Living the Italian Dream: Villa Passalacqua Opens in Lake Como

  • July 2, 2022

Villa Passalacqua – one of the most spectacular private homes on Lake Como, opened its doors as a 24-suite retreat after three years of restoration. The 18th-century Villa, which sits above the village of Moltrasio and has seven hectares of terraced gardens stretching down to the lakeshore, is steeped in history and has housed many of the world’s most prominent minds in literature, music, art, politics, from Napoleon Bonaparte to Bellini and Winston Churchill.

Passalacqua is the passion project of one of Italy’s leading hoteliers – the De Santis family, owners of the legendary Grand Hotel Tremezzo. The family’s goal is to bring this Villa and its centuries-old park back to life with love, respect and care, restoring its unique, timeless charm of “vivere Italiano”. Every single aspect of the property’s interior design, including the meticulous restoration of the frescoes, hand-blown glass chandeliers and mirrored secret minibars, has been personally overseen and curated so that no two suites are the same.

Villa Passalacqua

Villa Passalacqua is a true labour of love by owner Valentina De Santis and her family. Valentina and her family have left no stone unturned in the hotel’s design – everything from the beautiful art collection to the customised pool umbrellas bear her signature and taste.


The Villa was built in the 18th century by Count Andrea Lucini-Passalacqua. He collaborated with architect Felice Soave and designer Giocondo Albertolli to realise his vision of one of the grandest villas on Lake Como. In the years that followed, the Villa became a meeting place for some of Italy’s most prominent personalities. Vincenzo Bellini settled at Villa Passalacqua in 1829 and composed two of his most famous operas, Norma and Sonnambula.

In the 21st century, Passalacqua will have 24 suites spread across three accommodation options – each with its character and charm.

The primary historic residence, the Villa, has 12 sumptuous suites showcasing the grand Italian Baroque style and original frescoes, including a music room with a double handrail where Bellini played the piano.

The Palazzo or “old stable” consists of 8 suites with centuries-old exposed beams, gleaming damask walls and an impressive spiral staircase. The former cowshed houses a SPA with two treatment cabins offering Barbara Sturm treatments and a relaxation area with columns and vaulted ceilings. A hidden humidity area with a sauna and steam room is located in the Villa’s secret tunnels. The intimate Casa Al Lago down by the lake is ideal for exclusive use, with four suites, each with a private garden – all sharing a beautiful dining area and fireplace.

Villa Passalacqua Room


The De Santis family has worked tirelessly with local artisans and small Italian businesses that have been around for generations, drawing on their personal relationships to ensure that the sense of place, heritage and high-quality craftsmanship is expressed throughout the property.

A Venetian company founded in the nineteenth century, it is renowned for its hand-blown Murano glass chandeliers. Stand-out pieces include a five-metre chandelier in the Sala della Musica and a unique installation of six chandeliers for the entrance to the main staircase. Metal craftsmen from Il Bronzetto in Florence have handcrafted brass lamps, and Fortuny has designed traditional silk lampshades for the Palazzo.

More than 20 different types of Italian marble were sourced from the caves of Verona and Carrara to clad the bathrooms.

The Villa’s special salons have been restored in the original Terrazzo Veneziano style, using marble from 1787. The floors in the bedrooms have been laid with traditional cotto Lombardo tiles or restored original wood. All mirrors were custom-made by the Venetian glass specialists Barbini, a small family business dating back to 1927.

Villa Passalacqua bathroom

As for the fabrics, Beltrami’s bed linen is made from “fibra di legno”, a natural fibre obtained from birch trees and softer than silk. The curtains are made from silk taffeta, which is sourced in Como. For the rest of the soft furnishings, the family turned to Rubelli, a historic Venice company. The De Santis family has meticulously scoured local markets and auction houses to find antique furniture, valuable prints and artwork, and vintage rugs to match the character of each room – from the stately Italian style of the Villa to the relaxed comfort of the Palazzo or the garden-inspired interiors of Casa al Lago.

Villa Passalacqua Hall

A traditional family-run bottega (atelier), Bottega Conticelli from Orvieto has made room elements and artefacts from leather and wood, including vintage-style steamer chests that hide the televisions in the rooms. The bathrooms are perfumed with the Villa’s original scent, Aqua Como 1787, and the discreet hotel staff wear the most innovative uniforms designed by Giuliva Heritage.


The majestic terraced gardens overlooking Lake Como are simply extraordinary, with their private retreats and more than 15 enchanting water fountains. They are filled with centuries-old trees that are among the most historic, beautiful and well-maintained in all of Italy. The Italian Gardens are located at the highest point of the property and offer spectacular views of the lake. At the same time, the antique conservatory overlooks a 20-metre swimming pool surrounded by colourful parasols and deckchairs furnished with a bright patterned fabric made especially for Passalacqua by fashion designer JJ Martin.

Next to the rose garden, the magnolia garden offers the perfect spot for yoga under the trees.

Guests can collect freshly laid eggs themself from the chicken coop and pick cherries, apricots or kiwis in the orchard, depending on the season. In the middle of the vegetable garden, guests can play a game of bocce.

A second conservatory will house a state-of-the-art open-air gym, which looks out over the estate’s ancient olive grove, where oil has been pressed for generations.

Finally, guests can opt for an enjoyable time on the water by setting sail from Passalacqua’s private dock aboard two vintage boats – “Giumello” is a traditional wooden boat with a unique shape, and the second “Didi” will be furnished with Loro Piana fabrics and offer plenty of space for sunbathing.

Villa Passalacqua Lake Como


Passalacqua eschews formal dining rooms in favour of a relaxed ‘home away from home’ feel. Guests are treated to authentic and simple Italian home cooking using fresh ingredients from the garden. The house chef, Mauro, is a true “chef di casa” who has worked for Milan’s most prestigious families for over 25 years.

Guests are invited to visit the kitchen and talk to the team to discuss their menu of the day, contribute freshly harvested vegetables to the meal, or participate in an ad hoc pasta cooking session. Every guest can choose the spot to dine on the estate, be it on one of the terraces, in the rose garden or down by the lake – staff are on hand to set up tables accordingly, as the idea is to have a very personal dining experience.

Villa Passalacqua Dining


By plane – a 45-minute drive from Milan Malpensa International Airport. By train – 36 minutes from Milan Centrale or Milano Porta Garibaldi station to Como san Giovanni station on Lake Como. By boat – 15-minute boat ride from Como.


Starting from €1,000 per night for two people on a B&B basis and excluding taxes. For more information, please visit

Villa Passalacqua Bar

Olivia Farley
Olivia splits her time between Lake Como and Liverpool (United Kingdom), where she studies French and Italian at university.
Olivia is passionate about language-learning, travelling, and ‘il dolce far niente’. She also enjoys exploring cultural and historical sites, and hiking up the many trails around the lake. 

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