High above Lake Lugano on Golden Hill, there is a historic palace that was once the private home of a prince. As an affidavit to the landscape’s beauty, German writer, Hermann Hesse, was inspired by the views from Collina d'Oro and owned a house near the palace.
Italian grandezza and panoramic views
What sounds like a fairytale description is based on historic facts. This weekend, we will be testing Villa Principe Leopoldo in Lugano, the private palace of Fredrick Leopold Von Hohenzollern, a Prussian prince.
Now, I mostly know Lugano from the vantage point of its lakeside promenade - or from the top of its surrounding mountains. This weekend’s hotel is located on an exclusive hillside above Paradiso, an area still unfamiliar to me.
A few minutes outside of Lugano, our shuttle pulls into a private driveway. The anticipation rises and I recall what others have told me about the 5-star luxury hotel, Villa Principe Leopoldo: the house has a majestic presence that draws you in.
Once parked, our luggage is handled by the concierge and we walk up a fleet of cobblestone stairs to the entrance. The glass door gives a preview of what is expecting us on the other side... (Looking back, I think that the reception desk is tucked away in a hallway for a reason.)
We enter the noble villa and find ourselves in an opulent lobby with high ceilings and marble floors. It's the way we imagine Italian grandezza! And straight ahead sits a panoramic terrace overlooking Lake Lugano - our first priority before even checking in.
A photogenic property
Throughout the weekend, we will have ample time to explore the hotel grounds. There are citrus trees bearing lemons and limes, and sweet Jasmine vines climbing the side of the villa.
On the lookout for photogenic spots, we find that the villa reveals interesting angles and perspectives. The more we explore the property on the poolside or the central terrace, the more beautiful spots we come across.
For instance, the patio just off the reception reminds of an Italian country house:
On a sunny morning, we join the other lucky guests outside on the breakfast deck. Located above the swimming pool, this deck offers unspoiled views of San Salvatore. (We find pleasure in trying to spot the tiny funicular as it creeps up the steep mountainside...) And those lucky enough to sit in the first row will enjoy a jungle view of Lake Lugano.
Another fantastic spot for photographs is the balcony that runs along the conference rooms on the villa’s upper floor. Think 180-degree panoramic views of Lake Lugano and the surrounding mountains, with the terrace below:
Our suite at Villa Principe Leopoldo
All the suites are located in an arched building below the main terrace. Rooms are not numbered as in other hotels. Instead, each one bears a letter from A to Z. Our letter is "Q", a one-bedroom suite with a spacious living room.
The room has an elongated blueprint. From the entrance, a hallway with closets, a shower, and a bathroom leads straight to the bedroom. A bit further is the living room and finally the balcony.
We end up spending more time outside than in other hotels because it feels like being in a tropical rainforest. Here is Mamiko having a sort of zen moment:
An acclaimed gourmet kitchen
For thirty years, Executive Chef Dario Ranza has enchanted guests with his signature risotto - just one of many positions on his extensive à la carte menu. In fact, he has been here longer than most other staff members.
And his kitchen with 17 GaultMillau points has been a draw for gourmands from near and far. (I heard that many would go on regular pilgrimages to Collina d'Oro.)
Look at this zucchini flower - a work of art:
And here is a medley of honest vegetables from Magadino with a ring of crunchy farina bona:
On Lugano’s Golden Hill, Chef Ranza is soon going to hand the keys to his prodigy, Cristian Moreschi. The young Italian chef has already been at Principe Leopoldo Restaurant for seven years.
But not everything is changing: we are happy to know that our favorite sommelier in the world, Mr. Speziale, will remain, along with the current restaurant manager.
Our candid review
You have to love Villa Principe Leopoldo for what it does best: it provides five-star hospitality with a friendly staff, runs a fantastic bar, dishes out internationally acclaimed gourmet meals, and spoils with unlimited panoramic views.
As a member of Relais & Châteaux, Villa Principe Leopoldo is dedicated to providing a unique experience to each guest. Part of this commitment is personal attention. For instance, the management greeted us by name and we had interesting conversations with many staff members.
In the tradition of a true hostess, General Manager Barbara Gibellini has gone out of the way to make things happen for us:
If these are not enough reasons to spend a classy weekend in this amazing hotel above Lugano, hit me up! I will try even harder to convince you...
The property is under historic protection and the location is as unique as can be. Thus, it would be impossible to squeeze in a spa on the same site. Or in other words, those expecting a five-star spa hotel with different saunas and steam rooms may get disappointed. Villa Principe Leopoldo does have two heated outdoor pools and a full-fledged gym, but it is not a wellness hotel.
For an extra fee, a private spa with various massage treatments can be reserved - a suitable gift for newlyweds or couples celebrating an anniversary. And just down the driveway, there is an affiliated four-star hotel with a sauna that can be used by all guests.
In 2000, Arnold Schwarzenegger scribbled in the hotel's guest book: "I'll be back!" The same holds true for us!
Villa Principe Leopoldo
Via Montalbano 5
Phone: +41 91 985 88 55