The lowdown It's hard to imagine a more beautiful setting than that of the Grand Hotel Majestic. Built in 1870, right on the shore of Lake Maggiore, the hotel has benefited from a recent and sympathetic renovation, bringing some modern luxury while still retaining its original charm and understated grandeur. The hotel boasts its own private beach and jetty and unique stunning views, which can be appreciated from most of the 99 rooms (of which 34 are junior suites and suites). Staff are relaxed and helpful and were happy for me to trial my rusty Italian on them, even though they all speak perfect English. There's plenty to do and see from the Borromeo Islands just a short boat ride away to visiting neighbouring Lake Como. For those of us who want to relax and unwind there's more than ample opportunity for that too! In fact you can't help BUT do that!
The rooms All rooms are lushly decorated with marble and glass, while soft furnishings are in rich, welcoming colours and sumptuous fabrics. InStyle stayed in the Duplex Suite made extra cosy with the bedroom on its own mezzanine level. The suite also benefits from a luxurious marble bathroom with its cavernous bath and a bright, spacious lounge area downstairs leading directly out to a private terrace - the views are breathtaking!
Eating and drinking Nip down to The Rossini room for breakfast, and try a miniature pastry made by the chef every morning - a perfect accompaniment to some strong Italian coffee. There are two main restaurants: Beola, with panoramic windows overlooking the lake, serves à la carte specialities and The Porch situated under the veranda in the garden - great for a relaxing alfresco lunch. InStyle recommends the mozzarella and tomato salad - the mozzarella is locally made but tastes out of this world. Of course they serve that amazing view as well! Hit La Terrazza bar in the evening for a pre/after dinner drink and some friendly chatter with the bar staff. You will never feel as relaxed and stress free as you sit on the terrace, sipping wine, watching the sun drop behind the mountains. If you fancy heading out for a bite and some seriously local fare, pop to Restaurante Milano, a five-minute walk away from the hotel right on the lake. Their speciality? Fish from the lake - Belissima!
Out and about The Borromeo Islands are a must see. Named after the Borromeo family who first took ownership of them in the 16th century, they still remain in the family’s possession today. Excursions by boat, either self propelled or motor, can be arranged at the hotel. First stop Isola Madre, the largest of the islands with its beautiful, 'English style’ gardens. After a stroll around the gardens, escape from the heat and take a tour around the palace filled with 16th to 19th century Italian masterpieces. InStyle recommends booking one of the knowledgeable and chatty tour guides to make the vast array of treasures on show more digestible (this too can be arranged through the hotel). Next is Isola dei Pescatori, the perfect pit stop for lunch before heading on to the grandest island, Isola Bella. With its huge summer palace and stunning traditional terraced gardens, it really is an Italian feast for the eyes. For a really unique take on the lake, book a kayak lesson with Sydney Olympics Gold medalist Beniamino Bonomi. All levels of experience are welcome - just make sure you save some strength for paddling back to the hotel!
The spa Relax after some sightseeing with a facial or, for those who have ventured out in the kayaks, sample one of the blissful massages. There is also a well-equipped gym and swimming pool, although a dip in the lake can't be missed!
Romance You can't help but feel the romance of your surroundings at Grand Hotel Majestic, there was even a wedding during our visit and the guest book is bursting with proposals. We can’t think of a more beautiful setting for either. My entry in the guest book? Grazie Mille Grand Hotel Majestic! Perfecto!
The details: Italian specialist and award-winning AiTO tour operator Classic Collection Holidays ( 0800 294 9320 classic-collection.co.uk) offers 4 nights at Grand Hotel Majestic, Lake Maggiore from £645 per person this September. Price based on 2 sharing a classic room on a bed & breakfast basis and includes return flights from Gatwick ( other UK departure airports available) to Milan Maplensa and private transfers.
By Joanna Cross