Once again our European travel and beauty writer Kat Baron is on the road giving us the low-down on the best places to stay, indulge and relax in Europe, this time its the turn of a spa retreat in Lake Garda. To read more of Kat’s adventures, check out her own blog Katscapades.
So in the last few weeks my husband and I had the special birthday treat of visiting one of the world’s fashion capitals, Milan! An amazing city and I had a fantastic time, but after the hustle and bustle of bumping into fashionistas and models everywhere I turned, I needed a break!! So I found a mini-spa break just 60mins from Milan, my destination: Lake Garda!
Living in Nice, Lake Garda is nearly a 5-hour drive from our home. We are already used to long drives this time last year, we drove from Nice to Barcelona (about 7-8hours) but its incomparable to our 12-hour snowy journey from Geneva last winter. We’d been to a lot of places around Italy and France in our used and abused blue car! Too bad I can’t drive, but I know, deep down, I’m meant to be driven, lol).
My holiday checklist
Anyway, as I was sat in the passenger seat for the journey, I was able to collect my thoughts of the do’s and don’ts of a long drive to a fun destination:
- Good night sleep prior - check.
- All essentials stuff packed - check. (It’s very irritating knowing that you left something at home)
- Filling breakfast - check. (We had freshly made orange, apple, carrot juice at home followed by egg-cheese-muffin sandwich and pain au chocolat pour moi! I know it’s buttery but one won’t hurt!)
- Cash, cards, and coins - check.
- Water - check.
- Comfy clothes - check.
I was set and ready to go! See:
I had no make-up on, just my usual moisturizer with SPF 24 and I just pinned my long grown fringe with hair on one side.
Are we nearly there yet?!
After driving on the autoroute (fr) /autostrada (it) for hours, we knew we were getting near our destination as we drove through the gorgeous grape vineyards. We left Nice at 9ish and arrived in Cola’ Di Lazise, a small province of Verona southeast side of the lake at around 2ish. We booked 2 nights at the lovely Villa Dei Cedri, a Veneto villa designed by Luigi Canonica of Milan (the architect whose works include Foro Bonaparte, the Milan Arena and the Carcano Theatre) and built at the turn of the nineteenth century (the villa is more or less 200 years old). When the villa was restored, rooms of various sizes were created on the upper floors. As a result, it can host even the most demanding customers in an exquisite and elegant setting. In 1943 Field Marshal Erwin Rommel took it over as his residence and used it as the German headquarters for all of northern Italy. The halls on the ground floor of the villa welcome guests in an aristocratic yet relaxing setting.
Upon entering the gates, we parked our car infront the main door and we were welcomed by their friendly staff. The reception has a huge table and what caught my attention was the elegant lobby (as seen on the left photo) with a well-preserved chandelier (other parts of the villa like the grand dining area as seen on the right has chandeliers), high ceilings and antique but chic furniture.
The villa even preserved some of the original furniture dating 150-200 years old!
This chessboard was amazing! The statues on the lower left side are 400 years old!
The staff took care of our luggage and we were taken to the admin office just few steps from the reception (y’know, the usual check-in process). After that, one of the staff took us to our room as the others took care of our luggage. When we entered the room, I got even more excited!
Our room was just lovely, with satin brown and black bed covers and curtains with a hydromasssage pool in our room – YES, IN OUR ROOM. I knew it before but I wasn’t expecting it could be this nice. Amaze balls.
As explained by the staff, the pool has 3 different types of massages and it has speakers for CD, radio, tv and there’s even an iPhone (4) dock! Annoyingly we weren’t able to use this as we both have an iPhone 5, but anyway, it was just fab. The purple lights hanging from the high ceilings as you can see on the upper left photo change colours to give a more romantic, relaxed ambiance.
I also love the bathroom. It has a starry-effect ceiling, his and hers basin over a wooden drawer with white bathroom accessories, towels and toiletries.
Oh, look at the shower – it also changes colour!
The Villa dei Cedri is situated in an enormous park and its windows overlook the grounds.
The park will charm plant lovers because it has rare species of trees that are easy to identify, as there are detailed signs under the most important ones (posts are available in Italian and German only). There are also several sun beds which you can rent for €4 (you can ask the hotel reception for the wrist bands or pay cash at the park). Look at this fitting room, isn’t that cute?!
Before heading back to the room, we dropped by at the Centro Benessere to book our treatment and massage for the following day. There are few golf cars in the park, not sure if hotel residents can rent it to tour the grounds but I borrowed it anyways.
It was drizzling and a bit cold (about 14C degrees) so we headed back to the room. But who cares about the cold rain when we had a hot tub in our bedroom?!
We chilled out for a bit having drinks (btw everything in the minibar is free), watching movies on Sky and really just relaxing and enjoying our time.
For dinner, we tried going back to the Trattoria but it’s fully booked – so make sure you book ahead! So we decided to try the restaurant inside the park just next to the villa called Ristorante Villa Moscardo. According to the staff, it dated back 400 years!
We made a good choice. The food was just so delicious! We skipped the hors d’oeuvres and started with the first course. I had Paccheri “Villa Moscardo” basil-tomatoes-parmesan cheese-pecorino cheese and Mark had Tortiglioni alla carbonara with zucchini flowers, zucchini julienne and crispy leek. For the Main Course, I had Beef fillet grilled and Mark had Slices of beef on a bed of Rucola and parmesan cheese.
The food was really good and we were so stuffed that we just shared Crema Catalana for dessert.
All of these with half a bottle of house wine and water came to €67.
Oh, before I forget, look at this garden view from our bedroom window:
Surprisingly, I woke up early the next day (5am but I tried to sleep and got up just before 7). This was not normal! We headed to the breakfast room at 7:30 but went back to the room since breakfast is not served until 8am. We’re early birds I know!
Breakfast’s served in one of the villa’s beautiful rooms. There was a variety of cereals, cooked breakfast, bread, cold and hot drinks and Italian cakes!
There were also tables and chairs outside, perfect on a sunny morning. It was a bit chilly at 11C degrees so we were sitting near the fireplace.
After breakfast, we plunged into the hydromassage in our room for about 30 minutes…why wouldn’t you!
Then we got ready and walked towards the lake. The villa is located at Parco Termale Garda and this park has two small lakes.
It was 14c degrees outside but the lake’s temperature is about 34-36c degrees and the hydromassage pool on the lake was 39c degrees. Imagine floating on the thermal lake and seeing the beautiful skies and trees as you open your eyes. That’s what I did. I was floating and swimming almost all over! I just love it! There wasn’t many people as well so it kind of felt like we’ve got the whole place to ourselves! It was a refreshing feeling and I didn’t feel cold at all. The lakes are open from 9am and also open for night swimming on certain days.
We stayed at the lake for about 2 hours and went back to the room to get ready for the next treat in the spa. We didn’t really feel hungry for lunch after the big breakfast – which is surprising for me!
Our spa experience started with a body treatment for 60 minutes. I wanted to try the Grape Treatment (regenerating massage rich in antioxidants) but I had Spice Treatment, a tonifying and relaxing massage with essential oils of cinnamon, nutmeg, clove and myrrh as recommended by the staff. My husband had a Fango Treatment described as, “The Dead Sea salt scrub is a skin exfoliant made of salt crystals from the Dead Sea, a body of water renowed for its healing, mineral infused waters. This treatment stimulates the skin, muscles and nerves, cleanses the pores and improves blood circulation and the texture of dull, bumpy and tired skin“. After the treatment, we both had a Tibet Massage for 60 minutes- holistic massage during and after which you will experience a pleasant feeling of warmth, lightness and deep relaxation. Himalayan stones and bundles filled with Dead Sea salts combined with almond oil give you a feeling of well-being and regeneration. This massage has naturally exfoliating, toning, draining, oxygenating, anti-cellulite functions. It was just sooooooooo relaxing….
After the 120-min treatment and massage, we wanted to maximise the spa’s facilities after having a cup of tea in the relaxation room overlooking the indoor pool, we tried the sauna.
The spa also has other services from mani / pedi, facial treatments, waxing and tanning.
Hair/Skincare tips when spa-ing
After this amazing day of pampering, my skin felt so soft and my hair a little bit oily. But seeing that we spent a lot of time on water prior to our spa treatment, it is important to keep our hair and skin healthy and hydrated not just during holidays when too much time on water’s involved but also on our day-to-day life. I’d like to share some hair/skincare tips:
- Apply sunblock (well it wasn’t sunny when we were at the lake so I didn’t) and moisturizer or body oil after dipping
- Wax unwanted hairs the day
- In case you’re over excited in the hydromassage like moi, do not exceed over 20 minutes dipping into 39c degrees; use aroma therapy oils for indoor hydromassage (the villa provided a tropical scent one which we both love)
- I usually tie my hair up when swimming so it doesn’t go all over the place. I also make sure I use hair conditioner especially after dipping into water.
- I had no make-up (no edit, no filter) on most photos I took and posted on this blog. I give credit to having a healthy lifestyle (eating clean, juicing and exercising) for bringing great results to my hair, skin and even nails.
That evening, we drove to Verona city-centre, 30-min from Villa Dei Cedri) passing thru the green vineyards and few outlets. We wanted to see the famous Romeo and Juliet’s balcony but we got there a bit late (it closes at 6:30 pm). It was a lovely way to finish off our trip to Lake Garda!
We walked around the lovely town and sat in one of the restaurants for dinner.
We had the typical Italian dish – pizza, pasta and risotto with drinks for about €50 :-) Eccellente!
The next day, we had a quick walk around the park after breakfast, packed our stuff and we hit the road to Milan… Say Ciao Milano!
Thanks for reading. If you are looking for a relaxing, romantic, thermal-water-experience and close-to-the-nature break with your loved one, family, kids or friends, I highly recommend this place.
Villa Dei Cedri S.p.a. Piazza di Sopra, 4 – 37017 Cola di Lazise (VR) Italy | http://www.villadeicedri.com
Standard Rooms (Bed and Breakfast) starts from €180 per night at The Villa. There are also residences inside and nearby the park. For more photos, please click here.