You wander down the cobbled streets of Varenna and, suddenly, there it is: the grand lake. The life of the village bustles below, where colourwashed houses cluster round the church on a rocky promontory perched above Lake Como. The setting is enchanting. Smack on the lakeside is Albergo Milano, pretty, traditional and disarmingly small. Owners Bettina and Egidio are engaging people, delighted to be running their own small hotel. Everywhere is freshly and stylishly furnished, bedroom floors are covered in colourful old tiles, traditional furniture makes a striking contrast with sleek modern bathrooms and each has a balcony or terrace with a lake view. The dining room’s big new windows open onto a wonderful wide terrace where you eat out on fine days, the lake stirring beside you. The food is divine gourmet-Italian, the wine list irresistible. A step away, in the old part of town, is a charming sister dwelling housing apartments with kitchenettes and living rooms. Bettina is a mine of information about this area and there’s a regular train service into Bergamo and Milan. It’s a gem.