Hotel Review: Parco San Marco, Cima, Italy.
Where do you go when what you crave is a couple of days of relaxation? Do you escape to the mountains, or enjoy time somewhere by the water?
We personally love escaping from central Switzerland through the Gotthard Tunnel into Ticino, the Italian part of Switzerland. It is one of my favourite mini-escapes. In just about 2 hours by car (or by train through the new Gotthard Basis Tunnel) from Zürich you are magically transported to another world filled with palm trees and pizzas.
When we found ourselves with a couple of days with just our toddler Z last summer, we jumped at the opportunity to drive down south. The older kids were away at camp and we thought, “Why not?!” Normally we stay in Lugano, but we decided to try something new this time. So we popped over the Italian boarder to the town of Cima and gave the family resort Parco San Marco a tryout. The resort is well advertised throughout the German part of Switzerland and many friends have raved about how great it is, so we started out fairly confident that it was going to be a great mini-break.
Our Traveling Party
As I had mentioned, it was just 3 of us this time. That fact, right there, helped add to the relaxation factor exponentially. While we LOVE traveling with the whole family, I would usually not characterize our trips as relaxing! So this time I really and truly had the chance to relax in one of the most serene settings you can imagine.
Parco San Marco is located just over the Swiss/Italian boarder in the village ofCima, just before the town of Porlezza. We decided to travel by car since it seemed to be difficult to reach by public transport, so we got up extra early in order to get through the Gotthard Tunnel and avoid the traffic. We stopped in Lugano for lunch and a boat ride before continuing on to the resort. Parco San Marco is built into the side of a mountain and so it is terraced and there are lovely views throughout the resort.
Tip: There is only way one main road in to and out of the villages along the lake leading to and from Lugano so we highly recommend arriving before the end-of-work traffic begins. The road turns into a parking lot around 4 pm, with everyone returning home from Lugano. So it’s best to plan to get to the hotel before 4 pm if you want to avoid a longer than needed drive.
We arrived at the resort just after lunch and parking, under reception, was easy to find. The parking spots were a little narrow, but we found one in a lower level that accommodated our car (SEAT Alhambra) just fine. Parking is not included in the hotel rate, but if you book directly through their website you will receive a 50% discount on parking.
The reception was extremely friendly and they had several German and English speaking staff members. The clientele seemed to be mostly Swiss-German families although we did run into a couple of English families as well.
We chose a one bedroom suite with a balcony and lake views. Z (at the time just 2) slept in a cot in the lounge area. Although there were no cooking faciities, the room had a nice lounge area with a mini fridge along with a 6 seater dining table. The table could be really useful if you wanted opt for a take away pizza and just relax in your room after a nice day by the pool. A balcony for us was a must on this trip and it didn’t go to waste. We thoroughly enjoyed sitting on the balcony and enjoying the sunset over the lake with a glass of wine while Z slept peacefully inside.
The room was minimalistly and tastefully decorated, with a book shelf filled with books in various langauges just in case we had forgotten our books from home. The bathroom was large and had both a shower and bath (always a plus, especially with children). Our room was quite close to the road, and did have some traffic noise, but this didn’t bother us at all. If you would prefer a more peaceful room, ask for a room up higher in the resort.
Tip: If you require a cot, bring your own. We were disappointed to learn on arrival that we would be charged 19 Euros per night for a cot. Had we have known in advance we would have brought our own cot with us. We found 19 Euros per night for a cot to be extremely expensive. A fee of 19 euros for the duration of our stay would of been more acceptable to us.
Ahhh Italian food! There are several different restaurant options within the resort itself and we tried three of them. The main restaurant is buffet style and we ate here for breakfast. The breakfast buffet had with everything we wanted and I thoroughly enjoyed my omelette every morning.
On our first evening we tried La Masseria - Beach Terrace and Grill for dinner. We sat outside under the covered Terrance (despite the storm that greeted us as we arrived) and really enjoyed our meals and the atmosphere. I appreciated the organic options for little Z and the staff were extremely attentive to her, which made us feel very welcome. (They even remembered her name the following day). If you’d like to try this restaurant I would encourage you to book ahead as it seemed to be very popular with hardly an available table.
We also enjoyed a lunch down at the Beach Lounge and Pizzeria San Marco next to the lake. There was quite a windstorm when we ate, but the staff were still able to serve us with a smile and we thoroughly enjoyed our pizzas. Since we have visited the resort, a pop up restaurant for the summer months has been introduced - a nod to Italian Slow (!!) Street food and all for take away - sounds like a really great option to put that lovely dinner table in our suite to use!
On the other two nights, we ventured outside of the hotel. The second night we tried Il Ritrovo, which was a short walk towards Porlezza (however a very narrow path right next to the road). It was an average Italian restaurant - service could have been friendlier. The pricing was however more Italian than Swiss and more reasonable than eating at the hotel. It had a great outdoor area next to the lake.
On our last night we tried Restaurant La Taverna in Cima. We also walked there from our hotel (but wouldn’t do that again as there was not always a footpath). This restaurant is now one of my all time favourite Italian restaurants. FABULOUS service, incredibly warm and friendly, the food is outstanding and overall it is a great value for the money. For under 100 Euros we enjoyed three courses including a glass of prosecco and wine for 2 and a pizza for little Z. Booking in advance is a must as it was totally full when we were there. I loved seeing “regular” tourists dining in the restaurant who had been coming back year after year. That’s my type of restaurant. We plan to visit again in when staying in Lugano in the spring - in our opinion it is very worth the drive.
Tip: Restaurants in this area seem to get quite full very quickly. Book your dinners in advance, perhaps even before you set off on your trip, and especially if you have a family.
Parco San Marco is made for families. From the free ice cream pass for the kids to the great playground and kids club - your kids (and the parents too!) will have a ball.
Playgrounds: We spent quite a bit of time at the playground, as you do with a 2 year old. Located in the middle of the resort under trees it was a great place to be. A second playground is located down by the lake. For the older kids there was a beach volleyball field and a inline skate park.
Water fun: The fun pool is divided into two areas: a smaller toddler pool with small slide and a bigger pool with a larger slide. The water was a little on the cool side for this Australian, but we did hop in a couple of times. We also thoroughly enjoyed lounging by the pool under the tall trees and staring out at the beautiful view. If you desire, there is also an adults only pool, where you can really enjoy your kid-free time. There is an indoor pool that we didn’t visit (I just couldn’t do it when the sun was shining). Down by the lake there is more fun to be had, with rows of loungers begging for you to sit back and relax on them. The kids will love the trampoline in the lake. The lake is accessed by a path down the side of the hotel, with a tunnel that goes underneath the road.
Kids club: We didn’t use the kids club but we had a peek in and it looked great, well equipped for kids aged 2 - 12 (divided into two groups) There is also a "Teenie" space for the older members of your family to chill with some Billiards or fuss ball.
Porlezza: The sweet town of Porlezza is just a short stroll from the hotel. We enjoyed wandering the streets and capped it off with an espresso and a genuine Italian gelato. It is in Porlezza that we picked up a delicious bottle of 25 year old Balsamic Vinegar - a souvenir of our trip. On Saturdays, Porlezza turns into a market town, which is open from 8:30 - 14:00.
Wellness: I tried out the Spa for a facial and massage. I enjoyed my treatments - however the staff mostly spoke Italian. (I guess I’ll need to learn more than “un Aperol Spritz per favore” for the next visit!). Also worth checking out are the meditation pavilion and hammocks at the top of the resort. Not only a do they afford you a great view, but also a peaceful place to sit back and relax.
For a One-Bedroom Suite with Balcony and Lake views in July, we paid just over 1000 Euros for three nights. This included breakfast, but not the cot (bring your own!) or parking. It was lovely treat and a much needed relaxing mini-break. Always check their website before booking through other Travel Websites as they offer a best price guarantee, and as mentioned you can get a discount of 50% on parking if you book directly with the hotel.
Tip: They seem to offer great out of season deals for those lucky to travel outside of the school holidays.
All in All
If you are after a relaxing family-friendly holiday, Parco San Marco ticks all the boxes for a great mini break. This is a hotel where kids are more than welcome, and with the addition of Italian food it easily rates high on my list. If I had brought my own cot, it would of been the perfect holiday. It is really my only complaint!
For: Couples and Familes
Style: resort style, lake vacation, mild climate
Cost: starting from approx. 250 euros per night up to 500 euros per night
Getting there: By car through the Gotthard Tunnel via Lugano
PARCO SAN MARCO LIFESTYLE BEACH RESORT
VIALE PRIVATO SAN MARCO 1
I-22018 CIMA DI PORLEZZA (CO)
TEL: +41 91 923 40 86
Would I stay again: Absolutely
Have you been to Parco San Marco Resort before? What were your impressions? What is your favourite place to stay around the Lake of Lugano/Como area?