From Dante to Tennyson, history’s most celebrated poets have been seduced by the beauty of Italy’s Lake Garda. Today those who flock to the area are similarly entranced. But for travellers looking for somewhere to escape the crowds, bijou luxury hotel Prati Palai not only offers an oasis of calm, but a whole different travel experience.
Prati Palai is a lovingly restored 16th century farmhouse, offering just eight spacious suites and one double room. Set in 18 hectares of woodland, gardens and olive groves, this unique rural retreat co-exists within the soul of one of Europe’s most beautiful landscapes.
Prati Palai isn’t your conventional hotel however; its idea of hospitality towards guests is closer to a private country house, with all the comforts and services of a resort, but with a personal touch.
With their picture-perfect views of the lake, Prati Palai’s rooms combine rustic beamed ceilings and polished wooden floorboards with contemporary amenities such as air conditioning and satellite TV. Rooms are painted in pastel tones (more than 100 different colours have been used throughout the hotel), while the bathrooms feature wine-red oxide floors. One of the suites offers a pentagonal shower and, in the upstairs living room, a roll-top bath, whilst another boasts a striking circular window that looks out onto Punta San Vigilio.
Outside guests will find a charming swimming pool surrounded by olive trees, together with meadows, woods with hiking trails and picnic spots.
Although Prati Palai has no restaurant, guests can enjoy breakfast on the terrace or in their rooms. During the day simple dishes such as salads and sandwiches, made with local and homemade products, are available on request. Picnic hampers can also be ordered.
Guests are obviously free to explore the local area for themselves, but help is always on hand when it comes to restaurant reservations, wine tours and private visits to the best spots around the lake.
Ideally located just a 30-minute drive from Verona and 90 minutes from Venice to the east and Milan to the west, Prati Palai is the creation of Domenico Ferrari Barettoni. Not a hotelier by profession, his family are landowners with properties on Lake Garda and in the province of Verona. Six years ago Domenico decided to restore one of their best positioned farmhouses to its former glory. At the same time he wanted to demonstrate how it was possible to create a tourist facility that had respect for both a building’s history and the local landscape.
An encounter with architect Giuseppe Tommasi, once a pupil of the legendary Carlo Scarpa, showed Domenico how his dream could become a reality. Together with local craftsmen, he set about renovating the abandoned house, a project that would take him nearly three years.
The original building has not been altered, but simply refined using ancient materials in keeping with the period. Interiors have been furnished with a melange of antiques, artefacts and bespoke pieces made by the area’s artisans.
Prati Palai’s amenities include a small library, helicopter landing area and honesty bar (the home-made limoncello, from the main villa’s own citrus fruit, is a particular favourite). From this season, guests wishing to enjoy some period-style sightseeing can also hire Domenico’s classic Italian four-seater Riva Super Florida motorboat, along with pilot.
The sportier inclined meanwhile can take advantage of the mountain bikes available for hire at the hotel. The lake itself offers windsurfing, water-skiing and canoeing and there are tennis courts nearby. The area is also home to several renowned 18 hole golf courses, including Golf Cà Degli Ulivi and Golf Club Paradiso del Garda.
Room rates start from just 200 euros per night. Prati Palai is also available for exclusive hire.
Prati Palai, Strada Palai, 11, 37011 Bardolino (VR), Italy