We went on a long weekend to Villa Paradiso in August 2013. We booked through Teletext, and flew into Milan Malpensa on Easyjet.
First tip - book the bus from Malpensa to Lago Maggiore in advance - it's organised by the local region and only 7 Euros each way. www.safduermila.com, tel 00113970032. Plush seats, and air conditioning. As it happens, the driver let us on without an advance booking, but the hotel emailed for our booking going back to the airport - pay on the bus. The journey took @45 minutes, with a lovely view and dropped us off at Lido da Meina (the second Meina stop), which is just across from the Hotel Paradiso. Walk to the zebra crossing to get across the road, which is very busy - cars, bicycles in droves with men in lycra, motor cycles - all going crazy fast.
We had a back bedroom on the 1st floor which was very quiet, and as it was a corner room, had a view of the lake from the bathroom. If you plan to spend time in your room, do pay for the lake view which is a dream. However, keep your windows shut, as there are mosquitos, including the Tiger Mosquito, which leaves a huge welt if you scratch the bite - we had to go to a chemist and get antibiotic ointment, and my partner had to go on penicillin for a week when we got back b/c the bite on his ankle swelled and went purple like a plum and his foot enlarged with a dull red sheen. Scary. Am told if you take antihistamine tablets the bites don't do this.
We had lunch on the terrace overlooking the lake when we arrived, which was delicious - spaghetti carbonara & a bottle of beer. We were Half Board, and enjoyed a buffet cooked breakfast each morning and three course dinner each night - fresh, lovely food, and excellent frizzante house wine. Took our drinks to the terrace after dinner on the first night, which was the source of the mosquito bites.
The beach of the hotel is across the road - the water is warm and clear. Loungers and parasols provided. The pool is long enough to do laps, with sun loungers and a ping pong table at the back of the garden - manicured, and mature. The hotel is an 18th century villa converted in 1958 (or so) and updated from time to time - the ceilings in our bedroom were 14 ft high or so - impressive.
We took the bus to neighbouring Arona, which we found nice for a stroll along the water, and bought excursion tickets for the Lago Maggiore Express - a must do - www.lagomaggioreexpress.com . We chose the two day ticket, which on day one is a cruise along the lake stopping at every major town, all the way to Locarno in Switzerland. Book lunch in advance, or when you first get on the boat - 17 Euros for three courses including water, wine & coffee - we had absolutely gorgeous starter of pasta and risotto, followed by tender pink lake trout panfried with rosemary & roast potatos - didn't realise there were two courses, so had to sleep it off on the top sundeck afterwards.
In Locarno we went to the Castle Visconti at the edge of town, which has some interesting murals and exhibit on 1925 peace conference. Then (as part of the ticket) we took a train into the Alps - the exhibition carriage has windows floor to ceiling and costs 5 Euros more, but worth it. Lots of amazing glimpses of Alpine meadows, gorges cut into stone with clear glacial streams, geese, farmland, stone huts - ending up in Domodorsola, where we caught another train getting back into Stresa, where we caught the last bus (around 7pm) into Meina. In the Alps there is one town with "Boris Bikes" you can rent and cycle down into the valleys.
The next day (as part of the ticket) we caught the boat as a hop on / hop off service, and went to Isola Bella, which is a palace, still owned by the Borromeo family. Breathtaking - formal staterooms on the 1st floor, including the bedroom slept in by Napoleon and Josephine overlooking the lake, and a three-storey-tall ceiling over the ballroom. The basement / water level are grottos displaying statuary & archaeological finds from around the lake, including Etruscan pots and an Iron Age canoe, and a set of fine tapestries.
The gardens at Isola Bella are legendary - terraced levels with statues and espaliered citrus trees. There are white peacocks and an aviary of parakeets. The gift shop is tasteful and and the coffee shop reasonably priced - they have lemon and orange ice creams in scooped out fruit made locally. There's one ferry a day on a Sunday which stops at Meina around 6:15 at night - luckily we made it - otherwise, you can go to Arona or Stresa, but as another reviewer wrote, there is no evening bus service, so you'll have to get a taxi, which we were told costs 30 Euros or so.
In conclusion, this was a MAGIC holiday in an elegant, charming hotel - we felt we were going back in time - there were even crests on the pillowslips and the name of the hotel on the shampoo and soap in the bathroom. The hotel is privately owned, and the owner very kindly loaned us local travel guides to read in our room without buying them. I note we are a couple, not going out dancing, but there were young people at the hotel, which has a bar - I believe there are nightclubs in Stresa.
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- Also Known As:
- Hotel Villa Paradiso Meina, Lake Maggiore, Italy