Hotel Bella Riva

near Gardone Riviera, Lake Garda, Italian Lakes & Verona, Italy Book from

Reviewed by Abi Dare
A grand old hotel with a contemporary twist and a turquoise pool, straddling land and lake near the elegant resort town of 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.


  • An unbeatable position right on the lake: gaze at the water from your lounger, your dinner table, your 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 tubs, snuggly robes, and stashes of Molton Brown goodies; a couple of suites even have steam rooms!


  • Décor in the rooms is a little bland, but they’re very comfy and most have a balcony
  • 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 restaurant is closed on Wednesdays outside high season, and it's a 20-minute walk south to Gardone Riviera or north to Maderno if you want to eat out

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...

Great Outdoors
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 23
  • Restaurant and bar (open daily)
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • 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: View Suite


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 the beds are wonderfully comfortable, the wardrobes are big, and there are pops of colour in the canary-yellow ceilings and arty headboards, inspired by the work of Lake Garda regular Gustav Klimt. You also get a bit of gadgetry in the form of flat-screen TVs, free WiFi, and banks of snazzy light controls hidden in a bedside drawer.

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.

There’s a range of room categories to choose from, but essentially you pay more for extra space, a bigger bed and a better view. 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
  • Wifi internet


Meals are normally served on a lakefront terrace, accompanied by the gentle sound of water sploshing against the jetty and, when we visited, free entertainment from a pair of ducks waddling comically between the tables. 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 (an unusual combination, but it works) and an open kitchen where the chefs strut their stuff.

Breakfast is a vast continental buffet laid out from 7.30 to 11.00am (no need to forgo your lie-in here). 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 (available daily during high season, but not on Wednesdays at other times) focuses on typical Italian fare with a few imaginative twists - nothing gourmet, but it’s tasty enough and very filling. We started with burrata (an indulgent blend of mozzarella and cream) and tangy sun-blushed tomatoes, along with asparagus, poached egg and shavings of earthy black truffle. For mains, we chose ricotta ravioli with lemon and marjoram, and a deconstructed penne carbonara with strips of crispy bacon artfully arranged on top. Our dessert was a sweet yet tangy orange-scented zabaglione.

Sandwiches and snacks can be ordered from the pool or bar throughout the day, and there are some excellent cocktails on offer. We asked the bartender to whip up something summery, and loved the resulting Prosecco, strawberry and rosewater conconction, served with a bowl of big, juicy olives.

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 meals
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Restaurant
  • Restaurants nearby
  • Room service
  • Vegetarian menu
Activity: Salò


  • Wallow in the pool, indulge in a massage, or take to a lounger and watch daily life on the lake
  • Borrow a 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. It was created by Arturo Hruska, plant collector and dentist to the last Tsar of Russia
  • Head 7km down the lake to Salò, an elegant town of waterfront promenades and boutique-lined piazzas. It was the seat of Mussolini’s puppet Second Republic in 1943, and you can explore its chequered past at the Palazzo della Magnifica Patria
  • Explore by boat - either on a private charter from the hotel jetty, or on one of the ferries which 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
  • Carry on around the upper tip of the lake to Malcesine, from where rotating cable cars swoop to the top of 2,220m-high Monte Baldo

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


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 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


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

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