible’s most crucial scenes. Centuries of amateur retouching and a few years spent exposed to open air after a World War II bombing didn’t help matters much.
For a much more relaxing supper, head to the Navigli district for a spritz and some risotto alla Milanese (the key ingredient is saffron) next to the scenic canals that were once the lifeblood of Milan’s commerce and are now a nightlife hotspot. You have Leonardo’s design to thank for that, too.

b image2

b image4

Crazy for Lake Como

I’ve been to all 7 continents, many countries, and countless cities, so it takes a lot for me to be impressed when I experience somewhere I’ve not been before. Como, the city, the lake, the towns and hamlets blew me away!

We stayed in Lezzeno at Palazzo Del Vice Re, a beautifully maintained villa on a cobblestone street. Our home away from home was the Vista suite which offered beautiful views across the lake. We loved Nicolette and her friendly staff and already are planning to return, hopefully next year.

From Lezzeno we toured by car and by boat, previewing properties and eating incredible food. We can now comfortably recommend places to stay from the fabled Villa D’este to a few off-the-beaten path boutique hotels.

If I had to pick one thing that made Lake Como a WOW experience, I’d say it was the beautiful landscape – no, wait – the food, definitely the food – or maybe the “It” factor was the option to stroll through a myriad of spectacular gardens – or was it the cappuccino at the lakeside cafe or was it the chance to see George Clooney ( we saw the outside of his villa, does that count?)? Let’s face it, I can’t pick just one outstanding feature – Como is that spectacular.

A planning tip: Como’s season is from mid-March through Early November and the summer months are packed with all sorts of visitors. Plan your experience for spring or fall and you will avoid the crowds.


In Case You Missed This…


Did you miss the new monthly column in KC Dossier, written by Barbara King, Co-President of Great Getaways Travel? No worries, you can read it here. Enjoy!


Quick quiz: What do Armani, Baccarat and Olivia Newton John have in common and why do I, a travel advisor, care?

The answer is all three have world-class hotels. Armani, known for its high quality threads, has transferred that demand for perfection to its properties. Every detail in its two hotels, in Milan and Dubai, has been designed or curated by the famous design house. In November 2014 I visited the Armani Hotel in Dubai, located in the world’s tallest building, Burj Khalifa, and spoke with Spencer Wadama, General Manager of Armani Hotels & Resorts. I jokingly asked if all the key staff wore Armani-designed clothing. Suppressing a condescending raised eyebrow moment, he replied, “But, of course.” Obviously, my joke missed its mark.

Australian recording artist, Olivia Newton John, known to Boomers like me for the songs “Hopelessly Devoted to You” and “Physical,” entered the hotel scene 10 years ago as one of the founders of award-winning Gaia Retreat and Spa near Byron Bay, Australia. A boutique property with 19 rooms, you can design your own retreat—active, tranquil, or a combination—and enjoy both the highly praised spa and the healthy, gourmet cuisine.


Baccarat, the French manufacturer of fine crystal glassware since 1734 and recognized worldwide for its finely crafted pieces, recently opened its first branded hotel in New York, the Baccarat Hotel & Residences, across the street from the Museum of Modern Art. Talk about location—wow! Avoiding my lame attempt at humor with the GM of the Armani property, I will not ask who designed the breathtaking chandeliers or the crystal glassware used in the bar.

Speaking of crystal, cruising fans will be delighted to learn that the oh-so-popular luxury line, Crystal Cruises, will be ordering a new-build ship to add to its fleet of two, once the new owners of the line take over. By the way, family cruising options continue to abound with the new Norwegian Escape, launching in the fall, 2015 and Royal Caribbean Cruises’ just launched Quantum class ship, Anthem of the Seas.

One last tidbit for lovers of unique experiences: Did you know that 21C Museum Hotels is developing the historic Savoy Hotel and Grill into one of their exquisite art experience properties? We’ve known all along what the world is discovering—everything truly is up-to-date in Kansas City.

About This Is KC’s Travel Expert

imageBarbara King, daughter of an importer, founded Great Getaways Travel in 1992 as a concierge-style boutique travel company. Having traveled the world, King understood the need for knowledgeable, professional advisors. The first agency in the metropolitan Kansas City area to be invited to join Virtuoso—the travel industry’s leading luxury network spanning over 25 countries—in April, 1996, King has held steadfast to the mission of creating unparalleled life experiential vacations for her clients. Great Getaways Travel consistently ranks as one of the area¹s top agencies and is the only one whose entire focus is on leisure travel. In recent years Great Getaways has ranked in the Top 100 Fastest Growing Companies in Kansas City, most recently at #67; King has been honored as one of the Top 100 Kansas Citians; and Great Getaways was inducted into the prestigious 25 Under 25, as a top company with under 25 employees. For more information, visit