Castello del Sole is perhaps the most famous hotel in Switzerland because it tops every chart, every year. And yet, if you haven’t been there, you won’t see it. Magically hidden in Ascona, it is much bigger than I expected, and not that noticeable at the same time. What is big here is the nature. 140 hectares of trees, vineyards, fruit trees, grass paths dotted with immaculate gazebos, ending up in a private beach overlooking Lago Maggiore. And let me go straight to what I liked most: their Michelin starred restaurant, Locanda Barbarossa, by chef Mattias Roock.
Flavours from our garden
Mattias’ Sapori del Nostro Orto (flavours from our garden) is a menu that really is building a name for itself, and even setting a trend – you can find it here.
Mattias Roock has a Michelin star and it’s no wonder. He is so passionate about his job, that he really took the time to show us his famous garden. I had no idea that there were more than 10,000 variety of tomatoes in the world, and that Mattias thinks it’s normal to have at least 25 of them in the garden! Same goes for his various species of berries, each of them different in some tiny details and all spectacular, especially when combined in one of his signature desserts.
Walking with him and with my husband through lines of herbs, spices, fruits and vegetables, we smelled and tried many flavours right from the earth. It was extremely interesting to taste the raw ingredients, see the amount of work behind the products, hearing about the trials and errors (not every exotic plant can survive well in the Ticino climate, for example), the philosophy and the constant research behind the restaurant. Locanda Barbarossa even makes its own rice, surprisingly. And every external ingredient is from small local suppliers, making daily orders the opposite of what would happen in a city: non efficient, small, and absolutely amazing.
There are of course the Castello del Sole’s own vineries Terreni della Maggia to admire too, and their wine to taste – I always skip that part because I am a teetotal, but I loved the little Piaggio Ape parked near the apple trees and loaded with wine bottles, advertising the Living Circle, a hand-picked group of first-class hotels and restaurants in incomparably beautiful locations, run by dedicated hosts.
Since we were a bit unlucky with the weather, we decided to hit the spa. We swam in the main indoor pool, that has an outdoor part at the end, surrounded by the gorgeous park. There are also a whirlpool and a smaller, hot swimming pool. Fitness, sauna and treatment rooms are beautifully decorated and full of natural light. Castello del Sole is open in Spring to Autumn (from end of March to end of October) only, but it definitely can be enjoyed with any weather.
Our room – a junior suite – was modern, well equipped, with a traditional stone wall, two separate bathrooms and a fabulous view on the garden via a romantic little terrace.
When I put the video on Instagram to show it to my followers, a person asked me the room number to make sure he could book exactly the same one. I confirmed that the bed was super comfortable so it didn’t only look good, but was also great for a good night sleep (good mattress and fluffy cushions).
Activities at Castello del Sole
The Ticino area offers many amenities that are easily reachable from the hotel, and Castello del Sole provides various activities itself. Some are short – about 33 minutes long, as advertised in the website – like bird watching, tree walking, gourmet picnic and cocktail o’clock. Others are longer, like golf, shopping, or a stylish boat excursion.
Personally I simply chose running, sunbathing (when possible) and taking pictures. And do I need to mention again the excellent food?
The best thing about Castello del Sole is the overall atmosphere. The hotel is lively, but never looks full. Young families make a good mix with older clients, so the crowd is nice and diverse. Staff is super friendly, with many Italians and Italian speaking. People do talk to you, and leave you in peace if you simply want to rest.
Finally, the unique combination of farm, rustic and wild nature is gently mixed with a luxury that never looks pretentious. No bling-bling or Dubai style opulence at Castello del Sole, only the real deal, with attention to every single detail.
A place to relax and let go – a veritable 140 hectares of freedom.