I’m being driven through the verdant hills of Northern Italy where the vineyards are laid out like ribbons under the late September sun. The car stops and I’m greeted by a sprawling, ivy-covered, Neo-Renaissance villa.
Despite my best efforts not to give in to cliché, I can’t help but mutter to myself: ‘Wow – la dolce vita’.
I’ve just arrived at L’Albereta, nestled within the wine region of Franciacorta. It’s part of the prestigious Relais & Châteaux association; a collection of independently owned hotels and restaurants. The group’s worldwide members are evaluated and accepted on their fulfilment of its five ‘Cs’ – character, courtesy, calm, charm and cuisine.
There are 57 rooms to choose from at L’Albereta, but anyone wanting to experience a holiday truly worthy of a silver screen star should opt for one of the hotel’s 19 suites.
The grand suite – ‘Bellavista’ – takes up the top floor of its namesake tower. The vantage point (and two balconies) allow guests unrivalled views of the Alps, Lake Iseo and, of course, the Franciacorta vineyards.
For those who prefer a more unique perspective, the ‘Cabriolet’ suite gives the opportunity to literally sleep under the stars. With the touch of a button the ceiling above the bed cleverly retracts like a sunroof.
For ultimate relaxation, guests can also take advantage of the architect-designed Espace Chenot Health Wellness SPA – one of only two in Italy. Offering a range of holistic treatments, you can enjoy much more than just the standard massage or facial.
Dubbed the founding father of the wellness movement, Henri Chenot first studied biology before focusing on psychology, Chinese medicine and naturopathy. His holistic approach lead to the development of ‘biontology’, with his trademarked Chenot Method attracting celebrity fans such as Elle Macpherson and Princess Caroline of Monaco.
Food-intolerance analysis, cardio fitness assessments and the famous wellbeing programmes (choose from three to 14 days) can all be booked here.
Wine and dine
Meanwhile, with four restaurants at L’Albereta, there’s no chance of going hungry. The jewel in the hotel’s crown is Leonfelice lake view restaurant, run by chef Fabio Abbattista, which serves up a fine selection of Italian cuisine.
I would urge you to try to the cacio e pepe – perfect with a glass of sparkling Franciacorta. Made from cheese, black pepper and pasta, it’s a simple dish – historically it was a staple of Roman shepherds who needed food that would last – but the execution here is sublime. It certainly captures the essence of this hotel: classic and elevated.
The more intimate Greeniege Lounge has its own library where guests are encouraged to read and relax, especially in winter when the fireplace is lit.
Or enjoy a casual pizza a libretto (which describes the act of folding a pizza like a book) at the most informal of the four dining options: La Filiale.
Reserved for guests of the Spa, the wellness restaurant offers those on a stricter diet a wealth of balanced meals. Its bay window gives enchanting views of the surrounding parkland.
With relaxation and serenity at the heart of the hotel’s ethos, it also offers a dedicated kid’s club for ages three and up. A separate space for children to play while they are looked after by qualified staff, gives you all the more reason to order an extra glass of Franciacorta…
For more information visit albereta.it