CASTELLO DEL SOLE
29 June 2016
C A S T E L L O D E L S O L E
Unbelievable how this luxury estate hotel located in Switzerlands south, the sunny Ascona, could have slipped my knowledge all this time. Given my mothers home is 20 minutes from it. The times I had seen it from far away, even sometimes wondering what was there: located right in the center between the ticinesi districts Locarno and Ascona.
Ticino is known to be the sunny spot in Switzerland, and Castello del Sole is named after the sun, literally meaning Castle of the Sun in translation. Located Lakefront and surrounded by gigantic amounts of property. After a drive through a luscious green grove one reaches the entrance of the Estate. The Hotel is divided into 3 sections - the 'House Ascona' where I stayed, the House Locarno, as well as some modern refurbished rooms for guests in the main house. My room was stunningly spacious with high ceilings and lightflooded by the ceiling high sliding glass doors that opened up to the spacious balcony with view on the front lawn separating the Castello from the Lago Maggiore.
Castello del Sole could be self-sustaining food wise. The neighbouring agricultural business 'Terreni alla Maggia' produces directly for the Hotel, including the renowned risotto rice grain deriving from Europe's most norther rice plantation and of course the Castello del Sole house wine. Terreni alla Maggia also produces tea, corn and many other things. Its products like the risotto and the polenta are available in fine food departments across Switzerland.
The Kitchen's philosophy at Castello del Sole is classical, light, seasonal and mostly grown on the hotel's own gardens. Head Chef Othmar Schlegel, who heads the single kitchen for both the fine dining Restaurant Locanda Barbarossa aswell as the à la carte Restaurant Tre Stagioni, is a passionate gardener and collector of rare species of edible plants. As a food scout he is not only content with finding new species of fruits, vegetables and herbs - he brings them straight back to the Castello del Sole and plants them for culinary use. An approach reminding me of J.W. Goethe's most famous piece of poetry 'gefunden'. Food is something you either love or just consume - at Castello del Sole the love for food exceeds the boundaries of the kitchen. Even the hoteldirector has a green thumb and an impressive collection of tomato plant species in his own tomato garden - a summer highlight for the guests when they are ready to be harvested and appear on the buffets & menu's. Besides the over 20 types of different tomato's, I also counted a corresponding estimated 15 different species of basil, and then the one or other oddity like mini baby kiwis and white raspberries (yes, they where ripe!) To top that all off, 4 impressive Yuzu trees throne symmetrically casting shade into the herbal garden where the Hotel's chefs gather every day before service at 17.30 to cut the herbs they need for the evening.
Besides excellent food, Castello del Sole deserves the reputation of being an exquisite Spa resort too. Featuring everything from a large gym area, outdoor heated pool, hot tubs with water massage, sauna, steambaths and several treatment rooms: the spa is definitely invites to spend a relaxing day. I enjoyed a classical facial and sports massage to cleanse and relax myself upon arrival at the first day. The Hotel has its own range of beauty products based on grapeseed oil and the therapist individually adapts the treatment to the needs of clients skin. Besides a new face and body, I took home some good tipps on how to care for my face skin and how to release tensions easily with a few stretches during daytime too. It was more than a spa treatment - it was a great consultation too!
I could recount so many more things and details about my stay at the Castello del Sole. But I prefer to let some moving images speak for themselves to give you an impression of the environment and atmosphere of the place. The way that the food was prepared at the table, the floral variety, the kaleidoscope of greens in the estate gardens - the views!
When I heard from friends before my visit that this was apparently 'the best hotel' in Switzerland I sort of thought that they exaggerated slightly. I thought I had seen it all. But looking back I must agree. The Castello del Sole is more than a five star hotel - its a place where one feels welcome and comfortable. There is that humble and quiet approach to luxury and style, honouring etiquette and traditions in the way even simple things are done.
What moved me the most was how the team waved goodbye to me at my departure. It was a wonderful stay and I thank everyone for treating me kindly.