Living La Dolce Vita in Bellagio: the Clubrooms at Gatwick Airport and a penthouse with Bellagio & Dintorni
At the end of October I spent an idyllic long weekend with three friends in Bellagio, a beautiful Italian village at the heart of Lake Como. I’ve already written about what to see, do and eat in Bellagio, but what about how to get there and where to stay? We lived three days of la dolce vita and the whole experience was made perfect by a luxurious treat before the flight over to Italy and by a beautiful apartment in the heart of Bellagio.
So it was that myself, Sarah and Anneliese found ourselves getting into the Italian swing of things, sipping prosecco in Gatwick Airport’s South Terminal awaiting a flight to Milan! I had been invited to try out the brand new Clubrooms at Gatwick, an innovation from No.1 Lounges, whose other lounge in Heathrow Terminal 3 I reviewed on a previous occasion. I’m getting worryingly accustomed to the luxury of an airport lounge, but this was a new level of luxury I hadn’t yet experienced.
The concept behind the Clubrooms is that you reserve a private room overlooking the runway, in which to enjoy your complimentary food and drink with a butler service, away from the mêlée of other people. This is not a bedroom I should stress, which is available in some of their other lounges, but is an indulgent escape from the crowds of the main departures area and the other guests in their main lounge. It can be booked for as little as £37.50 per person if you’re a group between 4 – 8 people, or if there are less than four people, it costs £150 in total and it’s all yours for 3 hours prior to your departure. The bigger lounges however can host up to 48 guests in total.
Along with the privacy of your own room, you get a complimentary pass for Fast Track Security, an unlimited complimentary menu including a variety of hot and cold plates (eg. English breakfast, wraps, salads, desserts) and a selection of alcoholic drinks including Prosecco, your own fridge of soft drinks, a variety of magazines, a fruit bowl, a television, Playstation, free Wifi and you are waited on hand and foot by a very attentive host, who will also watch the departures board on your behalf and advise you when it’s time to head to your gate. As a new level of airport luxury I was very impressed and we felt truly spoiled rotten!
I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect start to our trip, and we tucked into the Prosecco full speed ahead. This trip took place just one week before the Athens Marathon, so I “supposedly” shouldn’t have been drinking alcohol, but instead I compromised and made a deal with myself that I wouldn’t buy myself any drinks, but I could however accept anything offered to me! A dangerous rule to make it turns out, as the Italians are nothing if not generous with their alcohol!
Fast forward a couple of hours to 1am and we’re snaking around the banks of Lake Como in our hire car. We arrived in the picturesque village of Bellagio, at the very centre of the Y-shaped lake, at the dead of night and walked a short distance to Salita Antonio Mella to find the two-bedroom apartment from Bellagio & Dintorni where we were to be staying for 3 nights. Having fallen asleep that night as soon as our heads hit the pillow, the wonderful view over Lake Como next morning from our living room came as a very pleasant surprise!
The 3rd floor apartment sleeps 4 people (or up to 6 at a squeeze), costing from €160/night and has a large open plan living area with corner sofa which was perfect for the four of us whenever we weren’t out and about. The location in the centre of the village was ideal as it’s close to the ferry terminal and everything is within walking distance, which is important given that the village centre is closed to car traffic for non-residents. There are little food shops nearby if you did want to eat at home, but with such fantastic Italian cuisine surrounding us, there was no way we were going to miss eating out.
It’s owned by a local family of architects who have another apartment in Bellagio itself and three apartments in the nearby fishing village of San Giovanni, where they’ve recently finished creating a stunning B&B Il Vicolo. We went to meet the family for an aperitivo and could instantly see why the apartments and B&B are all so beautifully finished – the owners have a real taste for interior design and have fitted out each of their properties, including their office and the Nenè Food café in a stunning minimalist, Scandinavian fashion, maintaining the original Italian exterior and brickwork while modernising the interiors.
The B&B rooms were finished just a few months ago and look very similar to the apartments, but for the the communal living area and kitchen downstairs which is used for breakfast. Rooms in the B&B start from €90 so are perhaps a better option for a couple. Their adjoining kitchen is also used for cooking classes and special dinners, so I imagine once it gets up and running there will be a whole host of culinary activities and delights to take part in. One thing to note is that San Giovanni is slightly outside of Bellagio, so do look it up on a map and consider whether you’d need to rent a car to get around.
Back to Bellagio itself, we loved staying in our penthouse and admiring the stunning views over Lake Como through two huge French windows. Much of the village is now used as accommodation for tourists, with hotels lining the waterfront, but I much preferred feeling like I actually lived there, instead of merely passing through a hotel room. I’m also now convinced that travelling in a group is the way forward and I’ll be looking out for apartments and travelling Airbnb-style more often.