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Virtuoso Exclusive SpaFinder Spa Specialist Seminar to ITALY Featuring Terme di Saturnia Golf & Spa Resort & Fonteverde Natural Spa ResortMarch 31-April 4, 2008
Day 1: Monday March 31st Today I arrived into Florence, Italy Airport and rented a car to transfer to my first spa located in Tuscany. The drive was quite interesting to say the least. It was quite an adventure to drive the autostrada on your own. After many events all long the way I arrived to my new home in the Tuscan country side safe and sound. The drive was well worth the effort. I pulled up to "Terme di Saturnia Spa & Golf Resort" and rang the bell at the iron gate. Once inside I new I was in for a real treat. This evening I met all the other Spa Specialists in training along with our gracious hosts from Virtuoso (Daniela) and Spa Finder (Sallie and Dan). We met with our hotel representative (Alexandra) for an orientation tour of this incredible spa. This was followed by welcome cocktails and dinner at “Trattoria All’Acquacotta” with traditional local dishes of the “Maremma” area. Day 2: Tuesday April 1stToday we awoke to a sumptuos buffet breakfast at Restaurant “Aqualuce” (italian style), and then off to work for the first day of our specialist training. Once we commenced with Part 1 of the training we all broke to two groups and enjoyed a tuscan style lunch followed by spa treatments which were arranged in order for us to experience the array of treatments offered at this european thermal spa. I was pampered with a "Wellbeing for Legs" treatment" which was incredible. This is a perfect way to start a trip after such a long journey. I would highly recommend this to clients arriving on an overnight flight, as it is great for jet lag. After a thermal poolside lunch I was back for more. My next treatment was a european massage and once that was completed I was rejuvenated after my long and tedious journey, only to arrive at this slice of heaven. Later that afternoon we had the pleasure of meeting with the Medical Director and the Spa Manager in order to learn more about the concept of the thermal waters and the benefits of "taking the waters" to detoxify your system, cure many various ailmants and so much more! This evening we enjoyed a farewell dinner at Restaurant "Aqaluce" featuring wonderful mediterranean cuisisne with our hosts.
Spa sidebar: This spa offers such a wide variety of spa treatments indigenous to the Marremma countryside. Here is just a few of the treatments that we all experienced during our stay at Saturnia: Energetic Rebalancing Massage, Wellbeing for Legs, Nutrimmelis, Aromatic Oil Massage with Mud, ShiroBliss, Toning Body Mud, Gommage and Thermal Plancton, Specific Face Treatment (to the client skin type), Lip and Eye Contour Treatment, Full Body Massage, Velvety Hands & Feet.
Day 3: Wednesday April 2ndToday we were up bright and early on our guided morning hike amongst the wonderful Tuscan landscape. We walked the entire perimeter of the 18 hole golf course for approximately one hour. This was an incredible way to start your morning. This was followed by yet another wonderful tuscan style breakfast and then we were off on our adventure to our next spa. In just two days we experienced so much and regrettably had to check out.Our next adventure was caravaning from Saturnia to Casciano dei Bagni...to reach our next Spa destination.Before I go I would like to share a several highlights of this property and the history and legend of the thermal pools.
TERME DI SATURNIA: A story and a legend;The beneficial and healthy hot water, for a millennia gushied forth from Terme di Saturnia'a natural crater which is the protagonist in a legend which depicts this enchanted spa in the heart of the Tuscan Maremma with charm and magic. If tells how that one day Saturn took a thunderbolt and hustled it towards the Earth. Splitting a volcanic crater, the god caused warm sulphurous water to gush forth, which is Saturnia's water as we know it today. Saturnia's thermal waters were created under Monte Amiata and after a journey of around 40 years, it emerged in the source of a swimming pool enriched by the beneficial properties which render it unique and famous throughout the world. It is truly a place for well-being and regeneration since the mists of time. Today Terme di Saturnia Spa and Golf offers the harmony of a spa complex and surrounded by the Estruscan and Roman remains and magnificent medieval castles along with a wonderful 18 hole golf course.
As we venture off we decide to stop by a walled city (Pitigliano). This was a great halfway point and we all enjoyed some free time to shop and then enjoyed a wonderful lunch at a cobblestoned trattoria with sweeping views of the tuscan valley below. Now this is where the fun begins. Daniela, Julie and I decide to leave a little early in order to reach "Fonteverde" by 2p, to drop off my car rental in time. We secure our Italiano directions from our lovely caravan driver (in broken english/italian) and in a 1/2 an hour we are lost. With a little maneurving and a call to our italian driver from Daniella we are back on track in no time. We decide we need to stop for petrol as we are quite low. We pull into a roadside station that is not open as it is now "Fiesta time". Daniella decides to try out her italiano on 3 young men near the station and thankfully so, because we still had the wrong directions from our driver. Once we proceed to our destination, they advise us to to take a right at one point and low and behold we had just entered a small roadside hilltop town the wrong way, and guess who is waiting for us - the cabinieri- so I send Daniella out to work her magic. Once I perform a hairpin u-turn over a cliff and a stone wall we are now the recipients of a "Italian version of a police escort" out of town to our final destination". All in all it was a true italian adventure with Daniela and Julie and riding side saddle...if Daniella's grandmother was there should would have been quite proud of her ability to speak the Italian language!
Arrival to Fonteverde Natural Spa Resort on Day 3:Well we finally arrive to our new home away from home spa; Fonteverde Natural Spa Resort for the next two nights. This resort and spa is a true jewel located in the Tuscany countryside.We were greeted with such a warm welcome from our hosts Sabina Galdiolo, Sales & Marketing Strategies and Antonio Polesel, General Manager. After returning the car rental, I was finally at ease. This afternoon we took a tour of the spa facilities and enjoyed a uniquetreatment in the Etruscan Circuit; (hot plate, turkish bath and co-ed sauna) with our colleagues followed by a Bioquam Circuit experience; (an exclusive treatment in the indoor pool with a passage to the outdoor section offering hydro-massages for everyone as we basked in the pool and viewed the tuscany hillside in our infinity pool. This was followed by a welcome cocktail reception in the Bioquam area.
This evening we had our welcome dinner at the Restaurant Ferdinando I and it was truly a wonderful dining experience. The Italians really know how to host an evening.
Day 4: Thursday, April 3rdToday we awoke to the sites and sounds of Tuscany as I peered out my open aired shutters, I could not believe the view from my room. It had snowed the previous day and the nearby mountains were covered with snow as the Tuscan countryside was gleaming with sunshine and the roosters were crowing. I was up bright and early and ready for my Tuscan hillside walk throught the abandoned Tuscan buildings, olive groves and plethora of blooming spring flowers. What a way to start your day. Sign me up! After our 1 hour invigorating walk we enjoyed a wonderful Tuscan breakfast. I was ready for Part 2 of our training. All in all...this was my 2nd ongoing training SpaFinder Specialist course and it was trulya wonderful opportunity to be able to experience 2 medical/wellness spas personally, in order to return home and successfully reiterate my experience to potential spa goers seeking an experience "outside the box". After a scrumptuous lunch we were all assignedour homework. Go directly to the Spa...do not pass Go...do not Collect your 100e and enjoy your treatments. Here is a list of several of the treatments that the group experienced:Mediterranean Fitobalnea, Mediterranean Body Treatment, Diem Cham Reflexology, Bioaquam, Thalaquam, Equilibrium Massage, Thalaquam, Equilibrium Massage, Shiatsu Massage, Multijet, Tui-Na Massage, Etruscan Circuit, Oriental Fitobalnea, Ayurvedic Massage, Californian Massage, Kniepp Circuit, Vitalstone Massage, Lanciajet, Thalaquam, Shiatsu Massage, Thermalion, Mediterranean Body Treatment, Equilibrium Massage, Salidarium
After a relaxing afternoon at the spa, we all met in the the lounge to describe in detail our treatments and this was followed by yet another wonderful evening of dining at the Restaurant Ferdinando I and after dinner we enjoyed an "Infusions Tasting" at the Bar. This was truly a special day at an amazing property. We were able to discuss our experience in depth with our gracious hosts during the late night farewell tasting.
Day 5: Friday, April 4thWe enjoyed our last breakfast in the Tuscan countryside and bid our farewells to our hosts and colleagues as everyone prepared to return home or venture off to parts unknown throughout Italy. We all departed with a new sense of renewal and a whole new outlook on European spa treatments and accommodations that went well beyond our anticipated expectance.
A quick overview of Fonteverde:Properties of the Spa waters; The waters in which you bathe are rich in sulphate, calcium, fluoride and magnesium. Naturally, these are not the only minerals present, but they represent the large proportions.Effect on the locomotory apparatus (immersion): regulation of muscle tone, anti-anflammatory and analgesticEffect on the cutaneous apparatus (immersion): anti-inflammatory, astringent, anti bacterial and toningEffect on the cardio-vasular apparatus (immersion): vasodilating and hypotensiveEffect on the nervous system (immersion): relaxantEffect on the respiratory system (inhalation): trophic, mucolitic and anti-inflammatoryEffect on the liver and bile ducts (drink): trophic, anti-toxic, metabolic, cholagogue and choleretic (promotes flow and elimination of the bile)Effect on the stomach (drink): promotes gastric emptying and normalisation of acidityEffect on the the intestines (drink): promotes digestion and regulates motilityEffect on the urninary tract (drink): diuretic, inhibits crystallation (due to the magnesium)Effect on the locomotory apparatus (drink): calcium-rich waters may be considered an alimentary source of calcium thus exercising a complementary action in the treament of osteoporosis. As for as sporting activities are concerned, natural mineral waters may be considered as an alimentary source of electrolytes.The presence of the algae in the water constitutes one of the fundamental active agents found in spa mineral waters. In fact, the algae produces a remarkable quantity of enzymesand vitamins as well as anti-bacterial and nutritional substances. Their presence is the most concrete evidence that these spa waters are not treated with disinfectants: the substantial flow from the springs enables constant renewal for the pools. A truly unique experience and my goal is to educate my future spa clients about this beneficial opportunity to experience spa treatments and a whole new way!Ciao!Patty ShachatVirtuoso Spa Finder Spa SpecialistTo view your next spa vacation, please click this link below for the resort locations, offers, specials and much more!
APRIL 6-14THVIRTUOSO 2008 EDUCATIONAL MILAN & THE LAKES REGIONSHOSTED BY VIRTUOSO AND I.C. BELLAGIOT H E A R T O F T R A V E L I N I T A L Y
PRE-VIRTUOSO TRIPFriday - 4th April, 2008Today I drove from Tuscany where I was enjoying a 4 night SpaFinder Program at two wonderful Medical/Wellness spas. (Please refer to the SpaFinder Tuscany chapter to view my article). During our drive up the to Florence we stopped in San Gimignano to visited one on my favorite hilltop town and show my colleagues Peg and Stephanie the sites and sounds of this beautiful town. Along the way, we stopped to take a quick photo or two of the amazing landscape before our eyes. It was literally lime green in color and lots of foliage, as the newly awaited season arrived just before our eyes This drive is lovely until you arrive into ancient Florence. Strap your selves in for the ride of your life. Anyhow we made it safe and sound and only a few wrong turns along the way...driving in Italy is certainly an adventure. Kudos to my chauffeur (Peg) and our back seat driver (Stephanie). Upon my arrival to the magnificent Lungarno Hotel overlooking the Arno River and the infamous Pontevecchio Bridge, I met my husband (Charlie) to enjoy this city for the next two days. This evening we dined in a wonderful neighborhood restaurant dating back to the turn of the century, specializing in beef dishes and a scrumptious artichoke and egg appetizer (specialty of the house). This evening we dined with two other patrons in a communal style seating arrangement. The ambiance is cafeteria like, with lots of history of famous diners from years past. The food and wine were well worth the "dress down" environment. We received this suggestion from the hotel concierge and later read about it in our "Fodors" guide that it is a must and great value. I fully agree! Saturday - 5th April, 2008 This was a special day for me, as we were up bright and early and off to the beautiful town of Lucca, located 30 minutes just outside Florence. This is a walled city which is quite unusual as it is a flat walking city. Tourists ride rented bicycles around the city's walled perimiter while residents, postal workers and tourist alike tool around on old fashioned bicycles carrying their groceries, mail, etc. This city is filled with lots of tourist sites and alleyways filled with quaint shops offering local wines, olive oils, balsamic vinegar, honey, dried herbs and wine cellars. Great place to stock up on some italian pasta and products to take home. We spent 2 hours and could of stayed alot longer, but we only had one full day on our own and wanted to visit the Pitti Palace and explore the ancient city of Florence, prior to our departure to meet our Virtuoso educational for the Milan and the Lakes regions. This evening we bid farewell to Julie and Sandi (from my SpaFinder Tuscany trip) as they embarked on their last meal at the "Italian trough". Between the four us we managed to order just about one of everything on the menu and several bottles of our new favorite wine from the Maremma region of Tuscany; Morellino di Scansano. A fabulous time was had by all! Anyone seeking the insiders tip; on how to shop locally at the city center market and ship Italian products back home at a discount or a cooking class in a beautiful villa located in Fioesole please inquire during the planning stages of your trip to Florence. Sandi was so kind to share her new found contact with the villa and market shop owner for clients seeking a unique Tuscan experience!
THE BEGINNING OF AN INCREDIBLE JOURNEY OF NORTHERN ITALYSunday- 6th - April 2008Today we were up bright and early to depart the ancient streets of Florence for our adventure drive to the lakeside town of Como visit the Grand Hotel Villa D’Este, where we will embark on Part 2 of this Italian adventure for the next 8 nights. Today we checked in to this grand hotel as were met by our fellow Virtuoso and companions that we would soon discover were an incredible mix of personalities, which truly made our trip an Italiano adventure of a lifetime...never to be forgotten and extremely hard to replicate! The Villa D’Este speaks for itself. It’s 152 rooms which are divided between the two buildings are all majestically furnished in period furniture, offering varied views of the breathtaking and beautiful park and lake. They feature a mouth watering ristorante boasting service at its best! What else can one say; except that this hotel is a well re-knowned jewel that sits upon the banks of a beautiful lago. This afternoon we took a private water taxi across the First Basin of Lake Como with our local expert guide (Rita Annunziata) to the City of Como. As we cross we enjoyed a wonderful introduction to this amazing lake, its villas and gardens, towns and villages which line the lakeshore as they sparkled with the rays of sunshine as we approached the banks of the city of Como. We ventured off for a brief but informative opportunity to take in the highlights of this incredible city, rich in history with its ancient sites, piazzas, ristorantes and shopping. Here we learned about (Voltera) the inventor of the voltage battery. His magnificent statue is proudly displayed in the city piazza. During our first free time we shared a table with our new found Canadian friends (Debra and Philip -a/k/a Philipo). This was just the beginning of a new found friendship that we trust will continue to grow from years to come. It goes to show you that if you choose to offer to share a table with a new colleague/passerby, it will most likely open up many doors in your life!
This evening we had our first of many meals at a local casual pizza ristorante in the charming town of Cernobbio (Pizzeria Giardino) - within 5 minutes walk from the Hotel Gates. This evening we enjoyed a typical Italian pizza evening complete with salad and gelato and an abundance of local Italian wine (vino) and beer (bierra).The evening was not complete without holding court at the intimate piano bar. Some of our counterparts were so gracious to serenade us with their version of kareoke and of course; skilled dancing moves. (You know who you are!) Kudos to you, as this evening was just the beginning and set the stage for many more to come.
Monday -7th, April 2008Today we awoke to a sumptuous italian breakfast in the glamorous dining area overlooking the glistening lago and then we wore off to a yet another country which is a stone's throw away from Italy. Just across the Swiss border we visited the lovely city of Lugarno where we met our local guide from our Virtuoso onsite company. He introduced us to this beautiful town that proudly resides on the banks of the lake with a backdrop of snow covered swiss mountains.
During our journey we had a wonderful introduction to Lake Como and the Ticino Region and the beautiful town of Lugano, its people and culture. Today our business agenda was a lovely luncheon hosted by a sister property to our Virtuoso hotel the Principe Leopoldo Hotel. This hotel sits majestically atop a hillside with sweeping views of the city of Lugarno below. It offers picture postcard views. As we strolled along the city streets we took a short break to visit a local department store to buy lots of delectable Swiss chocolate to take home. Along the way we visited several magnificent churches and low and behold we ran into the infamous "George Clooney" on the street. Ok...I can dream...his gorgeous photo was in a storefront window. I could not resist and had my husband took a photo so I can super impose myself next to him, at any given point. Ah...if only I saw him in person!!!! Back to reality.
This evening we had a lovely site inspection of the gorgeous and elegant Grand Hotel Villa D’Este followed by a cocktail party and gourmet dinner with our gracious hotel hosts. This was a very special evening because we had the pleasure of meeting a well known resident that is designated the "Ambassador" of the hotel. Apparently, her and her late husband played a key role in marketing the hotel back in the 19th century and played a key role in the success of its well known elite status throughout the world in the 21st century. She resides in a beautiful apartment just beside the elaborate gardens. What a wonderful gesture to compensate loyal employees. I am certain her belated husband is at peace that his lovely bride has been granted such a lovely place to live out her golden years, all in the lap of luxury; hence due to their combined work efforts for this grand hotel.
Tuesday - 8th, April 2008Today we regretfully check out of the Grand Hotel Villa D’Este and depart to the beautiful Park Hyatt Milan Hotel for one fabulous day and evening in the heart of Milan. The Park Hyatt Milan is an elegant, contemporary boutique hotel, ideally located right in the heart of Milan, just steps away from Piazza del Duomo and Teatro alla Scala opera house. The hotel borders Milan's famous Galleria, and is within walking distance of the ultra-chic shops in Via Montenapoleone and Via della Spiga. The Park Hyatt Milan is set in a palatial, classical building that dates from 1870. Prior to checking in we toured the Heart of Milan, the European Capitol of Fashion where our local expert guide (Alessandro Pini) introduced us to the highlights of Renaissance Milan. During the city tour we enjoyed various monuments both well known and not so common. We learned about life in Milan during the Renaissance Period. The Castello Sforzesco with its ‘Sala delle Assi’ Leonardesca and the Stone Rondinini by Michelangelo Buonarroti, the Church of Bramante S. Maria at S. Satiro with its marvelous prospective, were just a mention of what we enjoyed during this 3 hour tour. Also, the Church of S. Maurizio at Monastero Maggiore which was entirely frescoed by the Leonardesco Bernadino Luini (one of Leonardo Da Vinci’s favorite pupils). This tour was a wonderful introduction to a very important and interesting city which boasts of history, culture and fashion for just about anyone and everyone. that visits this city. As we checked into our new home for this evening, we were all advised to arrive promptly to the lobby with coats and elegant attire for a grand surprise. We strolled the streets of Milan with our gracious hosts and waited on a street corner only to discover our next adventure was aboard a "vintage cable car" for a Milan city tour. The cable car surprise was an incredible treat. As we toured the city we were serenaded by a Jazz Trio, waiters dawned in tuxedos offering us fine champagne and appetizers for the next enchanting hour. If you could see the looks we received as we stopped at nearby cable stops; cable car riders were shocked and envious of the party happening right in front of their eyes. This was followed by an exquisite dining experience; at the hotels gourmet restaurant. It was a night to remember. This was the first test run of this city tour offered by the hotel and will be available for future clients staying at this lovely hotel.
Wednesday - 9th, April 2008Once again we check out of this lovely hotel and we are on our way to the Four Seasons Milan for the next two evenings. Prior to our check in this morning we enjoyed a stroll through the very heart of the historical centre of Milan with our local expert guide taking in yet more amazing sites of the city. This tour is a wonderful introduction to the history of fashion and design of both the Milanese and Italian culture. Including the famous streets of Via Montenapoleone, Via Sant’Andrea, Via della Spiga e Via del Gesù. Next we visited the famous La Scala Theatre and Museum. La Scala Theatre is considered to be one of the world’s most famous opera houses and offers a beautiful theatre museum which was founded in 1913 and boasts a fine collection of sculptures, original scores, paintings and costumes relating to the history of La Scala. Then we visited the private opera boxes of theatre itself. If only those boxes could speak. Many a tale and intriguing event most certainly happened within these velvet walls. Truly a must see for all Milan clients!
Next we enjoyed a treat as we dined at the well-reknowned and famous l’Ulmet Restaurant in the heart of the city of Milan. As we rubbed shoulders with the local Milanese, many from the Fashion World, we had the opportunity to visit the owners private wine cellar; which contains over 9000 bottles of wine; all within a five minutes walk of the Duomo. In my opinion (Ulmet Restaurant) is considered one of Italy’s best restaurants. Not only for the food, the wine cellar, the service but more for those little touches that the owners, who personally run the restaurant, add. Chicco Mooney and his family will not only be present during your amazing and unforgettable meal, but they will also make sure that you enjoy some of the finest ingredients paired with the best possible fine wines. A private tour of Chicco’s wine cellar is also possible before dinner, for an aperitif, or after, for those wine connoisseurs clients. seeking and exclusive visit to a private cellar. This restaurant should be a must on any client " To do list". Elegant atmosphere; strict dress code and reservations are required. This restaurant is one of the most sought after dining experiences in all of Milan; my recent visit and affiliation with a local onsite affords me the opportunity to make VIP reservations for my Milan clients. Please inquire during your planning stages of your long awaited trip to Milan.
After a delectable luncheon we are off to view original masterpiece of "The Last Supper". This venue is by appointment only and available in increments or 15 minute viewings. It was incredible to actually see this magnificent work of art and a must see for clients with a passion for art. Next we checked into the beautiful Four Seasons Hotel for the next two evenings. This lovely property is a dramatically reborn 15th century monastery. It is located in the heart of the nearby couture houses of Milan. It offers the services of a private shopper which would be available to my clients seeking a unique shopping experience.
This evening our welcome reception was held in the sub-level portion of the hotel "La Cuccina". This was a wonderful venue to host a cocktail party. We sipped champagne and enjoyed delicious appetizers while observing the kitchen staff preparing our succulent beef tenderloin entree; only to be served later that evening at our exclusive dinner presentation. This evening was extremely entertaining. Through out the evening we dined with different hotel management hosts during each course. At the end of the evening a portion of the group went to the infamous "Armani" nightclub. This is an exclusive club and it is quite difficult to secure entrance unless you are accompanied by an influential Milanese resident. Low and behold (Muhammad-Egyptian-Four Seasons representative) gave one up for the team and was able to jump the line and gained access for a small group of my colleagues;a good time was had by all as they danced til the wee hours. As you will see here....there was a shoe fashion preview prior to leaving in order to see if they were "shoe worthy"....if so...you were sure to get in! I bowed out of the adventure...as my feet were aching and certainly would not fit into my designer shoes for an evening of dancing...perhaps the next night!Thursday - 10th, April 2008Today were up bright and early and off to the nearby upper antique hilltop town of Bergamo via our motorcoach....driven by our extremely nice driver (Giovanni with the double n...ah). He was a wonderful driver and picked right up on his new found Italiano saying (Giddey Up-ah). Guess who taught him this one? This was a short journey across the Val Brembana to the delightful hill top town of Bergamo which owes must of its artistic inspiration and architectural splendour to the influence of Venice. Passing through the lower modern city we headed through the ancient town gates to the Antique City where our local guide (Sara Cologni) accompanied us from the Cittadellà down through the cobbled stone main street into the Piazza Vecchia (containing one of the most appealing architecture ensembles in the region) where we viewed the late 16th century Biblioteca, the University, the beautiful Contarini Fountain, the Palazzo della Ragione, Baptistry, Colleoni’s Chapel, the Neo-Classical Duomo and the beautiful Romanesque Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore. This was the perfect introduction to the Antique Town of Bergamo. Followed by the tour we enjoyed some long awaited time to explore on our own. Low and behold we meet the group in the same ristorante and yet again pull up to the "Italian trough" for a lite luncheon (Lite in Italian is a portion for the entire day) located down a cobbled stoned alleyway prior to returning to Milan. This evening we all departed to visit the famous Hotel Bulgari to enjoy a site inspection, cocktail reception and a wonderful dinner. This hotel is truly a jewel in the heart of Milan. It is well known for its affiliation with Bulgari body products, perfumes and jewelry around the world. It sets itself apart with its gorgeous minimalist decor in each room. Did you know that this hotel features fire retardant guest room doors for up to 3 hours? This is unheard of and is certainly a wonderful feature (one that every hotel should consider). The rooms all feature gorgeous contemporary furnishings and Bulgari bath products. The hotel lounge and open air restaurant feature a panoramic view of the lovely outdoor patio gardens. This was such a special evening and our hosts were so gracious and the meal was incredible. By far this was my favorite contemporary hotel in all of Milan!
Friday - 11th, April 2008Today we departed the beautiful Four Seasons Milan and bid our farewell to our new found friends and drove back to the Lakes Regions to enjoy a one night stay at the Grand Hotel Tremezzo located on Lake Como. Today we enjoyed a leisurely transfer from Milan to the beautiful town of Bellagio in the heart of Lake Como, known as the Jewel of Lake Como. One of my favorite towns for shopping. Bellagio is considered by many to be one of the most beautiful sites in Italy and is as unique with with charming antique lanes and stairways which overlook quaint old houses that display ornate balconies spilling over with flowers and an endlessly picturesque waterfront. Here one can linger all day in one of the many sidewalk cafes watching the ferries, boats and hydrofoils gliding to and from other lakeside towns. Clients seeking handmade shoes and luxurious silk scarves and pashminas should inquire with me, as I have several contacts in town from recent visits. Upon our arrival we visited the stately Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni. This hotel is magnificent and one of the finest in the Lakes region. After our brief site inspection we had a brief time to explore the town and shop for special items mentioned above. Well...in such a short span of time I managed to purchase a belissimo silk scarf and my husband (Charlie) tracked down his favorite shoe maker (who was on fiesta) and purchased a handmade pair of blue suede shoes..all in 20 minutes. Off again...we went visited a private villa just outside Bellagio with our local Virtuoso onsite hosts (I.C. Belllagio). The Italian owner of the Villa Melzi (and the entire staff of I.C. Bellagio) were awaiting our arrival for a presentation of this grand villa followed by an enormous Italian buffet which was spread out the length of the villa. This villa sits atop the banks of Lake Como. This was a gorgeous 7 bedroom villa with all the bells and whistles and a gorgeous in ground pool. Great place for couples or families wishing to spend some relaxing time in the Lakes area with all the comforts of home. This villa is exclusively rented out on a weekly basis via my onsite contact and has limited weeks available for 2008 and many more for 2009. Late this afternoon we returned to the Grand Hotel, Tremezzo, where we stayed for one magical evening of fine wine, dining and after hours dancing in the wine cellar. The Grand Hotel Tremezzo is a fascinating Palace dating back to the beginning of the century, it overlooks the Lake Como where the landscape is enchanting. The hotel borders the famous Villa Carlotta with its centuries old park, and features a botanical garden. The hotel is one of the oldest hotels on the Lake Como. The saloons are adorned with frescos and the rooms are furnished with vintage objects and antique furniture, which preserve the flavour and the glamour typical of the Belle Époque hotels. Situated on the same Lake Como arm of other prestigious hotels like Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni in Bellagio and Grand Hotel Villa d’Este in Cernobbio, it is a landmark amongst the other hotels of the Lake, in part; due to its close proximity to the Golf Club Menaggio and Cadenabbia. It is easily accessible from the airports of Milan Malpensa and Milan Linate. This evening and hotel were one of my all time favorites. We all met for a site inspection of this amazing property, followed a by cocktail reception and special dinner. The view from our dining table was snow covered mountains high atop with the beautiful lake just below. It was simply breathtaking. This dinner was incredible and was the beginning chapter of our "group storytelling" of past moments in our life. What a wonderful concept for dinner conversation. Followed by a small group of us visiting the antique wine cellar for a night cap or two as we danced to music from our piano player and Italian D.J.'s (Can you believe it..they had YMCA...)
Saturday - 12th, April 2008This morning we reluctantly departed from the Grand Hotel Tremezzo to visit our new destination (Lake Maggiore) to visit the last hotel of our incredible journey to the Villa Aminta Hotel located in Lake Maggiore. Today we enjoyed the perfect introduction to the beautiful central lake area including a stop to visit the Villa Balbianello and we enjoyed lunch on the offshore private island of Isola Comacina. We commenced on a private water launch tour as we cruised south to view the various towns, villas, gardens and palaces that lines the Italy’s most famous lake. We the Villa Carlotta, Tremezzo, Bolvedro, Mezzegra, Lenno and then across to the Villa Balbianello, considered by many (ourselves included) to be the most beautiful villa on the lake. We visited the entire villa and its gardens, before rejoining our boat for the gentle cruise past the Villa Rosa, where Edward and Mrs Simpson spent their honeymoon, and lastly; we passed by George Clooney's villa, private dock and his guests villa which is adjacent. (There is a make shift curtain that is drawn between the walkways for privacy from the paparazzi and local tourists. After our lake tour we headed to the private island for a special lunch and enjoyed a 5-6 course luncheon and along with an enchanting show conducted by the infamous owner (who in my opinion resembles and Italian version of Cramer on Seinfeld) explaining the mystery of the island and the myth that has been attached to every owner. The walls are adorned with famous celebrities and dignitaries. What a special treat! After lunch we continued to the opposite coastline passing San Giovanni, Loppia, Villa Melzi and Gardens, the beautiful town of Bellagio, the Promontory and Rockefeller Property before crossing in front of Varenna to view this beautiful quaint lakeside town and its villas before crossing over to Cadenabbia and returning to Tremezzo where our luxury coach was awaiting to transfer us to Lake Maggiore and the beautiful Villa Aminta Hotel. Our first stop was Lake Orta and the beautiful town of Orta. Upon arrival to Orta we were greeted with our antique trolley transfer to the inside of the cobblestone antique town of Orta. We leisurely strolled through the streets of this beautiful quaint ancient town and its historical palaces that so elegantly line the streets. We took a short water shuttle to the famous Island of San Giulio, to view the church and the island that is home to monks and nuns that are invisible to the tourists. It is literally like be on a deserted or haunted island. We returned to Orta itself to enjoy an early dinner in the the area’s best Trattoria, prior to driving to Lake Maggiore for our arrival to the beautiful Villa Aminta Hotel (40 minutes drive from Orta to Stresa).
We checked into this magnificent hotel set beside the banks or Lake Maggiore for the last two evenings of our trip. This hotel is also surrounded by mountains and the Borromean Islands. The hotel is privately owned and run by the delightful Zanetta family. This is an elegant boutique style property, built in the 19th century as a private villa and now one of the most sought after hotels in all of Italy. Choosing Villa Aminta means not only a preference for a prestigious hotel, it also means sharing in a lifestyle, which seeks out quality at the highest level for any occasion. The Zanetta family has created a hotel filled with museum quality furnishings, featuring an eclectic collection of gorgeous decor and antiques. Its elegant surroundings and refinement offer a truly unforgettable experience. Sunday - 13th, April 2008Today we enjoyed a very special day exploring the other beautiful islands nearby and their amazing gardens and palaces not to mention the quaint fishing village located on Fishermen’s Island with our private guide and boat. Our guide arranged a private launch in order to cross the lake for our first visit to Isola Bella; the most well known of the islands. We continued on via a private boat to Isola dei Pescatori (Fishermens Island) after exploring this little village and its quaint church. We stopped to partake in a lunch break at a local pizzeria and then continued on for a short shopping excursion. I was fortunate to locate a gorgeous handbag made of red leather, just outside the pizza shop. One of my colleagues bought two; (bone patent leather and orange leather). Orange is the new black in Europe, so look for those trends to become popular for this season. After lunch, we took a leisurely 15 minute cruise across to the Mother Island. This entire island is one magnificent garden, and is home to the regal white peacocks. They stroll the ornate gardens while they hold court with the tourists. They display their glorious feathers as they strut their stuff for all to see. We also visited the gorgeous palace of the Borromean family's ‘country house’. This palace currently is rented out for high society functions. Lady Di and her family hosted a wonderful evening here during her days of royalty.
Later this afternoon several of us went shopping for a full hour of pure pleasure to the town of Stessa. It is a small bustling town with lots of restaurants and shops. The end to a perfect day! This evening we gathered for our final dinner to bid farewell to all of our new found friends and colleagues. This was truly an incredible trip of a lifetime. Filled with lots of opportunities to meet new friends, share in some fine cuisine and spirits and tour some amazing sites. I look forward to the opportunity of planning similar trips for future clients seeking a wonderful experience similar to mine throughout this old world country. A special thanks to our incredible host (Brian) of Virtuoso, Andrea, Francis and Emily and the entire staff of (I.C. Bellagio) and last but not least all the wonderful Virtuoso colleagues and companions that truly made this trip one of the best ever in my eyes! Hope to see all of you in "Viva Las Vegas" at Travel Mart for a reunion.Please contact me at Patty@tvlcorner.com to plan your "next excursion to any corner of the world". Why not start with Italy!Ciao!Patty ShachatVirtuoso Travel Specialist