Pool overlooking the lake at Cape of Senses, Lake Garda, Italy

Cape of Senses
Lake Garda, Italy


If one definition of luxury is boundless space, family-run five-star hotel and spa Cape of Senses possesses it in abundance. Situated on sloping terrain 200m above the eastern shore of Lake Garda, the hotel is strategically orientated to optimise its panoramic views.

This multi-levelled complex surveys grounds mixing natural features, notably a 150-year-old grove of gnarled but thriving olive trees and landscaped elements, from meandering paths to a well-maintained, undulating lawn. Guests swathed in bathrobes who’ve taken dips in the hotel’s infinity or lap pool or sunned themselves on loungers amble around this Arcadian setting. It looked so timeless we momentarily thought we were seeing toga-clad figures from Classical times. And that’s before we’d sampled the borderline hallucinatory cocktails.

Beyond this scene lay the unfolding vista of Italy’s largest lake. The spring weather was changeable and, disconcertingly, on the morning we arrived it was entirely obscured by mist. We might have felt short-changed had the mist not evaporated the following (gloriously sunny) day. Happily, this revealed a lake whose water is a dazzlingly intense shade of blue when reflecting cloudless skies. Towering, hazy mountains in the far distance enhanced the awe-inspiring impression of scale. We also glimpsed the nearest town – picturesque, medieval Torre del Benaco that hugs the lake’s shore.

The hotel is a huge, flat-roofed complex, designed by architecture practice DemetzArch. It’s a contemporary, clean-lined, albeit unimposing structure. It blends sympathetically with the landscape since it follows the terrain’s contours, while wood clads its façades, plants carpet its roofs and creepers climb its Italianate pergolas. Some of the suites’ balconies directly access the gardens, connecting indoors and out. The complex is angled inwards at one end, offering additional views.

The hotel encourages guests to commune with nature in another way: its Deluxe Sky Pool Suite has an open-air bed in a gazebo for sleeping under the stars. For us, the suites’ interiors aren’t the hotel’s strong suit. Their colour schemes are neutral and serene – suitably restful for spa hotels perhaps, but ultimately tending towards bland. One nice touch was a window beside our bath beaming landscape views straight to the tub. We also found the hotel’s labyrinthine layout rather disorientating, and not helped by poor signage.

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While you’re Out There
The Veneto region and viniculture are practically synonymous: vineyards to the east of Lake Garda and on hills east of Verona yield Bardolino, Custoza, Lugana, Valpolicella and Soave wines. Very accessible from Cape of Senses is the Zeni Museum of Wine, established in 1991, which also offers wine tasting and a shop. Owned by the Zeni family, this engaging museum vividly brings to life the fascinating history of viniculture and wine production with displays of well-worn tools of the trade including wine presses, pumps and gargantuan wooden barrels. It’s all too tempting to round off the visit with some indulgent wine-tasting, guided by the winery’s expert staff. Wines can be bought here, as can olive oil (also a Veneto speciality), balsamic vinegar and various varieties of the fragrant, grape-based after-dinner digéstif grappa.

Cape of Senses’ lake-facing elevation is its most appealing aspect by far. Not surprisingly, the hotel is positioned to maximise its views but it was strangely inconsistent that the oddly nondescript street-facing entrance wasn’t luxuriantly planted nor more inviting. A few steps into the hotel’s welcoming, sumptuously furnished lobby, however, quickly dispelled this impression. 

The hotel is home to 55 suites and a 2,000 sqm/21,500 sqft spa with saunas, a steam bath, a fitness area and treatment rooms. All spaces are wide enough for wheelchair-users to move around with ease, and all levels are connected by lifts. There are also suites featuring such amenities as dual bathrooms for added convenience.

Beyond its wellness offering, Cape of Senses also has two restaurants. One is appropriately called Al Tramonto, meaning ‘to the sunset’ in Italian, where diners can admire Lake Garda’s flamboyantly roseate sunsets. Its cuisine includes Mediterranean recipes such as ribollita and risotto, made from locally sourced ingredients – the area is known for its Mediterranean micro-climate suitable for wine-growing and cultivating fruit and vegetables.

As its name suggests, the property aims to arouse all the senses, not just highlight its visual delights. On the olfactory front, aromatic orange trees in pots grace an expansive roof terrace, a popular spot for breakfast. Invigorating essential oils derived from herbs such as rosemary and juniper contribute to the restorative effects of the wide-ranging treatments offered in the capacious indoor/outdoor spa (which include facials, massages and reflexology), as do its bespoke soundscapes.

Spas are wont to serve champagne, reasoning that it helps guests unwind. But Cape of Senses seems bent on stirring a headier dash of hedonism into its recipe for R&R. We sank into low-level devoré velvet seating in the lobby while the bar’s enthusiastic mixologists concocted subtly flavoured cocktails tailored to our personal tastes, all served with delicate amuse-gueules. Ascetic this hotel is not. As we toasted the setting sun, we felt our spirits lift with the realisation that this brand of wellness swerves self-denial.

www.capeofsenses.com | www.slh.com

Photography by Tobias Kaser and courtesy of Cape of Senses

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