Vivere Suites cuts a curious figure – a cluster of mod 21st-century villas around a day-bed strewn pool deck – but its chic concrete- and glass-walled cells work in harmony with the lush countryside and look all the more striking set against majestic mountains and vine-filled valleys. Design is minimal, with clean-cut rough-wood furnishings and a dove grey and navy colour scheme, but intriguing industrial-chic features keep the hotel stylish rather than Spartan.
Get this when you book through us:
A jar of honey from the onsite apiary or a bottle of extra-virgin olive oil from the family's olive groves, depending on the season
11am, earliest check-in, 1pm; both are flexible, subject to availability, if arranged in advance with reception.
Double rooms from £267.45 (€300), including tax at 21 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of €0.70 per person per night on check-in.
Rates include a buffet breakfast of juices, jams, honey and olive oil from the hotel farm; home-baked bread and croissants; and locally sourced cheese, meat, fruit, eggs, yoghurt and tomatoes. City tax of €0.70 a day applies for each guest (over-13s).
Hotel co-owner Edy will happily pack you a picnic for your bike ride, with some goodies from the farm, pizza, salad and wine.
Annually from 10 November 2013 until Easter 2014, but open over Christmas from 22 December 2013 to 6 January 2014.
At the hotel
Lounge with fireplace, Fitness room with Apple TV, free WiFi throughout and bikes are free to borrow. Rooms feature individual gardens with sunloungers, an LCD TV, iPod dock, Nespresso machine and Etro toiletries.
Our favourite rooms
The Romantic Suite may conjure up images of rose petals and heart-shaped beds, but the cool light-grey walls and minimal four-poster bed (which resembles street artist Aakash Nihalani’s cult floating cubes) in this suite are perfect for those who prefer their sexiness unconventional and understated.
There’s a simple pool inlaid in the main deck, from which you can enjoy views of Arco’s timeless terroir. Each suite has private access to the pool so you don’t have to amble far for a soul-restoring swim.
Pop some plimsolls in your suitcase to make use of the hotel’s free bike rental in comfort; and pack light, the farm sells its produce and you’ll want to bring home some bottles of wine to whisk you back to holiday mode.
A friend of the family, who makes her own massage oil, can be booked for couples and aromatherapy massages and shiatsu in your suite. Pilates and yoga classes are held in the fitness room.
Welcome, at the manager’s discretion, for €15 per night – they'll get a bed, a cookie and a bowl. The pool area is a pet-free zone. Just let the hotel know when booking. See more pet-friendly hotels in Lake Garda.
Cots provided on request for under-3s (€30 per night) and extra beds are available for half the room cost for under-16s; however there are few family-friendly facilities on-site, the hotel’s air of tranquillity may be quickly shattered by bored bambini.
Profoundly so, food served on site is sourced from local vendors or home grown on the farm and vineyards. Hot water and under-floor heating are solar powered and cool stone floors provide natural air conditioning. The hotel’s carbon footprint is offset and electricity is purchased from renewable sources.
Tables at the edge of the verandah have the best views; or curl up on the sun-lounger in your private, walled garden, to sunbathe with a tasty snack.
Barefoot and fancy-free; with little to do but lounge and swim, no one will bat an eyelid if you bust out the bikini and sarong (or board shorts for Mr Smith) at the breakfast buffet.
No restaurant on site, but a breakfast buffet is served on the verandah at stainless-steel tables, given an upmarket makeover with crisp linen tablecloths. Most suites have a kitchenette with a microwave and kitchenware (except for the Romantic Suite and the Studio J Suite). Edy will stock your fridge for you on arrival or put together a hamper of artisan food on request; or you can cook your own meals and stock up on food from Zambotti Rinaldo supermarket (about a five-minute bike ride from the hotel). If self-catering isn’t your style, the Vivere family own a nearby eatery, Ristorante Centrale (a 10-minute drive from the hotel), which is highly praised for its hearty pizzas.
No bar – grab a glass of Vivere wine and settle into one of the verandah’s navy blue sun loungers (or cosy up to the lounge’s gel fire if the weather’s nippy); or stash a few bottles in your fridge to enjoy in a more intimate setting.
Breakfast is served from 9am to 11am (you can request it for 7am).
No room service menu, but the hotel’s owners are eager to please and can ensure you arrive to a fridge stocked full of fresh local goodies.
Lying low in mountain-edged vineyards, close to the mediaeval municipality of Arco, Vivere Suites is an hour’s drive from Trentino’s time-capsule capital, Trento, and Verona, city of star-crossed lovers, with Lake Garda a 15-minute bike ride away.
Airport Valerio Catullo in Verona is the nearest, 80km from the hotel (a one-hour drive). Flights arrive here from most European destinations, northern Africa and the Middle East. Transatlantic and Pacific flights stopover at Frankfurt and Munich or Paris.
Rovereto railway station is the nearest (a 35-minute drive from the hotel), a stop on the famed Brenner Railway, which runs from Verona to Innsbruck.
The hotel’s ingenious design allows it to blend into the surroundings. So much so that it’s practically camouflaged among acres of vineyards. You’ll need a car to ride over rugged turf when seeking it out and to negotiate the rural mountain roads. There are plenty of hire car companies at Valerio Catullo airport.
Worth getting out of bed for
Your time at Vivere Suites will mostly be spent watching the scenery as you while the day away, with perhaps the odd dip in the pool if you’re feeling particularly energetic; but if you want to get up close and personal with this stunning region, you can hike, bike, swim and windsurf against a devastatingly dreamy backdrop. Take advantage of the hotel’s free bike rental by grabbing a picnic and heading into the Arco mountains or go off-road to explore the countryside. Lake Garda (www.visitgarda.com) – the largest in Italy – is just a 20-minute cycle or 10-minute drive away, where you can sail by or walk along the banks to take in views of red-roofed villas, mountains, olive and lemon groves and oleander trees. Alternatively, windsurfing the turquoise waters of La Garda is a thrilling experience (as long as you don’t get distracted by the view and wipe out), so head to Turbole for windsurfing, kayaking or sailing lessons (+39 04 6450 5963). If that sounds far too active, ancient yet cosmopolitan Trento (+39 04 61 21 9300), the capital of Trentino, is an hour’s drive away from the hotel and has plenty to keep you occupied for the day. Stroll around the Piazza Duomo with it’s fresco-fronted town houses and frilly dolphin fountain, swing by the Castello Buonconsiglio (+39 04 6123 3770) and Trento Cathedral (+39 04 6198 0132), then hit the markets for salami, Asiago cheese (Trentino’s speciality) and a bottle of grappa to enjoy in-suite.
There are many reasons why you could spend your entire trip holed up in your seriously snug suite; but offsite there are gastronomic gems to be found that you simply can’t whip up in your kitchenette’s microwave. Il Re della Busa (+ 39 04 6402 1899), is a very upper-crust eatery, serving dainty assemblages of Michelin-starred food with bold flavour combinations, such as steamed prawns with agretti, burrata cheese and candied citrus, and smoked rhubarb and foie gras in a crème brûlée; decadent and daring in style and only an eight-minute drive from the hotel. If that sounds a little too fanciful for you, try the Vivere dynasty’s alternative venture, Ristorante Centrale (+39 04 6450 5234) – a 10-minute drive away – that is renowned for serving some of the tastiest pizzas on Lake Garda in relaxed surroundings. Dining here won’t eat away at your euros either; for under €15 you’ll get a glass of local wine and a crispy thin-crust pizza abundantly topped with farm-fresh ingredients. Closer still, just a three-minute drive away, is fuss-free Trattoria Belvedere (+39 04 6451 6144), which feels like a kindly grandmother’s living room (chef Silva Santorum is a traditional Italian matriarch). The trattoria serves four set menus featuring authentic rustic fare such as salted beef with fagioli beans; and the region’s Austrian influence (the hotel is about two hours from the Austrian border) sneaks into the menu too in the form of strudels, a nice alternative to the delicious but ubiquitous tiramisu.
Strictly speaking, Le Servite (+39 04 6455 7411) is a trattoria, but the cantina section is open until 11:30pm and has over 500 wines from the surrounding area to choose from. Staff are very knowledgeable, and they’re happy to recommend a suitable vintage to accompany their light bites menu.
I’m lost in a reverie of pillowy, pumpkin-stuffed pasta, when Mr Smith has A Thought. ‘What time,’ he innocently asks, looking up from his lasagna, ‘is your massage at the hotel?’ It’s in 20 minutes, I realise, downing fork – and it’s still some distance away. We meant to arrive hours ago, but succumbed to Lake Garda’s languor, loitering in gelateria and on lemon-tree-lined promenades in a succession of pretty lakeside towns. Appointment hastily rearranged, desserts postponed, onwards we go.
While the south of the lake sips spritzes in the sun, the north’s a more dynamic prospect: restful hills give way to full-scale mountains, some still capped with snow. Spandexed cyclists barrel along the road, while windsurfers zip across the water – sights to gladden the heart of Mr Smith, who revels in such sporting activity. (A security check en route revealed that his bag is packed with all manner of outdoor gear: hiking boots and hi-tech fabrics in place of deck shoes and rumpled linen.)
Vivere Suites is just north of Lake Garda, in slightly unexpected surrounds: it’s set amid rustic fields of vines, but approached via a small industrial estate. ‘I like cranes,’ says Mr Smith stoutly, as we pull up at the gate: a high, artfully rusted iron affair, set in a mass of fragrant jasmine. As it swings back at some invisible command, we’re not sure quite what to expect.
First impressions? If God subscribed to Monocle, heaven might look a bit like this. Behind a row of rustling olive trees is a low-lying, glass-walled villa, flanked by an elegant pavilion and backdropped by distant mountains. A walkway leads to the saltwater pool and pristine, pale wood decking, set out with low, cushioned day beds where whole summers could be dozed away.
The whole place feels decidedly grown-up – an impression confirmed by our suite, with its polished concrete floors, larch-wood beams and palette of muted greys. The modish little bathroom is stocked with Etro toiletries, while the sexy sliver of a shower room has a long window panel overlooking the private front yard. ‘We could have this at home,’ declares Mr Smith. ‘Must be special one-way glass.’ (Admiring the flowers the next morning, I realise that’s not strictly so.)
Floor-to-ceiling glass spans the length of the living space, sliding open to our own little garden; at the touch of a button, a vast blackout blind descends, banishing the outside world. Mr Smith stretches out on the low, expansive bed and pronounces it entirely satisfactory: leaving him cocooned in expensive Italian linen, I head for my appointed massage.
In the airy, subterranean treatment rooms, the therapist awaits; a tiny, bird-like woman, possessed of superhuman strength. Unlike Mr Smith – a reluctant masseur – she’s also full of gratifying sympathy. ‘Poverina!’ she cries tenderly, coaxing back a hunched shoulder blade; ‘Mamma mia!’ she exclaims sotto voce, probing a dreadful, deep-set tension. Emerging 90 minutes later, I practically float back up the stairs.
Staying here, it turns out, is an exercise in relaxation, and Mr Smith’s smuggled walking boots stay firmly in his suitcase. Instead, the days fall into a lazy rhythm, starting with breakfast by the pool – a pleasurably prolonged, help-yourself affair featuring Vivere’s own honey and jams. It’s soundtracked by the low-level chill-out tunes that play all day, relayed by speakers hidden in the hedges. By rights, this should be incredibly annoying, but we’re no longer quite ourselves: we’re calmer, better, barefoot versions, at one with music in the shrubs.
With six suites in all, Vivere has the feel of a private villa: service is low-key and unintrusive, and we rarely even glimpse our fellow guests. The point of this place, as owner Edy explains, is to reconnect with nature, in a building designed to merge with its surrounds and run on renewable energy. His family also produce their own olive oil and headily delicious merlot: beneath Vivere’s polished exterior lies the soul of an agriturismo. Breakfasts are home-cooked with ingredients from the on-site farm (served by the pool deck), wines are all heritage Vivere and you can have your fridge stocked with local goodies or a picnic packed for a mountain bike ride.
Mostly we’re content just to daydream by the pool, idly contemplating the mountains – though we do manage a few excursions to the lake, in search of gelato and lunch. (Our suite has a hideaway kitchenette, but cooking seems a step too far; in the evenings, if you don’t want to drive, you can stroll to Edy’s nearby pizza place.) Denied serious sporting endeavour, Mr Smith settles for slow-paced bike rides instead: there’s a fleet of handsome, fixed-gear steeds to borrow, with Brooks saddles and leather-wrapped locks.
Invariably, though, the best bit of all is coming back to Vivere; at dusk, when lanterns glimmer by the pool, it’s wonderfully romantic. On our first night here we watched the stars, wrapped in duvets on the sunloungers; neither Smith could identify much beyond the Big Dipper, but – after a bottle of Edy’s excellent red – it really didn’t seem to matter.
Walking back from dinner on the last night we spot more constellations – only this time they’re earthbound; clusters of fireflies, glowing by the roadside and flickering amid the rows of vines. We stalk them in the long grass, breathing in the cool night air: back to nature, just as Edy promised, and in the most magical of ways.