Villa Principe Leopoldo a romantic luxury hotel in europe

If living like European aristocracy or Hollywood royalty  — in the heart of Rome, on a hilltop in Switzerland, or by the sea’s edge in Portugal — sounds enticing, you will want to add these former villa residences to your travel list. Each has been painstakingly transformed into an exclusive, luxury hotel. Step into the Spalletti Trivelli family villa in Rome; German Prince Leopoldo’s former home in Switzerland; and a 16th-century Italian villa reimagined into a modern-day masterpiece of art.

Villa Spalletti Trivelli, Rome

Image Courtesy of Villa Spalletti Trivelli

The Beginning:

The Villa Spalletti Trivelli family love story begins when Gabriella Rasponi (widow of Count Venceslao Spalletti Trivelli, and niece of Carolina Bonaparte, Napoleon’s sister), purchased land in the Eternal City to build a home. She entrusted her dream house project to architect Domenico Avenali (who enlisted expert artists and artisans, like Edoardo Gioja). The villa quickly became a centerpiece of Rome’s political and cultural tête-à-têtes — the influencers of the day gathered weekly in the drawing room. Passed through generations — Gabriella to son Cesare Spalletti Trivelli; Cesare to son Piero; and Piero to Giangiacomo — the villa remains in the family. In 2004, Giangiacomo and his wife, Susanna (daughter of horseback riding champion Raimondo d’Inzeo), decided to convert the family’s historic residence into an intimate and exclusive luxury hotel.  

Present Day:

Today, each of Villa Spalletti Trivelli’s 17 guest rooms and suites is individually appointed, as if still a private home, with art-splashed walls, antiques, and elegant marble baths. The villa is just steps to Trevi Fountain and near the city’s famed Spanish Steps, Colosseum, and Pantheon. The family also operates the Spalletti Trivelli Winery in Umbria. The standout of the stay, however, is the dining experience. While Rome overflows with culinary perfection, nothing compares to dinner in the sala, (the villa’s original dining room), where the Spalletti family recipes are still served.

Byblos Art Hotel, Villa Amistà, Verona

Image Courtesy of Byblos Art Hotel, Villa Amistà, Verona

The Beginning:

Around the same time, Shakespeare was penning the tale of Verona’s star-crossed lovers Romeo and Juliet,  construction was underway on nearby Villa Amista. Architect Michele Sanmicheli designed the central body of the 15th-century villa in Venetian style, working off the remains of a Roman “strong house.” The current building, a work of architect Ignazio Pellegrini, dates back to the 18th century.  When Dino Facchini, founder of the fashion brand Byblos, stumbled upon the villa (in 2005)  — abandoned and in disrepair — it was love at first sight. 

Present Day

With renowned designer Alessandro Mendini, Facchini has transformed the 59-room Villa Amista into a true museum of contemporary art and design. The interior is whimsical, colorful – a mix of 16th-century Renaissance and 21st-century Modern – with an opulent frescoed ballroom, art-designed rooms, and works by world-famous designers (Ron Arad, Philippe Starck), and artists (Andy Warhol, Damien Hirst) among others. Stroll through the hotel’s tranquil Italian gardens featuring fountains made from Verona marble. Enjoy the Pompeian-style spa, and refined cuisine of the Atelier restaurant.

Villa Principe Leopoldo, Switzerland

Image Courtesy of Villa Principe Leopoldo, Switzerland

The Beginning

Set on the Collina d’Oro hilltop (‘little hill of gold’), in Lugano, Villa Principe Leopoldo was once the private home of Prince Friedrich Leopold — the brother-in-law of German Emperor, Kaiser Wilhelm II. The prince used the villas as his summer residence and during that time, illustrious figures from varying noble European families stayed here. German writer Hermann Hesse, inspired by the views from Collina d’Oro, also owned a home near the palace. Following Leopold’s death, the villa changed hands numerous times before finally landing as a fairy-tale, Relais & Chateaux hotel. opening as a hotel, and attracting American royalty including Anthony Hopkins, Robert Redford, Robert De Niro, Patti Smith, and Ray Charles who — after a concert nearby, went to the piano to play for hotel guests, just because.

Present Day

Fairytale is the word used most to describe modern-day Principe Leopoldo. Set high on the hill, the hotel offers stunning views of both mountain and lake. Glass doors in each of the 37 suites open to private balconies overlooking Lake Lugano; the romantic Michelin restaurant also overlooks the lake, and a meticulously landscaped courtyard gives way to an enchanting pool with spouting fountains. The spa too is dreamy, especially the private spa suite, featuring a candlelit sauna, steam, and jacuzzi area.

Bela Vista Hotel & Spa, Portimão, Portugal

Image Courtesy of Bela Vista Hotel & Spa

The Beginning: 

Set on the Praia da Rocha cliff with direct access to the beach, Bela Vista Hotel & Spa was built in the late 19th- and early 20th-century, as the private home of António Júdice de Magalhães Barros, a local fishing and canning industry businessman (1879-1960). Known as “Our Lady of Sorrows Villa, it was here that Magalhães Barros raised his five daughters. The villa was also visited by artists, politicians, and even the iPresident of the Portuguese Republic at that time, Sidónio Pais. In 1934, Henrique Bivar de Vasconcelos, the cousin of the original owner, transformed the villa into a luxury hotel, the first in the Algarve. During World War II (Portugal was politically neutral and served as an intelligence exchange site) the Bela Vista was a privileged site for meetings of spies and messengers.

Present Day

Stylishly avant garde, Bela Vista Hotel & Spa, retains many of its original ornate features: period stained glass windows, painted wooden ceiling, and blue-and-white (a Portuguese signature) wall tiles. The 38-room, Relais & Chateaux property was reimagined in 2011 by acclaimed interior designer Graça Viterbo who introduced bold pops of yellows, whites and blues, nautical stripes, and a sea theme into the light-filled rooms – many with original wall tiles and ocean views. The sea is, of course, a highlight – guests have direct, private access to the beach and stunning water views appear at every turn.  The hotel’s famed Michelin-starred restaurant, VISTA, decorated with coral and shells, and helmed by Portuguese chef João Oliveira, also overlooks the ocean. As does the chic pool, flanked by stately palm trees and white cabanas. The spa by L’Occitane, another Viterbo interpretation, is also a standout with its five treatment rooms, hammam, sauna, and uplifting shades of blues and turquoise.