A fashion-lover's guide to Lake Como: From shopping spots to staying in a former silk-printing factory, FEMAIL reveals how to live la dolce vita in George Clooney's favorite destination
The moment it first occurs to me that the real runways of Italy may not be in Milan is when I arrive in Italy in the magically moody (and rainy) off-season of April, and head to my hotel in Lake Como.
If most people think Milan is the epicenter of fashion without ever weaving their way a mere hour and a half north, that’s their loss.
The chic style, panoramic views and amazing flair of Como are not to be missed — which is why I've rounded up the best places to stay, eat, and shop in the Italian city.
On the streets: Style Director Pandora Amoratis travels to Lake Como off-season and discovers the real runways of Italy may not be in Milan. Pictured here wearing the 'Como' jacket by The Mighty Company
Everywhere you look in Como, there are shops selling handmade silk ties and scarves.
Silk makers say the industry dates back to the 15th Century, when the Duke of Milan decided to plant mulberry trees, turning it into Italy’s silk capital. The lakes and streams to the north, as well as the tree farms to the south, make the region a natural choice for cultivating silkworms, which can only produce silk if they eat mulberry.
Generations of manufacturers here serve the luxury fashion market — from Chanel to Armani, Prada to Dolce & Gabbana, Versace to Ralph Lauren, Como silk is simply captivating.
The newly-opened Hilton Lake Como is the largest hotel in this resort area, and General Manager Giorgio Borgonovo filled me in on its background.
Textile executives Paolo and Monica Limonta — who share in the neighborhood’s legacy as a silk-dyeing village — own the hotel, which was converted from a former silk-printing factory.
Floating into the airy, palm-lined lobby, which is dotted with couches and a muted palette of moss, navy and grey injected with lush jewel tones, it’s obvious this is what's meant by the phrase ‘la cultura del bello’… ‘the culture of beauty.’
The central location means guests can walk to Villa Olmo in three minutes for a neoclassical architecture fix, and reach the city center and popular shops in fifteen. Plus, it’s one of the only hotels in Lake Como that's open year-round, making it the perfect destination all the time.
But what about the fashion element? As any street style star will tell you, location is the key to catching a fab Instagram snap. The Hilton Lake Como doesn't disappoint on that front: From its scenic rooftop with an infinity pool that overlooks the lake, to the suites with private terraces, this spot is full of "grammable" settings and entertainment options.
I enjoyed pre-dinner cocktails at Taffeta, the ground-floor bar that doubles as a modern lounge by day. The beverage selection complements the elegant surroundings, as does the innovative drink presentation. I dare you to not take a picture.
For regional Swiss and Italian cuisine, don’t miss restaurant Satin, or Terraza 241, the rooftop spot with an infinity pool and sunroom.
Looking for something more chill? Hit the eforea Spa and Health Club for a pampering silk treatment — yes, there's silk in the spa treatments, too — or head to your room and indulge with the complimentary Peter Thomas Roth and BVLGARI beauty products.
A visit to Lake Como isn’t complete without a postcard-perfect boat tour. Rent one (with or without a captain), and jet set like a celeb while exploring the lake from the unique perspective of the water.
Sip champagne as you breeze along the banks taking in the beautifully clustered terra cotta, butter and blush-tinted villas.
Look out for the breathtaking Villa Fontanell — Versace’s former palazzo — and Villa Balbianello, famous for its elaborate terraced gardens and backdrop for movies such as Casino Royale and Star Wars.
With so many fabulously photogenic places, Bellagio — a village boarding the water that is called the 'Pearl of the Lake' — is truly a can’t-miss destination.
The best shopping, dining, landmark villas and churches are tucked into tiny alleyways for the most cinematic angles and views.
The village is characterized by centuries-old buildings and picturesque wide cobbled stairways lined with colorful shop awnings, all set against the snow-capped Swiss Alps.
When you’re thinking about a trip to Lake Como, celebrity sighting might seem a little… expected.
George Clooney owns a couple of villas, and the il Gatto Nero restaurant is a frequent hang of the actor and his wife Amal.
The cozy eatery is perched on a hill — and if you can handle the hairpin turns, you just might find yourself hobnobbing with Hollywood royalty.
Packing tips for traveling abroad:
I'm a carry-on-only girl, and to do this for international travel, it's essential to pack efficiently. I start by choosing a color palette, then pulling both casual and dressy pieces from my closet in my chosen range of hues.
Doing this lets me mix and match different pieces and repeat items as needed. To be ready for changing temperatures, I brought along layering pieces including a sweater, leggings, a leather jacket and a trench.
Floor-length dresses to wear in the daytime or evening that layer (invisibly) over leggings are my go-to styling trick. And I always pack a travel rain poncho in the event of a frizz-inducing shower, as well as a felt hat to add some drama to every look.
Shoes take up a lot of space, so I settled on booties (that I wore on the plane), flip-flops, sneakers and a pair of stilettos — you never know where you’ll end up or who you might meet that requires an added dose of sexiness.
I leave my expensive jewelry at home, opting instead for a few pairs of statement costume earrings and rings, and carry a neutral-hued pouch that doubles as a wallet and evening clutch. For day trips (and any extras I might pick up along the way), a backpack holds the essentials (i.e. room key, water bottle, umbrella, souvenirs) in hands-free style!