In Milan you have the option of staying in the all-new Tuttle-designed Park Hyatt, or any number of chic boutiques, as individual and as style-obsessed as the competing fashion houses. It's surprising, then, that you need only venture 40 minutes northeast of Milan to find the other face of Italy — the old-world, traditional Italy.
And it doesn't get much more traditional than L'Albereta, a 19th-century country villa, a former hunting lodge, deep in the Lombardy countryside, between Lake Iseo and the Po valley. Sure, the decor and the location are impressive, but charm and personality are this hotel's reasons for existing. This is the sort of place where guests know the name of the chef before they know which airport they are flying into.
His name, as long as we are on the subject, is Gualtiero Marchesi — father of Italian high cuisine, first Italian chef to win three Michelin stars, a rare celebrity chef in a nation of family cooking. His cooking alone is reason enough to visit, but there is another key to L'Albereta's fame: the spa.
Sometimes it seems every hotel has a spa — after all, in America, all it takes is a hot tub, a massage table, and perhaps some expensive mud. But in Europe there is a certain tradition, a certain history associated with the spa, and a sort of “tough love” aesthetic that runs contrary to the “pampering” on offer from five-star city hotel spas. Here at L'Albereta the vigorous, trying European spa tradition is very much alive, and you are more likely to work under the guidance of a physician than that of a yoga or Pilates instructor.
Be wary of getting too used to the good life here — you just might become addicted to the way you feel after a few days cleansing body and mind and enjoying the fruits of Mr. Marchesi's kitchen. There are a number of celebrity guests who come back again and again, but by the time your stay is up, you will have likely forgotten about Karl Lagerfeld or Sophia Loren. This is a place that transcends such pop-culture concerns as PR and “buzz” - it succeeds because it is, at bottom, everything a hotel should be, and nothing more.
Directions: Motorway A4 Milano – Venezia. Exit at Rovato. At the exit turn immediately left and after 200 meters at the roundabout follow direction Erbusco-Sarnico. Go straight for 3km and after the sign Erbusco take the first road on your right "Viale Vittoria". L'Albereta stands at the top of the hill on the left side Via Vittorio Emanuele n° 23, Erbusco (BS).
Via Vittorio Emanuele n°11, Erbusco