How This Lake Maggiore Hotel Group is Championing Sustainability

by | 31 May 2024

We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly, we need millions of people doing it imperfectly.

Straddling Italy and Switzerland, the stunning Lake Maggiore has been a beloved retreat since Roman times. Blessed with unspoiled nature and spectacular scenery, today it remains a highly desirable destination. When it comes to choosing your Lake Maggiore hotel, the five stunning Zacchera Hotels lakeside properties stand out, not just for service, but for their impressive sustainability credentials.

Always innovating, the family owned Zacchera Hotel Group are pushing the dial on both hospitality and sustainability. We had the pleasure of meeting the driving force behind these initiatives, CEO Antonio Zacchera, to tell us more.

Enjoy a stay at Hotel Simplon, one of the Zacchera Hotels on our ‘Business Class” Tours to Italy.

a close up shot of a brown bear’s face, with shaggy brown fur

Situated on Lake Maggiore, the Italian islands of Isola Madre and Isola Bella can count Gustave Flaubert, Edith Wharton, and Napoléon Bonaparte among their many historic admirers.

Four generations of love for Lake Maggiore

Since 1873, four generations of Zacchera family hoteliers have led the way in luxurious stays on Lake Maggiore, and last November this famous Italian family business celebrated its 150-year anniversary.

As with many countries, the pandemic situation changed lots of philosophy in Italy, with the Lake Maggiore area proud of its green credentials. However, Zacchera Hotels had already started initiatives in each Lake Maggiore hotel long before that. The hotels are the leaders in sustainability on Lake Maggiore and one of the first companies in Italy to boast these credentials.

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What sustainability means to the Zacchera family

“Along with exceptional hospitality, sustainability is our ethos – when we talk about our initiatives, we talk about the whole Zacchera Hotel group,” Antonio explains. “Sustainability runs through each and every one of our properties and permeates the entire company. What is improved in one is improved in all.

“We’re committed to tangible actions. Maximizing energy, limiting wastefulness and respecting the environment surrounding us. We choose out suppliers carefully, for those who not only produce quality goods but do so in a sustainable way.  We also believe that training people we care about to adopt sustainable behaviors represents a step further to a better world.”

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Cream coloured houses with red roofs sit on the edge of Lake Maggiore with blue waters and mountains in the background.

Sensational Lake Maggiore

Lake Maggiore is part of the Italian Lake District. This renowned region in Northern Italy is celebrated for scenic landscapes and includes Lake Como, Lake Garda, Lake Lugano and Lake Iseo. A very popular holiday destination, Lake Maggiore is dotted with picturesque islands, such as the Borromean Islands and is home to ornate palaces, botanical gardens and charming villages.

The area has established itself over time as one of the most important destinations for so-called MICE tourism (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions), not only for the very high standards of its facilities, but also for its capacity for international-level sustainable events.

The Zacchera Hotels – five takes on a Lake Maggiore hotel

The Zacchera group operates five distinguished Lake Maggiore hotels, each offering unique experiences and luxurious accommodations. Hotel Simplon, (where Insight Vacations guests stay on our premium tours to Italy), is known for its picturesque setting amidst a centuries-old park, providing a serene escape. Lake views, a lounge bar, and indoor and outdoor swimming pools offer so many ways to relax and drink in the beauty of Lake Maggiore.

Nestled in the five-acre park, the hotel connects to another Zacchera property, the Grand Hotel Dino through a gallery of paintings, a seamless blend of art and nature. The Grand Hotel Bristol is a stand out Lake Maggiore hotel, set in a former noble residence in Stresa, providing magnificent views of Bella Island and the Borromeo Gulf, while the Hotel Splendid is one of the two hotels, together with the Grand Hotel Dino, with a private beach and pier on Lake Maggiore. The elegant Residence Carl & Dooffers an alternative take on a luxury stay with a selection of serviced apartments.

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An elegant room of the Lake Maggiore hotel Simplon with natural shades and a view of the lake and mountains.

A unique air conditioning system that uses the water of the lake

“Since 1995 we have not been using “powered pumps” for air conditioning, which is the usual way. Instead, we use the water of Lake Maggiore,” Antonio explains. “We’re the only chain on the Italian lakes that use this kind of technology, something we take great pride in.”

At 37 cubic kilometers, Lake Maggiore is Italy’s second largest lake, after Lake Garda. Not just a beauty spot for tourism, with such water comes a great possibility for power, something that Zacchera Hotels have recognized.

“Originally the cold water for the system was created with gas powered pumps,” he continues. “With our system we take the fresh cold water from the lake for a thermal exchange with the water of our building. One set of water is cooled down thanks to the other, but the two never meet.”

The hotel’s air-conditioning systems source water from 50 meter’s down in Lake Maggiore, at a temperature of 7°C. Following the thermal exchange the water is reinserted at a 15 meters depth at a temperature of 12°C avoiding any danger to the ecosystem. No compressors and consequently no gas are employed.

“As a result, our electricity usage is massively reduced, Antonio says. “Because we have only one pump that goes into the water and one to pump water into the building. Normally you have a big chiller with gas inside, which also comes at a cost to ozone layer.” 

Discovered by a fortunate mistake

“This new way of running the air conditioning system was discovered by mistake,” explains Antonio. “Here in Italy, we turn off the air conditioning in September, however one year we had guests struggling with the temperature, so we turned on the pump system. However, I made a mistake and took the water from the lake direct into the system, but then saw that it was working without using the pumps. This really was a discovery and as a result we worked with an engineer to develop the new system.”

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Hydroelectric power, solar panels and water recycling

“We buy green energy and a part of it is produced by one of our hydroelectric companies that produce energy using the water of the rivers,” says Antonio. “Where possible we have solar panels up on the roofs of our large meeting rooms, which produce the rest of the electricity.

Water recycling is also important to the Zacchera Hotel group with the main laundry furnished with a purification system to recycle an average of 80% of the water.”


Minimizing wastage

“We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly, we need millions of people doing it imperfectly, this is a motto of our hotel group,” says Antonio. “We build waste reduction into all of our practices.”

“During the pandemic there was a lot of time to think about sustainability initiatives and innovative solutions to wastage. I was always looking to improve our ESG philosophy,” says Antonio. “One big ethical and economic problem is food wastage.”

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A woman fills a plate from a buffet of various dishes.

Calculating the buffet to reduce food wastage

“I saw so much waste in our kitchens, in particular a lot of food that came from the restaurant buffet was being thrown away,” he tells us.  “So, I spent time developing a new system addressing the production of the food, taking into account the nationality of guests (Italians eat different type of breakfast foods to Americans for example), the sex, the age and the season (in summer we eat differently to winter).

“By studying all this compulsory information that we take at check in we were able to predict the contents of each buffet. For example, us Italians are into sweeter breakfast, while the British prefer savory, so we may adjust the salami and cheese or whatever according to this data. Now we can say that this process is near to perfection with a 100% reduction in food waste.”

Unused food goes to those who need it most

In addition, every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, prepared food that is not used is wrapped up for people who really need it. “It’s important that we can stay local, we unfortunately have families that are not reaching the end of the month, and this is an important thing we can do to help, he says.”

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Aerial view of houses on the banks of Lake Maggiore with the lake to the left and green mountains rising up in the background.

Energy savings, paperless procedures and plastic elimination

“90% of our hotels light bulbs are LED, helping reduce the electrical consumption. Sensor detectors turn off the lights in our buildings in all areas when nobody is standing. The temperature in all the meeting rooms, common areas, the restaurant and the bar can be checked, and adjusted if not in use, anytime from a automation system building control, thanks to a  ouch panel situated behind each reception.

“Some 10 years ago we removed paper from each room, instead giving guests a small tablet from which they can read the news, browse the menu and discover the hotel’s facilities. The tablet is also used by all domestic staff – with all domestic procedures digitalized, it is both efficient and sustainable.

“Last but not least, for us the war against plastic is started but not completed. We made a big impact by taking away all the pens and putting pencil in each room along with a Bio bottle as a welcome for each guest. They can refill the bottes and then throw it with the bio waste because is 100% recyclable. We host many conferences, with around 350 people in attendance and we supply water bottles that can be refilled anytime.”

Innovations for future generations

With the next Zacchera generation currently working in the industry, gaining valuable knowledge before joining the team at Lake Maggiore, it can be guaranteed that the sustainability initiatives and innovations will continue to develop and advance for future generations.

Travel to Italy with Insight Vacations and enjoy all the premium inclusions of our ‘Business Class’ tours, including a stay at the magnificent Hotel Simplon when you visit Lake Maggiore.

I'm a writer, editor and interview specialist with a lifetime's love of travel. There’s nothing more inspiring to me than meeting, and writing about, the world's leading destination experts and travel industry insiders. The thing I love most about writing for Insightful is that I'm always learning something new.