In truth, Villa Feltrinelli does not require its official prefix of Grand Hotel, for those who care about such things know exactly what it is. Its highly ornate, neo-Gothic turreted form, in bands of gold and terracotta, has stood since 1892 in the little town of Gargnano on the edge of Lake Garda, described by DH Lawrence as ‘one of the most beautiful places on earth’. The villa and its park were created as a family summer retreat by the sons of lumber magnate Faustino Feltrinelli, who frequented it until the war when Mussolini was housed here under German guard for over a year. It was returned to the family, but years of neglect and different ownership followed until hotelier Bob Burns restored it, beginning a new chapter in 2001.
This is a house of Venetian mirrors and frescoed walls, of Liberty-style stained-glass windows and carved wooden ceilings, of service as plentiful and polished as the silver; where art is original and paper hand-made, fabrics bespoke and gardens tiered with ancient lemon trees. Twenty one bedrooms ensure exclusivity, some in the grounds, others in the villa; all are sumptuous, marble bathroom floors heated. There’s a swimming pool in the lawn next to where croquet is played. Down by the lake, two private boats await. This is a place for those who yearn to escape, to indulge in lobster and langoustines, truffles and tiramisu, and to sleep on the finest of pillows in lakeside tranquillity.