Bellagio is the pearl of Lake Como. It stands on a promontory at the point where the lake divides into two branches, and the views from its houses, villas and gardens are superb. The Florence is a handsome 18thC building occupying a prime position at one end of the main piazza, overlooking the lake. A terrace under arcades, where drinks and snacks are served, provides a welcoming entry to the hotel and the interior is no less appealing. Whitewashed walls, high vaulted ceilings and beams create a cool, attractive foyer; to one side, elegant and slightly faded seats cluster round an old stone fireplace.

  Bedrooms have the same old-fashioned charm as the public rooms, furnished with cherry-wood antiques and attractive fabrics; the most sought after, naturally, are those with balconies and views over the lake. Meals can be taken on a delightful terrace under shady trees across the street from the hotel, watching the various craft ply across the lake. The hotel has been in the same family for 150 years, and is now in the hands of brother and sister, Ronald and Roberta Ketzlar; they both speak good English, and have created a gourmet restaurant and two new suites. A recent visitor was thoroughly enchanted.