Live The High Life at This Resort by Lake Como
Giuditta Pasta’s ghost, I think, still inhabits her palatial home that lay in disrepair and ruin for more than six decades after her death, before it was transformed into a luxurious lakeside retreat. The flamboyant soprano and willing muse of the famed 19th-century composer Vincenzo Bellini holds the viewer’s gaze from portraits on the wall, sugar packets at the breakfast table, menu covers of the fine dining restaurant Orangerie and artistic renderings from various other nooks and corners of the 18th-century-built Villa Roccabruna, now housing the reception area and wellness centre. The five-year-old CastaDiva Resort and Spa borrows its name from a Bellini composition’s most famous aria, Casta Diva, and much of the restoration is inspired by Milan’s La Scala opera house.
It is one of the grandest properties at the northern end of Lake Como — one of the deepest lakes in Europe — near the little village of Blevio, with other celebrity-stroked mansions for company. The Versace family’s neoclassical residence rises out of the foliage while George Clooney’s villa hides behind a discreet clump of green. White boats populated with tanned bodies swish their way across the glistening water every few hours. And it is this panoramic view that we enjoy from our richly textured penthouse suites.
Villa Dorabella, where I have checked in, is named after an Italian opera character. I take in the enormous olive-toned living room flanked by an open-plan kitchenette and a balcony that seduces you with the view beyond. The mirrored closet, bedroom and bathroom are large enough to waltz in — all displaying the passion of home-grown Italian designers residing in the neighbourhood. Two of the nine villas perched on different levels — accessed by uncomplaining legs or golf carts — are private sanctuaries, sought after by guests seeking a quiet intimate setting. Here too, Pasta’s almond-shaped eyes smile benignly from peach, grey or walnut-hued interiors.
A stroll across pebbled paths and stately pine trees or through a glass-encased walkway for those who shun the wind leads us to the villa housing Orangerie where we feast on smoked eggplant, mushroom risotto, spiked with puffed barley and vernengo cheese, and a slow-cooked lamb with parsnip and figs. The sesame-infused olive bread makes for a robust game of ‘pass the basket’. Como is a huge fan of mushrooms and every exotic and common variety finds its way into the restaurant’s Mediterranean menu that favours seasonal and locally sourced products, whether fish, fowl or vegetables.
There are two ways to enter and exit the property. Naturally, the way through the water is the more exciting option. You go down a set of spooky stairs under the property and reach a surreal cave from where you get into a gently rocking boat. In a matter of minutes, you are gliding smoothly across Lake Como!