A car from the Villa Principe Leopoldo had met us at the train station in Lugano, and whisked us up the winding road and into the villa’s circular driveway. Less than five minutes after he held the door open for us, the bellman swept back the gold drapes with a flourish to let the late afternoon sunlight flood our Junior Suite – and to reveal a post-card view across lake Lugano to the mountains on the opposite shore.
The room – actually two of them at different levels connected by a wide staircase – bordered on palatial. The bedroom on the upper level was twice the size of most hotel rooms and the large parlor below seemed even bigger because of the floor-to-ceiling window that filled its far end. From it I could see not only the hotel’s manicured gardens and the lake, but the snow-covered peaks of Alps to the west.
Lugano is in the Ticino, that beautiful corner of Switzerland (does it have any corners that are not beautiful?) that is tucked between the southern slopes of the Alps and the Italian lakes district. In fact Switzerland shares Lake Lugano with Italy, and boats shuttle visitors back and forth between shore towns in the two countries. So the language and ambiance of Lugano – and the hotel – are Italian, but the efficiency is Swiss.
If my daughter and I had had a bevy of friends in Lugano, we could have thrown a party for them in the high-ceilinged lower room, furnished with a comfortable sofa, several armchairs and a large desk with padded chair. The upper sleeping area had a king-sized bed, with excellent bedside lighting -- two lamps at each side. The luggage bench held both our suitcases easily, and closets were fitted with shallow pull-out shelves for our folded clothing. In the foyer was a closet tall enough to accommodate ball gowns – if we had brought them.
Also on the upper bedroom level was a kitchenette and the bath, with a tub, one sink in a large marble-topped vanity, a make-up mirror and good lighting. The room had a doorbell (at the window end we would not have heard a knock, it was so far away), a safe, and umbrellas.
Villa Principe Leopoldo’s location is above the lakeside center of Lugano, so we couldn’t just walk to shops, restaurants and the tree-lined promenade where boats left for tours of the lake. But a complimentary hotel shuttle runs on a regular schedule, and once during our stay when the shuttle was unavailable, the hotel sent – and paid for -- a taxi to pick us up in town.
The restaurant is among the best in Lugano (which is saying a lot, since both Trani and the restaurant at the Sasso are also highlights of the Swiss Ticino), with entrees based on fresh local ingredients. Each dish was presented as a work of art. The café on the terrace overlooked the lake and mountains, the perfect setting for morning espresso or a glass of Campari in the afternoon.
We were too busy enjoying the perfect Ticino weather to take advantage of the spa, but we peeked in and it was stunning, bathed in cool blue light.