by Maureen Litteljhon
Submerge yourself in pure bliss
Historic or ultra-modern, Italy’s hotel pools offer some of the most splendid, splashy experiences in the world. Whether you are ensconced on the site of an ancient Etruscan community or wrapped in the creative spirit of an award-winning designer, these properties deliver one-of-a-kind ways to take a plunge.
One of Italy’s top luxury spa hotels, the Belmond Hotel Caruso, was originally the palace of a wealthy Roman family in the 11th century. This splendid Amalfi Coast property has undergone many changes since then, including the addition of a spectacular infinity pool. An architectural work of art, the pool seems to reach out past the craggy, coastal cliffs and dissolve into the clouds. Slip on your suit, slide on some sandals and take the rose-bordered path that leads to the pool terrace where you can ask the staff for a fresh fruit appetizer or a refreshing mineral water vaporizer. Float on your back and take a deep breath of air scented by nearby lemon groves. If you listen carefully, you might even hear notes of Mozart or Ravel coming from nearby Ravello, the City of Music. Hang over the pool’s edge and marvel at the same view that impressed famous hotel guests throughout the years, including Virginia Woolf, Greta Garbo, Humphrey Bogart and Jackie Kennedy.
A 750-acre Tuscan haven of sustainable luxury, Borgo Pignano features an organic farm, 18th century villa, Etruscan hamlet and an amazing infinity pool. Carved from an ancient limestone quarry, the pool is surrounded with sweeping views of the region’s olive trees, farmland and wildflower meadows. The quarry supplied most of the stone used to build Porta dell’Arco, one of the principal gateways of the historic hill town of Volterra, as well as Pignano’s many structures. The 1,500-square-foot heated pool has an eight-foot deep end. After your swim, stretch out on a chaise lounge on the ancient limestone terrace, order a cool drink and let your mind drift as you soak up the lemony sunshine. Recipient of the 2019 Condé Nast Johansens Awards for Excellence for “Best Hotel for Sustainability” in Europe and the Mediterranean, Borgo Pignano is halfway between Volterra and San Gimignano.
Originally built in 1920 as an Italian engineer’s private villa on the isle of Capri, Punta Tragara is perched high above the sea, with two freshwater swimming pools and views of the iconic Faraglioni rock formations. French architect Le Corbusier drew up plans for the house, calling it “an extension of the rock.” It was home to the American command during the Second World War; distinguished guests have included General Dwight D. Eisenhower and Sir Winston Churchill. Transformed into a five-star, 44-guestroom hotel in the 1970s, Punta Tragara is now owned by a Roman count. One of the pools is heated and has whirlpool jets to soothe away any aches and pains as you gaze out at the twinkling azure waters of Marina Piccola Bay. After your dip, head to the Monzu–Gin Club & American Bar for a creative sunset cocktail.
This private Sicilian rental property (available on a weekly basis) is the perfect location for an opulent, private pool party. Twelve ensuite bedrooms can accommodate 24 of your friends and family members. The stunning, 82-foot south-facing infinity pool is accessed via a secret staircase cut into the ancient lava rock walls. An added bonus is the soft water, naturally filtered through lava rock, which is marvellous for skin and hair. Bob about or do laps for a while, then enjoy the property’s jaw-dropping views. Clear blue skies meet the sparkling Ionian Sea, and fruit-laden vineyards and orchards carpet the surrounding fields under the watchful eye of towering Mount Etna. The former farm, winery and summer residence was built around 1850, then abandoned in the 1960s. The current owners have restored the home to its former glory, including planting fragrant fig and lemon trees.
On the eastern shore of lovely Lake Como, next to the village of Torno, you’ll find Il Sereno Lago di Como and a shimmering, aquamarine infinity pool. The all-suite property’s understated elegance is thanks to designer Patricia Urquiola, named Wallpaper Magazine Designer of the Year in 2015. Her subtle, artful touches can be seen everywhere, even at the heated pool where pea-green lounge chairs add a splash of modernity. The 60-foot freshwater pool is a showstopper that seems to hover magically over the lake. Relax on one of the lounge chairs on the pool’s large sundeck and, if that gets too warm, scoot over to one of the tented cabana beds for a little shade. When you’re ready to leave the pool, walk down to the dock and take a lake tour in a finely crafted Cantiere Ernesto Riva wooden boat, commissioned from the namesake family that has been hand-crafting boats in the nearby town of Laglio since 1771.
At Domus Civita, a private vacation home rental with three suites, there are a few mysteries to unravel. Two caves are hidden beneath the house and have been converted into a swimming pool and hot tub area that can be accessed from the garden. Below these is an underground wine grotto carved into the tufa rock that has been transformed into an art gallery. Located in the Lazio region, bordering Umbria, Civita de Bagnoregio was founded by the Etruscans, conquered by the Romans and features architecture from the Middle Ages and Renaissance. The village is set on a promontory in a vast valley carved into volcanic rock; the only way to enter is to take a half-mile-long footbridge that connects the modern world with this almost-mythical place lost in time. Don’t worry, you can pick up modern amenities in the town of Bagnoregio at the other end of the footbridge.