Video via Christon Gibson
The Lake region was a new experience for Peter and me. Our trips to Italy typically include one or two notable spots such as Rome, Florence, Milan, Venice, Cinque Terre, and always conclude on the Amalfi coast. We feel at home in Anacapri due to its warm weather, rocky cliffs, breathtaking views, incredible food, and unique history. One reason we venture back to Italy every year, sometimes twice a year, is because of its rich history and authenticity. Additionally, we have Italian backgrounds – mine from the north and my husband’s from the south.
This season, we were drawn to the northern lakes region as many of our well-traveled friends recommended its picturesque and relaxing setting. Our main impetus in 2023 was an invitation from dear friends to visit a villa they had rented complete with a pool, stunning Lake Garda views, and even a chef.
We chose a hotel in Gargnano within walking distance of their villa. Villa Feltrinelli was the finest hotel we have ever experienced in all our travels. Every measurable aspect – physical facility, grounds, ambiance, setting, hospitality, and dining – was superb. But describing Feltrinelli goes beyond words; the entire experience was exceptional.
The discrete gated entry opens to a small stone driveway that winds through lush local flora with glimpses of the pool area and subtle views of Lake Garda through tall thin Italian Cypress trees. A grand Venetian-style mansion emerges in splendor as its meticulously kept grass and landscaping come into view. Built in 1892 by Faustino Feltrinelli’s two sons – a lumber magnate – the Grand Hotel Villa Feltrinelli in Gargnano provides evidence of its lumber roots through paneled walls, elaborate crown moldings, paneled doors, and floors.
Upon arrival, we received a small bouquet of white roses and a personalized welcome followed by a tour of our elegant quarters. At every turn, mirrors, painted frescoes, detailed woodwork, and marbled rooms were delicately integrated into the villa’s design.
A standout feature was the freedom to dine at any time and anywhere on the property. The cuisine was local gourmet with appropriately sized portions. My favorite parts of every meal were the amazing views, white-glove service, and an abundant assortment of fresh and delectable canapés.
We invited five guests staying at a nearby villa for cocktails by the lake. Our servers presented us with anchovies, mozzarella, tomato confit bruschetta, giardiniera, arancini balls with marinara, miniature pesto bun sliders with smoked salmon, dried tomato paté, and our favorite canapé – bonbon finger bites of fresh cheese and hazelnut. Of course, martinis accompanied our treats.
Everyone greeted us with pleasant smiles as if it were our own home. They even knew our names and room whereabouts. Each guest room/suite was discernible by its unique name.
Our stay consisted of two accommodation experiences: one in the main villa and another in charming lakeside cottages with gorgeous views. Both had large marble bathrooms adorned with petals in the toilet and complimentary amenities like hand fans with carrying cases. Laundry was collected daily without any special requests.
During our visit, we enjoyed the grassy pool area set among beautifully maintained flower gardens. The property offered separate covered areas for group outdoor grilling and dining along with terracotta planters filled with seasonal flowers for an authentic Italian atmosphere. There were multiple access points to the lake for swimming – occasionally shared by a visiting family of swans or resident ducks. The only problem with our stay was it was not long enough and that activities with our friends took us off property. Our next visit we will confine ourselves to quarters and enjoy the restful ambience of Villa Feltrinellli to the fullest.
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Photos via Villa Feltrinelli
Photos by Christon Gibson