TRAVEL

A Secret New Hotel in the Center of Everything Great in Rome

The Adelaide Salotto at Hotel Vilòn. All photos courtesy of Hotel Vilòn.

A charming new hotel in the center of Rome embodies everything that contributing editor Erica Firpo loves about her home town — beauty, discretion, charm, and aesthetics. This article originally appeared in Fathom, October 2018.

ROME – One of my favorite things to do is muse about where I would have an affair in Rome. After a few years of testing out the possibilities — from an off-the-beaten-path bedroom nook to a corner suite in a posh hotel — I've realized I have some basic requirements. 

Whereas some people just need a room key, I need just a little bit more. First, location: The address must be in the absolute hub of the city center, but at the same time extremely unassuming, with no doorman, flags, or fanfare, so I can slip in and out of the crowd unnoticed. Second, luxurious: I need to feel the affair is worth it, not from its price tag but by its top quality, from sheets and showers to artwork and design. Third, view: I want a terrace where I can take in the city, but absolutely no way can it face anything public.

Easy, right?

Not at all, which is why I love Rome.

The Eternal City is the chaotic culmination of history, culture, and personalities that become an infernal nightmare when trying to hide an affair. True Romans have lived and breathed for at least sette generazioni(seven generations), so six degrees of separation takes on a logarithmic new dimension where everyone knows everyone else and nothing goes unnoticed.

Or so I thought until I stepped off via del Corso, aka the main thoroughfare for the all-ages scene, and onto via dell'Arancio, a nondescript side street with a row of doors. The doors were a side entrances to private apartments within Palazzo Borghese, a vast urban villa estate whose famous residents include papal families and Paulina Borghese, Napoleon Bonaparte's sister.

What makes the Borghese stand out among Rome's incredible palazzi are the gardens — an arcadia in the city with a courtyard with statues of ancient gods, 96 granite columns, a nympheum, and a beautiful garden with three allegorical fountains. Getting access to the gardens is all but impossible. You are lucky if you can take a peek during the few days the gardens are open to the public. 

Or you can book yourself into a garden-facing room at Hotel Vilòn, a rip-the-plastic-off new hotel in the very center of the Eternal City, part of the latest lineup of Small Luxury Hotels of the World. One of the discreet doors on via dell'Arancio, the former Borghese family property became a School for Maidens in 1841 and was until recently home to  Daughters of the Cross, an order of French nuns, who I presume weren't using the rooms for the affairs I was fantasizing about.

Just when I wasn't looking for a the perfect secret, I found it.

Rates

Rates start from €462.

Checking In

Location
In the very center of Rome's historic center, just off of via del Corso, conveniently on a side street away from the crowds and the noise, but close enough to walk straight into the thick of it.

Hotel Style
Sultry, from the minute you walk across the harlequin-tiled marble entrance floor. Rich hues, lavish marbles and woods, and lots of well-chosen contemporary and photography. The rooms chill down with neutral hues, mahogany floorboards, and accents of dark blues and violets. The vibe is intimate and private, and overall style is that very chic Italian best friend you've always dreamed of.

Just when I wasn't looking for a the perfect secret, I found it.

This Place Is Perfect For
Me. And anyone who likes a little sexy oasis in the city center.

But Not So Perfect For
Anyone who is looking for a full-service hotel, as there is no spa or gym. But honestly, you're in Rome. Just walk out the front door.

What's on Site
The gorgeous lounge bar and restaurant Adelaide, and the hidden open-air atrium lounge.

Food + Drink
If I could, I would park myself in Vilòn's Adelaide salotto every single afternoon. The lounge feels like a fabulous film still, and no wonder: Set designer Paolo Bonfini created the ambience with rich colors, patterns, and prints, playing off that gorgeous octane blue. Photographer Massimo Listri hand-selected all the artwork and included his monumental photos from the Uffizi museum, and architect Giampiero Panepinto added the whimsical design pieces. Oh, wait, did I mention the cocktails are incredible? Vilòn's barman/mixologist curates the menu with classics, forgotten classics, and Adelaide's own drinks. The Adelaide salotto flows into the Adelaide restaurant, a stately salon that serves a tasty buffet of treats all day long, as well as lunch and dinner with Roman cuisine inspired dishes. Everything is served on beautifully mismatched Richard Ginori porcelain.

Number of Rooms
18 guest rooms and suites. Room categories range, from smallest to largest, are: Double, Charming, Charming with Terrace, and Charming Deluxe. The three suites are Vilòn, Melangolo (named for via dell' Arancio's medieval nickname), and Borghese.

In-Room Amenities
My favorite amenity by far are the plush bath robes — by far, the most comfortable of any Rome hotel — and the octane blue slippers which general manager Giorgia Tozzi spent months sourcing. And I should mention that the all-white marble bathrooms are divine. Ladies, keep an eye out for the Saugella Detergente Intima next to the bidet, it is preferred intimate cleanser of signore italiane. Keeping up with 21st-century tech, rooms have large Sony televisions teched-out with Apple TV, WiFi with great connectivity, and the lighting system is the ultra-innovative Domot by MicroDevice. My pet peeve in any hotel is the outlet situation, and at Vilòn, they were on point, no need to move any furniture. The mini bar stocked with free drinks like Italian specialties Gazosa, Chinotto, and Aranciata, as well as international favorites and snacks, including my very favorite dark-chocolate covered toasted hazelnuts.

Drawbacks
Parking. Then again, if you're in Rome, you don't need a car.

Standout Detail
The garden-facing terraces. Yes, the signature suites are fabulous, but book me a Vilòn Charming room looking onto the Borghese Palace's private garden, and I'm happy.

Checking Out

What to Do Nearby
This neighborhood, Campo Marzio, is by far my favorite in Rome. Absolutely everything that encapsulates the Eternal City is here. Ancient monuments like Mausoleum of Augustus and Ara Pacis, a 1st-century temple in an ultra-mod Richard Meier-designed glass box. Also: fabulous piazzas for great coffee, ice cream, and people-watching at Caffe CiampiniLa Matricianella is my pick for a picture-perfect lunch. As for shopping, via del Corso is the teen beat gauntlet, and nearby Piazza di Spagna and Via del Babuino are for big spenders, but I prefer the side streets around Largo Goldoni including via della Frezza and via del Fontanella Borghese.

Or Go Explore the Rest of the Country
Rome is the perfect city to kick off or end any Italian vacation. She's got personality for days, so if you're in need of a respite, consider Rome the pre-party, and hop the train to any coastal town for a bit of R&R or to Milan for a fashion binge. For day trips and overnighters, Italy is at your disposal from Rome’s Termini train station. Naples for a pizza? Why not? Florence for a quick stop at Palazzo Strozzi? Sure! Add to the list a myriad small towns, and Italy is yours. If you are more interested in off-the-beaten paths like Sperlonga, Bomarzo and Cività di Bagnoregio and train connections are tight, your best bet is hiring a car. Or if you've spent all of your time traveling the peninsula, afterparty in the Eternal City. Nothing like a plate of carbonara to calm you down.

Good to Know
Rome is a contradiction. It's a crazy and chaotic city that needs at least a few hours of relax — like a long lunch in a pretty piazza — every day. High tourist season kicks off a few weeks before Easter and lasts through July. Romans vacate the city once the heats sets in (and after the July sales kick off around July 5), but the city is stifling hot. By August, the temperatures cool down and the city is empty of all residents. My favorite time for a visit is late October-November and early February.

Getting Around
Rome is a city for walking, but, for the more intrepid urban explorer, the ATAC public transport system of buses, trams, and metro is well connected. Rule of thumb: Buy your tickets in advance at the tabacchaio (small tobacco item stores) and date-stamp them as soon as you enter the metro or board the bus.

How to Spend A Weekend in Monte Carlo

Monte Carlo. Credit: Monaco Government Communication Department

Monte Carlo.  Who would have thought a girl from Philadelphia would end up on a long weekend roaming it's winding, F1 roads?  My latest weekend getaway for Forbes Travel is the hairpin turns in art and culture in the tiny Principality of Monaco.

There’s something about Monte Carlo that calls for a long weekend at least once in your lifetime. The lure of high speed and high stakes as seen in Alfred Hitchcock’s To Catch a Thief and the James Bond film Goldeneyedraws visitors to its craggy coast for a glimpse at lifestyles of the rich and discreetly famous.

But as you’ll see, the tiny principality is the perfect setting for another kind of getaway: the weekend retreat.

Getting There
Traveling to Monte Carlo is as easy as it is beautiful. Driving along the coastline from Italy or France (or arriving by boat) makes for a scenic trip, but the most spectacular introduction to the city is by helicopter. 

Arrive like a VIP by booking a heli-flight from Nice with Monacair, a private transportation company founded by Stefano Casiraghi, the late husband of Monaco’s Princess Caroline. Enjoy the seven-minute ride along the sparkling coastline before arriving at this world-class destination in style. 

Hotel Metropole, Monte Carlo. Credit: Hotel Metropole, Monte Carlo

Rest and Relaxation
Monaco is home to some of the world’s finest hotels for a pampering, and there is perhaps no better address than Hotel Metropole, Monte Carlo in the heart of the city. Surrounded by lush greenery, the Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star palace is elegant and subtle.

Entered from a long cobblestone driveway, the ground floor hints at the hotel’s 131-year history with period furniture and paintings of Grimaldi princes. Its 126 rooms reflect understated luxury, except for the Carré d’Or Suite, a lavish 1,600-square-foot penthouse with a panoramic terrace.

Odyssey, the Karl Lagerfeld-designed poolside restaurant, is a coveted spot for some sun time, while the true indulging takes place at Spa Metropole by Givenchy, a gorgeous contemporary retreat.

Palais Princier de Monaco. Credit: Monaco Government Communication Department

Catch up on Culture
Hotel Metropole is just steps away from the legendary Monte Carlo Casino, the 155-year-old bastion of gaming that transformed the tiny sovereign state into one of the richest countries in the world. If a night at the tables is not on your bucket list (if it is, go late), at least take an hour out in the morning for a walk through the historic building.

Monte Carlo is not all hairpin turns and croupiers — one of Monaco’s most popular structures is also an enclave of art. The Nouveau Musèe National Monaco is a bundle of two Belle-Époque buildings, Villa Sauber and Villa Paloma, that each feature semiannual exhibitions by contemporary artists, such as Tom Wesselmann, Oliver Laric and Latifa Echakhch.   

For a deeper dive into the work of one of Monaco’s most intriguing artistic residents, head to the Francis Bacon MB Art Foundation. The site showcases more than 2,500 paintings, photographs and artifacts detailing the British painter’s life in Monte Carlo in the late 1940s and ’50s. Just keep in mind that the foundation offers tours by appointment only, so be sure to call ahead.

History buffs will also want to visit Palais Princier de Monaco, the prince’s palace where the House of Grimaldi has lived and reigned for nearly eight centuries. While you’re here, don’t miss the chance to see Prince Rainier’s famous car collection, which includes vintage models and retired Formula 1 racers.

 Joël Robuchon. Credit: Hotel Metropole Monte Carlo

Joël Robuchon. Credit: Hotel Metropole Monte Carlo

Where to Wine and Dine
The nearly 500-acre country is a culinary melting pot. Start your journey at Joël Robuchon, the eponymous restaurant of the late, great masterchef. Housed within Hotel Metropole, the venue’s open kitchen brings the talented toque’s stellar cuisine to Earth’s stratosphere in a casual-chic environment.

Chef Christophe Cussac dreams up Mediterranean versions of Robuchon’s classic dishes, such as the inimitable cherry gazpacho and delicately simple sea bass in a red wine sauce with wasabi and spinach.

A few other items that cannot be missed: Robuchon’s bread presentation (a celebration of housemade baguettes, biscuits and buns); the decadent dessert cart; and the terrace, which juts out over a stretch of Monte Carlo’s famed Formula 1 course, redefining dine and dash. 

For something more down-to-earth, opt for a sampling of customary Monégasque cuisine — a uniquely local flavor that combines the creative spices of southern French fare and the ease of Italian recipes into dishes that are effortless and comforting.

Monte Carlo Casino. Credit: Monaco Government Communication Department

To get an authentic taste, book a table at Le Castelroc, a charming eatery in front of the prince’s palace run by the Bonafède family since 1953. Sample traditional treats like barbajuans (fried puff pastry stuffed with Swiss chard) and stockfish de rosette, the family’s four-generation-old secret take on the national dried cod stew dish.

After dinner, skip the casino and grab a table at Four-Star Hôtel Hermitage Monte-Carlo’s Crystal Bar. This is the go-to spot for the pre-nightclub crowd thanks its fabulous view and luxurious menu — choose from a selection of Premier Cru champagne to pair with oysters and caviar, or savor one of the venue’s distinguished craft cocktails. (In the summer, snag a table on the Crystal Terrasse and relish in the Mediterranean salt air with Incredible Mia, a beautiful, drinkable bouquet of pisco, lime juice and passion fruit purée.)

The city’s nightlife scene, where bumping into celebrities on the dance floor is practically passé, is a different animal. For four decades, Jimmy’z Monte Carlo — an enormous indoor/outdoor discotheque — has been the wildly popular center of the after-hours universe, but newcomer Twiga — this spot comes from Italian billionaire Flavio Briatore, who’s known for curating clubs to celebrities around the globe — is also making waves.

J.K. Place Hotel Will Make Everyone Fall More in Love with Florence

Florence is a dream destination for so many, but the question is where to rest your head. Here is my latest hotel review for Fathom: JK Place Florence.

Warm up by the fireplace. All photos courtesy of J.K. Place.

FLORENCE — Florence enchants, mesmerizes, and beguiles. It is a city for those who love the fairytale Italian dream of warm sunsets, flowing hair, and great dinners. For centuries, it has been the requisite Grand Tour stop for literature lovers, art travelers, and cruisers. For me, Florence was always an easy day trip from my home in Rome when I needed a quick culture hit in the form of a Renaissance painting or an occasional contemporary show at Palazzo Strozzi. I staunchly refused to allow myself to fall in like with the city. And then a recent overnight stay lured me into loving Florence.

Florentine pillow talk takes all kinds of shapes, and one of the most charming is boutique hotel J.K. Place. In 2003, hotelier Ori Kafir opened the doors of what would become the first in a mini empire (other the JKs are in Rome and Capri) with the idea of giving guests a pied-a-terre in the middle of one of Italy's most visited cities. He wanted something different from the grand dame styles of European hotels — something cozier and chicer, though just as elegant and impeccable. He wanted a home that was quintessentially Florentine in both style and hospitality.

J.K. Place still holds up to its original tenets. The townhouse is an easy respite, perfectly located for both historic city center strolls and out-of-town trips, while its beautiful design by internationally acclaimed local designer Michele Conan upholds its contemporary vibe. More importantly, it is so Florentine, down to every detail — from the bottled water they serve to the thousands of books about art, culture, and style scattered around, many focused on the city and its artisans.

A Florentine-worthy entrance.

Bathe with a view in the Penthouse bathroom. 

Book It

Rates start from €440. Click here to book.

Checking In

Location
A five-minute walk from Stazione Santa Maria Novella, Florence's main train station, J.K. Place has a front row view of Piazza Santa Maria Novella, an open square with the beautiful Santa Maria Novella church and its very cool Renaissance facade designed by Leon Battista Alberti in the 1470s. The piazza is a busy hub for foot traffic and buskers.

Hotel Style
Florentine elegance, which translates to effortless style in all things aesthetic. J.K. mixes contemporary with classic — anachronistic yet very 21st century — to make you feel like you are in the home of Florence's most peripatetic art collector and fanciful flaneur.

This Place Is Perfect For
Everyone. No, really, everyone will find themselves at home here, especially those with refined sensibilities.

But Not So Perfect For
Those who insist on having a room with a view of the Arno.

Enjoy a private fireplace in master room 12.

Live your Florentine dreams in room 12.

What's on Site
J.K. Place is a home, an impeccably stylish one, that invites you to hang out. Just before the entrance is the outdoor J.K. Lounge, a teak terrace facing the piazza, a great people-watching lunch spot or cocktail-hour hangout. The ground level is a labyrinth of gorgeously styled lounges, salons, and libraries, with beautiful artwork and to-die-for art books and magazines, comfortable sofas, and cashmere throws. Late night, I discovered the terrace lounge, J.K.'s sexy rooftop bar that puts you eye-to-eye with Santa Maria Novella's flourishes.

Food + Drink
The J.K. Lounge hosts an enviable buffet breakfast, an overflowing cornucopia of healthy fruit and home-baked treats, as well a la carte selections. From lunchtime through evening, the lounge becomes J.K. Cafe, a tasteful, health-focused eatery that wows you with traditional Tuscan dishes like pasta al sugo finto and contemporary favorites, including an excellent club sandwich. Cocktails, you ask? J.K. seems like it was designed specifically for enjoying a well-crafted martini, a vintage wine, or a Negroni sbagliato, whether in the Lounge, the Champagne Bar (the cozy living room adjacent to the lounge), or the rooftop terrace. Food and beverage director Andrea Pieri is a walking gastronomic and enological archive. Ask him about the food, the wines, the water, the cocktails, and chances are he'll have a good story to tell.

Number of Rooms: 20 guest rooms and suites.

In-Room Amenities: Sublime linens, towels, and robes. Excellent and fast WiFi and LED televisions. A mini bar abundantly stocked with free snacks and drinks. Cashmere blankets from a local merchant. Rooms scented by local perfumer Dr. Vranjes.

Drawbacks: The branded power strip outlet is a bit outdated and wouldn't send any power to my iPad and iPhone. I'd love to see a tech update.

Standout Detail: It would be easy to say the Terrace, but the standout for me is J.K.'s Library, which has every Taschen, Phaidon, and art book I covet. Even more standout was the staff's knowledge of their books and their willingness to provide more.

 Dinner on the terrace overlooking Piazza Santa Maria Novella.

Dinner on the terrace overlooking Piazza Santa Maria Novella.

Even Florentine stairs are aesthetic.

Checking Out

Florence has been Tuscany's self-proclaimed It town since it birthed the Renaissance. Italy's top artists and architects of the 15th and 16th centuries remain well represented in its architecture, museums, churches, and palazzi, thanks to the shrewd support of the city's favorite families, starting with the Medici. And Florence keeps up that vibe today, nourishing 21st century artisans — fabulous leather workers, printmakers, jewelers, bookmakers, and more.

What to Do Nearby
Honestly, what's not to do? J.K. Place is within easy walking distance to just about everything you want to see in Florence, a very walkable city. Across Piazza Santa Maria Novella is the underrated Museo Novecento, a museum focusing 20th-century art, while around the corner is Palazzo Strozzi, an arts space that is lately lining up blockbuster shows. Of course, you're going to want to walk around Piazza del Duomo, where you cannot miss the green, pink, and white marble panels of Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, the gorgeous Brunelleschi dome, and the museum. Definitely make time for Opera Dumo, the Duomo's amazing museum with reconstructions of how Brunelleschi made the dome, as well as Michelangelo's penultimate pietà and incredible restored artwork. Have a Hannibal moment in Piazza della Signoria, then drop by Gucci Garden for a peek into the Guccci mind. Window shop on Via Tornabuoni, or cross the river to Oltrarno, Florence's hippest neighborhood.

Good to Know
General manager Claudio Meli knows everyone and everything there is to know in Florence. Just ask him. In fact, Meli is the author of J.K. Essential Guide to Florence, his love letter to the city in the form of an intrepid, pocket guide book that he's produced for guests. Keep in mind that Florence feels busy with tourists throughout the year, at its most congested at Easter and spring break through June. Although there's more room to breathe in July and August when Florentines flee the city for coastal breezes, the infernally hot temperatures make a visit not fun at all.

Plan Your Trip

How to Get There
Either take a train into Firenze-Santa Maria Novella train station or fly into Florences’s international airport, four kilometers from the city center.

Getting Around
Walk. Yes, Florence has buses and taxis, but if you are really here to enjoy the sites, sounds, smells, and tastes of Florence, all you need are your feet. For day trips around Tuscany, you can reach cities like Pisa, Lucca, Siena, and Arezzo via regional trains. If you're interested in exploring the great hilltops, beach communities, strade del vino (wine routes), and picturesque towns like Orbetello, Volterra, and Montepulciano under the Tuscan sun, your best bet is hiring a car.

Make the most of the lounge and Italian baked-goods.

Dine in true Florentine style in the breakfast room.

5 Boutique Rome Stays To Check Out This Summer

Grand Meliá Rome Villa Agrippina. Credit: Grand Meliá Rome Villa Agrippina

There isn’t a better time to visit Rome than in the summer, when the city illuminates with museum and site openings and incredible evening events. And the Italian capital is more than ready to accommodate with an incredible crop of small, but mighty high-end hotels that are helping to further evolve the city’s dynamic from eternal to iconic.

Here’s your room key to five of Rome’s most sumptuous stays.

Grand Meliá Rome Villa Agrippina
History plays a major role in contemporary Roman life, so it’s no wonder that this Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star stay masterfully combines both. A verdant enclave on the site of a first-century imperial villa, Grand Meliá provides an urban haven of relaxation with its sprawling greenery and state-of-the-art spa.

Beat the city heat by lounging around the picture-perfect 1920s-style swimming pool. Lined with cozy cabanas, plush loungers and secluded gardens, this elegant spot is an Instagrammer’s paradise.

When you need a bite (or a cocktail), simply stroll over to the buzzing poolside bar, Liquid Garden. Try a Spirtz & Fizz (gin, St. Germain, grapefruit juice, prosecco and smoked salt) and nibble on Italian bites.

You can also head to the terrace of Ossimoro to enjoy a flavorful Mediterranean meal from chef Carmine Buonanno — either way, you won’t be disappointed.

Portrait Roma’s Rooftop Terrace. Credit: Portrait Roma – Lungarno Collection

Portrait Roma — Lungarno Collection 
If you’re looking for a Five-Star pied-à-terre in the heart of town, you’ll find it here. The chic, 14-room property is a fashionista’s dream with Ferragamo-inspired interiors that look fresh off a magazine cover.

Open during the summer months, a rooftop terrace — serving light fare for breakfast, lunch and dinner — is equally as stunning, with cushy loungers, candles and a modern glass fireplace, perfect for cuddling or celebrating.

But some of the best features aren’t found inside — Portrait Roma boasts a prime locale on Via dei Condotti, Rome’s historic and exclusive fashion boulevard. The avenue is an excellent place to shop for haute couture during seasonal sales, which run through August.

And just in case you can’t decide what you want to do next, the hotel also has a team of six knowledgeable lifestyle assistants, ready to send you in the direction of the city’s hottest concert, exhibit or restaurant.

Villa Spalletti Trivelli. Credit: Villa Spalletti Trivelli

Villa Spalletti Trivelli
History buffs and luxury lovers alike will want to book into this Four-Star stay when heading to Rome. A historic home-turned-hotel, this refined retreat is decked out in period furniture and art, including tapestries, sculptures, paintings and an exquisite antique library recognized by Italy’s Ministry of National Heritage and Culture. Even the gardens are manicured to evoke an early 19th-century feel.

Hospitality goes above and beyond here. Expect to be greeted at the entrance and served breakfast and afternoon tea in lavish salons. Twelve bedrooms reside in the three-story home, while across the lawn are a large apartment and two spacious Garden Suites, which are highly recommended for a summer stay.  

But the real highlight is the remodeled rooftop terrace. Debuted this summer, the alfresco space has multiple whirlpools, a complimentary bar and a plush lounge. The hotel’s enviable position on Quirinale Hill — one of the seven hills of Rome — makes its rooftop a wonderful sunset spot.

The Pantheon Iconic Rome Hotel’s Divinity Rooftop Terrace. Credit: The Pantheon Iconic Rome Hotel

The Pantheon Iconic Rome Hotel
Debuted in April, this 79-room stunner occupies a prime perch in the magical and very central Pantheon neighborhood. The historic façade hides a complete interior rebuild by Milanese architect Marco Piva, who transformed the building into a veritable temple of design with glossy marbles, resplendent golds, warm woods and contemporary sculptures all inspired by the Pantheon itself. 

But the cherry on top of this sublime stay is the rooftop. Offering dome-level views of the iconic monument and Rome’s terracotta-dotted skyline, the Divinity Rooftop Terrace features a glass-enclosed wine cellar and a historically inspired cocktail menu, providing a scenic perch for summertime sundowners.

When the ground-floor restaurant Dionysus opens this fall, you can expect to enjoy Roman and regionally inspired flavors there along with a wine list of more than 400 labels.  

Hotel Vilón’s Adelaide. Credit: Stefano Scatà

Hotel Vilòn
Located in a 16th-century mansion that once belonged to one of Rome’s most formidable families, this brand-new boutique stay (it just opened in March) is this season’s best-kept secret.

Situated on a quiet side street just off the bustling historic city center, this 18-room darling was designed from floor to ceiling as a luxurious home. Rich colors, lavish marbles and woods, contemporary art and photography, and custom furniture create an ambiance that is both stylish and sultry. 

On the ground level is where you’ll find Adelaide, a gorgeous restaurant and bar that feels like you’ve just walked onto a film set, thanks to styling by production designer Paolo Bonfini. With its contemporary vibe and exclusive locale, this posh lounge is one of the hottest places in the city to sip — snag a stool during apertivo hour and order up a Principessa, a fragrant blend of citrusy Galliano L’Aperitivo, pomegranate juice, and thyme- and pink-pepper-infused soda.

This article first appeared in Forbes Travel July 2018.

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Suite Life: Rome's Costaguti Experience

If Rome is living history, there is no better way to understand than to actually live in Rome, whether for a few days, years or lifetime. I've chosen the latter, and every day I still find surprisingly different ways of seeing the Eternal City, whether on the hunt for art- ancient or otherwise, or where I lay my head.  A few months back, I was invited to get out of my comfort zone and experience what it would be like to be a Roman nobile with a weekend stay at Costaguti Experience in the historic Palazzo Costaguti, what Renaissance artist and art historian Giorgio Vasari considered one of the best palaces in Rome.

Built in the early 16th century and acquired by the aristocratic Costaguti family in 1578, Palazzo Costaguti was a hub for the Baroque era’s most famous artists who were tasked with creating frescoes through the residence.   Nicolas Poussin, Cavalier d'Arpino and the Zuccari Brothers all spent time lavishing decorating the ceilings with scenes of putti, Aneid and the months of the year.  Today, the Marchese occupies the buildings private apartments, but the  piano nobile (main floor) is open to guests as the ultra-luxe Costaguti experience- a five-bedroom apartment with full-time concierge service.

Billiard room.

Cavalier d'Arpino was here - ceiling fresco in the Billiard room.

Let's be clear:  the apartment is  beautiful and tastefully styled to celebrate both its Baroque history and its contemporary incarnation.  The 50-square-meter salon is the jewel of the Costaguti family for its a richly detailed original wood ceiling and design border a fresco panel series of the Allegory of the Months and the Virtues painted by the Zuccari brothers, and it was our main hangout where we hosted two dinner parties, a lovely wine and cheese tasting organized by Costaguti and Beppe e Suoi Formaggi, one of the city's preeminent cheese makers, and just hung out watching Netflix.  When we needed to walk around, we played pool under my favorite painting, Cavalier d'Arpino's Aneid.

Deciding where to sleep would have been a challenge if we weren't the bosses.  On the first level, there are three rooms, two with wooden ceilings (at 30ft, matching the salon), and we chose the main bedroom with personal hammam. Room 2 was its next door with super king bed and smaller day bay.  Room 3 was charming (read: intimately tiny) with its Poussin putti fresco ceiling, and en suite bathroom, perfect for a godmother or best friend.  Bedrooms 4 and 5 were a short staircase to a mezzanine level where were eye-to-eye with gilded arch molding, an experience that prior to this weekend I have only had from far below.  Bedroom 4 was sultry, nestled in those gorgeous golden arches with a open marble bath area and hidden waterfall shower.  Bedroom 5 is the least interesting, a tastefully simple niche with two twin beds and view of inner courtyard.

Cleaning staff arrived promptly to our designated time each morning, and our kitchen was stocked daily with neighborhood and Roman favorites including Sant'Eustachio coffee and freshly made pastries from Caffe Roscioli.  There were so many more goodies that I don't remember, but I do fondly recall Grazia, our concierge, who was available at all times for all of our questions and incredibly polite when we accidentally shorted the electricity. Note: when staying in a Roman apartment, always discuss the limits of electrical usage and fuse box location.

Read my design review of Costaguti Experience on Pages 24-25 of Rhapsody, United's first class inflight magazine.

The golden arches.... original, gilded molding in the upstairs bathroom.

Zuccari fresco detail in the main salon (ceilings are 30 ft)

Location:  Historic Center, well positioned to public transportation and taxis, as well as easy to walk to all major monuments.  Palazzo Costaguti is my "almost home" landmark,  a great shortcut through Piazza Mattei, the borderline between the Campitelli neighborhood and Rome's Ghetto.  While most are taking photos of the Fontana delle Tartarughe, Giacomo della Porta's and Taddeo Landini's unmissable turtle fountain,  I always stop to look at the monument front entrance with Costaguti written on the lintel, and I think of Tom Ripley, envious friend from Anthony Minghella's The Talented Mr. Ripley, who lived Palazzo Costaguti when he took on Dickie Greenleaf's identity in Rome.

Fontana delle Tartarughe with Palazzo Costaguti entrance in the background.

 

Baglioni Hotel Carlton Milan Stands Out in the City That Never Stands Still

Montenapoleone Terrace Suite. All photos by Diego de Pol / Courtesy of Baglioni Hotel Carlton.

MILAN – Without a doubt, Milan is Italy’s It city, a fabulous melting pot of fashion, design, tech, finance, and art. The latest addition to its pantheon of awesomeness is the hotel scene. Whether beautiful boutiques or curated chains, Milan’s hotel vibe is evolving, much like the city itself.  

But the fact is Milan has always had amazing hotels. It is an old-school city with old-school institutions that have not only withstood the perils of time and trend, but also set the bar for all of the new entries.  
 
My monthly Milan visits from Rome are often a quick 24 hours of business and pleasure, which means my hotel has to be centrally located, preferably quiet, and near a park. My latest trip brought me to the Baglioni Hotel Carlton, which is the perfect address for a Gemini like me. It sits hidden in the busy historic center within walking or biking distance of everything from business to art and window shopping. The interiors are a celebration of its original 1960s rococo decor and its 21st-century incarnation as homage to the best of contemporary Italian design. The ultimate urban manse, Hotel Carlton is stylish and subtle, chic and private, the kind of place for a great weekend affair.

Terrace Suite.

Junior Suite.

Checking In

Location
The hotel is in San Babilia, on the border of Centro Storico and Palestro. A ten-minute walk from Milan’s Duomo, the hotel is located in the fashion district of the historic center. Eye candy and haute couture await at every step.

Hotel Style
A quiet and elegant mansion styled exactly as you would expect from Milan: Art Deco lines with antique furniture, brocade silks, Venetian chandeliers, and bathrooms with resplendent marble.

This Place Is Perfect For
An entourage, couples, families, business travelers, and solo travelers looking for white-glove service, elegance, and a discreet position that is also centrally located.

But Not So Perfect For
Anyone trying to get papped. The Carlton is discreet, not showy.

What’s on Site
Spiga 8 Spa, with an entrance on via Spiga for external guests. Gym. Three meeting rooms (one large, two small) for business guests. Private indoor garage.

Food + Drink
Milan institution Il Baretto al Baglioni is the historic on-site restaurant, an intimate anachronism to yesteryear Milan where the table you’re given is as important as the meal you’re eating. The menu is light Milanese and Mediterranean dishes including local favorites cotoletta alla Milanese (veal cutlet) and, of course, risotto.

The lounge are Caffè Baglioni hosts breakfast, a multi-cultural buffet that will appease anyone with intolerances and is included in the room price, and lunch, where menu items include special dietary options (must maintain the line for those Milan fashions…). The space doubles as afternoon/evening lounge for aperitif hour. In warm months, Baglioni’s garden is a great hang out.

The dining room at Il Baretto al Baglioni

A Caffè Baglioni dining room overlooking the gardens.

Number of Rooms
87 rooms and suites.

In-Room Amenities
All the Ortigia products you could dream of, from hair and beauty care to wondrous bath salts and creams. Sumptuous bathrobes and the spongiest, most comfortable hotel slippers I have ever tried. Fresh fruit, a bottle of prosecco, Nespresso machine, and the standard set up of mini-bar snacks, including artisanal dried fruits and salted nuts. WiFi is free and fast.

Drawbacks
I can’t think of a single one.

Standout Detail
Lino the concierge. His father was one of the first concierges on staff when the hotel opened in 1962. Lino grew up at the hotel. He knows everything.

Checking Out

Neighborhood
Centro Storico/Fashion Quadrangle

What to Do Nearby
The hotel has a back door onto via Spiga, the pedestrian shopping road lined with luxury labels, part of the network of fabulous fashion streets in the Montenapoleone area. Across from the hotel is Fornasetti, the flagship store and multi-floor museum dedicated to avant-garde artist and design Piero Fornasetti. Farther along the road is Villa Necchi Campiglio, the home you may have seen in the Tilda Swinton movie I Am Love — it's Milan’s glorious answer to Falling Water and a monument to upper class living. For a breath of fresh air, Milan's Giardini Pubblici and GAM-Gallera Arte Moderna are a five-minute walk, while ten minutes in the opposite direction will take you directly to the Duomo and Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II.

Good to Know
Guests have access to a side door leading on via Spiga, which is great for quiet entrances in the late evening.

Plan Your Trip

How to Get There
The hotel is a 10-minute cab ride from Milano Centrale train station or an hour from Milano-Malpensa (MXP) airport.

Getting Around
Public transport options abound: bicycle, taxis, trams, bus, and metros. But (almost) everything you will want to do in Milan is just a walk from the hotel.

Book It

Rates from $415. Click here for reservations.

50 Shades of Blue and 15 Shades of White at Casa Angelina on the Amalfi Coast

This article first appeared in Fathom, March 2018

The all-white Casa Angelina nestled into the cliffs of the Amalfi Coast. All photos courtesy of Casa Angelina

PRAIANO, Italy — The Amalfi Coast. When I imagine it, I think in blues, an infinite palette from lights to dark, just as moody as the Mediterranean, turning from a dramatic phthalo of a morning temporale (rain storm) into a vibrant indigo in the afternoon sun. When I was a kid, my family used to visit La Costiera for a few days here and there, and my sister and I spent all our time jumping into the sea from makeshift “beaches” made from leftover rocks. The water was chilly and dark, but every now and then a light patch would shine through, and we’d pretend it was a mermaid holding a lantern. The seaside was our liquid blue playground with salt water and sunburns.

My mental color palette changed drastically after a four-day meditation weekend at Casa Angelina. The cascading, white-washed palace inspired me to give up the blues for a clean slate or 15 or more shades of white that Casa Angelina constantly curates to create a harmonious — and dare I say Zen — counterbalance to the hotel’s precarious position on the cliffs of Praiano.

I chose a late October weekend as my Me Time escape from Rome. By the end of October, the Amalfi Coast is pretty much all locals (and the visitors who can just about pass). Although there was absolutely no promise of good weather, I rolled the dice and enjoyed the incredible warmth of October sun, which shines soft and strong, like the end of the last day of summer.

Casa Angelina, however, glows year-round, and its location — isolated but in the middle of it all — makes it a quiet retreat for those seeking calm as well as a central hub for those seeking Amalfitana action.

Checking In

Location
Praiano. Say it a few times in a row and you’ll be mesmerized. Even more so once you see the Amalfi Coast’s sapphire blue waters. A 15-minute drive south from Positano, Casa Angelina greets you just before you enter the tiny town of Praiano. An auspicious position in the cliffs gives guests an unobstructed view from the cove to the Mediterranean panorama. If you take a second, you can even spot the Fariglioni of Capri in the distance.

Hotel Style
A palette of whites, the cascading hotel is painted with more than 15 shades of the hue, creating a feeling of all-embracing peacefulness and tranquility. An open-plan layout, ; tasteful, minimal décor accented with vibrant contemporary paintings and sculptures; and floor-to-ceiling windows with a never-ending views of the sea all contribute to the modern vibe, making Casa Angelina unabashedly contemporary and constantly in the now.

This Place Is Perfect For
Couples who want a sexy getaway or are looking for a meditative and outdoorsy vibe with the perfect mix of relaxation and no-stress retreat. Casa Angelina is also the place for a fabulous destination party — a wedding, birthday, my tenth anniversary, a secret affair.

But Not So Perfect For
Families. Casa Angelina’s golden rule is no guests under 12 years of age, and, frankly, it’s a great idea. The gorgeous hotel, with its meters of white on whites and hundreds of steps, is an accident waiting to happen for anyone in the primary school crew.

Wait, this isn't white?!? I know, it's the gorgeous Cigar Room.

What’s on Site
All you really need to do is relax on a chaise on your terrace and watch the sea. But when you get up, there’s a beautiful, sea-facing spa with the latest Techno gym gear. Go on: Treadmill into the sunset. The small gym also has light weights and machines, a lap pool, and a sauna, as well as yoga and personal training sessions. The hotel has a small spa with skin and body care treatments, but I think the best wellness thing around here is a dip in the sea. Off the Marrakech lounge is a tranquil outdoor pool and deck with a Japanese garden vibe.

Food + Drink
Un Piano nel Cielo (which translates as “a floor in the sky”), the hotel’s rooftop restaurant, is aiming higher than the sky (#michelingoalz), serving fine dining with an Amalfi vibe — relaxed, comfortable, and stylish, with a seasonal and local menu. Desserts are fabulous. Marrakech Bar, inspired by the owner’s love of Morocco, is an open-space lounge with a front row to the Med and great cocktails like limoncello mojito. Cigar aficionados will appreciate the Cigar Room just off the Marrakech Bar, where a tobacco-colored humidor is stocked with lots of Cubans (Cohiba, Romeo Y Julieta, and Partagas), and vintage grappas.

Number of Rooms
39 rooms and suites, all with seaside views. Each room is a ceiling-to-floor celebration of white and contemporary design with Philippe Starck lighting, Flos bed, and Driade chairs — all white, light chrome, and clear polycarbonate.

In-Room Amenities
You had me at Etro. The chic Italian fashion house gets you between the sheets with pristine cotton linens and cuddles up with you with its plush robes. The bathroom is stocked with Jo Malone products, while the room itself is straight out of Architectural Digest: premium Apple, Bang & Olufsen, and Nespresso tech; Philippe Starck lighting; Flos bed; Driade chairs. 

Dining Outside – Casa Angelina .jpg
BM3A6818.jpg

Drawbacks
I can’t really think of any. Maybe the traffic in the summer months is a pain, but, hey, you’re not here to leave the property, unless you’re going by boat.

Standout Detail
Everything is standout — from the white on white and the gorgeous design elements to the ever-present, impeccably dressed staff in their cashmere sweaters, loose-fitted linen pants, and Positano slides who deliver everything from a warm welcome and local intel to fresh almond milk. 

But what truly blew my mind were the Eaudesea rooms: four beautifully designed rooms built into fishermen’s caves. Pure rustic, nautical chic. The Eaudesea are completely separate from the rest of Casa Angelina and come with two full-time butlers on site for all needs. The butlers set up a fabulous, open-air breakfast on the private terrace area each morning. Eaudisea guests have access to Casa Angelina’s private boat for taxi trips to where ever they want to go.

Checking Out

No matter how busy the Amalfi Coast can get in the summer months, it is one of Italy’s most spectacular landscapes, dramatically set into the cliffs of the Campania countryside. So gorgeous and historic, it is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Check the Fathom Amalfi Coast Guide for the complete to-do.

Beach
Yes, you are in the cliffs, but just 200 steps down from Casa Angelina is La Gavitella, a private beach club carved into the rock, facing west to Positano, which means optimum sunlight through the day and into the evening. La Gavitella has an area dedicated exclusively to Casa Angelina guests.

Walk
Praiano is a walking city, and it’s an easy, uphill climb from Casa Angelina. The charming town is one of the starting points for Il Sentiero degli Dei, The Path of the Gods, a five-mile nature trek along stunning gorges, cliffs and precipices of the Amalfi Coast.

Village Hop
Yes, you should take a trip to top hits Sorrento, Positano, Amalfi, Ravello. But remember too that the coast is teeming with tiny fishing towns like Maiori, Minori, Cetara, and Furore — and the best way to discover them is by boat. For the more ambitious, take a day trip to islands Capri and Procida or go inland to archaeological sites PompeiErcolano, and Paestum.

Photo by Erica Firpo

Photo by Erica Firpo

Plan Your Trip

How to Get There
Either take the train to Naples Central station or fly into Naples Airport (NAP). From there, it’s a windy, 90-minute drive (depending on traffic, and your timing will vary) to Praiano. Twenty airlines fly in Naples, including major European carriers like Alitalia, British Airways, Turkish Airways, Lufthansa, and Air France. 

Getting Around
You will need transport to get around Praiano. There are buses and taxis, and Praiano itself is a quaint walk. Scooters are a great solution for local travel and are rentable in town. Casa Angelina provides hourly shuttle service to Positano. If you just want to visit other coastal towns like Amalfi, Casa Angelina can organize shuttle service, but you’ll have more fun coast-hopping with the hotel’s private boat. If you plan on day-tripping in land, hire a car.

5 Things We Love about Hotel Eden

This article original appeared in FORBES TRAVEL on APRIL 7, 2017.

Get your scissors out, because we’re cutting the ribbon on Rome‘s Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star Hotel Eden. The Eternal City trophy of the prestigious Dorchester Collection reopened on April 1 after a 17-month renovation that called for a complete floor-to-ceiling makeover easily rivaling that of St. Peter’s Basilica’s 17th-century revamp.

With 128 years of history behind it, the Eden has reigned as Rome’s harbinger of luxury, so it’s no surprise that the 2017 reboot simply reinforces the property as Empress of the Eternal City’s upscale hotel scene.

And it’s not just about a different look. Hotel Eden has opened the doors with a new mentality set to change the scope of Rome’s luxury hotels.

These are the five elements about the fresh hotel that stand out the most to us.

Space Hotel Eden raises the bar on opulence by deliberately downsizing room count by 20 percent, from 121 rooms to 98, and the overall effect is mesmerizing.

From the moment you enter the hotel’s marble-paneled lobby, the sense of space is more than gracious — it’s downright luxurious, livable and contemporary. In fact, the Eden’s objective was to create “living spaces,” and each of the 66 rooms and 32 suites are just that.

The artfully composed accommodations maximize space and highlight simplicity, featuring high ceilings and tall picture-frame windows.

5 Things We Love About Hotel Eden - Forbes Travel Guide

Design With space as the main design element, Bruno Moinard, of 4BI & Associés, chose a less-is-more interpretation of the Eden’s classic history. Moinard created a contemporary art deco atmosphere with a relaxing palette of ecrus and ochres, with superbly designed (yet sparingly placed) custom furniture and lamps.

The bathrooms have a lavish touch thanks to floor-to-ceiling white marble, walk-in rain showers and separate bath, and tasteful gilded fixtures.

It’s the little details throughout the room, though, that we love the most. The master-controlled lighting and climate control (which you can play around with via iPad from your bed), the Hotel Eden LP we found on our desk, the books, Bottega Veneta bath products, GHD hair dryers and charmingly customized bags for his-and-hers toiletries.

View Everyone says that if you’re going to stay in Rome, you must have a view. And they’re right. There is nothing like seeing the city’s domes, and from Hotel Eden, you get a glimpse of them all.

Suites Aurora, Malta, Medici and the Bella Vista Penthouse have the cityscape as the rooms’ main feature. And though most of Eden’s other rooms face the historic center, you can ask for a unit with a view.

But for the best vistas in the house, head to the fifth-floor terrace, where designers Patrick Jouin and Sanjit Manku added a vertical garden of soft curves and open walls for Eden’s garden restaurant, Il Giardino Ristorante & Bar. The establishment’s cocktail bar is the perfect place to perch right before sunset with a Grande Bellezza, a vermouth creation by barman Gabriele Rizzi.

For a more formal dining experience, enjoy panoramas of the city atop Hotel Eden at the property’s signature gourmet restaurant, La Terrazza.

5 Things We Love About Hotel Eden - Forbes Travel Guide

Service Once the room number was reduced and space was expanded, general manager Luca Virgilio decided to increase the staff by 30 percent.

“Personal attention and intimate experience” is the Dorchester mission and, at the Eden, the mantra lives and breathes in the form of a community of professionals imbued with that well-loved Roman trait of amicizia (“friendship”). Virgilio also seized the opportunity to create a guest relations team that coordinates bespoke experiences and journeys that range from “bucket list” to “once in a lifetime.”

For more than five decades, Maurizio Pangrazio has served as Eden’s chief concierge. He’s such an impeccable and resourceful man that the city named him “best concierge in Rome.” We simply refer to him as the top point of reference for getting what we want around town.

Wellness Eden has always had a history with wellness, from the early days of La Terrazza, when executive chef Fabio Ciervo crafted one of the first macrobiotic menus in the city. During the 17-month pause, Ciervo not only studied new recipes, spent weeks researching new producers, and guest cheffing with Thomas Keller of Five-Star Per Se (New York) and Heston Blumenthal of Fat Duck (Bray, U.K.), he also went back to school for a master’s in nutrition.

Suffice to say, Ciervo is back in his glorious, 2,152-square-foot, panoramic outpost with a brand-new plate that he aims to fill with unique and quality-of-life-focused dishes.

Eden’s makeover is tip to tails and, on the ground floor, is the hotel’s first spa. Hotel Eden Spa is a four-suite area of private rooms for couples and individuals.

You’ll also spot a nail spa and blowout bar, both designed for privacy and tranquility. And the best part: Hotel Eden Spa has brought in Los Angeles skin care guru Sonya Dakar (aka the pioneer of natural and vegan rejuvenation treatments) to her first European foray to create signature facials and other treatments.

 

The Spa Experience at Roma Cavalieri

There's nothing like being a guest at a spa, but it gets even better when the spa is the Cavalieri Grand Spa, Rome's fabulous hotel on the hill.  If anything, the Grand Spa is old news.  For the last decade, its more than 20,000 square meters of pools, work out rooms, tennis courts, treatment rooms and green space have been a luxury retreat for local and international Veeps, (VIPs but with the proper Italian phonetic pronunciation).  Case in point: my cousin - a former Serie A footballer and all-around It guy- had a membership just so he could work out on the occasion he was back in Rome, so of course I used to meet him and some of his friends [read: fit football colleagues] poolside for the pool bar hamburger.

About five or six years ago, the Grand Spa underwent an upgrade, holding on to its much-deserved No. 1 spot on the Roman spa scene, so why news now?

Two words: Gabriel Halmagyi.

Following a fourteen-year/ six-country career in spa management and physical therapy, Bucharest-born Gabriel has settled in Rome as the Grand Spa Manager, and all he wants to do is make the spa a community experience-  for guests as well as locals.  His first initiative included a full overhaul of the Grand Spa Cafe, with a focus on incredible flavorful, creative and healthy dishes that Grand Slammer Novak Djokovic couldn't get enough of.  And I'll admit, even though my eye was on the pool bar burger, I loved my Vietnamese spring rolls, and calamari and courgettes with a Zen pesto.

Though the Spa does come with a pretty price tag, Gabriel has his finger on the pulse of quality and consistency-- state of the art (don't you love that word?) Technogym equipment, on-the-ball and very friendly personal trainers, innovative treatment rooms (he has some tranquility surprises coming soon that will literally change the spa's landscape) and fidelity to top-shelf treatments and products such as La Prairie and St. Barth's.

At the end of the day, there is a great equalizer among all luxury spas as they all strive forward with top gear, service and staff. What I am hoping will set the Grand Spa apart from the rest of Rome is Gabriel and his desire to create a community in the spa and out -right now, he's starting with al aperto yoga sessions under beautiful Roman pines (yours truly totally adored it even in the throws of allergy season), and early Wednesday morning urban running sessions that skims a pleasurable 5k around the centro storico.  Let's see what happens . . .

And yeah, that's me, my mantra and my Olloclip fish eye.Cavalieri Grand Spa Club

Two Days in Venice with San Clemente Palace

There is another like an island getaway, and some say there is nothing like a Venice escape.   But the beautiful Serenissima is not quite a respite, especially once the weather warms up.  But what if it was? A few weeks ago, I was invited by Kempinski hotels to come to visit the newly opened and renovated San Clemente Palace, a luxury hotel in a small island across from San Marco and the Giudecca that entices you to best of both worlds-  the meandering charm of Venice and the quietude of an island .  (You may remember that I wrote about the San Clemente Palace last year in Forbes Travel round-up of the new/updated St. Regis-Starwood line up-   Yes, same space, same place but new owner with some great surprises).

My weekend was perfect. The sky was constantly painted by Titian, the water never made up its jewel-toned mind, and the temperature was warm to a balmy chill at night.  And the hotel.... it was fabulous. Or maybe I just like history with a luxe decor?   San Clemente was a crusader stop over, a monastery, a hospital and sanitarium (famously, Mussolini's first wife had a Zelda Fitzgerald finish here), and now  190 room hotel, most of which opt for that Baroque-inspired finery we've come to expect of Venice- Venetian plaster, carved wooden headboards, velvet covered furniture, gilded mirrors and opulent drapery with incredibly large tassels.  My Junior Suite was just that, with the most comfortable bed in the world, a beautiful view of the lagoon and San Marco, and a large marble bathroom stocked with Acqua di Parma products and a very, very good hair dryer.  Yep, I was in heaven until I walked through the San Clemente Suite, a stand-alone top floor apartment which is probably the love child of Poltrona Frau and SanLorenzo Super Yachts dancing in my seaside fantasies: exposed wood beam ceilings, gorgeous contemporary Italian furniture in leathers and velvets, floor to ceiling windows with a front row view of the Venetian Lagoon, and did I mention private dock?  Consider it a 10, 000 euro sunrise... San Clemente Suite.

Let's round it up:  San Clemente Palace is a time piece.  Its long hallways and a vintage bar are reminiscent of a favorite Kubrick film.  San Clemente is a compound.  You could quite possibly stay here without visiting Venice because it has *almost* everything- three restaurants, under chef Vincenzo di Tuoro,  three bars under superbarman  Alessio Venturini, (note: try his White Lady, my new cocktail), pool, putting holes, tennis courts, park benches and enough grounds that I lapped the site 3 times for my morning run - admittedly, I stopped a few times just to take in fresh air. But even Kempinski knows you need to get lost, so if offers guests complimentary water taxi service to and from San Marco each half hour.  [For a walk around San Clemente Palace, please flip around my Steller Story].

What didn't I like? More like, what would I like to see next? I'd love to see the herb garden they are talking about cultivating, with chef's tabl dining. In fact, I'd like to see how Chef di Tuoro evolves the restaurants.  The pool is beautiful- but will Kempinski expand to more spa services and perhaps enhance the on site gym?  And that's it.

My two days in Venice were just what I needed to clear my head from Rome.  I made sure to cross over to Venice for some cicchetti and art. I stumbled across the Joseph Klibansky Beautiful Tomorrow exhibition at Palazzo Franchetti- humorous and beautiful, best combination-- and then went to the Pinnault Foundation double header opening of Sigmar Polke (Palazzo Grassi) and Acchrochage (Punta della Dogana). By the time you read, Klibansky will have ended but you should plan to catch Polke, an excellent retrospective of the German artist who had far more fun than Andy Warhol.  But yes, I was lazy and stayed on the island- participating in a master cooking class with di Tuoro, where we talked gnocchi, and then met up with  Alessio at the Clemente Bar for another White Lady. My kind of weekend in Venice.