The Lefay Eco Resort and Spa, overlooking lake Garda, is not only an oasis of pure relaxation but a certified sustainable health resort. Serving delicious food, impressing with beautiful design and the perfect location, and pampering its guest, Lefay really ticks all the boxes.
Opened in 2008, Lefay is the project of the entrepreneurial Leali family of Brescia, creators of regional airline Air Dolomites. With a lifelong interest in all things sustainable, the family eventually sold off the airline and crafted the Lefay Resorts concept. For those looking for something even more special, this year saw the opening of the ultra-luxurious Royal Suite featuring up to three bedrooms, a private spa and infinity pool as well as a personal concierge.
The buildings are inspired by nature, starting with the lobby floor consisting of a layer of leaves from local trees, eternalized under wax and looking like marble. Bespoke glassware and art by local artists compliment the overall feel and colour scheme. Dug into the hillside, the architecture of the resort is inspired by limonaias, the local lemon-growing houses prevalent in the area, bearing testament to the past of this region.
Lake Garda is the northernmost point in Italy where the climate allows lemons to thrive but with unification of the country in 1861, mass production was shifted further south. There is now only one functioning limonaia left in the area, still ran according to ancient tradition as a nostalgic nod to how things used to be.
Happy and content staff is a core value at Lefay, something I noticed straight away. It felt as if each person had a personal stake in and passion for the wellbeing of guests and the success of the resort. From the attentiveness of the staff to the detail in the décor, guests feel instantly at home. The rooms are spacious and comfortable with extensive wood details. The beds are huge and so comfortable that frequent naps are hard to resist, despite the fantastic views over the lake.
All textiles are made from natural materials and only chemical free paints were used for decoration. Wi-Fi is available in the rooms, but you have to ask for it to be switched on, respecting the right of guests to not have electro-magnetic waves permeate their rooms. In communal areas Wi-Fi is restricted to certain rooms of the resort. Food for thought there, but I admit that I had mine switched on regardless.
Carefully considered lighting is controlled through conveniently placed buttons allowing you to dim and brighten lights to create exactly the ambiance you want at the touch of a finger. You can even open and close the curtains and activate the Don’t Disturb sign this way. You can in fact control pretty much everything in the room without leaving the bed, facilitating total relaxation.
Breakfast is an impressive display with a healthy make-your-own-juice-corner; my first stop every morning. I wish all hotels gave you that option. Add to that bundles of fruit, cereals, bread, cheese and charcuterie leading up to the more indulgent end of things, such as an entire table full of cakes and pastries as well as the sparkling wine and Bloody Mary ingredients on tap. Lefay might be a spa, but it is completely up to you how you choose to interpret that experience. Clearly the clientele here like to both cleanse and treat themselves.
After breakfast it was time to dive into the first of my treatments. With local products at the core of Lefay’s philosophy, I was poised to try out their therapies featuring lemons and lavender, the mainstays of the Perfumes of the Lake programme.
First up was hydro-aromatherapy. I showed up with no clue as to what that might entail and it turned out to be a vigorous bubble bath fitted with massaging water jets and coloured lights. After donning the required paper panties, you have a choice of essential oils. On this occasion I went for Sandalwood, but there is even chocolate. That didn’t seem quite right, however. As the growing mounds of bubbles started to resemble big fluffy clouds, the coloured lights really came into their own with a marvelous disco show going on underneath. As bubble baths go, this was a fun one! Dried off and changed into another pair of paper panties (just as well they’re biodegradable - they must go through a lot of them!) I was rubbed down and smoothed with an olive and lavender body scrub, then lathered with lavender body cream.
Feeling a little more aerodynamic by the sheer silkiness of my skin, I skipped along to meet with Anna Malvezzi, Communications Manager for Lefay. She took me behind the scenes to see their innovative power plant, sustainably supporting the resort’s considerable need for energy using a mixture of biomass (much of it locally sourced), micro-turbines fed by methane gas and an absorption cooling system using the heat from the biomass to cool water and rooms. Heat is led in through the floor of the building, cooling from the ceiling, balancing out the physics of heat rising. This absorption cooling system is at the cutting edge of sustainable technology and is one of very few in operation in Italy.
After a delicious lunch on the terrace in the late summer sun I was booked in for an afternoon facial ritual. The treatment rooms are impressively slick, all mood lighting, polished wood finishing and potions in pleasing bottles. Guests feel like in a luxurious lab, in the hands of capable scientists. The massage beds even have inbuilt heaters for the colder seasons, a much appreciated feature when I had a massage the next day when the weather had turned cloudy and chilly.
The therapists all have a gentle and soothing manner that combined with the lavender carried me to the cusp of sleep on more than one occasion. In fact, I retreated to my comfortable bed for a nap after almost every treatment. This is all part of the experience apparently. The resort even has a sleep programme available for people suffering from insomnia.
For the more energetic, there is a fully equipped gym and various classes take place throughout the day. An interesting walk through the grounds has been created, called the Energy and Therapeutic Garden. This takes you through the various centres of energy and there are places along the way where you can stop, sit and reflect for a while.
There are two restaurants on-site: La Grande Limonaia catering for the à la carte end of things with the choice of a low-calorie menu (if you can resist temptation) and the Trattoria La Vigna offering a more rustic choice. Both are excellent and everything I tried was of an extremely high standard made from locally sourced products.
Lefay is the first resort in southern Europe to be awarded the Green Globe environmental certification and they are also the first in Italy to sign an agreement with the Italian Ministry of Environment to promote joint projects to neutralise the impact of its activities on the climate.
The Lake Garda location is the first in an envisaged collection of resorts, the next is planned for a mountain location to be announced.