At a Glance
Set on eight acres on the edge of Lake Garda, this extravagant mini-castle was built in 1892 as a retreat for the Feltrinelli family, who made their fortune in lumber, but has operated as a hotel since 2001. The rooms in the main house offer such whimsical details as an octagonal turret, ornate parapets, star-shaped attic windows, original fresco ceilings and stained-glass windows. Despite its fairy-tale appearance, the palazzo was the setting for a dark chapter in history: in 1943, German troops confiscated the property, and Mussolini was installed in the upper floors as a puppet-state ruler until 1945 (when he was captured and shot near Milan). Today the mansion, whose restoration in the late 1990s was the passion project of Regent Hotels founder Robert Burns, once again exudes an atmosphere of peace and prosperity.**The Standout:** This preserved estate has been updated with modern amenities for an ideal balance of past and present
Don’t Miss: A tour of the area’s historic villas and gardens, or a tour of Lake Garda on the Villa’s Riva
- The many romantic spots in the gardens and lakeside
- The 20 guest rooms and suites, some of which are hidden in the boathouse and limonaia
- The whimsy of the original design—an octagonal turret, ornate parapets, star-shaped attic windows, a grand marble staircase and ceiling murals
- The opulent salon, cozy bar and cardroom, and a library where a bust of Signore Feltrinelli keeps watch over everything
Legendary hotels generally gain their reputations over decades, but one of the world’s ultimate spots for romance has operated as a hotel since only 2001. Grand Hotel a Villa Feltrinelli, which is set on eight acres on the edge of Lake Garda, was built in 1892 as an extravagant family palazzo and was lavishly restored and transformed into a jewel of hotel. Its fairy-tale charm is so overwhelming that one engaged couple who came to survey it as a place for their honeymoon were so enamored that they decided to elope and be married here instead.
The mini-castle, which is set on Lake Garda, where the snow-capped foothills of the Alps meet the palm trees, oleander and bougainvillea of the sub-Mediterranean lakeshore, was built for two wealthy brothers Angelo and Giacomo Feltrinelli. The architect included such whimsical details as an octagonal turret, ornate parapets, star-shaped attic windows, ceiling murals and stained-glass windows. Interiors contain silks from Italy’s finest mills and sculpted wood panels and coffered ceilings. For the early years of the 20th century, the family summered at their fanciful estate, but in 1943, Germans troops confiscated the property. Nazi soldiers moved into the basement and guarded the grounds, while Mussolini was installed in the upper floors as a captive ruler until his execution in 1945.
Though the family reclaimed the property after the war, the villa was not lovingly restored until Robert Burns, founder of Regent Hotels, purchased it in 1996. He had intended to fix it up as a private house until he learned the cost of renovating the 13-bedroom main house and eight acres of landscaped grounds. When he decided, instead, to turn it into a small hotel, he enlisted the design genius Pamela Babey, who had worked with him on transforming a former convent into the Four Seasons Milan.
All of the painted ceilings were restored and romantic details kept intact; one bedroom features cherubs floating on clouds, while another has walls swathed in floral chintz. On the ground floor are a cozy bar/card room; an opulent main Salòn; a main dining room; the open pantry; and a book-lined library, where a bust of Signore Feltrinelli keeps watch over an enormous flat-screen TV. Another eight rooms are spread among the grounds, including a three-bedroom villa that can be rented as a whole. Of course, a superb staff is essential to the running of a grand hotel, and the villa boasts a spectacular team.
All of this beauty and behind-the-scenes finessing conjures an atmosphere that makes any guest feel as if they are on their honeymoon. You’ll find yourself lingering over a drink by the lake before dinner, noticing that the air has the gentlest hint of Alpine chill. The staff will appear with wine and disappear, so you’re left only with the serene lake view, the mountains adding a touch of drama.
When it’s warm, dinner is served under a stunning pergola, and after you’ve eaten, you may spy a couple sitting with their espresso on the terrace, listening to jazz or Mozart wafting out of the Salòn. The place may inspire you to do nothing, but there is plenty to do. You can go boating, explore historic houses or gardens, or take a trip to Verona to attend the opera. Spa treatments can be arranged in the hotel's Tata Harper treatment room, but active guests should be warned that there is no gym on-property.
Who Should Stay
Honeymooners or couples looking to relax in one of the most magnificent, fairy-tale palazzo settings in the world. The minimum age for children is 12, unless you are booking the three-bedroom villa, Casa Fiore, which has no age limit.