CastaDiva Resort: Paradise on Lake Como
CastaDiva Resort, the motto is simple: "the answer is never no, and yes can always be had ... for a price." But priceless beauty and impeccable service is what you'll get at this 75-room ulra-luxe resort, the first of its kind to open on the lake in nearly 100 years.
It's not everyday one gets the chance to travel to Lake Como, and it's a once-in-a-lifetime chance to stay at the former villa of famed opera singer Guiditta Pasta, now a luxury resort. Needless to say, we jumped at the opportunity. An eight-hour overnight from New York to Milan landed us at Malpensa International Airport, just 45 minutes from the hotel proper. A uniformed driver and the resort's private Mercedes shuttle were waiting to take us to our destination, procuring coffee and water along the way. Luca, the driver, energetically pointed out the sights and sounds along the way, waxing poetic about the beauty we were soon to see at CastaDiva.
A small red flag arose in our minds as we began to pull up to the resort – workers were running all over the grounds, and many of the resort's nine villas were still under construction – a delay, we learned, that was the result of bad weather the month before.
But when we stepped into the check-in, the fears mostly subsided – check-in was flawless. The staff, many of who came from the area's once-premier five-star resort, Villa D'Este, act as if they've been there for years, offering suggestion with aplomb and oozing Italian charm in a manner that's genuine, not obsequious.
Located across from the famed Villa Versace, CastaDiva is comprised of a series of small homes and villas, including the main resort base, Villa Roccabruna, once home to the famed opera singer Giuditta Pasta, muse of composer Bellini. After sitting empty for nearly a half-century, the villa has been re-imagined with rich purple wall hangings and chic green and pink accents. Images of Pasta herself grace the walls, some historical renderings and others in modern reinterpretations, including a translucent portrait backlit by the rich purple curtains of the dining room. Opt to stay in Roccabruna proper, where ten oversized rooms and suites offer panoramic lake views.
Amenities include both the expected (free Wi-Fi, deluxe bathrobes, oversized soaking tubs by Villeroy and Boch) and the luxe - a lengthy pillow and sheet menu offers body pillows, silk or cotton sheets, and of course, down and foam varietals, and the bath products are the exclusive creation of a Florentine perfumer commissioned by the resort.
Romance cravers should request the third-floor "Bridal Suite," once Pasta's own bedroom, offering 270-degree views of the lake and a spacious seating area separated from the bedroom by a massive gilded screen. If it's entertaining you prefer, book, the room next door, another Royal Suite with a 500 square meter terrace with wraparound views.
As we learned through the course of the trip, however, there's always more to be had at CastaDiva. Those craving privacy (honeymooners?) should request one of the private villas – Amina has a single bedroom with massive Jacuzzi tub and a wall made entirely of glass. Families might opt for Villa Norma, a three-bedroom set slightly apart from the resort and boasting a wine cellar, billiards room and oversized kitchen with private chef capabilities.
But with such beautiful scenery, you won't want to spend much time in your suite – sunbathe at the floating pool, roam the grounds that double as a botanical garden, or zen out at the spa, a massive creation that takes up most of the resort's basement. Indulge in one of four themed VIP spa suites, each offering unique treatments around a different sensation – air, water, fire and earth. We weren't overwhelmed by our Fire treatment, which offered a chance to use a sauna and Turkish bath before being rubbed down with oil, but the room itself was impressive, offering dual heated beds and a sensual ambiance. We'd likely return for a signature massage or wrap, or one of the spa's facials using products by green line Natura Bisse.
Into something a bit more a la carte? Explore the massive wet area, offering a variety of hot and cold "experiences," including emotional showers, an ice room, salt room, Turkish and Mediterranean baths and indoor pool. It would be easy to spend the day in what looks almost like a spa amusement park, simply hopping from one experience to the next, relaxing with a tisane or floating in the indoor pool or Jacuzzi in-between.
When hunger strikes, opt to dine al fresco at one of two restaurants, the Le Jardin or the Orangerie, both offering traditional Italian cuisine with a gourmet twist. Even "light lunch" read like a complex menu, offering multiple courses with wine pairings and a variety of foams, sauces and emulsions that strangely enough didn't overpower exceptionally fresh seafood, meats, and seasonal produce.
But if you were to stay at the resort, you'd miss out – ask to arrange a private boat tour of the lake on a vintage Riva, the same boat preferred by none other than Clooney himself. Drivers will point out the homes of the rich and famous, sharing history and gossip as you sip Prosecco and declare you'll never leave. Or, hop the border, only a 30-minute car ride away, and you'll arrive in Lugano, a Swiss town just over the border that's home to Fox Town, the area's most famous outlet mall, boasting stores like Prada, Fendi, Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana and more. Want to channel the life of Pasta herself? A visit to the Como opera house, about 15 minutes by boat or car, offers many partnerships with the resort and several seasonal productions.
The resort isn't quite finished yet – soaking rains in May set back some of the stonework and spa construction, and several of the villas and the main restaurant hub are still being finished, with expected completion dates by September or October, in time for holiday visitors.
When the resort is fully functional, it will be a one-of-a-kind gem. Until then, it's still paradise in the making.
Now open. Doubles from $400. www.castadivaresort.com/en
The writer's visit was sponsored by CastaDiva Resort, but her opinions are entirely her own.