27 JANUARY 2001, Page 39


Italy conjures up many varied images, but surely few could be stronger than that of the Lakes of Lombardy. The early mist rising off the lake, church bells resonating off the water, flower-filled gardens reflected in the still, deep waters and numerous river craft going about their business, criss-crossing the lake. Villages and towns of brightly painted yellow and pink houses rise from the shoreline up narrow, steep lanes to be lost in the hills and mountains that create such a dramatic backdrop.

Our week long stay in the charming lake-side resort of Menaggio will be at the delightful four star, Grand Hotel. Situated directly on the shores of Lake Como, this elegant 92 room hotel offers a high level of comfort, good food and service. The atmosphere is peaceful and the accommodation and public rooms stylish. However, its greatest asset is its position. Situated in the most attractive central lake area it is ideally placed for day excursions to some of the loveliest villas and gardens of Lombardy. Some of the rooms have lovely views of the lake as does the restaurant. The lawns and swimming pool on the water's edge are perfect for relaxing, reading a book or watching the waterborne activity

EXPLORING 'AKE colkvio When you get itchy feet, head for the pier which is next to the hotel. Here you can board a lake ferry and head for the idyllic towns of Bellagio or Varenna, visit Villa Carlotta at Tremezzo and the Villa Balbianello at Lenno or spend a day exploring historic Como. You are free to do as much or as little as you wish, The beauty of it is that if you do feel like a wander, it is all so easy, just hop on a lake ferry and explore at will.

ESCORTED TOURS For those who prefer to set out with a fixed itinerary we are offering three escorted trips at a time when the gardens will be at their springtime best. Our tour is comprehensive and includes the finest villas and gardens on the shores of lake Como and Maggiore. Visits will be made to Villa Il Pizzo, near Cemobbio, the cliff-faced garden of Villa Bagatti, the lovely Villa Favorita on Lake Lugano.

We'll cross Lake Como from the hotel to the enchanting village of Bellagio to see the lush landscaped gardens of Villa Serbelloni and to the Villa Melzi, a fine neo-classical villa with a Moorish temple, Japanese Garden and water garden. On a full day excursion by launch we will visit Villa Carlotta, a superb and idyllic garden full of contrasts and to Villa Balbianello, surely one of the loveliest villas and gardens in the area.

There will also be a day trip to Lake Maggiore and the Borromean Islands. Our private launch will rake us to Isola Bella and Isola Madre to view the splendid gardens and amazing palace. One day of the visit is left free for you to enjoy the beautiful surroundings of the Grand Hotel. A detailed itinerary is available on request.

FOR FURTHER DETAILS Telephone 020-7409 0376

Mandy-Satarday hem 9.00 am-5.00 pm) Brochureline 020-7355 1424 as