First he ignored a number of rich prospective buyers ready to shell out Euro 20million for his luxury villa, now he's shrugged off the discovery of a 225kg cache of war-era munitions in the water less than 15 metres away. Actor George Clooney is clearly so attached to his $10million pad in Laglio, overlooking Lake Como in Italy that he's not giving it up anytime soon.
And maybe that should come as no surprise. After all, it is no easy thing to turn your back on the beauty of this region of Italy. Other famous faces who own homes around Lake Como are Virgin mogul Sir Richard Branson, rock singer Sting and soccer coach Jose Mourinho, while relatives of late designer Gianni Versace sold their mansion for US$40million.
Such is its star appeal that parts of Daniel Craig's first movie as British agent 007 as well as Star Wars epic Attack of the Clones were shot here while Cernobbio, on the lake's south-western banks numbers everyone from Angelina Jolie to Yves St Laurent among its fans.
Since Clooney bought his Lake Como property eight years ago in Laglio, a few miles north of Cernobbio, regular visitors have included the likes of Brad Pitt and Matt Damon. The screen star also acquired a ramshackle house next to his for US$4million that he subsequently renovated into a guesthouse for his famous friends.
The lake, in Italy's Lombardy region, forms an inverted “Y" that starts from the foothills of the Alps near the border with Switzerland and stretches southwards for around 35 miles. Its magnificent views along with the Alps forming a stunning backdrop make this among the country's most sought-after locations for real estate investors. One of the costliest as well. Clooney's purchase led to a boom in the housing market that has seen an average annual growth in prices of 5%. Notwithstanding the worldwide real estate crash, things here have remained buoyant, helped by demand from Milan's wealthy elite and Swiss financiers to the north. The area has no shortage of multi-million dollar properties if you want an illustrious lakeside villa with a world-famous celebrity next door.
However, the good news is one doesn't need to have a movie star's bank balance to buy a home here. In Laglio, a converted lakeside warehouse development with 36 apartments was put on the market recently with prices starting at just under Euro138,000 to Euro 400,000 for a two-bedroom flat. In Lenno, 10 miles away, you can find a new-build flat for just Euro 165,000. And in nearby Tremezzo, a lake-view apartment was recently available for Euro 250,000.
There are even better bargains away from Lake Como's southern stretches. Locations on the north-west shores such as Dongo, Musso, Domaso and Pianello Lario are a popular alternative if you want to spend less than Euro 250,000.
In Pianello Lario, a newly built lake-view complex 600 yards from the water's edge and complete wit communal pool starts at just Euro 110,000 for a one-bedroom property to Euro 205,000 for a villette. With the Alps within easy reach, rental potential is high, typically around Euro 900 weekly. Gravedona, some just over four miles away is more affordable still. Here, expect to pay a little over Euro 100,000 for a two-bedroom lakeview property, although you may have to settle for being slightly away from the water.
Lake Como has drawn superlatives from visitors from all walks of life for thousands of years. The Roman writer Virgil – it was Lake Lario in his day – wrote of its beauty. Some years later, Roman statesman Pliny The Younger owned two villas here. Early in the 19th century Shelley wrote in glowing terms about how the lake “exceeds anything I ever beheld in beauty". And literary icon Henry James was left awestruck as he said: “One can't describe the beauty of the Italian Lakes, nor would one try if one could. "
It's quite clear why. The lake is Italy's third largest following Garda and Maggiore and is a little under 60sq miles of serene blue water bordered by mountains and woodland, a picture postcard of stunning beauty.
The vista is marvellous from virtually throughout its 110-mile shoreline. But it's hard to beat its middle section where the lake divides into two forked legs, one ending in Como, the other Lecco.
Bellagio is known locally as The Pearl of the Lake and many Italians maintain it is Europe's most beautiful town. Stroll down its charming cobbled streets, gazing at the view, or hop on a ferry to Menaggio on the west bank or Varenna on the east, the peaks of the Alps towering majestically in front of you, and you would struggle to disagree. There are six airports to choose from around Como: three in Milan and others in Verona, Brescia and Lugano, Switzerland.