by Richard Jones

IL dolce far niente is an Italian phrase which describes the sweet essence and enjoyment of doing nothing.

We came to fully understand the concept during a short break on Lake Como. No more so than when our two daughters Isla, 12, and Evelyn eight, splashed around in the pool, as my wife Rachel and I stared out over the lake’s turquoise waters towards the pastel-coloured buildings in the distance.

We were at Europe’s largest floating lido, across the road from Hotel Britannia Excelsior in Cadenabbia on the western shore of Como. Like most small communities on the lake, Cadenabbia, is sheltered by the tree-lined foothills of the Alps, and boasts a stunning view of Bellagio, where the 46km-long stretch of water branches into a Y.

Despite it being a favourite with Queen Victoria, the resort comes across as another sleepy and picture-perfect village on the lush Lombardy lakeshore. However, when you throw in the hospitality of the Britannia Excelsior, you realise why Cadenabbia is a favourite for holidaymakers.

Checking in on a steamy August evening, we were struck by the old-worldly feel of the hotel’s grand ceramic tiled reception, classic Italian furniture, turn-of-the-century style marble column-lined dining hall and hypnotic fountain in the foyer. The four of us stayed in a deluxe family room with a lakeside view. Kitted out with a double and two single beds, a satellite TV, refrigerator and stylish bathroom, we felt relaxed after an evening flight into Milan Bergamo airport.

But the best thing about the suite became clear the following morning. Drawing back the curtains, we were gobsmacked by the vista from the balcony, with the sun rising over the lake, illuminating the golden houses of Bellagio.

After soaking up the views we headed down for breakfast in the Grand Dining Room. Round-the-clock eating and drinking means you can dine in a different restaurant over a three-day break. We were given platinum wristbands, with all-inclusive access to the restaurants and bars as well as other treats in Cadenabbia and the surrounding area. Lunch and dinner are served at the Lido 50 metres down the street. The restaurant boasts an impressive à la carte menu, with delectable Lombardy-flavoured choices like sausage tartare and seafood tagliatelle. Upstairs the Rooftop Pizzeria offers succulent pizzas with views of the lake. The all-inclusive drinks option means you can hydrate in the hotel’s three bars, including the Lido, and Brazilian barbecue speciality restaurant, the Churrasco Grill, by the floating pool.

Britannia Excelsior owners Ross and Doriana Whieldon and their staff go the extra mile to make guests feel at home.

And the family has a significant knowledge of the area, which guests can tap into. They run the nearby Bazzoni hotel, a short walk past the beautiful botanical gardens of Villa Carlotta in Tremezzo. We stopped off at its chic restaurant, N26 Bistro, serving up excellent seafood.

Next morning, we met Ross and Doriana’s son Thomas who runs a heli fly fishing business in the mountains. He gave us tips on what to do in the area surrounding Italy’s third largest lake.

The 18th-century Villa del Balbianello where filming took place for James Bond movie Casino Royale and Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones is a must for film fans, while history buffs can visit Giulino where Mussolini was arrested and executed. And, of course, there’s George Clooney’s villa in Laglio.

On our second day we popped over to the ‘Pearl of Lake Como’, Bellagio. Although the hotel runs its own shuttle boat, we headed to the nearby ferry port to purchase day tickets (€15 for adults, €7.50 for kids) allowing us to use the ferries in the lake’s central zone all day.

We wandered around Bellagio’s cobbled streets, before stopping off for lunch at Silvio’s, a shoreside restaurant.

After a gelato on the lakefront, we hopped on Varenna, a picturesque village with narrow streets, mysterious alleys and lively piazzas. That night, we joined the other guests in the hotel’s bar, Bubbles, for a game of cards and a few ice-cold Birra Morettis for mum and dad.

On our final morning we took a stroll to Menaggio towards the Swiss border, before spending one final hour gently bobbing up and down on Britannia Excelsior’s floating pool.

Lake Como is a place of pure Italian relaxation, and the Britannia Excelsior rules the waves on this small corner of it, making it even more welcoming.

* TUI offers seven-night holidays to Lake Como at the 3T Hotel Britannia Excelsior, all-inclusive from £874pp based on two adults sharing. Includes flights from Manchester on June 6, 2020, and transfers. Visit

Shearings offer nine-day Summer in Lake Como from £559pp. See and