Italian lakes escape. Retreat to Italy’s Lefay Spa on Lake Garda for a fusion wellness journey

I pride myself on my sense of direction but after trailing through the tranquil spa for the seventh time, as I ventured back and forth from my suite, I thought it was about time I checked the map as I didn’t want to disturb fellow spa-goers. On careful inspection, however, I discovered the spa at eco-friendly Lefay Resort, which sits neatly above the majestic Lake Garda, Italy, in 27 acres of national parkland, is actually the heart of the hotel and guests are encouraged to weave their treatments and cuisine seamlessly into their stay. This is a spa hotel of the future.

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Lake Garda’s ultimate spa hotel

Rather than a hotel with a spa complex to the side, at Lefay you’re literally staying in the spa. It has been designed to offer a zest of wellness from its classical Chinese menu it’s hard to resist the lure of the four wellness pools, saunas and smorgasbord of spa treatments.

And there are not many other outdoor treatment tables with views across an oriental water garden across to Monte Baldo and the Dolomite Peaks.

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Wellbeing and wellness on Lake Garda

To complement the array of treatments the Il Grande Limonaia, rooftop restaurant and Trattoria La Vigna, offers a light menu so you can continue your wellness programme at dinner if you wish. This being Italy, though, there is always a glass of wine and choice from the Mediterranean-inspired menu, known as the Lefay Vital Gourmet, with locally sourced produce such as fresh lake perch.

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Lefay is a luxury retreat offering you a taste of the simple things in life from space, nature and peace. It’s the perfect destination for couples seeking a romantic break and for a special treat you can book the palatial private Royal Pool and Spa suite, inspired by Roman mythology.

Lefay also caters for family breaks (there’s a crèche for over threes) and despite having two qualified staff doctors, it is not a medical spa but prides itself on being a five-star luxury resort woven together with a touch of eastern philosophy and fusion of modern western techniques.

Italy; Lago di Garda; Lefay Resort and Spa; Via Feltrinelli 118; 25084 Gargnano. www.lefayresorts.com, Restaurants

Lefay is the passion of the Leali family, who sold their company, Air Dolomite, and invested the proceeds into their dream of opening a sustainable spa. The building was inspired by the local Limonaia, greenhouses for lemon trees, and credit for this vision has to go to Mama Alcita Leali who is a trained architect. Her prowess is clear throughout – from the olive wood used for the floors in the 93 suites (which all boast lake views and have temperatures naturally regulated by thermal water panels in the floors and ceiling) to the woman’s hammam and The Four Seasons gardens which act as mini meditation sanctuaries.

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“New luxury” is how Alcide Leali Jnr, managing director, sums up Lefay and he explains how it took more than two years to even find the best plot of land for the building.

“The spa makes up the core of the hotel and is not just a building that has been added on.”

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Grottos and infinity pools

To relax after my quick flight from Gatwick to Verona I took a dip in the breath-taking salt water infinity pool, which juts out over the mountainside offering amazing views of one of Italy’s most famous lake’s 450 metres below.

And as the sun started to set, it was time to head indoors for half-an-hour of weightlessness in the grotto’s underground thermal salt lake, lit only by the glow of a giant paper moon. There is a lot to be said about total relaxation and the ability to leave the world behind. However, a note of caution, do not shave your legs prior to a dip as the high concentrations of salt will cause stinging!

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I was booked onto a two-day Discovery programme, which includes massage, an anti-ageing facial and exercises to stimulate the meridians. My treatments began with a consultation with Dr Barbieri, a doctor trained in both occidental and Chinese medicine who identified my season as startlingly, Black Turtle!

This essentially meant I was winter and the treatments selected would help boost my energy levels and kidneys with the use of geranium, zypruss and birch.

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He tailored my bespoke programme to include massage, anti-ageing facial, plus moxibustion (a Chinese form of acupuncture which involves heat being directed to the body’s meridian points) and a special herbal tea to rejuvenate the liver, which I was also given to take home.

One word of warning; male therapists make up part of the team and take a rather European approach to massage so if you would prefer a woman it would be best to ask at the spa reception when booking your treatment.

Italy; Lago di Garda; Lefay Resort and Spa; Via Feltrinelli 118; 25084 Gargnano. www.lefayresorts.com, Spa

Not all treatments can be given on the outside treatment beds so it is best to check ahead if you desire a massage with the world quite literally at your feet and book accordingly. But there are 21 treatment rooms available in the 3,000 square metre spa so no shortage of choice.

One of my favourite treatments was the inner energy facial which started with a stimulation of the meridians on the hands and feet before the therapist worked up to my face. But this was surprisingly relaxing and this top-to-toe massage helped iron out those worry lines and smooth my complexion.

By the end of my taster programme I looked and felt rejuvenated which I also think was helped by the holistic approach of eating from the light menu.

With its new luxury plethora of spa influences and majestic views we cannot wait to see the two new properties Lefay has in store for us…

Tip box

  • Continue your wellness programme at home by drinking the tea and using the bio-organic range of Lefay products, rich in olive oil and honey.
  • Spa outside and take advantage of the gardens which offer a running circuit, fitness path and therapeutic garden.
  • Hop aboard Lefay’s new power boat and treat yourself to a sunset trip to Salo on Lake Garda.
  • Wellness programmes on offer include weight management, beauty of body and soul, sleep, fitness and postural.
  • The resort has become the first luxury hotel in Italy to achieve zero carbon emissions.
  • Lefay’s energy is almost entirely generated from a biomass processor while water for the pools and spa comes from recycled rain water.
  • The Lefay Resort is the first of a trio. The second is being built in the Dolomites mountain range, and will offer an après ski spa in 2017. The third will be set in the Tuscan countryside. We can’t wait!

Janet Brice is content director of The Spa Traveller