Another surprise was this place. Certainly there are other, more chic, lodgings on the lake, but none has the welcoming, homey charm of this graceful, early 20th-century villa.
Located on the lake, just a short walk from Pörtschach, the Villa Miralago occupies terraced, tree-shaded grounds that include a large grassy lawn and an ornate wooden boat house and dock. The lake view is particularly nice; a small island just offshore gives the impression that yours is the only house on the lake.
The villa was run for more than 40 years by a genteel Austrian lady. When she died at age 90, it was sold into the friendly and slightly chaotic Semmel-Werzer family who had the good judgment to give the rooms a new coat of paint, and then more or less leave it as it was. Consequently, the Miralago retains the charming authenticity of an aging villa hotel: high ceilings, beautiful double doors with graceful brass fixtures, decorative tile floors, and antique furniture that ranges from almost regal to slightly scruffy (some might call it character).
Breakfast is served in a sunny, spacious room overlooking the lake. Afterwards, guests can take up a sun chair on the lawn, splash around the boat dock, or just enjoy the view from one of the villa's spacious porches (one even has a telescope for an evening look at the stars). The latter provide ample space for lounging, which is why most people come here.
Guests are extremely loyal. I met a man who first came to the villa as a boy in the 1950s. He has been back just about every year since then and was visiting with his son's family.
The hotel's 13 rooms have interesting shapes and sizes. Number 3, which overlooks the water, is good for families with children, as it is quite spacious and has an extra sitting room. Number 17 is on the top floor with a great view of the lake, an enormous WC, and a quirky little sitting room in one of the villa's towers. A number of rooms also include balconies.
If you want noble and immaculate, try the Seeschlössel. But if you want a regal B & B offering great value, this is the one.
Daily Rates: Singles from about $55, doubles from about $150
Rating: Quality 17/20, Value 18/20
Given its reputation and its rates, I had high expectations for the Leonstain, reputedly one of the Wörthersee's best hotels. It certainly has a loyal clientèle that fully books the hotel during the season. It even has an impressive claim on history. Brahms stayed at this 17th century castle during his visits to the lake, and it is here he composed the aforementioned 2nd Symphony. The exterior is inspiring, with thick, whitewashed walls covered in vines, topped with a spire and a sloping, terra cotta roof. And verdant gardens enclosed by peaceful, porticoed walkways are meditative enough to strike just about anyone with the Muse.
It is only when one gets to the guestrooms that the sour notes start to chime. Most accommodations are rather small and Spartan with heavy furniture and a type of green felt carpet that would look more appropriate on the fairway of a mini-golf course.
The staff has also developed a complacency that often follows success. Maybe they treat repeat customers better, but I'll never know because I'll be staying somewhere else.
Contact: Schloss Leonstain Leonstainerstrasse 1, A-9210 Prtschach, tel +43/04272/28 160, fax 28 23.
Daily Rates: Singles from about $115, doubles from about $180
Rating: Quality 12/20, Value 11/20
The Seeschlössl is a charming retreat located in a small Baroque castle right on the lake.
The small front porch of the Habsburg-yellow castle opens to a dark reception room with beautiful parquetry floor, a small desk on one side and a wide staircase on the other. Accommodations are nobly decorated with a mix of reproduced and original antiques, hardwood floors with Persian rugs, and fabrics in bright peach and sea green. The tile baths are spacious and modern with double sinks and large tubs.
Breakfast is in a traditional wood-paneled room dominated by a large, knobby porcelain stove. The cast-iron framed back porch, facing the lake, is scattered with rattan sun chairs and cloth sunshades. After the long green lawn, at the water's edge is a small beach next to a large boat dock.
The exceptionally pleasant staff will have you feeling right at home, even if you don't live in a castle.
Daily Rates: Singles from about $100, doubles from about $155
Rating: Quality 16/20, Value 15/20