From the outside, Lido Palace, on the banks of Lake Garda, is the kind of blue-blooded, art nouveau-style building that would have once accommodated the noblesse on their Grand Tour. However, once you step over the threshold, there’s bold-hued avant-garde interiors designed by architect Alberto Cecchetto, hip haute cuisine, a vividly voguish spa and a neon-lit pool – still grand, but delightfully mod and inimitably Italian.
Mod Italian design
A bottle of prosecco on arrival
In the know
Also need to know:
All common areas are wheelchair-accessible, there’s lift access to each floor and the hotel has several rooms suitable for disabled guests (Single Rooms have wheelchair-accessible bathrooms). Staff can arrange a personal trainer if needed.The 1,500sq m spa offers a collection of globetrotting treatments, including a Finnish sauna, Mediterranean bath, Indian massages and Native American stone treatments. Fine-dining chefs are usually fiercely protective of their recipes, but chef Giuseppe Sestito will happily share some of the secrets to his creations.
Swimwear is essential for the CXI Spa and for splashing around in the lake, if you do leave it behind, the spa shop has some elegant replacements. This trip is also the time to put that Stella McCartney for Adidas wear to the test (an old t-shirt and battered running shoes won’t cut it in this upscale establishment).
The hotel looks like the set for a fashion shoot, so even the flashiest of Italian labels are welcome. Tremani is a casual affair, but Il Re della Busa requires suits and something expensively elegant for Mrs Smith.
Mr and Mrs Smith reviews
After a temperament-testing 5am budget-airline check-in and a hair-raising ride along what Mr Smith and I have coined The Bonkers Road (Milan-to-Venice Autostrada A4), we arrived in Riva del Garda a little frazzled. It took us several drive-bys to finally click the indicator and make our manoeuvre down the long, palm-tree lined driveway to the Lido Palace. Silence immediately ensued as the modern rustic gate came steadily closer…
‘Buongiorno, may I take your name?’ came a warm voice through the intercom. ‘Welcome, we have been expecting you,’ she continued, and the gate opened to reveal a palatial mansion behind a canopy of trees. Mr Smith and I turned to each other, our lips curling into the beginning of two excited grins conveying the kind of telepathic happiness you get when you know that whatever is about to happen, it’s going to be good.
We were greeted by the charming Danilo, who before we knew it had whisked us into reception while the car had disappeared behind the trees – our bags had vanished to we didn’t know or care. There was a feeling of being in safe hands as we stood in the all-glass atrium, a cutting-edge addition to the 19th-century building where old meets new in utter harmony.
It’s a juxtaposition that runs throughout the hotel. A humongous canvas of abstract graffiti art (that we were told is valued at a whopping €800k) takes centre stage on the original staircase; the palatial reading rooms with high ceilings, Corinthian columns and huge bay windows are furnished with bold, sweeping turquoise chaise lounges; and the bedrooms have the feeling of a brand-new Manhattan penthouse but with the kind of breath-taking views across Lake Garda that you would have expected here a century ago.
Arriving in our room after a tour of the hotel (where we’d clocked two lake-side seats on a wooden perfect for prosecco-sipping), Mr Smith and I did what we always do – we inspected the room with a running commentary. ‘Look! A loo with a view!’ and ‘Have you seen the size of the bed?’ (It was the kind that my mother always tells me belies an unhappy marriage: absolutely brilliantly massive). Despite all this, it wasn’t all-singing and all-dancing extravagance. Like the mountain town it is nestled into, Lido Palace is the definition of discreet luxury; the kind of place where the linen and pillows, Acqua di Parma toiletries, walk-in rainforest shower, and magnificent lake views speak – make that whisper seductively – for themselves.
Since we were only in town for two nights, we headed straight out to explore (via that deck of course). Mr Smith and I know Italy well but neither of us had been this far north. I can’t remember what we were expecting, but whatever it was, it was superseded by tranquillity, beauty and a general sense of peace. Riva del Garda is more picturesque and manicured than the charming southern scruff we are used to. Antiquarian bookshops are hugged by cobblers and wine bars, cafés and tobacconists while cobbled streets sidle up to stretches of grass bursting with brightly coloured blooms.
By the afternoon we were back at the hotel giggling like teenagers as we swaddled ourselves in the sumptuous bathrobes and made our way down in the lift to the Centoundici Spa. I thought it would take more convincing to get Mr Smith seen in public belted at the waist with spa slippers on, but the promise of six sauna rooms with mood-sensory lighting and triple-effect showers was clearly all the incentive he needed. We floated between the chamomile-infused warm bath, an uplifting citrus-vapour Turkish bath, the Mediterranean sauna and a salt room, before finishing in the relaxation room with a tea infusion.
Next we napped like babies in that big bed (cuddled into just one half of it – I love to dispel my mother’s myths), awaking to the sound of the lake sploshing gently against the shore and the sight of evening sun bouncing off the water. I left Mr Smith to doze as I slid my robe on again and returned to the spa for a 50-minute CXI massage – it topped all other massages. My treat of the trip ticked, it was only fair to spoil Mr Smith with the sole thing to pull him from slumber: food. The hotel offers two restaurants, the Tremani for long and languid lunches and the Il Re della Busa for elegant mountain-view dinners. We found a spot of the terrace where we bathed in late sunshine and dined on trout carpaccio, linguine ai frutti di mare and shrimp tempura (all locally sourced and the more delicious for it), marvelling for the hundredth time at the spectacular views.
The rest of the afternoon was spent wandering hand-in-hand around the lake, then the village, and then the lake again (‘oh go on, just one more time’) before early-evening Shirley Temples and Aperol spritzers served with generous antipasti at the excellent Nuovo 900 restaurant on Via Gazzoletti, a five-minute walk away. Lost in time, Shirleys were swapped for pintas (a drink-me-more blend of bitters, prosecco, soda and lemon) and our sojourn carried on spontaneously late into the night (exactly the kind of wise decision one makes when ridiculously well-rested and the early flight the following morning seems insignificant). Despite our Aperol heads, we arrived back at Milan Bergamo airport the picture of calm. What a difference to your state of mind a spell at Lido Palace can make.
Viale Carducci, 10, Riva del Garda, Trento, 38066
Riva del Garda
1.1 mi / 1.8 km from city centre
- Onsite laundry
- Valet parking
- Complimentary in-room coffee or tea
- Exercise gym
- On-Site parking
- Internet services
- Room service
Tremani is the hotel’s more laid-back lunchtime eatery offering healthy imaginative meals. For intimate evening meals, Il Re della Busa is decadent and distinguished, with exquisitely rendered morsels of haute cuisine in sleek designer surroundings and backlit views of the grounds.
The restaurant overlooks the gardens, which are a mix of manicured lawns and forested foothills, grab a seat by the window to gaze upon them as you eat. If it’s a balmy night, get a table on the balcony deck.
Tremani opens for lunch from 12:15pm to 12:45pm, Il Re della Busa opens for dinner from 7:30pm to 10:30pm and the bar opens from 9:30am to 1:30am (or until the last guest leaves).
Available 24 hours a day. The menu is simple but satisfying, with ham and cheese sandwiches, vegetarian lasagne, a range of salads and fruit.
The Bali Bar is a unique space with watercolour-splashes on the feature walls and art nouveau frescoes on the ceiling.