How it all began
On 31 May 1985, the foundations of the hotel Giardino were laid. At that time, building contractor Fritz Kündig was planning a four-star hotel consisting of the apartment buildings Casa Glicine and Casa Ginestra. There were also plans for a third apartment building Casa Rosa. It was still during the early stages of construction that Fritz Kündig secured probably the best manager he could have hoped to find for his new hotel: at that point, Hans C. Leu was still Director of the Kulm Hotel in Arosa, which he had already been running for 20 years with great success. Based on his ideas and experience, the two of them decided to change the plans and turn the Giardino into a five-star hotel modelled on a Mediterranean country house. Leu’s vision: ‘Instead of the typical luxury hotel, I wanted to build a southern country house with an inviting atmosphere, where guests felt like they were staying with friends.’
On 31 May 1986, after precisely one year of construction, the Giardino was officially opened. Heiner Rodel was in charge of designing the garden, while the furnishings were provided by Pippo Brun, a set designer from Schaffhausen. At that time, the culinary offering at the two hotels was overseen by Alois Brünner and Angelo Conti Rossini. The latter had relocated his restaurant, along with his two Michelin stars, from Brissago to Albergo Giardino, as the hotel was called at the time.
Golden days with Hans C. Leu
In 1987, Hans C. Leu founded Giardino SA together with the two partners Eugen B. Hangartner (Laax) and Albert B. Bass (Naters). The reason for this was Fritz Kündig’s financial difficulties, which made the sale of the property inevitable. In 1988, the three investors signed the final sales contract. After that, Leu ran the hotel in his congenial manner for 12 successful years until the end of 2000. During this time, he was voted Hotelier of the Year, received the Milestone tourism award and made it onto the front cover of the magazine Bilanz. When Gault Millau awarded the title of Hotel of the Year for the first time in 1998, the jury was unanimous in its decision: Hotel Giardino had earnt it. From a culinary standpoint, too, Giardino was and still is outstanding. Just as it did in its early days under the direction of Angelo Conti Rossini, the hotel’s in-house gourmet restaurant once again holds two Michelin stars today. Three years after it opened, the original head chef of the restaurant, then called Ristorante Giardino, returned to Brissago, where he ran a successful cooking school until his death in 1993. He was succeeded at Giardino by his sous chef Bruno Keist, who continued to run the restaurant for another two years with one Michelin star. Due to the success of the cuisine crafted by Armin Röttele, who was Head Chef at the hotel’s second restaurant, Ristorante Aphrodite, the decision was made to turn Ristorante Giardino into an osteria, which also bore the name Osteria Amici for a while. This osteria remained at the hotel until 2006.
Daniela and Philippe Frutiger return to Ticino
In October 2000, Hans C. Leu appointed his former Vice Director and co-worker Franz Reicholf as his successor. Mr Reicholf ran the Giardino, together with a now different Board of Directors, until 2006. In October 2000, after many weeks of rain, the hotel was flooded by water from the lake, sustaining severe damage as a result. Under the direction of architect Carlo Rampazzi, who is also in charge of interior design at the Tschuggen Group, the rooms, restaurants, bar and reception were completely renovated in his style. When the construction work was completed in 2002, the spa temple, which still remains today, was built on the former tennis court according to the plans drawn up by Carlo and his brother Aldo Rampazzi. In 2001, the former spa Vanity Club was converted into a Mediterranean sauna facility by the Hallwachs firm. In 2006, the majority shareholders at the time handed over the operational and strategic management of the hotel to married couple Daniela and Philippe Frutiger, who had both spent a large part of their careers at Giardino. Daniela Frutiger worked at Hotel Giardino from 1992 to 2000 as a spa manager for Vanity Club; Philippe Frutiger, who was attending the Hotel Management School in Thun at the time, completed his internship as a service employee at the hotel in 1994. In 1995, they both left the Giardino for a short time to continue their training. Daniela Frutiger completed a marketing apprenticeship in Zurich, while Philippe Frutiger successfully graduated from hotel management school. They were both called back to Ascona in 1996, independently of each other, and in the course of their daily work together at the hotel, they discovered their love for each other. At that time, Daniela was back in charge of the spa, while Philippe was working as an F&B assistant. In this position, he joined the management team under Hans C. Leu as early as 1997. One year later, in 1998, the couple married in Ascona. From 2001 to 2006, Daniela and Philippe were responsible for the renovation and highly successful management of the Lenkerhof Alpine Resort in Lenk. Under their leadership, the company received numerous national and international awards.
The acquisition of Giardino Ascona and founding of the Giardino Group AG
After it was taken over by the couple in 2006, the hotel entered a new era. As part of the repositioning process, the CD/CI (Corporate Design and Corporate Identity) of its communication, concepts and architecture were completely redesigned. At the same time, in the winter of 2006/2007, the former Osteria Giardino was converted into the modern, urban-style gourmet restaurant ECCO. Just five months after the reopening, new Head Chef Rolf Fliegauf was awarded his first Michelin star. By November 2010, he had already received his second. At this point, Daniel Borer became the majority shareholder and the owner of Hotel Giardino. In 2008, Daniela and Philippe Frutiger founded the Giardino Group AG together with Daniel Borer and long-standing trustee Stefan Schmidt, with the aim of purchasing more hotels or taking them over as the operating company. This resulted in the acquisition of the Giardino Mountain and Giardino Lago hotels.
During the restructuring process, the reception, bar and conservatory were also remodelled. Likewise, the spa, the Giardino di Bellezza, was completely redesigned; thanks to the improvements made in the treatment cabins, reception area and saunas, it was transformed into a real oasis of wellness. The biggest change, however, happened at the very heart of the hotel. New life was breathed into the garden and the old, original structures were uncovered. At the same time, more space was created for younger guests. This was followed by renovations in Ristorante Aphrodite and the spa lounge in the winter of 2007/2008. In 2009, all the rooms, suites and junior suites got a new bright and welcoming Mediterranean design. The man behind all of this was architect Rolf Balmer. In 2018, the kitchens were upgraded and the Ecco restaurant was moved from its former location next to the Hide & Seek restaurant (formerly Aphrodite) to the water lily pond. In 2021, the bar and the entire pool area were redesigned by internationally renowned architect Daniel Pouzet.