OK, we’re in Italy overlooking Lake Como, so not much can really go wrong. Right? Well, my flight arrived two hours late in a nasty storm (the previous plane was struck by lightning) and that beautiful view was invisible through the cloud and driving rain. All in all, I was feeling a little stressed. Tomorrow, though, I was told, would be very different – a clear, sunny warm May day, a time to go down to the “beach” (I’ll explain that later) and soak up not just rays but the incredible beauty of this place.
Why does Italy find beauty so effortless? The architecture, the gardens, the natural inclination to live la dolce vita – it must be something in the Italian genes. In spite of the rain, you can’t fail to spot it the moment you arrive here. The creamy-yellow palace that is the Grand Hotel Tremezzo has a spectacularly beautiful setting. Built in 1910, it is quite young as Italian palaces go but it has very much the traditional character – high ceilings, lots of gold leaf, luxury furnishings, hand-made chocolates in the room and ESPA products in the all-marble bathroom.
And, as for the rain, so what? I’m off to the spa, so it can rain the whole evening and into the night for all I care. I am all set for the Grand Garden Ritual (inspired by the fragrant flowers of the hotel’s garden). I was torn between this and the Lake Como Relaxing Ritual but made my choice on the basis that this had a bit of everything. All of the signature treatments (there are four altogether) last a smidgen under two hours, so a long and delightful evening was in store, I hoped.
I was not disappointed. Georgia, my therapist, led me into the ante-room of the spacious couples suite, where we kicked off (so to speak) with the foot ritual – a gentle exfoliation and massage – after which I chose the various oils by their scent that we would use later. Led, quite literally, by the nose, I opted for those that would, Georgia told me, balance and soothe. That journey had clearly got to me more than I realised. The spa uses only ESPA products (probably my favourite range) and I mentioned one that I hardly ever came across to Georgia – but is certainly in my top three products ever – called Pink Hair and Scalp Mud. This looks about as attractive as it sounds but it works like magic, turning sun/product/pool damaged hair into super-soft tresses. “Oh,” said Georgia, “we use that later.”
We then went into the main room of the suite for the next stage – a full body exfoliation with natural sea salts infused with rosemary and lavender essential oils. While I was showering this off, Georgia put out fresh towels and then we were on to the back massage. This is described as relaxing and indeed it was but Georgia, who is tiny, was taking no prisoners. If I’d been in any doubt that being almost struck by lightning is stressful, she found knots not just in my shoulders (where they normally are) but all the way up my back. And, boy, did she get rid of them. It was wonderful and agonising at the same time. By the end, though, they’d submitted and my back was restored to normal.
Then it was facial time and lots of ESPA lotions and potions. There were warm, creamy ones, icy ones, gritty ones and then – thoroughly cleansed – I was inspected by the Skin Vision Analysis machine. We were plunged into darkness and a bright blue light shone over my face. It turned out I had mostly large areas of dry skin and far too many of sun damage. However, at least I didn’t have some of the other categories (wrinkles, dead skin etc etc). More lotions and potions followed – serums and moisturisers, eye treatments, balms and masks. But they weren’t just applied. Georgia massaged these in with deep, powerfully relaxing strokes – all over the face, the shoulders and top of my back, neck, collarbone, breastbone. She even gave me a kind of eye massage (generous slow circles – strangely calming in effect). The pink mud was applied and massaged into my scalp and hair and when I finally saw myself in the mirror, Georgia had fashioned it all into a top knot on the crown of my head. By now it was 8.30 and I staggered off to bed, very relaxed and entirely uninterested in food.
I awoke dewy of complexion and silken of hair and headed for a vast buffet of breakfast, settling on smoked salmon, scrambled egg and wilted spinach. Delicious but anything would be surpassed by the view – the weather, as promised, was perfect and the lake sparkled in the sunshine, the high green hills dropping vertiginously down to the water’s edge. And was that snow still lingering on the very tops of the mountains? Swallows swooped, garden birds trilled and the ferries were criss-crossing their way from bank to bank.
After all that food, I needed some exercise. There is an extensive gym but it seemed a shame to be indoors so I headed off to explore the park while it was still cool. It was a good idea because this garden is like climbing a mountain. No, it is climbing a mountain. So, it’s up past the fountain and the flowerbeds, one set of steps lead for a pool and the tennis court. On the other side a massive arch covered in ivy leads to the steps that take you to the Panoramic Walk – this certainly lives up to its name. There’s a place here – just big enough for a table for two – called Dis moi oui. I’m sure it lives up to its name – as proposal spots go, it couldn’t get much more romantic.
And then it’s back to the spa or, more precisely, the heat experience part of it – a sauna with a view straight across the lake, two steam rooms with different temperatures and scents, ice fountains and a shower with a “cold breeze” function – a bit like standing in a Scottish dreach day, but as a contrast to the heat, rather nicer than that. Then there’s another pool, indoors and heated, that is something of an infinity pool once you’re inside with views straight across the lake. And you can also do a round of water massage – I particularly like the one that comes up on your feet so you’re walking, or at least standing, on water.
Later, I head to the “beach” built out over the lake, complete with loungers, tables, a bar, tented pavilions as changing rooms (they wouldn’t look out of place on the Field of the Cloth of Gold) – and sand. From here a bridge goes out into the lake where a swimming pool floats on the water. What was that about la dolce vita?
For more information about Grand Hotel Tremezzo, including extensive details about its T spa from its facilities to treatments, visit www.grandhoteltremezzo.com.