News & Reviews Europe Italy Review: Villa Feltrinelli, Lake Garda

Villa Feltrinelli, Lake Garda
Room type: Junior Suite
Duration: 24th May > 27th May, 2018
Booked with: Dorsia Travel

There are two reasons you will find yourself in Villa Feltrinelli, an Italian villa fraught with history, facing directly onto Lake Garda.  The first is the privacy and exclusivity; the second is the setting.  You will definitely not find yourself here if you’re a rabid fan of Bargain Hunters.  You may never find yourself here at all – the website is so loose on information that along with how they built the pyramids, why Michael Bay has a career and what is the point of British Airways, how Villa Feltrinelli has any customers is one of life’s great mysteries.  Yet I was prepared to find out.

The arrival was perfection: I felt like I had already been here.  When I think of an Italian village by a lake, this is exactly what it looks like.  It was just as beautiful as I imagined; the quaint village shops, the relaxed way of life and the sublime architecture moulded into modern day use – i.e. gelato shops.  Sure, any moment there was a chance of hooligans showing up and beating the shit outta everyone, but until then it remained a picture book of splendour.

Lap up the splendour

As we drove into the property, we were immediately asked if we wanted lunch or to visit our room.  A 2 hour drive from Milan presented only one viable option: lunch.  A flower was presented, then put into a vase with water.  Next the WiFi password was provided without even asking.  Then they asked if we wanted our clothes unpacked.  Thinking long and hard about what objects of filth and sin may have accidentally found its way to our luggage from our 2 night stay in The Bulgari, we concluded it was safe for them to do so.  I doubt they were going to judge me for stealing those paintings off the lobby walls – everyone does it.

As we sat down at the table, immediately still water, ice and lemon awaited us.  The stay list had already kicked in, without stepping a foot in the room.  Yet then they asked what wine I wanted, and it was all thrown out the window.  Like a wagyu steak covered in bees, it initially sounded so good, only to end in tears.

The Stay List was responded to in detail prior to arrival, with no great surprises, but also no significant omissions.  I’ve recently simplified my stay list to emphasis that the bug spray is only needed outside of Europe.  The adventure of receiving mosquito spray in cities like Paris in the middle of February was a great one, but all great adventures must end.  I immediately regretted it, with repeated attacks by Satan’s pets taking full advantage of my lack of defence.

The service was not as consistent as the bugs.  It was always very friendly and easily the most prompt I have ever experienced anywhere; no sooner had your knife and fork touched and your plate was whisked away.  It genuinely was impressive the speed which they operated, often with multiple people engaged in some synchronised ballet of waitering.  My dream level of service, with the icing on the cake: never waiting for a bill, as there isn’t one.

Yet several times we were sat around the pool and no one came to offer us anything, only for another day them to come around with free sorbets and suggest drinks they knew we liked.  When we enquired for a history of the property, we were simply pointed at the book in our room and told to read it.  When we returned from a long walk and came back to the property – a process you can only do by buzzing in at the gate – we returned to nothing.  Minor?  Of course, but think of what the best of an Aman would have done there: fresh towels, fresh water and perhaps even your favourite drink.  The best improvements a hotel can make are often the cheapest.

This is a property that offers you everything, designed to do nothing.  Arrive by helicopter right onto their lawns, walk 30 metres, sit down on the lake and stay there until your pilot returns from his bunga bunga party in Milan.  There is no gym; no spa (just 1 treatment room); simply a library, lounge, and a pool that everyone sits around, to the extent that on two days we could not join them and were cast out of the exclusive club within an exclusive property through lack of seats.  Even clique’s have a clique.

The library was turned into a mini get together for the Champions League Final, where I managed to bestow my wisdom upon several other guests by teaching them new English swearwords.

The pool achieved the same aim that it does at most high-end properties: looking good.  I do not recall seeing anyone actually use it, but everyone was drawn towards it like it was chumming Don Perignon.  The atmosphere is that even adults should be seen, not heard, so I suppose everyone was waiting to see what each other would do, before deciding whether it was allowed etiquette to jump in.

So where is all your money going?

Many properties/marketeers/hotel chains talk about a sense of place, yet there truly is one here.  It is immensely private, undeniably beautiful, incredibly well kept and simply feels special.  There is not the worlds best service, nor the best food, or even the best views.  Were I to compare it side-by-side to Park Hotel Vitznau it would lose in almost every way, yet it still feels special.  An impalpable sense of luxury.

And I don’t even say that as Mussolini was held captive here during WW2 by the Germans – something every hotel wishes they could boast of.

And I don’t say that because a lot of staff, including the Hotel Manager, have worked here over 15 years and give it a real snug atmosphere.

I don’t even say it because they are highly restrictive towards children, making it even quieter – particularly when the clientele were somewhere between those in their late 30s, and the oldest probably remembering when they actually first voted for Mussolini, or maybe even guarded him.

It’s because it’s just you, with someone you love, Italy, a lake, exclusivity and panache.  The perfectly kept gardens; the gated community that makes it all yours; the homely feel like Ellerman House and La Residence; the huge number of seating areas, meaning you can often be completely by yourself.  And the mandatory croquet.  Helicopters can even land directly onto the lawns of the property.  Trust me, I know.  Someone did it as we were sat by the lake, and it blew away our umbrella from the sheer force of the wind.  A bit strange that no one rushed over to us, who had been in a low level hurricane, but instead rushed to the helicopter to grab his luggage.  Hopefully the poor guy was ok.  

This is not even a property that will leave you breathless with generosity.  In fact, the only thing they were generous with was naming their entry level room junior suites, as they’re 35 sqm.  Ok, that’s not entirely fair, as they offer complimentary laundry and minibar, including alcohol.  Yet as seems customary in Italy, if you ask for a virgin mojito you will – if you’ll pardon the pun – be screwed.  €18 for a virgin mojito, yet €19 for one with alcohol.  There is clearly no discriminating if you don’t drink alcohol.  If I removed the leaves and it was just ice and sugar, what does that take it down to?  What about a burger without a bun?  I can see a future where I negotiate every item of drink and food to find the optimal bargain.  Unfortunately it will need to be done in public, as room service was not an option either.  Luckily I have no shame when it comes to being cheap.

Our “suite”, Nordica, was their a Junior Suite in the main villa.  The other 19 “suites” are either in the main villa, or scattered across the grounds.  Occupancy was 100% so we barely had more than a few minutes to run through someone’s dirty suite, quickly ruffling through their bins and taking DNA swabs, to see what you could get for double your money.  It’s actually pretty darn good.  If you can afford to come to Villa Feltrinelli, you may as well spend the money for one of their best suites.  More fool me.  Were I to return – and I most likely would – I would do just that.

So now I’ve told you what you should get, let me tell you what I got: a 35 sqm, quaint room, with weird photos of people everywhere, very little daylight and a bed developed by Lockheed Martin that was designed to a minimum spec: severely injure me by tricking me into walking into it.  Repeatedly.  The style was not to my liking, but the style is exactly what you should expect, so I will not complain about that.  You could certainly not accuse them of being cheap either: underfloor heating, Aqua de Palma toiletries, an intuitive sound system at the push of a button; turndown with lighted candles throughout the room and a complimentary mini bar that gets restocked every 18 seconds.  Every evening they even wrapped our passports and put them on a bed.  If ever I saw a hint….

Yet due to the size and therefore value for money, darkness and fact that they gave me such a cheap razor that I needed to stay an extra day just to finish shaving my face, I would not recommend this room.  I can still forgive the room for being so awful, as I love the surroundings so much I could spend all day just by the lake…as long as they install a power socket.  What it’d be like with bad weather though is another matter.

During our first day the sun got a bit lost, but was then perfect weather throughout: t-shirts until 10pm, yet not too hot in the day that you’re sweating like a fox at a Tory manifesto brainstorming session.  May just may be the best time to come.

And then we have the food.  I do not think I exaggerate when I say that one meal here will cost you more than the Moon Landings.  The prices are high enough to bankrupt your children’s College fund.  The venue is the same, but come night the menu turns from classic Italian dishes into a 2 Michelin star restaurant – either tasting menus or a la carte.  Alternatively, you can walk into the village and have one of the best pizzas of your life for €7.

Our first evening meal cost €650, and whilst good, I truthfully could not tell you any dishes without looking over my pictures. I have eaten in hundreds of Michelin star restaurants, and most just fade into obscurity.  Sadly this will also go onto the list.  Lunch was far more enjoyable, with some excellent dishes, including the best risotto I’ve ever eaten.  Better still are the fantastic ever-changing selection of canapés they offer complimentary with drinks each night.

As we said our farewells, they handed us bags with water in for our journey ahead.  And put all our luggage into the wrong car.  I bet the passports ended up in the right place.  Hint taken, Villa Feltrinelli.  We are not worthy.

The Good

  • Great food, albeit very expensive
  • The feeling of being at home

The Bad

  • Entry level rooms are uninspiring
  • Very expensive

The Luxurious

  • Exclusive bliss
  • Perfect location

Conclusion

This is a superb property, but after 3 days that is enough superb to go around.  It is the place you bring your wife/husband/secretary to get away from it all and do as little as possible – even if you’re with the secretary.  I really do think fondly of it, but at the same time everything is an 8 or 9 out of 10, except, of course, the setting, exclusivity and privacy – all clear 10s.  It is exceptionally expensive, with meals costing around €500 and that’s if you go for the cheap option – the one where the chef spits on you.

I’m going to give Villa Feltrinelli the thumbs-up, but it’s hard to explain why – perhaps just sitting by the lake is enough to warrant a stay here.  And if the choice is between here or Lake Como, it is an easy choice to make.

Sometimes, just sometimes, I hate following the crowd.  I hate being told how great something is and having to agree.  Sometimes if you told me the sun would blind me, I’d stare at it for a week just to spite you.  Then be blind.  Yet in this case, everyone said it would be amazing and I have to respectfully agree…mostly.

I keep realising though that due to doing so many holidays, I do lose a bit of insight into what something should cost.  3 nights in Villa Feltrinelli will set you back around £6,000, which isn’t awful for the exclusivity, but as we’re doing similar 14 days a month it starts to make me feel that everything is overpriced. And also, maybe Wonga weren’t so evil after all.  I don’t think those coming here will be too concerned with price, as I saw more helicopters than during an entire viewing of Apocalypse Now.

Chairs carefully designed to be far apart that the elderly couples who have nothing left to say can sit in peace.

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Tom Cahalan

Written by Tom Cahalan on 3rd Jun '18

Dorsia Travel’s co-founder Tom Cahalan’s take on travel is reliably candid. Here’s his take on what’s good, bad, and luxurious.

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