HAVE YOU EVER WONDERED what it might be like to stay at the best hotel in the world? Last week, the inaugural ranking of the world’s 50 best hotels was published—the first foray into the travel space for the 50 Best’s, which is renowned for its annual restaurants and bars rankings—and coming out on top is a relative newcomer: Passalacqua, a hotel Esquire recently visited.

Now, there’s a lot that comes to mind when one thinks of Italy; fashion, style, food, endless spritz, la dolce vita. However, the moment you enter the unassuming gates bearing guard to the 18th century villa of spectacular opulence, you’ll come to learn that Italy is indeed all these things, only heightened, multiplied, in this small pocket of the world—Lake Como. Arriving at Passalacqua is like one of those meditative moments where you finally hone in on your thoughts and cancel out the background noise: it’s just silence … bar the chirping of birds, the running stream of water fountains and in the far distance, the sound of traditional cigarette boats as they glide the water of Lake Como with elegance and style.

For starters, Passalacqua is incredibly private. It’s the place for those seeking solace and refuge from the outside world. The De Santis family are the owners of the incredible villa—the famed Lake Como hoteliers who also own Passalacqua’s louder, jazzier sister property Grand Hotel Tremezzo—and are vanguards of an exquisite transformation and restoration that made way for a 24-room property with the honest feel of a private home, officially unveiled in 2022. The villa, which was once the residence of Italy’s most famous opera composer, Vincenzo Bellini—as well as having played host to historical figures such as Napoleon Bonaparte and Winston Churchill—stands above the picturesque village of Moltrasio, a quaint town that many tourists will likely bypass for buzzier villages like Menaggio and Bellagio. Moltrasio is also the home to George Clooney’s famed villa (which he’s not selling, folks).

Among the abundance of greenery are seven acres of terraced gardens that sweep down to the lake’s shore, but not before passing a 20-metre swimming pool; a centre piece of attraction for hungry “content creators”. Admittedly, this is the place you’ll want to perch yourself on those hot Italian summer days, perhaps under one of the retro parasols or sun loungers adorned in a vibrant patterned fabric custom made especially for Passalacqua by fashion designer, JJ Martin.

There’s countless other surprises, too—from a bocce court, al-fresco gym with the latest TechnoGym equipment, an ancient olive grove, and a full-sized clay tennis court overlooking the lake.


Passalacqua eschews the fuss—and at times awkwardness—of formal dining, instead opting for a relaxed ‘home away from home’ approach that delivers guests authentic Italian home cooking using produce from the gardens and nearby villages. Breakfast is served in the style of a big Italian country house, with fresh coffee, organic eggs served your way, freshly-squeezed orange juice, and a meter-high alzatina stand stacked with Italian delicacies like granita, cream-filled maritozzo buns, mini-pizzas, plus more.

Before dinner, be sure to stop by the ground floor bar for an aperitivo, the pre-dinner ritual celebrated by Northern Italians (and now the world). On the topic of dinner, whether you find yourself dining indoors or outdoors, every spot is equally romantic and idyllic. Dishes are exquisite, and might consist of an assortment of cured meats and cheese, fresh pasta of the day—hand-made in-house, of course—and traditional mains like cotoletta Milanese. Best of all, your dining experience will overlook Lake Como at night; a sight to behold.


There’s no denying Passalacqua’s claim to the throne; this really is likely the best hotel you’re ever to experience, an oasis of epic proportions that offers the sort of lakeside grandeur, and privacy, that can be hard to come by.

And while it’s no secret that Lake Como is one of the world’s most majestic regions, Passalacqua was the country’s best kept secret… until now.

Where is Passalacqua?

Passalacqua is located in the town of Moltrasio on Lake Como, Italy.

How do you find Passalacqua?

By air – arrive at Milano Malpensa International airport. From there, it is a cruisey 45 minute drive to Passalacqua.
By train – Take a 40 minute train from Milano Centrale to Como San Giovanni Station, Lake Como.
By boat – take a 15-minute boat ride from Moltrasio to Como.


When is the best time to visit?

Anytime from April to October. Arguably, Lake Como is most impressive during the changing of the season, from winter to spring, as alpine peaks frame the view to the north. The blossoming gardens during this time are incredibly spectacular, brimming with colour.

However, you can’t go past a summer in Lake Como. You’re not likely to get the extreme heat found the further south of Italy that you travel, and most daytime temperatures will hover between 23 and 28 degrees.


How do you book?

Rates at Passalacqua start from approx. $2,145 per night during the off-season, on a B&B basis, excluding taxes. You can book here or at

Which other hotels were included on the list?

The world’s 50 best hotels in ranking order, including Australia’s very own Brisbane hot-spot, The Calile Hotel.

1. Passalacqua, Moltrasio
2. Rosewood, Hong Kong
3. Four Seasons Bangkok at Chao Phraya River
4. The Upper House, Hong Kong
5. Aman, Tokyo
6. La Mamounia, Marrakech
7. Soneva Fushi, Maldives
8. One&Only Mandarina, Puerto Vallarta
9. Four Seasons Firenze, Florence
10. Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok
11. Capella, Bangkok
12. The Calile, Brisbane
13. Chablé Yucatán, Chocholá
14. Aman, Venice
15. Singita Lodges, Kruger National Park
16. Claridge’s, London
17. Raffles, Singapore
18. Nihi Sumba, Wanokaka
19. Hotel Esencia, Tulum
20. Le Sirenuse, Positano
21. Borgo Egnazia, Savelletri
22. The Connaught, London
23. Royal Mansour, Marrakech
24. Four Seasons, Madrid
25. Aman, New York
26. The Maybourne Riviera, Roquebrune-Cap-Martin
27. Rosewood, São Paulo
28. Capella, Singapore
29. Le Bristol, Paris
30. Park Hyatt, Kyoto
31. La Réserve, Paris
32. Gleneagles, St Andrews, Scotland
33. Hotel Du Cap-Eden-Roc, Antibes
34. Cheval Blanc, Paris
35. Four Seasons Astir Palace, Athens
36. Soneva Jani, Maldives
37. The Newt, Bruton
38. Amangalla, Galle
39. Hoshinoya, Tokyo
40. Desa Potato Head, Seminyak
41. Eden Rock, St. Barths
42. The Siam, Bangkok
43. Badrutt’s Palace, St. Moritz
44. Atlantis The Royal, Dubai
45. The Oberoi Amarvilas, Agra
46. NoMad, London
47. The Savoy, London
48. Equinox, New York
49. Six Senses Ibiza, Portinatx
50. Hôtel de Crillon, Paris


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