• Image One
  • Image One
  • Image One
  • Image One
  • Image One
EXPERT REVIEW One of Europe's most beautiful hotels, Lefay Resort & Spa is a green as it is gorgeous - and the ideal choice for a romantic Italian escape

Eco


Overall eco rating


PREVIEW: review coming soon, but here's what we know based on preliminary research. Ratings are provisional.

Lefay Resort and Spa have got one of the hardest things about being green under control.  The resort’s environmental credentials flow from their impressive energy systems. The energy strategy is carefully thought out, will provide huge reductions in energy use and carbon emissions and the high-up front cost systems are expected to pay for themselves relatively quickly.

Lefay do the other green things well too – water and waste are as well thought out as energy – and they have Green Globe and other external certifications to provide reassurance that they walk the walk. 

The hotel’s social and ethical work is less imaginative but still developing and they are located in a relatively wealthy part of the world

  • Sensitive design required for development within the Alto Garda National Park mimics vernacular architecture and integrated into the terraced hillside to provide insulation and thermal mass
  • Green roofs further help the resort blend into the landscape
  • Use of natural materials in construction and decoration (cotton bedding has had no chemical treatment, low VOC paints)
  • The hotel has various renewable/low carbon energy sources including a biomass boiler, a micro turbine CHP linked to absorption chillers and solar PV meaning >90% of energy needs are from green sources saving >1,000tCO2 pa
  • Around 60% of electricity is generated on site
  • Several intelligent control systems including lighting controlled by daylight sensors and presence detection, voltage optimisation and power factor correction
  • The hotel has won numerous awards for its green credentials including for the design of eco-buildings
  • Relatively good recycling includes compostable waste

  • Has made some efforts to reduce waste (e.g. restricting plastic bottles, compostable disposable cups) and increase recycling but could do more – has plans to do so e.g. by switching to all recycled paper (currently only guest paper is recycled) and is just starting to monitor quantities of waste
  • Could increase proportion of staff (33%) and suppliers (70%) from local area although this is a challenge

People

Lefay reflects the local culture and heritage of this corner of Lombardy and contributes to cultural activities in a variety of ways but is not doing anything groundbreaking and there is less expectation given the unspoilt valley is in one of the wealthier regions of Europe.   

  • Work hard to find employees from local area – Garda has a small population and is relatively remote – and to keep them with decent benefits, training and opportunities
  • Sponsor a number of local fund raising activities, nearby sporting and cultural events and support the local magazine
  • Promote healthy excursions into the local area and restaurant is very healthy

  • Could increase proportion of staff (33%) and suppliers (70%) from local area although this is a challenge

Animals & nature

Most settlements in Garda are packed close together in the few places along the steep lake shore where it was possible to build – the National Park covers the peaks above them – you can stay close to the shore and enjoy the chatter of Italian tourist villages or climb into the valleys above (or take the cable car if you can’t face the climb).  Lefay’s heart is probably closer to the buzzy little villages than the surrounding hills but there are still a few ways that they contribute to nature.

  • Green roofs will provide additional habitat for wildlife
  • Choose environmentally friendly natural cleaning products
  • Relatively large park grounds mean you may see a few wild rabbits and foxes
  • Keep some goats and feed food scraps

Environment & buildings

The architecture at Lefay Resort and Spa is great - the terraced construction, green roofs and solar panels provide a visible statement of the eco intent, but in our view the behind the scenes engineering outshines it by delivering advanced green heating, cooling, electricity and water systems.

All of this is backed up by imaginative operation with certified quality and environment management systems and a rubber stamp from Green Globe (which considers social and cultural issues as well).

  • Sensitive design required for development within the Alto Garda National Park mimics vernacular architecture and integrated into the terraced hillside to provide insulation and thermal mass
  • Passive solar design with south facing glazing in all suites and mobile shading systems
  • Use of natural materials in construction and decoration (cotton bedding has had no chemical treatment, low VOC paints)
  • 300m3 water storage facility for rainwater/pool overflow collection – used for irrigation in water stressed summer months
  • The hotel has various renewable/low carbon energy sources including a biomass boiler, a micro turbine CHP linked to absorption chillers and solar PV meaning >90% of energy needs are from green sources saving >1,000tCO2 pa
  • Around 60% of electricity is generated on site
  • Several intelligent control systems including lighting controlled by daylight sensors and presence detection, voltage optimisation and power factor correction
  • The hotel has won numerous awards for its green credentials including for the design of eco-buildings
  • The hotel has ISO14001 and Green Globe certification giving confidence that the environmental impacts from operation are well managed
  • Relatively good recycling and waste reduction efforts (e.g. restricting plastic bottles, compostable disposable cups) includes compostable waste

Reviewed by

Tim Starley-Grainger


Luxury


Overall luxury rating*


Looking for that dream Italian getaway? This is it. Leave the tourist-thronged cities to the masses and soak up dreamy lake-and-mountain scenery from one of the world's most gorgeous hotels. This independent luxury Italian eco-hotel will wow you from the moment you glimpse it, swathed by greenery on a hillside terraced with olive groves, until you finally shed your spa robe and pack your bags for a 'wish I'd booked for longer' check-out.

The scene

Chic couples, Italians, Austrians and French aged 25 to 65, dominate the scene, interspersed with a handful of Italian families. Slip on your unbleached cotton robe and pad the corridors, spa and casual restaurant by day, then shimmy into classy Milanese fashions to blend in with the other patrons in the fine-dining restaurant by night.

Set high on a terraced hillside above the pretty lakeside village of Gargnano, the scenery is sumptuous, and this luxury Italian green hotel's architects have made you can see the lake from everywhere in the hotel through floor-to-ceiling windows. Look up the other way, and you'll see the peaks of the mountains that fringe Lake Garda, and nights bring twinkling, starry skies.

  • Perched on a hillside in northern Italy above Lake Garda, the country's largest lake.
  • Over one of Lake Garda's most picturesque villages, with free shuttles into the village.
  • Plenty of access points. It's near two trains stations - Desenzano del Garda and Brescia - and eight airports - Brescia, Verona, Bergamo, Milan Linate, Milan Malpensa, Treviso, Venice, Trento, but you'll need a car or a taxi to get here
  • Filled with stylish Italians, French and Austrians
  • Best for couples or singles aged 25 to 65

  • You'll need a car or taxi to get here, although once here, you can get away without one
  • The drive up the steep slopes is nerve-wracking for anyone with a fear of heights
  • Business people should look elsewhere for meetings - this is couple's territory

The style

If you want old-school opulence, look elsewhere. At this Italian eco-hotel, the architects have created a unique space that's both luxurious and natural. Blending seamlessly into a hillside terraced with olive groves, the building consists of a central area with the spa, restaurants and bar, flanked by wings of 90 guest suites - all blanketed by greenery, camouflaging it into the surroundings, and with neverending floor-to-ceiling windows providing views over the lake.

Rooms are tactile, sensuous spaces - undulating Italian-walnut furnishings made by craftsmen, cooling floors of Verona marble or olive-wood parquet - all with balconies overlooking the 11-hectare grounds and Lake Garda. The hotel has made a real effort to eliminate or reduce toxic chemicals in everything from paints to bedding, so the air is fresh and crisp, making for a blissful night's sleep.

The spa, restaurants and bar all exude that uniquely Italian sensibility that's hard to quantify - both elegant and stylish, and laid-back and sociable. 

 

  • Genuinely unique, the style here is beautiful, yet understated.
  • Quality just oozes from every surface - the touch-me walnut furnishings, the seamless parquet floors, the soft, unbleached cottong sheets.
  • All 90 suites (they only have suites) face south over the lake, soaking up that warm Italian sun, and with balconies to make the most of warm days.
  • Natural Italian marbles and woods - olive and walnut - used in flooring, furniture, walls, everywhere.

  • This won't appeal to those seeking a grand hotel or mega-resort experience.
  • Minor niggles: the facial tissues in the bathroom feel like sandpaper, and the auto-lighting in the hallway will annoy sleeping partners if you get up in the night.

The facilities

The spa's the thing here, and you wouldn't want to miss it. Although the food puts up a pretty good fight for top billing. The lake itself entices, so make sure you stay for a few days to avoid having to make difficult decisions - spa or sailing; Mortadella and pistachio terrine from the hotel's gourmet restaurant or Porcini risotto at its casual restaurant, sunbathing by the hotel's pool or sunbathing on the lake's beaches.

Don't hesitate - book a slot for La Luna nel Lago salt-water lake. You and your partner (or up to six people, if you're a family) will descend into an underworld carved out of the mountain rock for a half-hour private flotation session, with a huge globe emulating the moon.

Afterwards, mooch from sauna to steam to tepidarium and ice room before sinking into the indoor-outdoor swim-through pool. Linger in the outdoor section of the pool, with its bubble beds and jet-water shoulder massagers, to watch sunset turn the sky pink, then the the stars fill the inky darkness like hundreds of fireflies.

The hotel has its own line of toiletries - organic, herbal, floral and just lovely. Proper-sized bottles are left in every room, but you'll want to stock up on more - plus some of its own olive-oil.

The food is as good as you'd expect, both in the gourmet restaurant and the more casual trattoria. Much of it is straight from the hotel grounds, but it's worth noting that there are surprisingly few options suitable for vegetarians or vegans in the gourmet restaurant as the focus is largely on meat, fish and poultry.

Breakfasts here are truly extraordinary - artisanal cheeses and hams, just-right eggs, homemade jams, oven-fresh breads and pastries, handmade mueslis and granolas, make-your-own fresh juice-maker (with pre-prepared fruit and veg). It's one of the best breakfast I've ever had - and I've had a lot of breakfasts in five-star hotels.

  • Huge, stylish, adult's-only spa, with two pools - an indoor/outdoor saltwater and a heated 25m outdoor - five types of sauna and steam rooms, cold-water. Kniepp stream, ice fountain, fitness centre and 21 treatment rooms.
  • 90 suites, all overlooking the lake and with their own balconies.
  • A delectable fine-dining restaurant with views over the lake.
  • A cosy and quaint trattoria-style restaurant with garden-fresh food.
  • Monumental, mouthwatering breakfasts.

  • Free internet throughout, but by ADSL connection, not Wifi, so bring your ethernet cable or plan to use the two computers by reception.
  • The vegetarian options on the gourmet restaurant's menu are surprisingly limited in both scope and creativity.

We love

  • The 3,000-square-metre spa is seductive and sensational - you'll want to spend at least half a day here, even if you're not a spa-lover.
  • The indoor-outdoor swim-through pool.
  • The gorgeous architecture and interiors.
  • The food here (apart from vegetarian options) is top-quality, but the breakfast is jaw-dropping decadent.
  • Romantic and elegant - perfect for honeymooners and couples.
  • We wish all hoteliers put this much thought and care into creating a truly unique, memorable experience.

You might not love

  • Lack of Wifi will drive some people crazy, although internet is free throughout via ethernet cables, and there are two computers for guest use by reception.
  • You'll need a car or taxi to reach it.
  • The village is a bit too far to just pop into, so you'll need to take the hotel's free shuttle.

Reviewed by

Jill Starley-Grainger


Lefay Resort & Spa Lake Garda

Via Angelo Feltrinelli 118, 25084 Gargnano

Italy
+39 0365 241800

Standard room rates from €1,380

Eco

Luxury*

"This hotel has a modern feel but is not without a touch of Italian charm, especially in its beautiful gardens. The stylish and clever architecture makes sure guests are never without stunning views of the gardens and, of course, the beautiful Lakes" Glamour Magazine

"The Lefay Resort is 3,000 square metres of unashamed luxury, clinging to a mountain above Lake Garda in northern Italy... It would be impossible not to relax at Lefay." The Telegraph