Let’s rewind to last week, if I may. It’s breakfast time, but I’m all business. My glasses are on, my coffee is ordered, and my trusty notebook is ajar. Yet my pen, like a Parisian faire la bise, doesn’t quite make contact with the page. Because how the hell am I going to put Passalacqua into words?
They say to try and evoke the senses, and so it’s on the senses I shall lean. But my sixth tells me that you’re already opening a new tab and clicking ‘Get a room’ because, well, look at the pool.
First and foremost: you’ll see the opulence. It’s overt. There’s nothing cloak-and-dagger about the hand-blown Murano chandeliers, the Breccia Pontifici marble and not one, not two, but three (or four? I lost count) salones simply for lounging in – the most memorable of the lot furnished in shades of royal and baby blue.
In fact, no part of this villa is clandestine. Float through the open kitchen as chefs bake cakes and cure hams; or take the alternative route to the water via the network of tunnels. Watch the lake sparkle, shimmer and shine – lighting up at dusk like a candlelit chapel.
You’ll hear the grandeur, too. Given its Como-cuddling location, water runs through Passalacqua’s very veins – hell, it’s even in the name. Take a morning coffee down to the private marina, where genteel waves lap Giumello and Didihas, the two vintage boats lovingly tended to by Beppe the boatman.
And you’ll be hard pressed to find anywhere on the estate without a soundtrack of water, given the 15 ornate water fountains dotted through the grounds. Retire to your room and pick from three curated playlists – most notably featuring the composer Vincenzo Bellini, who was so taken by the villa that he resided here to compose many of his best-known works (something we have in common, I jest).
The smells at Passalacqua – bespoke Aqua di Como diffusers, bath products and eau de parfums aside – come from the outdoors. Freshly cut grass, apple orchards, olive groves and roses en masse fragrance the estate.
Pick fruits from the trees and eggs from the coop, then take them to the copper-toned kitchen, where a white-hatted chef will cheerfully whip them into an apple pie – an aroma so well adored that you can buy candles scented after it.
What about touch? Well, you’ll want to get tactile with the Beltrami wood-fibre bed linens. They are, without a shadow of a doubt, the best bed sheets I’ve ever starfished in. I’ve taken to mentioning them at least once a day since checking-out in the hope of manifesting them onto my own slightly less palatial bed.
Oh, and the JJ Martin-designed pool umbrellas, pillows and table settings, certainly. And the in-room towels and robes are the cosiest in the land (I realise I’m succumbing to hyperbole, but that’s because everything really is the loveliest, softest, finest, fanciest…).
I’ve saved the best until last: taste. Chefs put provenance first – ingredients are picked daily from the gardens and groves, and local farmers and fishermen provide the rest. The tiramisu is so good, even the most dairy-intolerant might be tempted to risk it all (don’t – I’d rather not be held accountable). The complimentary minibars will leave you feeling only-child special. Join the gelato-making class that takes place every Tuesday (one of a weekly roster of daily activities) and hefty salted-pistachio scoops can be devoured at pace.
Come breakfast, multi-tiered stands of lovingly prepared local delights arrive beside every guest – an unexpected addition to the plump pastries, fresh fruits and glassy smoked salmon laid out on the feast-size dining table.
Passalacqua, I realise, gently nudges you – with a bocce toss, not a bowling strike – into a life of very Italian excess; the kind comprised of slow mornings and simple pleasures.
It felt like the perfect time to be putting this into practice, too, given the inextricable link to reset and renewal that September has brought ever since our first days at school. And then I heard a description that would make any teacher proud. So, studious ones, pick up a notebook, grab a pen and make a note as I did:
Italianity (noun): the quality, state or art of being Italian.
From here, you can confidently call it an art.
For more slow mornings and simple pleasures explore our collection of Italian lakes hotels
All photography by the author