The inaugural awards ceremony for The World’s 50 Best Hotels, held in London’s Guildhall, culminated in an emotional moment announcing Italy’s Passalacqua as The World’s Best Hotel 2023. Here’s everything you need to know, from what sets it apart to how it was selected – and what the property’s owner and general manager, Valentina De Santis and Silvio Vettorello, had to say as they are officially bestowed the status of hotelier royalty
The first-ever holder of The World’s Best Hotel title has been announced, and it’s not a hundred-room property owned by an international hotel group with dozens of backers. Instead, the No.1 in the new ranking of The World’s 50 Best Hotels 2023 has just 24 rooms, overlooks Italy’s Lake Como and is owned by the De Santis family, local hoteliers for whom hospitality is a lifelong mission. Indeed, the family’s 41-year-old daughter, Valentina, conceived and masterfully curated every aspect of the award-winning villa.
The award was the culmination of a glamorous ceremony in London, where the world’s leading hoteliers, travel media and industry VIPs eagerly watched on as each property voted into The World’s 50 Best Hotels 2023 ranking was unveiled at the historic Guildhall. The list is the result of a robust voting process that sees 580 international experts submit their top choices for hotel stays around the world, resulting in the most transparent and independent luxury travel ranking in existence.
Passalacqua enjoys a prime location on Lake Como
“Grazie, grazie. You can hear from my voice that I’m very emotional,” says owner Valentina De Santis in an exclusive interview with 50 Best following the announcement. “Passalacqua has been a love story since the very first moment. I give all credit to my parents, who had this dream together with me.”
Passalacqua’s general manager, Silvio Vettorello, adds: “What makes Passalacqua special is the people who work here, who work with us. It’s special because every one of our colleagues is special.”
“Silvio taught us ten years ago to believe in what we dreamt, saying that ‘if you can dream it, you can do it’,” continues De Santis. “And now we made this dream come true. To our colleagues back home, I want to say: you are the heroes. As a big family, nothing is impossible.”
Built in the 18th century on land once owned by Pope Innocent XI, the building now home to Passalacqua was once the residence of one of Italy’s most famous opera composers, Vincenzo Bellini. It was acquired by the De Santis family – already owners of Lake Como’s Grand Hotel Tremezzo – in 2018. Valentina soon made it her passion project, pouring countless hours into creating a one-of-a-kind retreat through mindful restoration of the property incorporating inspired design elements.
The Bellini Suite at Passalacqua
When it opened its doors in June 2022, Passalacqua jumped right to the top of travellers’ bucket lists thanks to Valentina’s masterful interpretation of ‘vivere italiano’ through daily activities from gelato making to yoga. These complemented the villa’s stunning gardens including a pool and vistas over Lake Como – resulting in the the property receiving this ultimate hotel accolade.
Located in a venue that has played host to historical figures such as Napoleon Bonaparte and Winston Churchill, Passalacqua houses 24 suites, each individually designed and melding grand Italian baroque style with a sense of understated sophistication. Three separate buildings make up the property, with the 12-room main villa featuring Bellini’s own balustraded music room and piano, the eight-room converted stables characterised by ancient exposed beams, and the four-room villa by the lake including a beautiful private dining area and fireplace.
The seven acres of terraced gardens are dotted with 15 different water fountains and countless other surprises – from chickens roaming freely (guests are invited to collect their own fresh eggs from the shed) to a bocce court, al-fresco gym, olive grove and tennis court. The converted stables also serve as the location for the spa, which extends into the ancient tunnels excavated under the property in the 18th century, for a truly immersive experience.
The owners spared no expense outfitting the hotel, focusing on Italian artisans from the length of the country. From Murano glass chandeliers handblown especially for Passalacqua to the 20 different types of marble that make up the bathrooms, everything contributes to the feeling that no matter where you look, this is a property that consistently surpasses expectations.
Representatives of The World’s 50 Best Hotels 2023 celebrated together in London
Elsewhere in the newly announced list, travellers aiming to tick off the top five of The World’s 50 Best Hotels 2023 should look to book flights to Hong Kong – where No.2, Rosewood Hong Kong, and No.4, The Upper House, are based – as well as Bangkok, which saw Four Seasons Bangkok at Chao Phraya River land at No.3, and Tokyo, with the stylish Aman Tokyo at No.5.
The dazzling awards evening also saw a series of special awards bestowed to properties across the globe. Singita Lodges, located in South Africa’s Kruger National Park, received the Flor de Caña Eco Hotel Award; Soneva Fushi in the Maldives was honoured with the Lost Explorer Best Beach Hotel Award; while Capella Bangkok was named the Nikka Best New Hotel, and The Newt, in England, the Carlo Alberto Best Boutique Hotel. The only prize for an individual, the SevenRooms Icon Award, went to Sonu Shivdasani, co-founder and CEO of Soneva and founder and former CEO of Six Senses Resorts & Spas.
With the first generation of The World’s 50 Best Hotels now born after three days of events held across London, luxury travellers have a new guide to rely on when booking the best stays in the planet – and can stay tuned for more, as the ranking will be refreshed each year.
Did you miss The World’s 50 Best Hotels 2023 awards ceremony? Catch up on the livestream:
The first-ever list of The World’s 50 Best Hotels was revealed on 19th September 2023. Bookmark the 50 Best Hotels website and follow us on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube for the latest content on the best properties in the world.