Thursday, July 5, 2018


Ever dreamed of a vacation that would give you a once-in-a-lifetime experience? For me, it would be a family reunion in a luxury dream house at a wildly extraordinary setting. We are an international family. My eldest daughter, her husband, and three children are in San Francisco; my second, her hubby, and three boys make Calgary their home; and my youngest, her husband, and a toddler-son have just migrated to Melbourne.  My husband and I live in Phoenix so when it gets too hot, I visit my daughters. On the other hand, when it gets too cold for them, they visit us.

Sometimes, when our schedules conflict we get together somewhere else in the world. Once we rented a 4 BR home in Calgary. Another time we spent in two 2 BR units at our Phoenix timeshare. Most recently, we booked four rooms at a Las Vegas Hotel. We like to step our reunions up a notch each time. This year, turning seventy, I am reminded of the average lifespan of an Asian-American female in America is eighty-nine. It’s absolutely time for an unforgettable upgrade.  

That’s when this link to twenty-one exclusive villas gave me the idea for our next reunion.  My family would love a well-deserved holiday in one of these grand homes at the fabulous Lake Como in Italy. I have been to Italian vineyards, coastal towns, and culture hubs but not to the Italian Lakes District that stretches across Northern Italy in the Lombardy Region. I heard it is quite spendy so I previously thought it may be just out of our league…and reach.

The most famous is Lake Como which begins relatively flat at its southern end, becoming more mountainous as you head northwards into the Alpine foothills. Views are dramatic with some peaks towering slightly above the tree-line. It is one of the deepest lakes in Europe; its bottom more than 660 feet below sea level. The absolutely charming town of Bellagio is at the intersection of the three branches of the upside-down Y that is the shape of the lake.

Bellagio at nighttime

Lake Como’s beauty has been loved since the Roman times when Europe’s privileged few started setting up castles and villas. These are now the settings for films like Casino Royale, Star Wars, Julia & Julia, Ocean’s Twelve, and Man on Fire. Many of them are now owned by heads-of-state, wealthy businessmen, and celebrities like George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Helen Mirren, Woody Allen, and Donatella Versace.

Villa Oleandra, George Clooney's villa

In 2014, The Huffington Post called Lake Como the most beautiful lake in the world for its microclimate and environment with prestigious villas and villages. The poet Percy Bysshe Shelley wrote in 1818: "This lake exceeds anything I ever beheld in beauty, with the exception of the arbutus islands of Killarney. It is long and narrow, and has the appearance of a mighty river winding among the mountains and the forests." Indeed this is the extraordinary setting I have been looking for.

Bellagio at daytime

I imagine the whole family going up the funicular in Como, marveling at the spectacular view, going up to the beautiful mountain town of Brunate, and hiking over to the Volta Lighthouse for an even better view. The men will have a round of golf at the Monticello Golf Club, play tennis at the Villa D'Este, engage in other water sports or even rent boats to fish. My pilot husband can even fly a seaplane over the scenic lake. The women can take a leisurely walk on the 10km walkway on the west side, stopping for outstanding mountain vistas, fabulous lake views, and picturesque hillsides covered with elegant villas. I see us stopping at every little town to sample each gelateria we find (and every shop, of course).

Villa Carlotta

Old villas like the Carlotta in Tremezzo are must-sees with their views, sculptures, and artworks. They have admirable gardens that thrive in a climate that can even host tropical plants. But of all the twenty-one luxury retreat villas I looked at, Villa Bianca is ideal for my family. It is 60 minutes from the airport, a short drive to Bellagio, and a 3-minute walk to the local Catholic Church. Como, Lecco, Milano, and other resort towns are within an easy 90-minute drive or less. Superb location.

Villa Bianca

The formal dining table seats twelve so the three kiddos can just have their meals at the small table nearby. There is an ensuite master bedroom for my husband and me. Three other bedrooms with double beds would be perfect for the three couples, sharing three bathrooms with the three rooms equipped with twin beds for the grandkids, except for the two-year-old who'll sleep with Mom and Dad. There is a heated pool on the large terrace with fantastic views of the lake. We can also gather at the living room with a fireplace and a large satellite TV with Sensurround sound. Wifi is available throughout the house. There's a bonus room with a treadmill and ping pong and billiards tables.

Surprisingly, it is affordable at five thousand dollars for 3 days and two nights.  This luxury retreat in Lake Como is only a couple of hundred dollars more than the regular increases we have convinced ourselves to pay each time we stepped up our reunions from the Calgary house to the two 2br timeshare condos in Phoenix, and then to the four Vegas hotel rooms. This time, however, the step up in quality would be huge. My family will be aristocrats for once!

It was Mark Twain who said, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the things you did do.” I may not even have twenty years left in me. It is time. Whether you are a couple, classmates, officemate, friends, or a big family like us, it is time to make your dream come true. The luxury retreat you've been dreaming of is out there. Realizza i tuoi soani!

Note: Photos lifted out of Wikipedia and Wikitravel

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