Monday, July 10, 2017


If the Mediterranean summer is too hot for you, we suggest a sublime lakeside spot in Italy. Luxury travel advisor Collette O’Connor visits two hotels by magical Lake Como….CastaDiva and Il Sereno.

In summer Lake Como offers a true Mediterranean ambience without the humidity. Lying at the foothills of the Alps, Italy’s third biggest lake has fresh, clean air, while Italian charm suffuses small lakeside villages with bell towers and churches in natural stone. Beautiful villas are surrounded by magnificent gardens with steps adorned with statues leading down to the lake.

Part of the mystique is the depth of the lake which goes down to 200 metres below sea level.  

In this setting stand two rather different but equally delightful hotels – CastaDiva and Il Sereno – both in beautiful landscaped gardens with lake views. They make a memorable introduction to Lake Como for those who may have exhausted the Amalfi Coast and other Mediterranean options – or want it cooler.

Stunningly positioned lakeside, you can explore authentic and charming Italian villages by boat over the still waters with mountains framing the horizon. 

The area also offers a plethora of sporty activities from gentle to extreme. We have to include shopping as an extreme sport for we are in Italy!  Como city is a true shopping haven with options for all budgets;  high end fashion retailers compete here with standard high street options and independent boutiques.

As Como is easily accessible from Milan by rail, a stay by Lake Como can easily be included in a grand Italian tour, especially for honeymooners or those celebrating a special anniversary or life milestone.

Arrive by boast to charming towns and villages asround the lake

Hotel CastaDiva

CastaDiva offers a stunningly romantic position on the lake front set in beautiful manicured grounds, with the largest spa on the lake. The property has an exclusive feel, albeit with a convivial ambience especially on the weekends when stylish families and couples from Milan descend.

It is the former home of Opera singer Giuditta Pasta, and her image and musicality is evident throughout. Colourful lounges in the main Villa Roccabruna set against the lake vistas make for an aesthetically appealing first impression, especially when you arrive by boat.

Villa Roccabruna

The hotel is perfectly positioned to explore the nearby city of Como or take boat trips on the lake to neighbouring villages for lunch stops and shopping. Or simply lounge beside the hotel’s floating pool for vistas of lake and mountains.

The pool floating on the  lake

This is also a sublime environment for a spa holiday. The sophisticated spa is beautifully appointed: designed by Paolo Bodega, over an area of 1300 sqm. It is the largest one on Lake Como and offers beautiful unique spaces, where guests can enjoy a truly sensory experience among water features in an environment that reminds of an old steamboat, or sitting on comfortable chaise lounges on a glass floor, suspended over a 19th century dock. This is the perfect place to unwind.

Spa indoor pool

Food and restaurant service are excellent. The Orangerie restaurant offers a gourmet menu which is served only for dinner, together with refined and new tasting menus. Giardino Dei Sapori offers typical Italian cuisine on the breathtaking terrace for lunch and a traditional luch is served on the terrace L´Orangerie restaurant for your "alfresco meal". The culinary proposal of the resort is enriched by the CastaDiva Gorumet Pizzas menu and rich BBQ offer. Bar Bellini has a luxurious ambience and a breathtaking view over Lake Como especially from its outdoor terrace. Perfect as a meeting place, it offers a tasty range of light meals, salads and snacks at lunch and dinner, as well as cocktails, signature and classic drinks.

The rooms and suites are housed in a series of villas, the original being the RoccaBruna Villa. This is also home to the public lounges, front desk and guest relations, spa and a beautiful stair case modelled on La Scala in Milano.

Each room/suite varies hugely even within the same category. It is wise to request a floor plan and images when booking as there are better solutions in each category and some rooms have small windows.

Penthouse suite in Villa Gilda

Do book a lake view room with balcony...

Double deluxe room with balcony in Villa Dorabella

We especially liked the Junior suite lake view for spacious contemporary living with pleasing decor/colour schemes, but if money is no object go for Suite Fiordiligli – for privacy and stunning terrace.

CastaDiva offers pleasant rather informal service, and is especially suited to younger couples and families newer to luxury travel, who like to seek new adventures and experiences.

No. of rooms:  73 rooms, 58 of them are suites and junior suites and 2 private villas
Distance from airport: 50 mins by car. By train – 1h 20 mins from Milan Malpensa to Como Lago Nord – with one change enroute in Saronno then 2 mins walk and arrival in style by hotel boat (10 mins). Train from Milano Centrale – Como Lago Nord is only 45 minutes.
Distance from nearest town/shops/restaurants: 5 km to Como City, Blevio village is approx 15 – 20 mins walk.
Spa: sophisticated facilities include sauna, steam bath, Mediterranean bath, relaxation pool with side jest, Vitality Pool with hydromassage and chromotherapy, Kneipp circuit, balancing Himalayan rose salt room, refreshing ice cascade, emotional showers with peppermint and exotic fragrances.
Gym: Kinesis and state-of-the-art equipment by Technogym.
Watery activities off site arranged by the hotel: jet skiing, waterskiing, watersports, fishing – and on land hiking.
Lake Como (Lago di Como): area of 146 sq km, third-largest lake in Italy, after Lake Garda and Lake Maggiore. Over 400 m deep, it is one of the deepest lakes in Europe, with lake bottom more than 200 m below sea level.
Who to stay:  those who appreciate classic design and tranquility.

Il Sereno

Among the opulent aristocratic residences of Lake Como is this new sleek hotel – the only property of its type on the lake amongst the established classics. The all-suite Il Sereno is the epitome of modern living – pared back design with clean lines and love of natural light, the creation of Patricia Urqioula. Sure to appeal to jet-setters and hip young professionals, particularly from the world of fashion, media and design.

Infinity lap pool at Casta Diva - heated

Il Sereno is the most perfect place to spend a long weekend.  The design aesthetic coupled with lake vistas and clean air will embrace you from arrival.  The immediate sense of calm relaxation reminded me of the feeling you get when you reach the Maldives…minus the jet lag.  

Calmness continues in spacious suites and bathrooms, and extremely comfortable beds.

You have direct access to the lake which is rejuvenating and refreshing to swim in.  The backdrop of the mountains is really dramatic and exhilarates whilst you work out in the water!   
For a bit more warmth, the infinity lap pool is at 30 degrees. There is a beautiful decked area with comfortable sunbeds and day beds to relax on. 

Mealtimes are another source of satisfaction, and you will browse a fabulous wine list. Chef Berton presents modern Italian cuisine in a relaxed yet refined atmosphere for breakfast, lunch and dinner. At Ristorante Berton Al Lago the menu encompasses regions near Lake Como. The lake with its fish and aromatic herbs, the mountains of Valtellina known for its incredible wines, cheeses and meats, and the nearby Pianura Padana, known for its risotto and other fantastic ingredients, are all incorporated.

At the Bar, the head bar man is quite the Alchemist – try the non-alcoholic Negroni whilst breathing 
in the lake air on the terrace!

Our favourite rooms to book include Grand Suite Lago (to ensure a full lake view) and the Penthouse Suite with jaw-dropping views and large skylights filling the bathrooms and corridors with natural light. 

As is the case for all the suites in the hotel, the exquisite interiors and furnishings are by Patricia Urquiola.

Corner suite

Darsena suite showing the richly mellow and textured decor 

Darsena Suite (for 4) right at water level with direct lake access and the large terrace touching the gentle waves - but lower down has a less dramatic view.

When the sweet life at the hotel surfeits, aim beyond the gym for exploration and exercise.
Boating is a splendid way to visit charming Italian towns like Como City, Moltrasio, Cernobbio and Bellagio. The hotel has 3 custom-made Cantiere Ernesto Riva boats available for excursions; and 2 jetto’s – horse power 40 – can be hired for private use, with no licence needed. Public ferries are another option and they go on time. Since taxis are so extortionate in this area a good solution is to lunch out and dine in the hotel or at Il Vapore in Torno, a stroll away. 

Many hiking options are available in the surrounding mountainous area – gentle walks or much more challenging if desired.

And then don't forget the ultimate Italian sport - shopping.

Location: on the eastern shore of Lake Como 6km North of Como City
No. of rooms:  30 suites
Distance from airport:   55 mins by car; or by train from Milan Malpensa to Como Lago Nord /1h 20mins with 1 change en-route, then 2 mins walk and 10 mins by Riva boat. Milano Centrale – Como Lago Nord is only 45 mins.  
Distance from nearest town/shops/restaurants:  6 km from Como City, 5 mins walk to tiny village Torno
Service: as expected in a new hotel it needs to time to get into full swing.
Spa + fitness: due to open July 2017 with floor to ceiling lake views and state of the art fitness facilities. Hotel guests only.
Activities: boat hire at the hotel, cooking lessons, fishing, helicopter rides. Off site options: Vespa and Ferrari tours, kayak, canoe, water ski, horse riding, parasailing, hot air balloon. Surf, soccer, seaplane tours, tennis, paragliding, cycling, rafting in Valtellina, natural reserve cruise, wine tasting.
Who to stay: those who appreciate modern design and tranquility.

Sunbeds at the pool

This blog is based on a report by Select Collection travel advisor Collette O'Connor after a long weekend visit to Lake Como. Images by Select Collection, CastaDiva, Il Sereno & Collette O'Connor.

More about Il Sereno on Select Collection website HERE.

More about CastaDiva on Select Collection website HERE.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017


Neil Bedford, final arbiter of Select Collection's portfolio of top luxury hotels, gives flying colours to this Thai hideaway an hour by car and boat from Krabi or Phuket…

Six Senses Yao Noi commands some of the most beautiful vistas in the world. Looking out east over Phang Nga Bay and its limestone karsts, the ocean suites enjoy simply outstanding views, while the main pool area (the Reserve) at the top of the resort boasts a breathtaking pool worthy of “top 10” status around the world.

At the same time the resort is a peaceful and secluded hideaway with a traditional Thai feel upgraded to Six Senses standards. The ambience differs from the more suave and contemporary feel of Trisara and Andara, and it is more barefoot and casual than Amanpuri, to name some of our most revered resorts on Phuket.

When it comes to the cuisine, the mouth can only water. The food is beautifully presented Thai cuisine with colour and flavour from homegrown produce in the organic garden. Uniquely the hotel boasts its own mushroom farm as well as chickens (for eggs only) and even goats (for milk/cheese). Having replaced all imported drinking water with in-house produced Six Senses Drinking Water, Six Senses Yao Noi has now opened its first water bar. The main reason behind this change is to become more environmentally conscious and to create a public awareness of “foodmiles” towards guests and hosts.

Typical ocean villa

The villas have a romantically rustic air, with fringy thatch, plunge pools and wooden decks, surrounded by jungle and built up a steep slope thus awarding its famous views to most of the villas.

Aerial view of Six Senses Yao Noi.
There is a pleasant beach, though that is not the main drawcard. You will probably dream around the high pool and its astounding views, morning, noon and night – if not hiding away at your own pool – especially if you have treated yourself to an Ocean Villa – or a Deluxe Ocean Villa even higher up the slopes.

View from the main pool at sunrise
To cap the experience of Yao Noi, paddle a kayak over the crystal waters of Phang Nga Bay or head off on a longtail boat amongst its golden islands. 

Main reasons to stay here: Seclusion, views and genuine Thai feel
No. of rooms: 55
Distance from airport: 20 mins drive then 40 mins boat from Phuket. 40 mins drive then 20 mins boat from Krabi
Distance from nearest town/shops/restaurants: Local village 5 mins by car, 20 mins by pushbike +  very simple local restaurants. Rayavadee 20 mins by boat. Ritz-Carlton Phulay Bay 15 mins by boat.

Facilities: Renovated spa due to re-open mid July 2017. Watersports centre being upgraded, due to re-open summer 2017. 

More about Yao Noi at Selecct Collection HERE.

Monday, July 3, 2017


In the paradise stakes, this dreamy private island resort is a sure winner.  Report by three Nordic travel advisors specialized in top luxury holidays …

Nature makes a dramatic backdrop with giant boulders and greenery running down to crystal seas. Here, on the private island of Felicite, we felt we had found paradise – just one resort amidst astounding beauty with relaxing atmosphere, exceptional pool villas and great food.  

Both accommodation and food are contemporary in style. Food is light and fresh, with organic produce from garden, orchid and sea. Villas have intriguing high tech features created with environmental caring and contemporary design. All with wide decks and private pools, most with stunning views of the aquamarine sea.

Perhaps the winning card at Zil Pasyon is the spa – worthy of a label destination spa. It has a stunning location, offering a spectacular viewpoint with saltwater infinity pool. The 5 treatment rooms are perched on granite rocks, and each one has a great view.

Spa between and on huge granite boulders and rainforest, with view of the turquoise sea

The spa offers wellness screening, using the latest technology to help guests achieve good health. Screening takes account of the whole body, stress, sleep, and overall body hydration. The spa will then create a wellness plan just for you, incorporating your diet, meditation, fitness coaching and yogic sleep. This will help you to implement small but vital changes to your life, small changes you can easily continue doing at home, to improve your health.

When it comes to sun and fun, there are three beaches on Felicite facing in different directions, which usually enables guests to find one that is sheltered from wind and waves. Anse Peniche, close to the activity center is the best beach for swimming and has easiest access to the sea.

Grand Anse Beach

A dreamy beach is within easy reach in the national park on the closest island, Ile Coco; by 5 mins boat ride, complimentary 4 times per day...or you can kayak there.

Coco Isle

In addition to snorkeling trips, the activity centre arranges paddleboard lessons, volleyball, archery and more.

Swinging in the bar
Main pool

No. of rooms: 30 villas, 15 on each side. Sunrise and sunset differentiates the two sides.
Distance from airport: 20 minutes by helicopter from Mahe. Or 15 minutes by car and 30 minutes bumpy boatride from Praslin airport.
Distance from nearest town/shops/restaurants: La Digue is 15 minutes away by boat, a great cycling destination. The resort usually arranges trips to La Digue in their weekly program.
Main reason to choose Zil Pasyon: Great modern pool villas with all you can ask for.
Tip: For views book Panorama Pool villa, for that something extra Pasyon Pool villa, and for a light  beachfront position Beachfront Pool villa.
Facilities: Spa, gym with view, yoga,2 bars, 2 restaurants, dinner experiences like a romantic dinner at Grand Anse or at the island's highest viewpoint, open air movies, small kids club, activity centre, main pool by the sea with shallow end for kids. Hiking trails. Speed boat to Coco Island 4 times per day.
Who to stay: Those looking for peace, beauty and stylish contemporary accommodations.

Villa interior

Only 20 mins by helicopter from Mahe intl apt

Complimentary ice cream
Note: This blog is based on a group report by three Select Collection travel advisors: Arja Laukkarinen (Finland), Astrid Sølvik (Norway), Mariana Kalinic (Sweden). Images by Select Collection, above team and travel advisor Tina Vestin (Sweden).

More about Six Senses Zil Pasyon  on our website HERE, and in a previous Haute Couture Travel Blog HERE.