Bellagio: A friendly place to stay and gamble

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BellagioThe Bellagio is inspired by a village overlooking Lake Como in the sub-Alpine northern region of Italy. The facade of the Bellagio will remind you somewhat of the themed architecture Steve Wynn employed at Treasure Island (TI), only this time it’s provincial Italian instead of Caribbean.

The Bellagio village is arrayed along the west and north sides of a man-made lake, where dancing fountains provide allure and spectacle, albeit more dignified than the Mirage’s exploding volcano.

Rising behind the village facade in a gentle curve is the 3,933-room hotel, complete with casino, restaurants, shopping complex, spa, and pool. Added in late 2004 was a 33-story Spa Tower with 819 hotel rooms and 109 suites. Bundled with the tower are a restaurant, four shops, and additional convention space. Imported marble is featured throughout, even in the guest rooms and suites, as are original art, traditionally styled furnishings, and European antiques. Guest rooms and meeting rooms also feature large picture windows affording views of lushly landscaped grounds and formal gardens.

Bellagio_BedroomThe 2,568 guest rooms in the original Bellagio Tower feature jewel-toned color palettes derived from the property’s extensive gardens, floral pageants, and fountains. Inspired by the hotel’s renowned horticultural exhibits, botanical photographs line the walls, and there is enough lighting to illuminate a Cirque du Soleil performance. Most welcome is the laptop-size safe and iHome docking station in the nightstand. Each room features a minibar and high-speed Internet.

Surprisingly, the Italian village theme of Bellagio’s lakefront facade is largely abandoned in the hotel’s interior. Though a masterpiece of integrated colors, textures, and sight lines, the interior design reflects no strong sense of theme. In two steps, passing indoors, you go from a provincial village on a very human scale to a monumentally grand interior with proportions reminiscent of national libraries. The vast spaces are exceedingly tasteful and unquestionably sophisticated, yet they fail to evoke the fun, whimsy, and curiosity so intrinsic to the Mirage and TI.

Like stepping from the midway into the basilica

Perhaps because Las Vegas has conditioned us to a plastic, carnival sort of stimulation, entering the Bellagio is like stepping from the midway into the basilica. The surroundings impress but do not engage our emotions—except, of course, for the art, and that is exactly the point. Seen as a rich, neutral backdrop for the extraordinary works of art displayed throughout the Bellagio, the lapse of thematic continuity is understandable. No theme could compete, and none should.

ChihulyCeilingBellagioThe art is everywhere, even on the ceiling of the registration lobby, where a vibrant, colorful blown-glass piece by Dale Chihuly hangs. Wonderful works are showcased in the Bellagio’s restaurants. Original Picassos, for example, are on exhibit in the restaurant of the same name. The Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art is touted as Las Vegas’ premier art gallery.

Architecturally, the Bellagio’s most creative and interesting spaces are found in its signature conservatory and botanical gardens and in its restaurants. From the main entrance, the primary garden is straight ahead. The opulent and oversize displays change seasonally according to the theatrical floral whimsies of the supremely accomplished botanical staff.Bellagio_FallDecoration

If you spend time at the Bellagio, visit each of the restaurants for a moment, if only to take in their stunning design. Many of the Bellagio’s restaurants, including a Las Vegas branch of Le Cirque, feature panoramic views. Some offer both indoor and outdoor dining experiences. In addition to the restaurants, the Bellagio serves one of Las Vegas’ best—and, not unexpectedly, one of the city’s most expensive—buffets. With the exception of the buffet and coffee shop, the Bellagio’s restaurants require reservations, preferably made a month to six weeks before you leave home.

A chocolate lover’s dream

IMG_9236No reservation is needed for Jean-Phillippe Patisserie, where you can experience a wide variety of French delicacies. The Jean-Philippe Patisserie is also home to the world’s largest Chocolate Fountain.

The Bellagio’s showroom hosts a production of the justly acclaimed Cirque du Soleil. Though terribly expensive, the show is one of Cirque’s most challenging productions yet, featuring a one-of-a-kind set that transforms seamlessly from hard surface to water. Like the Bellagio itself, the Cirque production (from the pronunciation of the French word eau, meaning “water”) lacks the essential humor and humanness of Cirque’s Mystère at TI but is nonetheless one of the hottest Cirque tickets in town.

Retailers in the shopping venue include Chanel, Tiffany, Prada, and Giorgio Armani. The Bellagio’s purported target market includes high rollers and discriminating business travelers who often eschew gaming properties.

If you stay at the Bellagio, you will find the same basic informality typical of the rest of the Strip, and, surprisingly, you will encounter in the hotel more people like you than super-rich. Expressed more directly, the Bellagio is a friendly place to stay and gamble and not at all pretentious.

The Unofficial Guide to Las Vegas by Bob Sehlinger reviews over 100 hotels and casinos, 108 restaurants, and more than 90 of Las Vegas’ best shows.

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