The Grand Hotel Tremezzo, overlooking Lake Como, Bellagio and the Grigne mountains and adjoining the gardens of Villa Carlotta, is, as the name hints, a fabulous if faintly ridiculous decadent confection.

The art nouveau pile was opened in 1910 by Enea Gandola and his wife Maria Orsolini and taken over in the 1930s by the Sampietro family, who established it as an A-list draw. Greta Garbo namechecked it in the 1932 film Grand Hotel. (Garbo’s preferred room, 113, is named in her honour.) The hotel changed ownership again in the mid-1970s and last year Valentina De Santis became CEO, the third generation of the De Santis family to own and run the hotel.

De Santis has determined on dragging the hotel into the 21st century while losing none of its original charm. Indeed, the hotel is now a cinematic fantasy of a favoured spot on the Grand Tour: no iPads but newspapers clamped in wooden poles, and wingback chairs in pastel shades.

Local architect firm Venelli Kramer has played a key part in the hotel’s reinvention and reinvigoration, drafted in to add new spa facilities. The architects began by turning a narrow and largely unused arched passage under the hotel’s main entrance into the Espa-partnered T Spa. It now houses a 15m infinity pool, comprising two linked strands, and a sundeck with views across the lake. The team also cut into the hotel’s foundations, linking this narrow strip of previously unloved real estate to an outdoor whirlpool and lounge. Venelli Kramer inserted a treatment area and changing rooms underneath the building, again working with existing unused spaces but adding lashings of black Venetian marmorino, back-lit Persian onyx, vertical timber cladding and bespoke wooden furnishings, all made in Italy, to create a clean-lined, luxurious grotto.

The architects then advanced on what was formerly a fitness area, set in a detached villa in the hotel grounds, to create the new T Spa Suite. The space is designed for couples to share their massage moment (with a double treatment room) and comprises a cocoon of vertical wooden strips. The suite also includes a whirlpool, a sauna and a Turkish bath.

Most recently, the hotel has opened its grandest pampering outpost yet, following the refurbishment of its 18th-century, three-storey Villa Emilia, located conveniently next to the existing spa facilities. It offers three further treatment rooms, a hammam, a nail bar, a relaxation room and a specifically created new guest suite. The hammam, realised in flowing white Lasa marble, includes a raised massage platform, a steam room, a sauna, a tub and a rain shower. The villa’s beauty area boasts three wood-clad treatment cabins with teak floors and handcrafted wooden furnishings, while the nail bar, tagged the Mosaico Studio, features a refurbished Venetian mosaic floor. The manicure tables are tailor-made in grey oak, and Venelli Kramer has also found space for a Flexform gold marble table, Minotti armchairs and a Penta chandelier. In the adjoining relaxation room, the original frescoed ceiling, seminato flooring and fireplace have all been restored.

The villa also now houses the Suite Emilia, for those who don’t want to stray too far from the spa facilities. It offers private access to the spa, and also includes an oversized whirlpool, a double rain shower and its own steam room, all lined in Lasa marble. There’s a 20 sq m bedroom with a Simmons BeautyRest bed with handmade capitone headboard and a velvet-lined, recessed day bed, just in case you needed a lie-down after all that scrubbing and steaming.

As originally featured in the December 2015 issue of Wallpaper* (W*201)