Gina Baksa heads to Lake Como’s Casta Diva Resort & Spa to experience its beauty, style and magnetism
Wordsworth described Lake Como as a “treasure that the earth keeps to itself”. Whether he was describing an amorous liaison with one of the regions ‘fair maidens’ or the breathtaking scenery around the lake itself, we can only guess, but the region has long seduced and inspired writers and artists. Today, Lake Como is home to both expats and celebrities – both George Clooney to Richard Branson own sumptuous lakeside villas in this tranquil Italian paradise near the Swiss border.
Conveniently, the 28-mile long, Y-shaped mountain lake, with its beautiful mountains and forests, panoramic views and a plethora of lakeside villages to explore is just an hour’s drive from Milan Malpensa airport.
Arriving off the motorway, we climb in air-conditioned Mercedes beyond the town of Como – itself worth a visit for its Renaissance architecture, silk shops and the funicular to Monte Brunate. Suddenly the roads are narrower, the views more stupendous and even the birds sound happy. I’ve finally made it to one of my dream locations – and it’s even more beautiful than I’d imagined. Chestnut, mulberry, pines and palms; beautiful blue sky and the shimmering deep-blue-green Lake Como below bestow their magic on visitors. Impossible to adequately describe in words, the magic here is palpable.
When we arrive, a mere 20 minutes later, at the beautiful Casta Diva Resort & Spa, my open-mouthed awe is in overdrive. Ideally located on the eastern shore near the medieval villages of Blevio and Torno, Casta Diva is a mesmerising collection of luxury villas and suites, most with outstanding lakeside views, situated on terraces among well-tended gardens with mature trees and exquisite flowers.
The main entrance – at the top of a steep drive – has excellent security. But if you’re a celebrity looking for privacy, you can choose to arrive incognito by boat via one of the villa’s private moorings.
Elegantly classic, the main villa at Casta Diva – Villa Roccabruna – was once owned by Italian soprano Giuditta Pasta who remodelled the original house on La Scala opera house in Milan – the site of her major professional success. Her relationship with composer Bellini led to the Villa being the favourite destination of many 18th- century celebrities such as Donizetti, Stendhal, Rossini and Manzoni.
I’m lost for words: the sheer beauty, style and magnetism of Casta Diva is incredible. A glamorous entrance – with a portrait of Giuditta – offers guests an eye-catching theatrical palette of rich damsons and ochre-mustard flooring and furnishings. Enter the main salon and nothing prepares you for the visual feast ahead: high ceilings, ornate cornices and mirrors, marble flooring, and at its centrepiece a majestic sweeping marble staircase with three suspended gilt chandeliers.
Doric columns frame the most stunning views of Lake Como and I feel like a somnambulist on a movie set, such is the dreamlike quality of this house. Alas, Mr Clooney was nowhere to be seen, but the surroundings more than made up for his absence. Warmly sophisticated, this is a Villa of sensuality and of dreaming.
Off the main salon are further large rooms – one with a massive mural clock that takes up most of the wall. High-backed purple and red antique chairs and chaises, marble fireplaces and oak-panelled ceilings complete the theatrical ambiance.
Opening the French doors we walk down stone steps to the beautiful gardens below. They’re immaculate: river frontage, shaded canopies, a cool lunch spot in front of the main house, and an enticing walkway to the other villas past centuries-old trees and shrubs. A mix of neo-classical and modern, at Cast Diva the views are 180-degrees of beauty. We can see across the lake as well as north to the fishing village of Torno. It’s lunch time and so we rest in canopied comfort from the hot sun, the house a theatrical backdrop, gazing in awe at the bucolic lakeside vista in front of us.
Fellow guests are all couples and the tone is sophisticated yet relaxed. The lunch menu has a good selection of meat, fish, salads and soups – in addition to homemade pizza. We had a 4 stagioni with perfectly cooked tomato mozzarella, ham mushrooms and succulent olives. On colder days the Bellini Bar inside the main villa offers light meals and snacks throughout the day as well as cocktails in the evening.
After a gentle walk in the garden we are shown to our suite – the lavish and secluded Rocabruna in the main villa. A duplex with lounge and bathroom on the lower floor, and bathroom and bedroom above, our richly decorated Neo-Classical hideaway was blessed with dual aspect, almost 180-degree lake views from both balconies.