The long and frustrating months of the pandemic gave me renewed appreciation for places that I first visited more than half a lifetime ago and had perhaps come to take slightly for granted. I hadn’t fallen out of love with central Italy or southern France, but novelty has its own appeal, and the thrill of visiting a new region or country can easily become addictive. However, certain destinations become classics for a very good reason: They are inexpressibly wonderful.
So, with the revival of European travel in prospect, I decided to devote the final Hideaway Report of 2021 to Tuscany, Umbria, Provence and the Côte d’Azur. Despite all the destruction heaped on the hotel business in the recent past, I was pleased to find that there was no shortage of properties to review. In Italy, I visited four resorts that ranged from superlative, Belmond Castello di Casole (97), to merely very good, Il Borro (93). I had also decided that it was high time to reevaluate three Tuscan properties that have been fixtures in the Andrew Harper Collection for longer than I can recall. One of them, Borgo San Felice (94), saw its rating increase, but two others did not live up to expectations and lost my endorsement.
The Côte d’Azur has its detractors — overcrowded and overstocked in summer with dubious characters of inexplicable wealth are the most frequent complaints — but my visit to the stunning new Maybourne Riviera (95) resort was a reminder of just why this became the most storied littoral in the world. From a perch 1,100 feet above the Mediterranean, the view down to Monte Carlo was indescribably beautiful. And in the resort’s principal restaurant, Ceto, helmed by Michelin three-star chef, Mauro Colagreco, I enjoyed a memorable meal of brilliant simplicity. After a blissful couple of days in our clifftop aerie, we headed to the elegant city of Aix-en-Provence. There, the new Villa Saint-Ange (90), a hotel created from an 18th-century house and set on a 2-acre estate, provides a leafy retreat within walking distance of the famous Cours Mirabeau.
So where should I head in spring 2022? Normandy, the Cotswolds and the Amalfi Coast already seem like plausible candidates for the continuation of my European Grand Tour.