In every survey of Andrew Harper members over the past 20 years, one country has emerged as their consistent favorite: Italy. So, with European travel once again a possibility, our thoughts turn irresistibly to the ravishing landscapes of Lake Como, the Amalfi Coast and the Tuscan hills, the architectural grandeur of Rome and Venice, and the limitless pleasures of Italian food and wine. The pandemic brought desperate hardship to the country’s hoteliers and restaurateurs, but even during these dark times, we heard of restorations and new developments that led us to dream of future trips and plan possible itineraries.
Few places embody the pleasures of Italy as perfectly as Portofino — the world’s prettiest harbor in the opinion of many experienced travelers — an exquisite town on the Ligurian coast to the south of Genoa. (True, it is overcrowded in August, but in spring and fall, it is reliably enchanting.) For decades, the famous Splendido Belmond Hotel, a 70-room hillside retreat, has been a magnet for Hideaway Report readers. In recent months, its associated 14-room guesthouse, Splendido Mare, has been completely redesigned and is now scheduled to reopen this month. Situated on the waterfront, overlooking the main piazzetta, this absurdly romantic little property offers glamorous accommodations, a restaurant specializing in local seafood and its own wooden gozzo, a traditional fishing boat, for leisurely explorations of the adjacent coastline.
Another property planning to reopen this month is Rosewood Castiglion del Bosco, a grand 800-year-old retreat set on a 5,000-acre estate in Tuscany’s Val d’Orcia. Its 19 new suites will feature antique furniture laboriously sourced by the hotel’s co-founder Chiara Ferragamo, complemented by state-of-the-art lighting and audio systems, plus infinity pools with views to the neighboring hilltop town of Montalcino. The resort’s restaurant Osteria La Canonica has been completely redesigned.
In southern Italy, the most significant news comes from Sicily, with this month’s opening of the Villa Igiea, a turn-of the-century palazzo with an art deco interior, overlooking the Gulf of Palermo. Reinvented by Rocco Forte Hotels, the property has 78 rooms and 22 suites that are the work of celebrated designer Olga Polizzi and feature her trademark combination of traditional and contemporary styles. Florio Restaurant will offer fish and seafood from the Tyrrhenian Sea, as well as Sicilian pastas, fritti and arancini (rice balls), accompanied by local vegetables and fruits, many harvested from the property’s extensive gardens. The Villa Igiea will serve as an ideal base from which to embark on a Sicilian touring itinerary.