Villa Orselina

Hotel in Locarno

5-Star Boutique Hotel

From the first moment you step foot in Villa Orselina, it is the light you see.

It is a pure light that streams in through picture windows to illuminate sublime interiors of white, lustrous marble, and spills across palm-fringed terraces that take in the full sweep of mountains and forests that rise above the sparkling blue Lago Maggiore.

Villa Orselina is petite, intimate and romantic, looking more gorgeous than ever since a total makeover in 2012. The hotel's crisp, snowy white interiors are a refreshing tonic on the day I arrive, with the temperature notching 35°C. With just 28 rooms and suites, the staff know guests here by name and go out of the way to extend a heartfelt welcome.

My suite speaks of a hotel that appreciates the meaning of understated sophistication. It is bright and spacious, with an aesthetic that walks a fine line between minimalist and sumptuous – rooms are given a touch of glam with deep-pile rugs, antique-meets-modern furnishings, eye-catching lamps and a kiss of champagne. The balcony affords more dreamy lake views, while the bathroom is one of the most impressive I have ever seen – a feel-good temple of gleaming marble, lit by tiny spotlights that give the impression of a night sky, it comes with a Jacuzzi bathtub, walk-in rain shower and an array of Aromatherapy Associates products. More attention to detail shines through in the fully-equipped kitchen, complete with Nespresso© machine, and the (very) welcome gift of a bottle of Prosecco and a fruit platter.

Even hotels of this calibre can make the odd minor slip, but Villa Orselina pitches things just right, with décor that subtly exquisite, service that is discreet yet attentive, and a mood that is just the right mix of sophisticated and relaxed. Villa Orselina does more than blend into its surrounds – it emphasises them, with a clever use of light and well-thought-out spaces that frame the view. Even standard doubles are south facing and gaze out across the lake.

A stroll through manicured lawns, draped with bougainvillea and fringed with palms, brings me down to the quiet outdoor pool, where a swim comes with a lovely panorama of Lago Maggiore. A waiter breezes to and from the pool bar, bringing guests drinks and light snacks. The hotel has its own tennis courts, but on this hot summer day most guests seem content to simply kick back in their loungers and enjoy the view.

Stepping up a level from the pool is the LABO Spa, a slinky space with an indoor pool, fitness centre overlooking the lake and Finnish sauna, steam bath and laconium. Complimentary water and tea are nice touches in the relaxation room. On the treatment menu are massages, facials and exfoliating rituals using YONKA products.

Tempting as it is to never leave the hotel, Villa Orselina is brilliantly positioned for exploring the surrounding Ticinese Alps. Free bike hire allows guests to head out into surrounding valleys, for instance. The beautiful Italianate town of Locarno is only 10 minutes' funicular ride away, or a spectacular walk along steps fringed by palm and banana trees. The footpath grants lake views and takes in the 15th-century pilgrimage church of Madonna del Sasso, perched high on a rocky outcrop. Taking the funicular in the opposite direction would bring you to the peak of Cardada-Cimetta at 1671m, where spectacular views of Lago Maggiore and the Alps unfold. The mountain is a magnet to hikers, mountain bikers and paragliders in summer, skiers and snowshoers in winter.

Lago Maggiore dips south of this corner of Switzerland into Italy and the Italian influence is felt keenly in the gourmet Il Ristorante di Villa Orselina, with 14 Gault Millau points under its belt. With Locarno's most beautiful terrace, it is a highly atmospheric spot to watch the sun set over Lago Maggiore while sampling some of chef Antonio Fallini's artistically presented specialities. The seasonally inspired menu plays up clean, bright flavours in dishes like eggplant 'Parmigiana' with light basil pesto, and codfish with smashed beans and chervil – all of which are paired with wines drawn from the cellar.

After dinner, with a glass of Ticinese merlot in hand, I sit and watch Locarno twinkling far below and toast my good fortune at having found Villa Orselina.

Kerry Christiani is an award-winning freelance travel writer, author and MA-qualified translator

Photographs courtesy of Villa Orselina, a member of Small Luxury Hotels of The World

Reviewer's Rating
Relaxation, Beach / Sun
Services Free High Speed Internet, Restaurant, Room Service, Fitness Center, Swimming Pool, Health Spa, Conference Rooms, Wedding / Personal Event
Dress Code Smart Casual
Cost High
Ambience Elegant
Number of Rooms 28 rooms and suites

Room and Suite Categories

Classico Double Room (approx 25 m²); Style Double Room (approx 40 m²); Style Junior Suite (approx 60 m²); Panorama Suite (approx 90 m²); Silvia Suite (approx 100 m²) and Two Bedroom Suite (approx 135 m²).

Additional Price Comments

Il Ristorante di Villa Orselina. Antipasti: Sfr18-32; Primi: Sfr16-29; Secondi: Sfr43-56; Dolci: Sfr12-18. Five-course tasting menu: Sfr95.

Last updated on 02-10-2015

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