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Unveiling the Mysteries: Behind the Scenes of the 'World's Best Hotel'


Discovering the Magic: The Story Behind the World's Best Hotel on Lake Como

In a tale woven with history and elegance, the "best hotel in the world" unfolds its enchanting narrative. Nestled on the picturesque shores of Lake Como, this 24-suite gem, known as Passalacqua, recently claimed the top spot at the inaugural World’s 50 Best Hotels in London. What sets it apart from the myriad luxury establishments worldwide is not just its opulence but its unique identity as a family-owned property, surpassing even the allure of major brand-run hotels.

The history of Passalacqua is as rich and storied as the marbles that grace its interiors, hailing from the renowned quarries of Carrara and Verona. Once the abode of a pope and a favored haunt of Italy's famed opera composers, the hotel resonates with echoes of an 18th-century mansion. Following a meticulous three-year restoration, Passalacqua opened its doors in 2022, a testament to the dedication of its owners, the De Santis family.

At the helm is Valentina De Santis, the 41-year-old visionary CEO, who steered the property back to its former glory. Every detail, from the resplendent chandeliers crafted by Murano’s Barovier & Toso to the Venetian mirrors and the sumptuous Beltrami wood fiber bed linens, reflects Valentina's personal touch. She passionately describes the essence of Passalacqua as a harmonious blend of "meraviglia" (amazement), "storia" (history), and "famiglia" (family).

For Silvio Vettorello, the general manager, these attributes contribute to the magic of Passalacqua. The sense of awe, the immersive history of the mansion, and the familial spirit embodied by the dedicated team of 100 individuals working tirelessly to turn dreams into reality—all played a role in securing the coveted title.

As Passalacqua transcends the conventional definition of a hotel, it becomes an immersive experience, a journey through time and place that captivates guests with its extraordinary charm. Whether graced by the footsteps of Napoleon Bonaparte or Winston Churchill, Passalacqua stands as a testament to the enduring allure of timeless elegance and the magic woven by a passionate family devoted to creating a haven of wonder on the shores of Lake Como.

"Journey Through Time and Tranquility: The Enchanting Experience of Passalacqua on Lake Como"

Nestled on the shores of Lake Como, Passalacqua unfolds a story of tranquility and timelessness across its seven acres of meticulously manicured, lake-facing terraced gardens. The backdrop is set to a soothing symphony of water fountains, creating an idyllic space where guests indulge in moments of leisure – be it sipping drinks, practicing yoga, or lounging by the pool adorned with vibrant vintage prints from Milanese brand La Double J.

Valentina De Santis, the visionary behind Passalacqua, describes it as more than a hotel; it's a one-of-a-kind experience that transports visitors to another era. The front gates mark the threshold to a different world, a tranquil and private oasis just steps away from the lively village of Moltrasio. Exploring the villa unveils magnificent rooms with lushly painted ceilings depicting gods and goddesses, while hidden underground stone-lined tunnels add an air of mystery and intrigue, leading from the villa down to the lake.

The historical roots of Passalacqua are deeply embedded in the fabric of Moltrasio. Acquired by Count Passalacqua in 1787, the villa quickly became a grand playground for the aristocracy, hosting scenes of carriages, concerts, and opulent gatherings. Even today, as the sun sets and garden lights shimmer, one can imagine the Moltrasio of yesteryear.

The villa holds secrets of its own, with echoes of Vincenzo Bellini's opera "La Sonnambula" lingering within its walls. Bellini, a regular visitor, composed this tormented tale of unrequited desires and sleepwalking during his stay. Passalacqua's old walls carry the weight of history, and on a breezy day, one can almost hear the echoes of Bellini's melodies, casting a spell that transcends the present and connects visitors to another place and time.

From check-in to check-out, Passalacqua endeavors to offer a sensory feast. The hotel's concierge arranges local experiences, hand-cut bouquets magically appear, meditation and massages are readily available, and chef Alessandro Rinaldi leads a culinary program celebrating Italian classics. Passalacqua isn't just a hotel; it's an immersive journey that tantalizes the senses and invites guests to become part of its rich and magical history.

Indulging in Tranquil Moments: The Irresistible Charms of Passalacqua

Passalacqua extends an open invitation to its guests, beckoning them into its kitchen throughout the day to partake in the simple joys of snacking, baking, and cooking. However, the allure of this enchanting villa goes far beyond culinary delights. Valentina De Santis, the visionary custodian of Passalacqua, shares the splendors of the villa, emphasizing that every hour here is special, yet confessing a particular fondness for the early morning.

For De Santis, the magic unfolds at breakfast, reminiscent of a grand Italian country house in the summertime. The aroma of freshly brewed coffee mingles with the heady scent of a marmalade crostata emerging from the oven. A feast awaits, featuring freshly squeezed orange juice, a meter-high cake stand adorned with granita and cream-filled maritozzo buns, and the chef ready to prepare bespoke delights, including sunny-side-up eggs laid by Passalacqua's own hens. It's, in her words, the perfect start to a perfect day.

Yet, what truly sets Passalacqua apart is the Italian concept of villeggiatura—a vacation in a rural haven that transcends mere physical escape. This essence of dreamy escapism, akin to scenes from "Bridgerton" or a Jane Austen novel, unfolds against the backdrop of Lake Como's elegant gardens. Vintage orange Italian Jeeps replace horse-drawn carriages, Campari sodas and negroni sbagliato replace tea, and the abundance of the Italian aperitivo takes the place of traditional scones and jam.

The experience is quintessentially Italian—an indulgence in the guilt-free pleasure of taking time away from the hustle and bustle, finding solace in nature, and embracing la dolce vita elevated to new heights. The Passalacqua team, with meticulous attention to detail, has not merely embraced but revitalized the ancient and affluent art of villeggiatura. Though Passalacqua did not invent the term, every facet of the villa embodies it—a romantic 18th-century haven transformed into a faultless luxury hotel where guests come to exhale, leaving worries behind and immersing themselves in the timeless charm of Italian tranquility.

Embarking on a Priceless Experience: Unveiling the Wonders of Passalacqua

Indulging in the opulence of Passalacqua, however, requires a willingness to meet its price. The luxurious abode offers rooms without a lake view starting at 1,300 euros ($1,381) per night, or 1,700 euros ($1,806) for a lakeside view during the lowest season in November. As the vibrant hues of summer paint the surroundings, rates ascend to 2,300 euros ($2,443) for a standard room without a lake view, while a room with a captivating lakeside panorama starts at 3,200 euros ($3,400). For those seeking the epitome of extravagance, suites beckon with a starting price tag of around $5,000 per night.

Fortunately, the cost of this lavish retreat includes a delightful breakfast, adding an extra layer of value to the experience. When asked about what sets Passalacqua apart from any other place in the world, Valentina De Santis offers a simple yet profound response: "It's a place of wonders created from the heart."

In the words of Maria Pasquale, an award-winning Italian-Australian food and travel journalist based in Rome, Passalacqua emerges not just as a luxury haven but a testament to extraordinary experiences. As guests traverse its historic halls, bask in the tranquility of its gardens, and savor the delights of its cuisine, Passalacqua unveils a world where every moment is a masterpiece, and every detail is meticulously crafted. For those willing to invest in the extraordinary, Passalacqua promises not just a stay but a journey into the heart of wonder, where luxury transcends its monetary value, and the memories forged endure as priceless treasures.

In conclusion, the article provides an enticing glimpse into the extraordinary world of Passalacqua, a luxury haven on the shores of Lake Como. Beyond its status as the "best hotel in the world," Passalacqua emerges as a destination that seamlessly blends opulence, history, and tranquility. The meticulously manicured terraced gardens, historic underground tunnels, and immersive experiences offered by the villa contribute to its allure.

Valentina De Santis, the driving force behind Passalacqua, passionately describes it as a place of wonders created from the heart. The attention to detail, from the aroma of freshly brewed coffee in the morning to the bespoke culinary delights prepared by the chef, speaks to a commitment to providing a sensory feast for guests.

The concept of villeggiatura, embodying a rural vacation transcending physical escape, becomes a defining feature of the Passalacqua experience. This transcendent journey through time and tranquility, reminiscent of scenes from classic literature, offers a guilt-free pleasure of taking time away from everyday life and finding peace with nature.

However, this extraordinary experience at Passalacqua comes at a price, with room rates reflecting the exclusivity and luxury offered by the villa. Yet, for those willing to invest in this unparalleled retreat, Passalacqua promises not just a stay but an immersion into the heart of wonder, where every moment becomes a masterpiece.

In essence, Passalacqua stands as a testament to the enduring charm of Lake Como, capturing the essence of Italian indulgence and offering a unique and unforgettable escape for those seeking a blend of history, luxury, and tranquility.