Villa Crespi, Lago d’Orta, Italy

By November 29, 2020Luxury Life, Travel

A history steeped in richness…

Close your eyes… as you imagine being lured into a dream by a cacophony of singing birds and trickling water. Scents of verdant greenery and fresh air wrap around you, as does the familiar warmth of daylight. You finally open your eyes to see a magnificent villa towering above you, a Moorish masterpiece; the façade heavily adorned in arabesque carvings and arches. The setting is unexpected as well, a lush green landscape on a hill, above a glistening lake not too far in the distance. Welcome to Villa Crespi, a five-star, 14-room hotel and two Michelin star restaurant in Orta San Giulio, Italy.

Villa Crespi’s colorful and layered history began in 1879, when Cristoforo Benigno Crespi, a successful entrepreneur who spearheaded the cotton industry in Italy, commissioned a grand villa for his wife, Pia on their beloved Lake Orta. His vast business dealings in cotton were the cause for many long trips throughout the Middle East, where he fell in love with the architecture & charm of Baghdad. The extravagant Moorish mansion would take, in total, 30 years build. When you begin to examine the endless detail, artistry and technique that went into making this one-of-a-kind home, you would be surprised it did not take twice that time. 

Due to its lengthy construction time, the Crespis occupied the Villa for a relatively short portion of its existence and, over time, Villa Crespi has seen a succession of various owners. After being purchased in 1930 by Marquis Fracassi, it became a residence synonymous with poets, nobility, and royalty — even being home to King Umberto of Savoy. By 1999, after a meticulous restoration, the current owners Cinzia & Antonino Cannavacciuolo returned Villa Crespi to its glorious Moorish pedestal, enhanced with Italian hospitality and significant culinary ambitions — more on them shortly.

It is hard to imagine building Villa Crespi in 1879, it is even more astonishing to experience it in modern day with its extravagant history perfectly intact, masterfully restored. Upon arriving at Villa Crespi for the first time, you are instantly in awe of the arabesque exterior, followed by the splendidly gilded interiors. From the bright mosaic tile floor, to the intricate plaster work and ceiling that stretches several stories — you almost wonder if the stars on the ceiling could actually be the heavens parting, then you realize it is the most epic chandelier… and all of this is just in the intimate entry hall. 

Villa Crespi also hosts 14 guests rooms, eight of which are suites. The rooms are equally filled with elaborate details of inlaid hardwood floors with intricate patterns, gleaming mosaic floors, crystal chandeliers, four-poster beds, lavish fabrics upholstering the walls, architectural bathrooms and enchanting lake views —you will feel like royalty. It is probably no coincidence that the rooms are each named for an Arabic princess. It is easy to see the appeal of settling into Villa Crespi for a longer stay of an entire week.

A complete luxury experience…

While you could easily be overwhelmed by the immense beauty and detail of the property, you are at the same time brought down to earth by the warm and genuine staff who exemplify the perfect balance of friendly & professional. This harmony of service will exist throughout your stay at Villa Crespi, along with an unobtrusive attentiveness to facilitate your days & nights, which will allow you to maximize your time. Whether you seek a short, romantic getaway, a wellness respite, or to hold court while you explore the greater area with an endless amount of activities and excursions to keep everyone engaged, your stay can be exactly as you wish. 

For those seeking the offerings of Lake Orta, you can enjoy a beach club and pool nearby through an exclusive partnership with Villa Crespi. The pristine lake will be irresistible for a summer swim, but the hotel staff will happily arrange for water sports like sailing, waterskiing, paddle boarding and more. If you prefer to stay dry, consider higher ground by exploring Lombardy & Piemonte by air with a helicopter or hot air balloon tour. Of course, your’e in Italy, so that means there is a notable wine region nearby – in this case, Nebbiolo vineyards can be reached in 20 minutes. The greater Piemonte region is also at the doorsteps of Villa Crespi, which means Barolo and Barbaresco would make easy day trips. Not to worry, the perfect pairing to a day of wine tasting is a stop at the impressive Loro Piana flagship outlet (Via Novara, 484, 28078 Romagnano Sesia NO, Italy). 

The main attractions outside of Villa Crespi are Lake Orta and Orta San Giulio, which each contain a unique treasure. First, Lake Orta, which is home to Isola San Giulio, a picturesque island densely packed with ancient buildings. The island is barely 1000 feet long by 500 feet wide and hosts an active convent. The hotel provides complimentary ferry tickets to the island, which can be redeemed in San Giulio, the medieval town a 15-minute walk down hill from Villa Crespi. San Giulio is a treasure trove of well-preserved cobblestone streets that stretch through narrow corridors. Spending time in town is a great complement to Villa Crespi — just enough activity without the heaps of tourists you typically expect throughout much of Italy. If Villa Crespi shares its crown with anyone, it’s Sacro Monte di Orta, a park of 20 chapels dedicated to St. Francis di Assisi, with its initial structures dating back to 1583. Today, this UNESCO world heritage site can be reached by walking out the front door of Villa Crespi, crossing the street and starting a small hike up the back of San Giulio’s wooded mount. The works and history are astonishing. Along the way you can take in a tremendous view of Villa Crespi and, at the end, you are treated to a spectacular view of Lake Orta.

A harmonious culinary concept…

The premium hospitality extends into the culinary program at Villa Crespi, which is no surprise to Italians & Europeans who know the custodian and Chef of Villa Crespi, Antonino Cannavacciuolo from his extensive success throughout Italy, and as a TV Chef with entertainment programs such as Masterchef, Masterchef Celebrity.  His success came after paying the dues of grueling apprenticeships and climbing the culinary ranks. Like the layers of cultures that exist at Villa Crespi, Chef Cannavacciuolo pays homage to his native Campania by merging its tastes with his adoptive home, Piemonte. Chef Cannavacciuolo along with his wife Cinzia, like Villa Crespi itself, offer an extraordinary experience, characterized by the harmonious fusion of flavors and techniques. 

Enjoying dinner at Villa Crespi is a must. The hotel will gladly reserve you a table when you book, which is recommended as Chef Cannavacciuolo’s two Michelin starred restaurant is one of the most sought after in Italy, along with its formidable 1800-bottle wine cellar. Of course, there is also the daily breakfast off an adjoining terrace, beautifully flooded with sun and lake views. Nothing exemplifies a luxurious way to start your day until you have woken up at Villa Crespi. The hotel also boasts a stylish and intimate bar/lounge, perfect for aperitifs. If you have a penchant for day drinking, request tea service in lush gardens and sip Champagne and tea in your own personal paradise. Chef Cannavacciuolo and his team of 25 also welcome guests into the kitchen, which looks like a spectacular showroom, fitting for Villa Crespi’s aesthetic Eden – clean, glamorous and highly stylized. The hotel can arrange for a cooking class, where guests can learn to recreate three of Chef Cannavacciuolo’s dishes.

Write your own fairytale…

A cherished destination for any season, Villa Crespi celebrates its 20-year anniversary next year, another milestone in its rich history. The luxurious Villa has enriched its every corner, just like the lives of its many guests. From your first steps into the majestic lobby and onto the gorgeous Florentine mosaic floors, you will feel the warm embrace of its ornamental walls and its staff. A truly unique experience in luxury travel, to sleep under the towering minaret, a reminder of Arabic inspirations erected lakeside in Northern Italy. Discover for yourself why Villa Crespi is one of the most emblematic symbols on Lake Orta and Italy.      

Via Fava, 18, 28016 Orta San Giulio NO      

39 0322 911902