The Leopoldo is what European luxury is about. It wouldn't surprise (though it would disappoint) us to see it on "Lifestyles of the...". All is marble and silk, opulence and elegance. The Leopoldo was built in 1901 as the summer villa for Prince Leopold of the Austrian Hohenzollerns. After decades of private ownership, the house opened as a hotel in September of 1986 and has quickly taken its place as one of Europe's great small hotels.

Sitting on a small plateau high above the lake in a quiet, exclusive residential area, the Leopoldo is reached by climbing the narrow streets above the suburb of Paradiso. (Turn up via Cattori, across from the Paradiso Embarcadero, then take a right on via Calloni. At the traffic light, turn left onto via Antonio Riva; at the second switchback you will see a sign pointing to the hotel. Go straight on that street, via Collina d'Oro, for a few blocks until you reach the hotel's entrance.) A short gravel drive ends in a circular court at the main building.

The hotel is finished in sienna-colored stucco; two bay windows frame the main door, dark green shutters accent the upper floor windows and the entire building is topped by a terra cotta tile roof. Except for the signs at the entry to the property, there are no identifying signs or markings anywhere, adding greatly to the feeling that one is a guest at a friend's country home—albeit a very rich friend. Inside, the main lobby is done in marble; at left is a small sitting area with a portrait of Prince Leopold, above you the ceiling is open to a second-floor arcade. The reception area is hidden around a corner to the right. The rest of the main floor is dedicated to the hotel's restaurant, a small bar and a tea room with big cushy wicker chairs, where high tea is served every day. These rooms open onto a large lawn/terrace with a spectacular view of Lugano, the lake and surrounding mountains. Lunch is served under an arbor on this terrace during the warmer months.

Because the hotel is surrounded by a small forest, privacy and quiet are assured, and the views are of trees and mountains and lake, not walls and rooftops. The 24 guest rooms, all junior suites, occupy the lower floor. The rooms are bisected by a floor to ceiling patterned curtain which separates the sleeping and living areas. An overstuffed couch in striped damask looks onto a small lawn area and to the mountains and lake beyond. In spring and summer, the trees at the edge of this lawn are in full flower, so views from the guest rooms will be better in winter. Rooms have every amenity, down to retractable blinds which can be operated from the bedside. Cordless phones in every room insure you won't miss that important call while lounging around the pool. Also on the lower floor is the spa and exercise room and a large covered parking garage.

Service is excellent: the staff is accommodating and friendly, but respectful of your privacy. Free transportation is provided to or from the train station, airport or downtown, and can be arranged at a fee for travel to other destinations in the area—even as far as Milan's Malpensa airport. As much as we have praised the Leopoldo, especially its setting and architectural beauty, we still have not done it justice—you must experience it. Considering the level of luxury, its rates—at least off season—are bargains. Granted, a stay here will set you back a considerable sum, but for a special occasion—perhaps a honeymoon or anniversary—we can think of no better choice than the Villa Principe Leopoldo.

Street Address: Via Montalbano 5
City: Lugano
Country: Switzerland
Phone: +41 91 985 88 55
Fax: +41 (0)91 985 88 25
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Quality: Rating: 5 stars
Value: Rating: 3 stars
Price Level: $$$$
Type: Hotel