Destination dolce vita
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Fiesole’s finest reborn
Villa San Michele has been the stalwart on the Fiesole hill above Florence since it first opened in 1982, with painterly views, patrician gardens, and a rich historical heritage (the 15th-century villa was originally a monastery; the oak woods above it are where da Vinci is said to have first launched his miraculous flying machine in 1506). It was taken over by LVMH-owned Belmond a few years ago; after some fits and starts, it underwent a total renovation over this past winter and has emerged a dazzling new version of itself.
Florentine interiors architect Luigi Fragola has brought measured opulence and a genius sense of colour to every interior space, from the 17th-century chapel that functions as reception (its altar now flanked by chic Chinese-lacquer screens) to the converted Limonaia beyond the garden (its suites are layered in ikat, suzani, and acres of ochre and turquoise velvet). The cloisters are now a sexy lounge; tented pavilions dot the wide lawns; La Loggia, the fine-dining restaurant, is swagged in transparent linen curtains that frame the Duomo far below. Up-stylings can sometimes spell quiet disaster for the grandes dames of the hotel world, but this one’s a big win. And the good things – impeccable service, forever views – are still 100 per cent in evidence. Worth the splurge for those with the means; or come for aperitivo in the garden if you only want a taster. From €850, belmond.com
Resort style in Sicily’s baroque heartland
The Val di Noto in south-eastern Sicily has over the past five or six years become one of the island’s favoured summer escapes, offering as it does easy access to the island’s prettiest baroque towns – besides Noto, there are the wedding-cake basilicas of Ragusa and Modica to admire – and some of its best sand beaches, at Calamosca and Vendicari. The new kid in town here is Il San Corrado, an old family masseria just eight miles from Noto’s grand cathedral, now made into a resort with 26 suites and eight private villas with pools.
The look is clean lines, privacy and space: very little of the trendy Caltagirone-tilework vibe, many expanses of white walls and light woods. Il San Corrado is a full-service proposition: the three restaurants, spa and fitness centre, and two pools, one of them 100m-long, round out that part. And the part we really like the sound of: the resort’s own beach club, with loungers and umbrellas, drinks and a perfect bar menu – and blue water to rival Puglia’s. From €531, ilsancorradodinoto.com
Double the cool quotient in Venice
Your feelings about a hotel created by the founder of Golden Goose, the fashion-accessories brand that put the €500 pre-thrashed tennis shoe on the map, might be mixed. So be aware that the hotel concept Alessandro Gallo has launched in two adjoining palazzi on the Grand Canal, just above Rialto Bridge, is very much in the same unorthodox spirit – and unlike anything else in La Serenissima. The Venice Venice, as it’s called, is definitely A Vision, one that gets at Golden Goose’s mission statement (“perfect imperfection”) and also has its own manifesto (to be “postvenetian”, whatever that means).
Original art and DJ-calibre sound systems meet custom Fortuny lighting in the rooms, and canal-level spaces are given over to Venice M’Art, a mixed restaurant-retail-art exhibitions space. The word on the calle is that it is very cool; it’ll need to be, to justify its extremely robust rates. But since Venice is so much about location, it’s got that, too – within equal striking distance of the workaday charms of Cannaregio and those of the Rialto (take your ombra at All’Arco or Al Merca, and your spritz at Naranzaria), and almost next door to the made-in-Venice shopping mecca that is T Fondaco dei Tedeschi. From €550, venicevenice.com
In fair Verona…
Bianca Passera comes from a family of Comasco hoteliers; her Vista Palazzo Lago di Como is Lake Como’s cosy-chic city hotel, with just a handful of cosseting rooms, bold contemporary design throughout, and a top-floor restaurant-bar-lounge tucked under mansard roofs with postcard views up the lake. Next month she will bring the Vista Palazzo concept east, to Verona – the Veneto jewel where her small-city, small-scale luxe vision should fit right in.
The 19th-century mansion has super-prime coordinates, to start: it’s under a 10-minute walk to Juliet’s storied “balcony”, and another 10 minutes gets you to the Arena di Verona, the famous Roman Amphitheatre. The 16 rooms and suites scrimp on nothing, design-wise: hand-tooled marquetry floors and hand-painted floral screens, locally-quarried marble in the bathrooms, silks and damasks from Dedar throughout. There’s a spa, fitness suite and – serious indulgence – Verona’s only indoor hotel pool. And, true to the name, gorgeous views from all the high-floor vantage points, including the rooftop bar-garden. From €710, vistapalazzo.com