The Meridiana is small and somewhere between a boutique hotel and an Italian ski lodge. It's consciously stylish but this is Italy, and it seems everything Italian aims to be functional *and* beautiful. I’ve never seen a hotel like this in England and I don’t have the vocabulary to describe its ‘look’. It just looks like something out of an interiors style/design magazine. (They are clearly inspired by modern design fashions because the foyer has piles of design/home magazines dotted around. Neatly of course.)
Every single item in the hotel has been chosen because it not only functions well but because it looks good and it feels good too. Which isn’t something the English generally bother about. But being actually *in* this environment has an uncannily calming effect on the body and mind. There are plenty of photos illustrating this on the Meridiana's website, all of them accurate.
The hotel pool is really a spa bath outside. 'Swimming' wouldn't be possible in it. But the gym is very nice indeed - like training in the private gym of a millionaire friend. Most of the kit looks brand new and top quality: a comprehensive does-everything multigym, recumbent bike, treadmill, bench-press area and free-weights. A TV on the wall to watch if you must, and help yourself to water and towels. Behind the glass-brick wall is a treatment area for massages, and beyond that, a sauna (which required a booking + fee). Never saw anyone in the gym. Just me and the inexplicable posters of Himalayan people... Very peaceful.
Everyone we met - the receptionists, breakfast servers and cleaners - were all superb and multi-lingual (Italian, German, English). The owners run a tight ship - everything is spick-and-span: after breakfast service you'll see the same servers cleaning the front of house areas. The housekeepers efficiently do a 'once-over' of the rooms every day. Everything gleams. Whatever you need, it appears (fresh towels, bedsheets, etc). (But if you're like me and *need* hot water/tea, pack your travel kettle because, as in most continental hotels, they don't have them in the rooms.)
It's very important that I tell you about the breakfasts at Meridiana.
The hotel might be owned by a married couple (I'm not sure) but believe me, the place is *run* by two or three women. And their breakfast has ‘female’ stamped all over it. What does that mean? Let me enlighten you.
There’s a huge central table covered with bowls containing every kind of fresh fruit, dried fruit and cereal you can think of. Plus baskets of rolls, crispbreads, rye crackers and gluten-free stuff, honey, spreads etc etc. Then there’s a cold bar with yogs and a 'continental' savoury breakfast buffet (cheeses, meats, salad).
As for ‘boy food’, there is one heated crock-thing containing scrambled egg, bacon (thin Italian stuff, not lardy English slabs) and boiled eggs. That’s it. No toast. No sausages. No bowel cancer. Brilliant.
Oh, and I need to mention the patisserie. Also on the table (and remember, this is at *breakfast*) are tiny mouthful-sized fruit tarts, little ramekins of panna-cotta, canned fruit purees and a covered tray of cakes. Strudel, chocolate chip cake, marble cake and something which looks like treacle tart but surely can’t be. (Update: turns out it's what a Jammy Dodger would be if it was a) a cake and b) made with apricot jam.)
The hotel only has twenty-something rooms so to lay out a feast like this every day is impressive.
The Meridiana is an enjoyable 5 minute uphill trot from the water's edge. The scenery is stunning - there is no other word. It's absolutely beautiful. At all times of day; in any light. If you haven't been, put it on your list. Especially if you're fond of cycling and/or swimming.
I swam in Lake Garda every day (yes in late September) - the water isn’t ‘warm’ but it’s utterly lovely: chilled and sparkling-clean, like swimming in a deep pool of refreshing spring water. Further up the shore (in Navene), dishy chaps were out windsurfing every morning (Italian men even look good in neoprene), but swimming is safe and peaceful nearer Malcesine (pronounced 'mal-CHAY-zee-nay'). In terms of my personal list of ‘World's Best Places to Swim’, this is way ahead of Sri Lanka and Egypt, and I think it's snatched top billing from Kotor. Similarly stunning scenery (like a fjord) but Kotor water is salty; Garda seems as pure as spring water.
To rent bikes, there's a cycle shop and cafe (Xtreme) just under the cable car station, which is 30 seconds down the hill from the Meridiana.
There is a little supermarket (De Spar) just at the bottom of the hill, and our regular caffe+gelato joint was (we think; the name's not visible) called VideoBar, just opposite this. There is a bigger supermarket (EuroSpar) beyond the bus station on the main road.
For shopping, Malcesine's cobbled alleys are fab for belts, shoes and scarves.
And the 'must-dos' of 1) cable car and 2) ferry trips are totally worth it.
Our favourite restaurant - stumbled upon on our first night - was Hotel Castello, right on the waterside. Read the reviews on TripAdvisor and you'll be glad you found this hidden gem.
Very highly recommended. Currently my favourite place to stay in the world. Honestly. The only downside is that there is no swimming pool (only the small spa pool outside) but who needs one when you have Lake Garda on your doorstep?
Ladies of Meridiana, we salute you, your wonderful little hotel, and your brilliant breakfasts. We'll be back. (Soon I hope.)
Specify you want a lake view if you must, but we had a budget room on the ground floor which was fin...
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.