Some people say I have a weakness for the „Opulent“. But I think that’s not true at all. I just love hotels with flair and a special touch. Whether trendy or futuristic, homey and traditional or just those in which lords and celebrities would sleep. Castle hotels and those with a long tradition have a certain charisma for me.

Around 1900, the first so-called „Grand Hotels“ appeared. Legendary was the pomp and the personalities in this epoch. Sure you can feel that in some luxury hostels until today. So it was probably no coincidence when we opted for the Art Deco Hotel „Grand Hotel des Iles des Borromées“ in Stresa, on Lake Maggiore. Our hotel check.

Blick auf Stresa am Lago Maggiore
View over the Lake Maggiore to the old town of Stresa.

A popular holiday resort – the first tourists

Many of these grand hotels that still exist, have been built around the year 1900. However, at that time there was no standard, regarding equipment and services. The only benchmark of all things was infinite comfort, the latest technologies, and service at its best. So the first palace hotels came to life and become soon the hotspot of the celebrities. 

Rich cloth merchants from Italy and many well-known artists and royals discovered Lake Maggiore at the beginning of the 19th century. Tuberculosis had broken out again in Europe and the medicine had an idea that an alpine health resort could give the pulmonary sufferers quick relief of the symptoms. The Lago Maggiore also has a very special stimulating climate. First, the first exclusive health resorts were created before the likely first royal patients began to rave about the area. 

Villa Pallavicino Stresa
You can visit the neoclassical lake villa with its beautiful botanical gardens.

The high nobility discovers Lake Maggiore

Berühmte Besucher des Lago Maggiore Zarenfamilie und italienischer Hofadel
The Russian tsarist family, the Italian and Austrian aristocracy shown up around 1900. Hemingway and other artists preferred the beautiful scenery to be creative.

First families from the Italian and Austrian nobility began to let build their summer seats on the shores of the enchanting Alpine lake. The architecture is reading like the „who is who of architects guild“ of the 19th century. Soon, the rich upper class followed and finally, it became the hotspot to more famous people spending the summer on this turquoise blue Lake Alps. 

As always ahead was Ernest Hemingway, who recovered from a war wound here. Later he came back again several times. In one of his novels, A Farewell to Arms, Stresa and the Grand Hotel plays a big role. Even today he is a guarantee for beautiful locations for me.

The Hotel Today

Die Rezeption des Grand Hotel des Iles Borromees
The opulently furnished reception of the Gand Hotel des Iles Borromees. We just checked in and I take a snapshot of Peter.

Such a kind is the Artdeco Hotel „Grand Hotel Illes des Borromees“. Long tradition overlooks illustrious guests who spent their holidays in the suites of the luxury hotel. Including all sorts of nobility and artists. The owners have always been enthusiastic art collectors, and over the years they have created a considerable collection of arts, whose replicas still adorn the hotel and its corridors. Some of it is even an original. 

So your eye has a lot to process once you check-in at this hotel. I can once associate the classicism style to Art Deco. So the mirrors and wainscoting of the lobby and lobby itself are definitely from that era. The hallways in the suites are filled with a variety of different centuries and from all over the world. From the Ming vase to Venetian fans in flat glass showcases, there is a lot to discover. The carillon sounds softly from the garden, which invites you to enjoy a walk and it is also a popular spot for tourists.

Glockenspiel Grand Hotel des Iles Borromees
The carillon is like a huge musical clock, you can walk into. It plays every full hour.

The suites and rooms – Inside the Grand Hotel

Latest if you open your own hotel room you will be aware, that the luxury Interieur will continue until the last corner of your suite. Venetian furniture, Art Nouveau and fine silk fabrics on the walls give the room a cozy cuddly ambiance. Heavy velvet curtains keep out the heat of the summer and give the rooms a heavy, sleepy, comfy character. 

For me, too much for good and the very first thing I do is to start pushing back the heavy brocades and let in the view of a wonderful landscape, promenades and gardens around the lake and welcome the daylight into the fenced rooms. 

Our suite has a salon, a small dressing room, a large bedroom and a spacious bathroom with an art deco tub. However, as a guest, you do not have to deal without the conveniences of a modern hotel. Wi-Fi, TV, air conditioning and minibar are usual standards.

The view atop the balustrade of the small balcony onto the lake is perfect. The lake is perfectly symmetrical and the horizon is almost exactly lined on the left and right by the slopes of the mountains. The architect has had an idea about where to place the building. 

Ausblick vom Balkon der Suite im Grand Hotel des Iles des Borromees
View from the balcony of the suite at the Grand Hotel des Iles des Borromees.

Facilities and Entertainment

While the guest from the past might have been more focussed on social events, such as balls, home concerts and receptions great, nowadays the entertainment program changed a bit. Today, the request for the so-called facilities is enormous. The beautiful outdoor pool has several basins. A diving tower basin and a long lap pool. Here, the swimming enthusiast can enjoy. The spa is classy and various exclusive treatments can not only enhance your look, but all kinds of rejuvenating therapies are available.

Aussenbereich Poollandschaft mit Sprungturm des Grand Hotels des Iles Borromees
Outside Pool area with a diving tower of the Grand Hotel des Iles Borromees
Poolrestaurant und Schwimmbecken im Hintergrund Grand Hotel des Iles Borromees
At the small cafe, you can overlook the pool. Here you can have smaller snacks, or take a good cappuccino.

Culinary and public area

At the culinary side, there is no lack. The two large rooms can hold many hungry guests without feeling lost in them. The carpets swallow the sound and the large windows vary with mirrors and murals. Also very tasteful are the floristic decorations, on which the management obviously deeming it important. The large terraces can be reached by large, open glass doors and the view of the lake, the promenade and the carefully maintained small park in between are beautiful. 

The menu is well balanced and only from the best. No matter if you like to have a good piece of meat looking forward to good sea fish or seafood, prefer freshly caught fish from the lake, or even give preference to vegetarian and vegan dishes.

The breakfast is accompanied by a sumptuous buffet, egg dishes on request and freshly cooked according to your wishes. Juices, fruits, and the fine, original Prosciutto are waiting to calm your morning appetite.

Our choice: A fine Chateaubriand to celebrate our first evening.

The guests

Most of the guests are international – a striking number of Americans and English were checked in here at our time (July). Smart dressed, calm, elegant. Only a few kids and if so, then very well behaved and pleasant. The atmosphere is classy.

For some, who are not used to it every day, maybe a bit exhausting.

When the staff thinks they are nobler than the actual guest

Especially with the staff I noticed something negative. Even if they try to be friendly noncommittal, I can’t deny the feeling that waiters and the concierge sometimes leave me the impression, that they are nobler than the guest himself and show this to you. Smaller complaints are accepted – but with raised eyebrows, I had the feeling that they take this very personally.
Also, delicacies, like the fine Italian Prosciutto, are guarded of the stuff during the breakfast buffet. They reminded me of pit bulls and left an unpleasant impression.

After all, the high-level pricing of the accommodation is just as „sophisticated“ as the entire establishment and these strange restraints have been extremely irritating for us.

Also, the concierge shows off more by a lack of imagination and arrogance, then really confirms his commitment to requests and wishes. If you arrive by car, and you need it later for excursions or other necessities, you should order it early by the concierge. Otherwise, you need to wait a very long time.

These are the only minus-points I experienced in a dream hotel, that I’d still recommend to you.

*This article contains advertising by attribution. The stay was self-financed.

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