In a nutshell: Set in an 18th-century villa that was the former home of composer Vincenzo Bellini, Passalacqua is the creation of the De Santis family, who are also behind Grand Hotel Tremezzo. Set within spectacular terraced gardens and unfolding over just 24 rooms, the hotel showcases the finest Italian craftsmanship in a sumptuous riot of ornate Baroque elegance. All this comes together in a sublime retreat – almost like a private home – that makes the most of this truly magical lakefront location: just what you’d expect of the inaugural The World’s Best Hotel 2023.
Setting the scene: From its perch amid private grounds in Moltrasio, the hotel’s 24 rooms are spread out over three buildings: the main villa, the eight-room Palazz (housed in the former stables with giant original exposed beams) and the four-suite Casa al Lago down by the lake. Inside, Italian craftsmanship abounds with original frescoes and ceiling carvings that are further embellished with gilded mirrors, 19th-century portraits, lacquered antique tables, Murano chandeliers and Il Bronzetto light fittings. Outside, seven acres of perfectly manicured terraced gardens with olive groves, mimosa, roses and magnolia lead to the sexy pool terrace which is dotted with vibrant JJ Martin-designed parasols that add a cheeky, fashionable flair to the otherwise classic opulence.
Food and drink: In contrast to the rest of the hotel’s extravagance, the food here is a simple and relaxed affair with an open kitchen that guests can wander into and chat to the chef as if in a private home. Honest, unfussy dishes make the most of local, seasonal ingredients and can be eaten anywhere on property, including the terrace, which is also the best spot from which to enjoy an aperitif against sublime lake vistas.
What else is worth mentioning? The soaring vaults and romantic columns of the ground floor hall in the Palazz are home to an atmospheric wellness space that leads to a hidden subterranean passageway, excavated in the 18th-century, that houses Passalacqua’s sauna and steam bath. There are also complimentary daily activities from flower arranging courses to gelato-making classes to keep you busy, when not roaming the splendid gardens or lazing by the to-die-for pool.