Checking In and Checking Out

Wellness Nirvana on Lake Garda Comes with Views, Vino, and Spaghetti

by Darlene Fiske
Photo Infinity pool at Lefay Resort and Spa in Lake Garda, Italy. All photos courtesy of Lefay Resort and Spa.

La dolce vita and a wellness sanctuary walk into a botanical heaven, and the rest is history. At Lefay Resort and Spa on Lake Garda in northern Italy, you'll rediscover and invigorate yourself — and you won't have to skimp on the spaghetti. Salute to that.

LAKE GARDA, Italy ­­­– Sometimes I feel like a punching bag for health. I think that the more I run, the healthier I’ll be. The deeper the massage, the better I’ll feel. I’ve been rubbed, scrubbed, and physically pushed to my limits — all for the sake of self-care, as part of the journey to improve my well-being.

Prior to attending the Global Wellness Summit in Cesena, Italy, I had the great fortune to spend a few days with my S’Well Public Relations co-founder, Kim Marshall, at Lefay Resort and Spa. At this little-known gem of a wellness resort at the top of a mountain in Riviera del Limoni in Lake Garda, the guiding principles of space, nature, silence, and time turned out to be the winning combination for a better me.

If only I could live at Lefay. 

I’d be ensured a long and happy life if I could look out at the lake and mountains every day, practice the principles of Chinese medicine blended with Western science, float in the underground salt pool, eat freshly made tagliatelle bolognese (and, okay, the occasional carrot soup for good measure), receive olive-oil-infused massages, breathe clean air inside my eco-friendly accommodations, take nature hikes around the property, and enjoy daily workouts on Technogym fitness equipment, overlooking the stunning infinity pool.

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Lefay Resort & Spa Lago di Garda
Lefay Resort & Spa Lago di Garda garden
Early afternoon stroll to lunch.
Lefay Resort & Spa Lago di Garda
Deep-breath-inducing views.

The 93-room, award-winning wellness resort is built on the side of a hill, where lemon and olive trees grow like the rabid wildflowers I’m used to seeing alongside Texas highways. Every space looks out onto a pristine lake, magnificent mountains, and rolling hills. Every vantage point is a postcard. And the views are elixirs for deep breaths and long exhales.

The resort is unique in that the spa itself is the nucleus of the guest experience. The corridors of rooms lead from the spa, so that when you pass through to the restaurant or the pools or the cigar bar, you are reminded of wellness.

Yes, that’s right. There’s a cigar bar, and I love that. You can treat your body naughty or nice here, and nobody makes you feel like you are doing anything wrong. Wellness is not forced upon you, though there are subtle reminders that it is all around you, easily within reach, if you so choose to partake.

I’m looking for ways to become more mindful, to feel better nutritionally, and to slow down. I found this all at Lefay — in just two days. Consultations with a doctor provide insight into your emotional state, your yin-yang balance, and your current health, seen through a classical Chinese medicine lens. This was a refreshing venture for an American who was told at age 40 by her doctor that she should use more lotion after showering because her skin was dry. (Thanks for nothing, America.)

Every vantage point is a postcard — elixirs for deep breaths and long exhales.

In a stretching class based on the season, I learned how to tap energy points along my wrists and upper back to increases circulation and energy levels. It was painfully slow at first, especially compared to my usual Vegas-night-club-simulated boot camp class back in Austin, but I stuck with it — and it was like a switch went from high speed to low speed in both my body and my brain.

A Perfumes of the Lake massage was equally mind-altering. When the therapist, Teddy, told me I was receiving a “gentle” massage, I almost asked to change to something deeper, but my mouth couldn't muster the words I was thinking. Thank god for that. I took time to really feel the motion of his hands moving up and down my body – cherishing each stroke and savoring the aromas and essences of the region, which were incorporated into the service: olive oil, lavender, citrus, and grapes.

The (clothing-not-allowed) hot and cold circuit in the spa is comprehensive. Behind every door was what felt like a new gift: a grotto with water-filled beds, a sauna with sensual smells and gorgeous lamps between stone seats, a hammam, a dry sauna, a cold pool, and an ice cave where you pat yourself down with tiny chunks of ice after hot therapies. The cold/hot combo is excellent for the skin and circulation. 

I could have stayed in here for hours, but dinner was calling.

La Grande Limonaia Restaurant at Lefay Resort & Spa Lago di Garda
La Grande Limonaia Restaurant.

The resort has two restaurants. La Grande Limonaia is quiet and exquisite in design, while livelier Trattoria La Vigna is where we dined al fresco for lunch and ate fresh pasta and sipped wine in our spa robes. I could write a poem about the tagliatelle bolognese; it was so perfectly portioned and beautifully presented. After my required sampling of Italian pasta, I tried Lefay’s Vital Gourmet menu, a  healthier lunch and dinner based on the time-honored principles of a Mediterranean diet, and I never felt deprived. During my visit, I ate bread. I indulged in pasta. And I doused everything in olive oil. I also drank wine (Lefay makes their own). And I’ve never felt better.

Couples swarm here. It’s sexy, it’s quiet, it’s seductive. But families and pets are welcome, too.

The resort is family-owned by a couple who started Air Dolomiti in1989, which they sold to Lufthansa in 2003. Lefay opened in 2006 as a luxurious, innovative, forward-thinking spa experience for travelers who want to integrate wellness into their itineraries. The owner’s son, Alicide, is the Managing Director, overseeing the daily operations. The staff spoke English, a good thing, as my Italian lesson goals did not go as planned. There were no language barriers, and the service was as you’d expect at a wellness resort: There when you needed it, but not pushy or intrusive.

Guests can book a night at a time or a customized program from three to ten days based on such goals as detox, posture and alignment, sleep, and weight loss, to name a few. Rooms are exquisitely simple in design, and blend with the surrounding national park with views that make your heart and soul melt. They had smart and energy efficient features such as my closet lights that automatically turned on when I walked into the space. Olive wood floors and  punchy leather touches reminded you that you were in Italy. The nightly rates include breakfast, and you can add on spa, meals, and local excursions, like sailing on Lake Garda or attending the legendary Arena opera in nearby Verona. The customized spa programs are an add-on to the nightly rates, which include an initial consultation, spa treatments, activities, food, and a personalized itinerary.

In 2019, Lefay is opening a second resort with 84 suites and 25 accompanying residences in the Dolomites. 

I know someone who would like first dibs on a home.

Book It

Rooms at Lefay Resort & Spa start from €290 euros per night with breakfast, access to the saunas and pools, and mountain bikes. If you want help planning the trip, contact the Fathom Travel Concierge.

Plan Your Trip

How to Get There
Milan and Venice are the closest international airports, each a few hours away by car or train. If you want to explore the surrounding area, a car will be useful and the driving will be easy.

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