It stands upon lakefront land owned by Pope Innocent IX, who ruled over the Vatican for a mere two months in 1591. In the early 1800s, Count Andrea Lucini Passalacqua built a sprawling villa complete with interiors by famed Swiss designer Giocando Albertolli. It was known as one of the grandest properties in the region: in 1829, Vincenzo Bellini composed two of his famous operas, Norma and La Sonnambula, in the home’s music room. The owners changed over the centuries, each bringing in their fair share of notable guests, from Napoleon Bonaparte to Winston Churchill.
Throughout the property, neoclassical magnificence combines with modern touches: rooms feature ten-foot tall (or 16-foot, in the case of the Salla de Musica suite where Bellini composed those aforementioned operas) Barovier & Toso Murano glass chandeliers—but also have Dyson hairdryers. A gym with state-of-the-art treadmills sits amid an olive grove. Vintage-style steamer trunks by Bottega Conticelli conceal flatscreen televisions. Some rooms feature carefully restored frescos, and the pool has upholstery by La Double J’s JJ Martin. A spa is attached to a secret tunnel that leads out to the lake, used once upon a time as a passageway by servants. Meanwhile, the hotel’s classic wooden boat, “Didi,” is swathed in Loro Piana fabrics, and hotel employees are dressed in uniforms designed by cult-Italian cool girl brand Giuliva Heritage.
It’s also a love letter to the artistry of Italy: curtains are made from taffeta sourced in Como, and gilded mirrors come from Venice’s family-run Barbini. Couches and chairs feature textiles by Rubelli, while bedroom floors are laid with traditional Cotto Lombardo tiles. De Santis says she always wanted to imbue Passalacqua with “vivere Italiano.”
Passalacqua’s intimate rooms spread between the main villa, converted stables, and the four-bedroom Casa Al Lago. De Santis shares that often, guests have an emotional reaction to walking into the rooms, some of which have frescos, painted ceilings, and ornate Baroque touches. “You don’t know how many times our team escorted the guests to the rooms and they started to cry,” she says. “I think it’s a place that really taps into emotions because my interpretation is that they not only see the beautiful pieces and furniture, but they feel the love and passion that’s behind it.”