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It was a moody May morning as I strolled the verdant waterfront of CastaDiva Resort & Spa on the way to breakfast. On this first visit to legendary Lake Como, Italy, I immediately got what all the clamor — and glamour — is about.
I arrived the night before. The moment my chauffeured car swerved off the snaking road from the town of Como — a 10-minute drive (an hour from Milan Malpensa Airport) — and along a private cobblestone lane winding down to the resort, it felt like I had entered another world. After some rain, the lush 6.5-acre parkland smelled divine.
As soon as I checked into CastaDiva, I opened my balcony doors wide and stepped out to take in the glimmer of the moonlit lake. I loved many things about my junior suite that was set in Villa Dorabella — one of nine villas strewn around the property, all connected by paths and steps — but it was the proximity to the lake that swept me away. With eclectic furnishings and decor fusing neoclassical and contemporary touches, it also felt so opulent that I couldn’t help but channel my inner diva.
Such behavior is only appropriate at the luxurious CastaDiva, and at its heart is Villa Roccabruna, a neoclassical villa that dates to 1797. In 1827, Italian opera singer Giuditta Pasta bought the villa from the original owner, a French dressmaker called Madame Ribier who made a fortune dressing high society ladies. The singer had a dream of living in a house that would echo the grand theaters of Milan where she found fame, so she commissioned a team of architects, designers and sculptors to refurbish the villa. The result featured the finest Como silks and a reproduction of the colonnade that graces La Scala Opera House in Milan.
In the lakefront salon of Villa Roccabruna, looking at Pasta’s portrait, guests can feel the grandeur of days gone by. Today the main villa houses the reception area, a couple of richly decked-out historic halls and the elegant Bar Bellini with an outdoor terrace.
One of the singular joys of staying at CastaDiva is roaming its lakefront gardens, with villas that house the resort’s 73 spacious rooms and suites. (The villas are named after female characters from Italian operas.) Units are individually sized and styled, and include classic and deluxe rooms, junior suites and suites (which range from penthouse suites to suites with a private pool).
The fact you can see the lake from most of the units (thanks to private balconies, terraces or gardens) is the resort’s great boon. For clients seeking the ultimate Lake Como retreat, agents can book two magnificent private villas: the three-bedroom Norma and the one-bedroom Amina, both with private housekeeping, an on-call butler and a private chef.
While it may be tempting to never leave the room and instead lather on sweet-scented lotion by Lorenzo Villoresi, sit in a bathrobe and gaze at the lake, the resort calls for more pampering elsewhere. First and foremost, head to the floating pool: Where else does one get to lounge under the Italian sun on a deck that’s afloat on Lake Como, followed a dip in a heated pool?
But it’s the outstanding spa that is, indeed, the resort’s showcase. The 14,000-square-foot hideaway, designed by acclaimed Italian architect Paolo Bodega, is one of the largest on Lake Como. With a fitness center featuring state-of-the-art Technogym equipment, a series of indoor pools, steam rooms, saunas, a salt room and an ice cascade, it’s an oasis of well-being. It has two teak-floor treatment rooms and four private spa suites that are inspired by the elements (fire, water, air and earth). But the most gorgeous part is the relaxation room, reminiscent of an old steamboat with a glass floor that’s suspended over a 19th-century dock leading to the floating pool outside. I sat there relaxing in a chaise lounge — for a little too long.
While the lakefront location and the spa steal the show, food is another highlight. Led by the talented executive chef Massimiliano Mandozzi, the dining experience is a delight, especially when served alfresco (May through September). Traditional Italian specialties are dished out for lunch at Giardino dei Sapori. The dinner-only La’Orangerie features fine dining; on the seasonal menu, guests will find creative dishes such as rainbow trout with matcha tea and crispy rice, and seafood fusilli with almond emulsion.
As I packed to leave CastaDiva and Lake Como, their combined beauty made me want to break into an aria, fittingly.
I’ll mail my love letter come spring and address it to Mandarin Oriental, Lake Como — it was recently announced that Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group has taken over management of CastaDiva Resort & Spa. Following a refurbishment of facilities, the resort will reopen in spring 2019 as Mandarin Oriental’s first property in western Europe.
The DetailsCastaDiva Resort & Spawww.castadivaresort.com