Insider's Guide to Spas




Suite Emilia, A Spa Suite of One’s Own

Mary Bemis

One may think of this gorgeous Belle Epoque beauty as the ultimate romantic destination, but I believe it’s the perfect hideout when flying solo. I write this while reminiscing about my magical stay in the historic hotel’s Suite Emilia. Located in the elegant Villa Emilia, adjacent to the Grand Hotel Tremezzo, it is the sole spa suite for those who not only want close proximity to the contemporary spa, but those who truly desire a suite of one’s own.

An 18th century, three-story structure, Villa Emilia originally served as the library of nearby Villa Carlotta, now home to a grand Italian State-owned museum—and was named for the Countess Emilia Sommariva Seilliere, whose dress in the 1833 portrait by Boulanger actually reminds me of the décor of my suite—velvet and dusky blues. The demure-looking brunette, who is portrayed holding a book in the portrait, was married to the son of the second owner of Villa Carlotta. Emilia lived out her 86 years on Lake Como, devoting herself to charity works.

There is serenity in solitude, and I found it here in the quiet and comfort of the historic suite that cocooned me.

Staying in Suite Emilia is like having the entire lakeside villa to oneself. I loved the seclusion so much that I still dream about hiding out there for as long as it takes me to finish writing that book of poetry. I found myself entranced with the collection of antiquarian books that lined the shelves of the bookcases. Over the course of my stay, I gently perused the pages of a handful of these books: the Collection of British Authors by Robert Hugh Benson; In the Wilderness by Hichens; Quiet Cities by Joseph Hergesheimer—and I couldn’t help but return again and again to the wildly illustrated Collezione delle Sentenze.

There is serenity in solitude, and I found it here in the quiet and comfort of the historic suite that cocooned me.

My living room, with its large long windows, gave me a stunning and direct view of the vibrant blue of Lake Como. My first night was a stormy one—the sky looming a deep blue and purple above the swaying navy lake. As the day drifted through its many phases, so did the lake, and I witnessed the many moods and lights of Lake Como. I watched as it went from gentle and calm in the mornings to sunshine-y and sparkly in the afternoons, to moving and swelling at night.

How many hues of blue does the lake hold? My mind couldn’t help but quiet as I contemplated the shadows on the lake.

The suite is pure elegance. A favorite bedroom spot of mine was the velvet-lined day bed built into a corner—but most of all I loved the bathroom. Lined in Lasa marble, it is a bathing queen’s dream come true, complete with a long, luxurious jetted tub, double rain shower, and my very own steam room.

While I could have squirreled myself away in Villa Emilia for my entire stay, I would have missed out on the stylish spa.

The swanky new T Spa also calls the Villa Emilia home, which means all I needed do was walk out my door down the hallway to spa reception when I wanted to book one of the spa’s signature treatments. (For you skincare fanatics, the T Spa is an ESPA.) I experienced the Lake Como Relaxing Ritual during my stay, and it knocked me out in a good way. The signature treatment uses indigenous herbs sourced from local herbalist Marco Caniggia who creates the poultices using the area’s rosemary, thyme, and lavender.

It is not hard to fathom that there is a really good reason why this treatment is named Relaxing—it includes a foot ritual, muslin-wrapped herbal infusions, body exfoliation and massage, and a dreamy scalp massage.

I was in excellent hands with Sarah, my spa therapist extraordinaire, who gently guided me through the spa and signature treatment before escorting me to the relaxation room. Like the living room in my suite, the relaxation room overlooks the lake. The room is spectacular, with many original details lovingly restored—beautiful mosaics, a frescoed ceiling—and outfitted with contemporary white circular seating, daybeds of sorts, just waiting to envelope you. Another perfect nook where I cuddled up with a cup of hot tea. I could feel the light-footed spirit of Emilia in this room.

The T spa has many fine details, including a lovely infinity pool and a fabulous dry sauna with a window overlooking, what else—but that lake.

Not to be missed: The stunning floating swimming pool on Lake Como, and a glass of Prosecco at the chic bar at T Beach. A stroll through the property’s lush gardens. A wine tasting and dinner at the hotel’s L’Escale Fondue & Wine Restaurant. A tour by water limo, in this case aboard the Ruy (the hotel’s sleek 1961 custom Riva speedboat) to these two places: Villa de Balbianello, built by Cardinal Angelo Dunni in 1787 (movie buffs will enjoy knowing that this is where Casino Royale and Star Wars were filmed); and the wonderfully laidback Comacina Island, once the site of a Roman fort and medieval settlement. While there, dine on a divinely rustic lunch at La Locanda dell’isola—in business since 1948. And of course, a visit to Villa Carlotta, a five-minute walk away.





Mary Bemis

Mary Bemis

Mary Bemis is editorial director of She is an award-winning spa journalist, honored with Folio's Top Women in Media Award, and the distinguished ISPA Dedicated Contributor Award. In 1997, she launched American Spa magazine, and in 2007, Mary co-founded Organic Spa magazine. A pioneer in the sustainable spa and beauty worlds, Mary is co-curator of Cosmoprof North America's Discover Green Pavilion. She sits on the board of Wellness Warrior, is a Global Wellness Day Advisor and a co-founder of the Washington Spa Alliance.