It’s in Switzerland, but has true Italian flair. It’s bright, bold and sassy yet attracts guests of all ages, across all generations. Welcome to Hotel Eden Roc in Ascona on Lake Maggiore, where last weekend’s trip became an inspiring few days for the art of dolce far niente.
With its truly divine location right on the shores of Lake Maggiore, Hotel Eden Roc wins first prize for one of the most truly dazzling settings for a hotel. Behind it lies the charming and very chi chi town of Ascona and in front are the majestic mountains and lush valleys surrounding the glittering waters of the lake.
Made up of winding lanes lined with very expensive boutiques and quirky shops, this is Switzerland with a lot of Italian to its name. Just a two hour drive from Milan, Ascona is just on the borders of Italy which lies on the other side of Lake Maggiore.
Hotel Eden Roc itself is actually three hotels made into one. On its lake side, guests can step out to face amazing, majestic views – in fact most rooms look out on to this serene and noble vista. Inside, however, it’s a different matter. The overall design concept has been conceived by Carlo Rampazzi, known for his flamboyant style and clashing styles.
The design is not for everyone, but it is one of the most cheerful and thought-provoking I have come across. The very fact that as guests we continually discussed the decor, meant that the designer had succeeded in his quest for surprise and entertainment. Walls painted with tromp l’oeil effects, tables with odd legs and chairs with vases sprouting out of them are dotted around everywhere. Tangerine, lime green, violet and turquoise make up the palette. Why have plain carpets when they can be popping green with swirls on? Why have a dull wall when you can have a stage curtain painted on it instead? It’s weird and wonderful and, at the same time, ultra luxurious (in a very Euro way).
Wander around the hotel and you’ll not only likely to get lost, but you’ll have lots of fun in the process. In every nook and cranny there is something to look at and visually stimulate guests. Lighting is key – from the oversized beautiful white Murano glass chandelier in the Marina restaurant to the candy-coloured confections that are the lobby chandeliers.
My room was a huge suite that had a lilac and pale green colour palette. It looked out over the pool and to the lake beyond…
While the decor is pleasing to the eye, emphasis here is truly on the food. Local cuisine is very much Italian – with typical dishes being risotto and polenta. My favourite was the funky Marina restaurant. Open for lunch, it served simple but perfectly conceived dishes that were truly mouthwatering and memorable… the way that Italian food should be served.
Made to make your mouth water:
Dinner in La Brezza is an altogether grander affair. The chef Rolf Krapf here may not have got a Michelin star yet (although it has the equivalent of 16 GaultMillau points) but he will soon. In any case, it doesn’t matter. The food is just as good as any Michelin starred meal I have ever tasted, if not better. Attention to detail was second to none – hand-made breads, saliva-inducing amuse-bouche, violet and rose jellies to accompany the extensive cheese selection and the sweetest tea pouring ceremony to be found this side of Japan…
If staying for the weekend, a must is a trip to the Sunday market in Cannobio, Italy. With its many stalls spreading out along the lake front, this is the place to buy local delicacies – parma hams, salamis, fresh pasta and cheeses. Wander along and you can enjoy tasting sensations at each stall. Check out the leather bags in many brightly coloured shades… You can get there via a ferry, which takes a scenic 30 minutes, or by rock-star-ready speed-boat, organised through Asconautica. What did we go for?
For something a little different, and just a few paces along the shores of Lake Maggiore, is the new Albergo-Caffe Carcani. Owned by the same Tschuggen Hotel Group, this is a three-star, young and buzzy little bolt hole. Featuring the same eclectic design ethos by Rampazzi, it is perfect for a base to explore the area. Just opened, it faces directly on to Ascona’s main piazza with the lake in front of it. As well as 29 modern rooms (this is non-frill) the adjoining funky Caffe Carcani itself is set to be this summer’s buzziest hub in Ascona. Serving coffee, cake and snacks during the day and aperitifs and assaggi in the evening, it will attract the town’s glitterati who are no doubt schooled in the art of doing nothing…
Amazing food, beautiful location… this is one trip to cherish.
A full version of this trip will be published in the August issue of the Kensington and Chelsea Magazine