The Best Countryside Retreats in Northern Italy
Cavallino d'Oro/Goldenes Rössl (Kastelruth/Castelrotto, near Bozen): The village is a full-bore Tirolean mountain hamlet straight out of the Middle Ages, and this rambling hotel has sat at the cobblestone center of town since the 1400s, its swinging shingle emblazoned with its Golden Horse moniker. It includes the corner bar where the locals hang out for lunch and a genuine, preserved 18th-century Stuben (beer nook) in the restaurant at back. It's a nice mix of new and old: The lounge has a widescreen TV with 300 digital channels set next to a picture window of the Alps; the rooms offer modern comforts amid hand-painted wood furnishings and four-poster beds. Best of all, the Urthaler family couldn't be more welcoming, and they happen to be Frommer's fans.
Hotel Castello Schloss Labers (outside Merano): The road from town wends its way through vine-clad hills to the Stapf-Neubert family's 11th-century, countryside castle -- a hotel since 1885. The cozy hunting salons cluster around a magnificent central staircase that leads up to the eclectic collection of rooms tucked into towers, eaves, and high-ceilinged rooms. A statue-studded garden out back offers views across the valley to the surrounding peaks, and they also have a heated pool, tennis courts, and a Tirolean restaurant.
Villa Fiordaliso (Gardone Riviera, Lake Garda): This Liberty-style villa was built in 1903 and immediately started attracting formidable owners, including poet Gabriele d'Annunzio and, later, Claretta Petacci, Mussolini's mistress (this is where they spent their final weeks in semi-hiding at the end of World War II before being hunted down and killed). Things have calmed down considerably since then, the villa transformed in 1990 into one of the most popular high-end restaurants in the lake region (it even has a Michelin star now), with seven elegant guest rooms upstairs.
Villa La Meridiana/Az. Agrituristica Reine (near Alba): An agriturismo is a working farm whose family opens their home and hospitality to guests. The Pionzo family runs this gracious agriturismo above the Piedmont wine town of Alba, with rooms in the main house and others converted from the former stalls, almost all overlooking the vineyards that produce their Barbera wine, the surrounding village-capped hills, and the peaks of the Alps in the distance. The ample breakfast may include apricot preserves from their own orchard and sheep's milk cheese from the neighbors.
La Cascina del Monastero (outside La Morra): The di Grasso family runs an agriturismo similar to Villa La Meridiana ; it's another vineyard and fruit orchard farm outside a Piemontese village with large guest rooms and apartments filled with comfortable rustic furnishings and exposed wood beams. This place would be worth staying at if only for the sumptuous breakfast spread, the only drawback being that you may have to cancel lunch plans and return to your room for a nap.
Milleluci (outside Aosta): Four matrilineal generations of hoteliers have turned this family farm into one of the coziest, friendliest hotels in the whole of the Valle d'Aosta. A fire crackles in the large lounge downstairs, and the rooms are done in woodsy Alpine style with canopy beds in suites, traditional wood furnishings, and hand-hewn ceilings. In true country tradition, the breakfast here is overwhelming, with freshly baked pies, cakes, and breads every morning accompanied by farm-fresh cheese, milk, and preserves. Unlike most countryside retreats, the Milleluci sports plenty of facilities a four-star hotel would be jealous of: a heated outdoor pool, tennis courts, exercise facilities, hot tub, and sauna.
La Grange (Courmayeur-Entrèves): Entrèves may not properly be countryside, but this tiny collection of Alpine chalets below the Mont Blanc cable-car station is so small it barely qualifies as a village, and the atmosphere is fully rustic. The Berthold family converted this hotel from a barn by fitting the rooms with a mix of antiques and sturdy country furnishings. It makes a refreshing (and far less expensive) alternative to the resort hotels of Courmayeur just down the road.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.