Villa Leopoldo: Built by a Prince, Fit for a King

Reed Travel Features

LUGANO, Switzerland -- Asked to conjure up the perfect spot from which to experience the delights of this Italianate harbor city, a person couldn't do better than the Villa Prin-cipe Leopoldo.

Built by a prince and fit for a king, the 37-room, five-star hideaway is tucked neatly into the slope of the Collina d'Oro, the so-called hill of gold, overlooking Lake Lugano.

Few monarchs ever had a more majestic aerie from which to ponder their elevated station in life.

Less than a five-minute car ride up from the town of Lugano on a twisting road cut precariously into the hillside, the villa is a glorious old-world mansion that combines the ease and grace of an elegant past with the modern comforts that make upscale vacationing so enriching to the soul.

Built in 1868 as the home of Prince Leopoldo von Hohenzollern and a private residence until as late as 1957, the villa was turned into a hotel in 1986 and refurbished in January 1996.

Guests approach the low-slung property by way of a circular driveway that leads to a gently concave, red-ocher structure fronted by a neatly terraced, sweeping entrance.

Inside, the amply windowed lobby is all lightness and space, with the hotel desk off to one side and entrances to the villa's gourmet restaurant and Piano Bar directly ahead but discreetly veiled from direct view.

Meeting rooms, which come equipped with the usual accoutrements, such as projectors and laser pointers, branch off a balcony that extends above the rear of the lobby.

The guest rooms are downstairs, on two levels, and they range from ample standard units to deluxe suites.

All of the tastefully appointed and richly furnished rooms feature king-size beds; a private terrace overlooking Lake Lugano or the hotel's gardens and grounds; satellite television; robes and slippers; heating and air-conditioning controls; a minibar; a desk and a table; nightstands with reading lamps, and direct-dial phones.

An upgraded telephone system, including voice mail, was scheduled to be installed by mid-January.

The doors to the accommodations' twin bathrooms are mirror-covered, as are nearby twin clothes closets, and the ramifying images within images that result when all of the reflecting doors are ajar can be a bit disorienting to a client looking for his shoes and not the shower.

The villa offers a fitness room, and two of the suites come with Jacuzzis. In addition, guests can swim in the hotel's heated outdoor pool in spring, summer and early fall or play tennis on two outdoor courts.

Management at the villa is particularly proud of the property's award-winning kitchen.

Although the hotel itself might have rooms to spare in winter's low season, on one frosty December evening, the 80-seat Restaurant Leopoldo did not appear to lack for diners lured from the city and environs by an intriguing continental menu and a large wine cellar.

The restaurant, with three well-appointed dining rooms, opens out to terrace dining in gazebos during the summer.

The Limonaia, the villa's lunch and breakfast venue, affords a splendid view of the hotel's pool.

Room rates at the Villa Principe Leopoldo range from $316 to $416 a night, single or double occupancy, November through March. In April, July and August, the midseason, the rates range from $350 to $475.

Rates in the high season, May, June, September and October, as well as Easter, Christmas and New Year's, range from $400 to $559 a day.

The four largest suites cost from $750 to $1,166 a night.

Included in the tariff is a room-service continental breakfast or buffet breakfast in the Limonaia, VAT and tips, transfers from Lugano-Agno Airport and, perhaps most important, expert and friendly service.

Available through 1997 is a promotion that offers guests one free room night with every two booked.

For more information or to book the Villa Principe Leopoldo, which is a member of Relais & Chateux, call the Gor-ham New York (a sister hotel of the Leopoldo) at (800) 737-0710 or (212) 245-1800.

JDS Travel News JDS Viewpoints JDS Africa/MI