Hotel Bella Riva

near Gardone Riviera, Lake Garda, Italian Lakes & Verona, Italy Book from Book from £224 per night

A grand old hotel with a contemporary twist and a turquoise pool, straddling land and lake near elegant Gardone Riviera
You could easily pretend you were sailing the ocean waves at Hotel Bella Riva. This smart Neoclassical villa, which juts out over the glittering waters of Lake Garda, was built in 1904 to cater for the European aristocrats who once flocked to these shores. Fast forward a century or so and a thorough revamp has brought it bang up to date, without erasing any of its original elegance. The result is a colourful blend of old and new - glossy blue walls behind a wrought-iron staircase, ornate chandeliers above scarlet-red chairs, jazzy murals in the lobby - with a dash of relaxed glamour that wouldn’t look out of place on a luxury liner.

And, just like a liner, it has everything you need for a hassle-free holiday: 23 sleek bedrooms, an outdoor pool, a swanky restaurant, and plenty of spots where you can sprawl out and unwind. But there’s no danger of cabin fever, with bikes to borrow, a private jetty for waterskiing and boat tours, and pretty harbour towns, historic houses and vineyards within easy reach. After you’ve finished exploring, sip a cocktail in the bar, with its vast views of water and sky, and imagine you’re on the QE2 - you’ll soon feel so chilled out that you really could be afloat.

Highs

  • An unbeatable position right on the lake: gaze at the water from your lounger, dinner table, bar stool - even your bed in many rooms
  • It’s refined yet far from stuffy, and will appeal to everyone from loved-up couples to families (there are baby cots, extra beds and a babysitting service for those with kids in tow)
  • Wonderful palm-filled gardens that catch the sun all day, plus a decked terrace for alfresco meals
  • Unfailingly friendly staff, who will greet you by name, remember your favourite drink and generally go out of their way to help
  • Pampering bathrooms, with marble-clad showers and stashes of Molton Brown goodies; a couple of suites even have steam rooms!

Lows

  • The rooms are a little bland in décor, but they’re very comfy and most have balconies
  • The main lakeshore road runs directly behind the hotel - you may hear traffic from the garden and some rear-facing rooms
  • Drinks and meals are on the pricey side and soon add up
  • The pool isn't heated, so can be a little bracing if you're visiting early in the summer

Best time to go

Spring and autumn are ideal - temperatures are balmy but not too hot, the local towns buzzing but not crowded. Summer can be extremely busy around the lakes, with coach-loads of day-trippers clogging the roads, but Bella Riva's pool and gardens provide a welcome escape. The hotel closes each year from November to April.

Our top tips

There are plenty of vineyards around and about, so ask the hotel to book you a chauffeur-driven car and head off to sample their wares. Olive-oil tasting can also be arranged, and the Comincioli factory, which is said to produce some of the best oils in the world, is only 20 minutes away.

Great for...

Family
Great Outdoors
Honeymoon
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 23
  • Restaurant and bar (open daily)
  • All ages welcome
  • Closed: 10 Dec 2018 - 17 Apr 2019
  • Outdoor Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Concierge Service
  • Bicycles Available
  • Boat charters
Room:

Rooms

The 23 rooms are light, bright and well-equipped, with brushed oak floors, boxy dark-wood furniture and crisp white linen. The pared-back style is a little insipid compared to the striking communal areas, but there are pops of colour in the canary-yellow ceilings and arty headboards, inspired by the work of Lake Garda regular Gustav Klimt.

The real treats await in the bathrooms - huge marble-clad sanctuaries with powerful rain showers, robes and slippers, and Molton Brown toiletries. Larger rooms also have tubs, many set by windows so you can stare at the lake as you soak.

The smallest Studio Rooms overlook the road behind the hotel, while the Large Rooms and Deluxe Rooms have a sideways peek of the water; all have kingsize beds (many can be set up as twins on request), and most Deluxe Rooms have balconies. A few euros more will get you a lake-facing Balcony Room with a super-kingsize bed and 2 balconies - we stayed in one of these and loved watching boats glide past from our bed.

If you really want to splash out, there are also several suites. At the very top of the building (with no lift access) are the Mansard and Loft Suites. They’re packed with luxuries - sink-into sofas, egg-shaped tubs by the beds, even steam rooms in the ensuites - but the sloping ceilings and dormer windows mean you’ll have to crane your neck to see the water. We preferred the View and Terrace Suites on the lower floors, all with full-frontal lake views, sitting areas with sofabeds, and a balcony or sun-trap terrace.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Bathrobes
  • Central heating
  • Cots Available
  • Extra beds
  • Hairdryer
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Phone
  • Safe box
  • Satellite TV
  • Slippers
  • Terrace
  • Toiletries
  • WiFi

Eating

Meals are normally served on a lakefront terrace, accompanied by the gentle sound of water sploshing against the jetty. It’s a lovely place to linger with your morning coffee or an evening glass of wine, but if the weather turns you can head inside to the restaurant, which has funky black chairs, traditional blue and white tiles and an open kitchen where the chefs strut their stuff.

Breakfast is a vast continental buffet laid out from 7.30 to 11.00am. It has all the things you’d expect - bread, pastries, salami, cheese, cereal, fruit, jam, yoghurt - plus a few things you wouldn’t: quiche, bowls of M&Ms, cake stands brimming with muffins, tarts and brownies. Eggs and hot drinks are also available, made to order and delivered to your table.

The lunch and dinner menu focuses on typical Italian fare with a few imaginative twists - nothing gourmet, but wonderfully presented and very filling. Choose à la carte or opt for the set menu. We went for the latter and tucked into marinated lake fish with polenta and capers followed by citrus marinated veal flank, and then a delicious coffee zabaglione to finish.

Sandwiches and snacks can be ordered from the pool or bar throughout the day, and there are some excellent cocktails on offer. If you’re staying for a while and fancy a change of scene, you’ll find plenty of trattorias and cafés in Gardone Riviera and Maderno - just ask staff for recommendations.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Children's meals
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Restaurant
  • Restaurants nearby
  • Room service
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity: Salò

Activities

  • Wallow in the pool, indulge in a massage, or take to a lounger and watch daily life on the lake
  • Borrow an electric bike and pedal along the shore to Gardone Riviera, a pretty little town which was once the most fashionable resort in the area. In summer, the hotel runs guided cycle rides (extra cost)
  • Visit Il Vittoriale - the flamboyant home of early 20th-century Italian poet Gabriele d’Annunzio, set in beautiful gardens above Gardone Riviera. Eccentricities on display include a coffin in a bedroom and the bow of a ship embedded in the hillside
  • Wander among Japanese ponds, bamboo groves and waterfalls at the Heller Garden, also on the slopes above town
  • Explore by boat - either on a private charter from the hotel jetty, or on one of the ferries that criss-cross the water. The pier at Maderno is a 20-minute stroll away and has services to towns around the lake, including fortified Torri del Benaco and photogenic Sirmione
  • Visit Isola del Garda, a private island lying directly in front of the hotel, to see the neo-Gothic villa and glorious gardens of the Cavazza family. There are guided tours from Salò in summer, and the price includes the boat trip there and back
  • Or take to the lake on water skis, available through the hotel
  • Meander north towards Gargnano (a centre for sailing), Limone (famed for its citrus groves) and Riva del Garda (a great place for windsurfing), plunging in and out of tunnels and skirting olive groves

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Boat trips
  • Cycling
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Museums / galleries
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Private guided tours
  • Sailing
  • Shopping / markets
  • Swimming
  • Water-skiing
  • Well being
  • Windsurfing
  • Wine tasting

Kids

This is a great option for a stress-free family holiday, with good facilities, a relaxed atmosphere and easy access to Lake Garda’s attractions. Children will love the shallow pool, the bikes and the big gardens; parents will appreciate the babysitting service, on-site restaurant and bar, and extremely helpful staff.

Best for:

Babies (0-1 years), Toddlers (1-4 years), Children (4-12 years)

Family friendly accommodation:

A baby cot (free) or rollaway bed (additional charge) can be added to Deluxe Rooms, Balcony Rooms, the Mansard Suite and the Loft Suite. The Terrace and View Suites have lounge areas with sofabeds (free for under 10s, but with a supplement for older kids) and can sleep up to 4. Many rooms can be set up as twins on request, but if you want a bathtub then book a Balcony Room or suite.

Babysitting:

Babysitting can be arranged on request - just ask at reception.

Baby equipment:

  • Baby cots

Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

Children's meals:

Food is available all day. Although there is no set kids’ menu, there are a few child-friendly pasta options and the chef can rustle up special meals if you have a particularly fussy eater in tow. Children will love the breakfast buffet, which includes rice crispies, yoghurt, toast and Nutella, along with cakes and bowls of M&Ms

Kids Activities on site:

  • Large, shallow pool
  • Bikes to borrow
  • Water-skiing

Kids Activities nearby:

  • Boat trips on the lake
  • Theme parks around Peschiera del Garda at the southern end of the lake (40 minutes’ drive) - Gardaland, Movieland Studios, Parco Natura Viva
  • Sailing and windsurfing in Gargano and Riva del Garda (30-50 minutes’ drive)
  • Cable-car rides in Malcesine

Families Should Know:

A waist-high hedge separates the grounds from the lake, but you might want to keep an eye on mischievous youngsters who might stray too close to the water

Distances:

  • Airport: 35 minutes' drive
  • Shop: 10 minutes' drive
Kid Friendly:

Location

Hotel Bella Riva sits on the western shore of Lake Garda in northern Italy. It’s just outside the small resort town of Gardone Riviera, off the main SS45b lake road and within easy reach of the A4 Milan-Venice motorway.

By Air:
Brescia (39km away) is the nearest airport, but it's quite small. There are more flights to Verona (80km away), Bergamo (91km away), Milan Linate (133km away) and Milan Malpensa (175km away).

From the Airport
Transfers can be arranged, but we'd recommend hiring a car to get the most out of your stay (see below).

By Train:
The nearest railway stations are Desenzano and Brescia. There are bus services from both stations to Gardone Riviera, and the hotel can provide transfers on request.

By Car:
There are good public transport links around Lake Garda, and chauffeured cars can be arranged through the hotel, but it’s worth hiring your own vehicle to explore fully - see our car rental recommendations. Free off-street parking is available at the hotel.

Detailed directions will be sent to you when you book through i-escape.

Airports:

  • Brescia Gabriele D'Annunzio 39.0 km VBS
  • Verona Valerio Catullo 80.0 km VRN

Other:

  • Beach 1.0 km
  • Shops 1.0 km
  • Restaurant 1.0 km

Our guests' ratings...

Based on 3 independent reviews from i-escape guests

10/10
Room
9/10
Food
10/10
Service
10/10
Value
10/10
Overall

We loved our weekend getaway here. It was the perfect way to experience Lake Garda, away from the massive groups of tourists in town.

10/10,

A wonderful stay in a beautiful hotel. The location really is breathtaking and we'll be looking for the next opportunity to come back. The staff couldn't be more friendly and helpful and despite the hotel being full when we arrived, it always felt like there was lots of space.

10/10,

Stunning setting and beautifully appointed rooms. The bar tender was very knowledgeable about his spirits and mixed some superb cocktails.
Highly recommended.

9/10,

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