There's a sun-soaked place in Switzerland with the name of Collina d'Oro - a veritable golden hill! At the foot of the forest-covered San Salvatore, just minutes from Lugano, Collina d’Oro is one of the most accessible hideaways in Switzerland.
Psst! You didn't hear it from us, but Collina d'Oro has been a favorite place for the rich and famous. We heard that the former president of a major Swiss bank lives in a mansion around here. And that the late German author, Hermann Hesse, spent half his life on the Golden Hill.
It is time for us to see with our own eyes what the draw is all about. To find out, we will be spending a late summer weekend at the Resort Collina d'Oro.
Shortly after leaving the busy streets of Lugano behind, we drive uphill on a winding local road. Past a charming Ticino town, we enter chestnut forests before arriving at the gate to the five-star resort.
(Photograph copyright Collina d'Oro)
Lots of sunshine at Resort Collina d’Oro
On our arrival day, the weather is very unlike what we normally know from Ticino. It is raining cats and dogs so we pull right up to the front door. The outdoors may be a bit rough, but the welcoming by the resort's staff is all the friendlier.
Resort Collina d’Oro was newly opened in 2013 - a fact that quite astonishes us. The architecture with its interesting blueprint reminds of a historic building. (It is made up of residences, hotel rooms, a spa and a restaurant.) And the patch of land it sits on is pristine in that there are no such spaces left anymore...(Photograph copyright Collina d'Oro)
As it turns out, about a century ago, there used to be a clinic on this very site. The extended sun exposure of Collina d'Oro made it a popular destination for those in need of rehab. Yet today, it is lucky guests like us who get to spend time in this green oasis surrounded by nothing but forests, hills and the sky.
Recreation for body and mind
One cannot talk about Resort Collina d’Oro without mentioning the outdoor pool. A centerpiece of the vast property, the octagonal swimming pool faces in the direction of the sunset. We treasure the large outdoor spaces of this resort. Whether a shady tree is an invitation for a spontaneous nap or to divulge a novel is entirely up to you.
(Photograph copyright Collina d'Oro)
Apart from an outdoor and indoor pool, there is a spa featuring a Finnish sauna, a steam room and one very special shower. In an alternating sequence, this shower goes from mist to rain and to waterfall.
The resort has booked us for a massage - what a surprise! When Mamiko and I reunite after the 50 minutes are up, we have a relaxed look on our faces. Our massage therapists each used a different approach with the same goal: to get rid of all that tension.
Retail therapy at the FoxTown Mendrisio factory outlet
We are booked on the "Smart Shopping Package", which includes two nights at the hotel as well as shopping vouchers for FoxTown Mendrisio. The outlet mall is about a 25-minute drive from the resort. We have often heard friends mention "FoxTown", but this was going to be our first visit.
Outlet shopping was a common thing back in the US, but that was a long time ago. With Mendrisio being minutes from the border to Italy means that the shops and boutiques are unique.
Apart from some big name brands like adidas, Bally or Mammut, this outlet mall is home to many Italian fashion brands. We happen to be there at the right moment for end-of-season sales. This means that already reduced outlet prices are slashed in half - or more.
We first have a look at the shopping guide to get a sense of direction. "Let's meet in front of the Bally store in one hour," we decide. An hour later, we split again - this time for two additional hours! This is what happens when you rarely go on shopping sprees.
Back at Resort Collina d'Oro, our suite offers space to spare
Back at the resort, it is time to check in. We count ourselves lucky: for the purpose of this review, we get to stay in one of the large Deluxe Suites! At 65 square meters, there is space to spare. We even have an impromptu fashion show in the living room, showing off the bounty from FoxTown to each other.
The terrace deserves a major nod: based on the historic blueprints, the resort has rebuilt the large balconies. Back in the days of the sanitorium, patients in their beds were moved out onto the balcony for sun exposure. But today, this space is pure luxury: we spend quite some time outside, nibbling on grapes and apples from the fruit basket or simply gazing into the green landscape.
We dine like king and queen at the gourmet restaurant
One thing upfront: we strongly believe that at this low altitude, the tastes are much fuller. The wild caught fish or the Swiss prime beef are cooked to perfection. Whenever possible, side dishes and garnishings are sourced from the resort's own garden.
In season are peppers, cherry tomatoes and various herbs which add Mediterranean flavors to the dishes. And as a testament to the freshness of the ingredients, the kitchen avoids onion and garlic. It's an interesting concept that works perfectly for our palates.
Swiss beef tagliata, sweet green peppers, braised cherry tomatoes and herb jus:
The waiters who are also sommeliers take the time for a chat here and there.
With each course, they explain the dishes in a charming way. (The Italian-English accent surely adds to the authenticity!) As for wine suggestions, we do not have to go very far. The 2014 red from the award-winning vineyard just across the street is a match with the night's menu.
With all dishes being homemade, how can you resist this tiramisu dessert? I surely couldn't - but then I knew that I would be sharing it with Mamiko...
At Resort Collina d'Oro, we are truly living la dolcè vita!
Resort Collina d’Oro
Via Roncone 22
6927 Agra - Collina d'Oro
Phone +41 91 641 11 11
(Disclaimer: For the purpose of this review, the Resort Collina d'Oro has extended the Smart Shopping Package, which includes two nights in a Deluxe Suite, including half-board, as well as FoxTown vouchers in the amount of CHF 200. Feature photograph copyright Collina d'Oro.)