Bellagio – Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S.A.

A Most Sophisticated Lady

An imposing Italianate palazzo modeled after its storied namesake on Lake Como, Bellagio is a trailblazer that sits a step above the neon and shtick that is Las Vegas. Which is not to say that every aspect at every turn is not grandiose and over the top – it’s just tastefully over the top. With some 3,000 guest rooms filling its thirty-six floors, it’s one of the world’s largest hotels, with one of the largest casinos in town (along with the MGM Grand and the Riviera), and it’s the most expensive ever built in Vegas so far, with a $1.6 billion price tag. That marble you see everywhere would do a Medici proud.

Until just a few years ago, everyone came to this town for the gambling (they still leave behind $7.7 billion yearly), but today its top-drawer restaurants are a competitive magnet too, and nowhere is the allure greater than under Bellagio’s roof.

Bookending the hotel’s gamut of eateries are the hardly humble Buffet (loosen your belt buckle for the famous Sunday über-extravaganza dinner) and the heavily awarded Picasso, with eleven original Picassos gracing the walls. A host of alternatives lies in between: Aqua, the sleek, jazzy seafood restau­rant; Le Cirque, an exquisite miniature of its legendary Manhattan cousin; Prime, a glam­orous 1930s-style chophouse operated by Jean-Georges Vongerichten; and on and on and on.

After dessert, catch the more than 1,000 danc­ing fountains choreographed to show tunes in an 8-acre artificial lake; enjoy a nocturnal dip in the Mediterranean-style pool area, with its six pools; or take in the indescribable underwater performance by the world-renowned Cirque du Soleil (in the hotel’s custom-built $60 million theater), which is guaranteed to leave you in a state of wonderment. Afterward, Bellagio’s Light nightclub will still be humming, proving that one needn’t leave the hotel’s premises from check-in till check-out.

Oh, and this being Las Vegas, there are also two wedding chapels in the hotel, open twenty-four hours a day.

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