I have just come back from a three day trip to a top luxury spa hotel called Lefay Spa Resorts on Lake Garda in Italy that made me feel as though I was wrapped in cottonwool for the entire time I was there. It was an almost instantaneous feeling of calm and confidence in handing myself over to the experts who have created such a brilliantly wonderful mind and body experience. I simply walked into the reception and immediately fell in love with the smell of the place. A gorgeous aroma that I later found out was one of their signature smells of Fichi E Agrumi (figs and something). Naturally I purchased one of the fragrance sticks just before we left, in the hope that my home would immediately have that relaxing effect on me every time I walked into the kitchen. But sadly, that has not been the case thus far.
Lefay Resorts was once again listed in the Top 20 Destination Spas in the Conde Nast Traveller Reader’s awards this month and now that I’ve been, I can see why. Not only does it have an extraordinary aspect, located in Gargnano, one of the most picturesque villages on the lake and set high above and overlooking Lake Garda, but it has created a new concept in wellness experiences that really, really works. Their philosophy encapsulates the ethos of “new luxury”, overall wellness, environmental sustainability, support for local community, a revival of regional traditions and the importance of human resources and to be honest, the photos of the lake and the mountains surrounding the property simply cannot do the 360 degree exceptional vistas justice at all.
This photo gives you the best sense of the glorious landscape:-
and maybe this one:-
These two photos show some of the different aspects – the pool, overlooking the lake, but then you can’t appreciate the wonderful hillside to the right that you take in at the same time:-
The hotel feels welcoming, nurturing – almost like somebody’s home, so I wasn’t at all surprised to hear that it is a family run business. The Leali family started out their careers by founding a local airline (as you do) but when they sold it to Lufthansa they needed another project (being too young to retire). It seems that it was the passion of Liliana, the wife, mother and architect, to create a new level of luxury eco-resort with a strong commitment to environmental sustainability and a new and innovative approach to our health, but with a female touch. She remains as President and is very involved and now her son Alcide Leali is the Managing Director.
Italy has the highest number of hotels in the world, therefore it was a brave step they took to introduce another, although there are no brands that have a specific focus on spas to the extent that they do. Their core values shine through – sustainability, overall wellness, an Italian character and exceptional staff. “Lefay” is a Celtic word meaning “fairy” which they felt was very evocative and elegant. They believe they were very lucky to find the land even though everyone said they needed to build the resort down near the lake. Instead it is up in the mountains, situated inside 11 hectares of natural park and built into the hillside, which makes it warm in winter and cool in the summer, with spectacular views. It is a very peaceful place with a strong feeling of close contact with nature and surrounded by olive and lemon trees and woods.
From this angle, you can see how they have integrated it into the hillside:-
They wanted to place the spa at the centre of the hotel – to make it a spa with rooms, rather than a hotel with a spa and this works extremely well. You have to go past the spa to get to all the rooms so it is high profile and confirms their desire to embrace wellness as the overall holiday experience.
Sustainability is another key element for them – the design is modelled on the old lemon-houses that are still dotted around and used to store the lemons during the winter months, so it is integrated into the surrounding landscape. They built a power plant at the back of the resort containing advanced systems for the production of electrical energy (using wood chips), heating and cooling and it is made up of a biomass plant and an absorption cooling system. All the rooms have air conditioning, but not in the traditional way. There are panels in the roof and floor, filled with cold water to cool the rooms down.
The Lefay Spa itself has been developed with a team of experts all trained in different holistic disciplines, but coming together under one key umbrella of the “Lefay SPA Method” which combines the principles of Classical Chinese medicine with Western scientific research. By offering a combination of health treatments and programmes, they aim to restore, rejuvenate and re-balance the body. They believe that Western medicine is a medicine that deals with illness, whereas Chinese medicine deals with health. At the heart is the aim to balance the body’s natural energy and so they focus on the two fundamental forces that surround the person and their world – the Yin and the Yang. Two opposing and complimentary forces and they offer therapeutic treatments and even gardens that correspond to the different energies.
Guests arrive for all different reasons and each one is given a bespoke programme to work to, so whether you are suffering from stress, sleep deprivation, anxiety, depression, weight issues, posture, the ageing process (I seemed to be suffering from all of the above) a qualified doctor will choose the most appropriate treatments for your needs.
The afternoon we arrived we simply relaxed at the infinity pool and then had a forty minute session in the “La luna nel lago” – a very warm salt lake that makes you feel like you are back in the womb or maybe the Dead Sea at night as you float about.
“Womb with a view” – here is one of us floating in the salt lake:-
We then had a spectacular meal in their excellent restaurant “La Grande Limonaia” serving exquisite Mediterranean Cuisine. The great thing (for an alcoholic like me) is that they don’t discourage you from drinking alcohol at all so we drank lots of this delicious Italian wine:-
and just look at the terrace at night:-
The next morning, after an early morning swim and the most delicious breakfast offering a vast array of healthy (and not so healthy options), including the use of juicer to create your own blends:-
We then had a one to one with the doctor who gave us an initial energy interview. Specific analysis is carried out in order to identify the most relevant treatments. The doctor asked me numerous questions, took my pulse, looked at my tongue and then decided that I was overly agitated (AKA London based) and needed to be calmed down. So he gave me some acupuncture and prescribed me a number of fantastically relaxing treatments and a tea combo all of which did indeed calm me down. That was until I had a massage done by a very good-looking Italian masseur called Marco who seemed to have the opposite effect on me and got me a little bit agitated all over again, so I had to go and drink an extra cup of my calming down, bespoke made tea immediately afterwards…
Just off to make another one now..they gave us packets to take home – such a great idea. All of them are a combination of three different and relevant herbs that you can re-order once you’ve finished it all.
More to follow….that was just day one!