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The shores of Lake Como are full of things that look like they belong in a children's book. The adorable La Darsena, a modest boutique inn at water's edge near the ferry dock in Tremezzo, is such a place. With its rustic wooden balconies and brick-red exterior, it looks like a tavern in the pages of an illustrated fable. Accommodations here are unpretentious and mostly simple, though there's a certain timeworn elegance to the rooms, and all are equipped with basic modern comforts and free Wi-Fi.

Highest in demand are the first floor corner rooms (103 and 107), which each have two lake-view balconies, which take in Bellagio, right across the water, and the Grigne mountains behind it. Because La Darsena is set right up against the lakeshore, the balconies almost seem to be hanging over the water, which makes any lake-facing room on the first floor a thrill. (They're also quieter because they don't have road noise.) Second-floor rooms are attic units with skylights and lake-view dormer windows cut into the sloping roofline. The friendly family that runs the place is hospitality incarnate, often going to extra lengths to ensure a personal and comfortable experience for guests.

The hotel's location in Tremezzo, near the famous Villa Carlotta and Villa Balbianello and the ferry dock, makes it a good base for exploring the lake, especially for those with a car, as there's free parking right on the property. La Darsena's restaurant is highly regarded both for its refined, creative Italian fare and its stupendous lake and mountain views from both indoor and outdoor dining areas. The hotel's breakfast is served in the restaurant, and though it's a buffet and not à la carte, it's bountiful, with freshly baked pastries and assorted meats and cheeses, and of course, splendid ambience.