Costa Smeralda for Every Type of Traveler

An aerial view of Hotel Romazzino, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Costa Smeralda. (Photo: Marriott International)

Long before Italy’s Costa Smeralda became an iconic retreat for the rich and famous, the 12-mile stretch on Sardinia’s northern coastline was just another — albeit spectacular — corner of the region’s wild terrain.

It didn’t gain notoriety until a late-1950s visit by a committee of investors and architects that fell hard for the Emerald Coast, named for its beautiful translucent, emerald-colored water, and transformed 5,000 acres of land into Porto Cervo, the most famous coastline resort in Sardinia, if not the world.

A collection of coves, towns and beaches, the Costa Smeralda is a destination for those looking for an honest and insightful experience, whether they prefer adventuring or recharging, eating or meeting local artisans, or just enjoying that ever-so-easy Sardinian lifestyle.

From the remote quietude of Hotel Romazzino and Piccolo Romazzino to fashionable Hotel Cala di Volpe and Porto Cervo, the coastal area becomes a dynamic and international crossroads whose boundaries extend to the water, as the port itself is a floating city of hundreds of the world’s most enviable boats, yachts and super yachts.

Regardless of your travel tastes, Costa Smeralda will exceed even your steepest expectations.

Soak in the sun and enjoy azure waters. (Photo: Marriott International)

For Adventure Travelers

The emerald waters and natural terrain of the Costa Smeralda are meant to be enjoyed, especially by those who love the outdoors. Its mesmerizing waters are always just warm enough for snorkeling, scuba and free-diving, a centuries-old island hobby.

The region’s life aquatic includes dolphins, sea turtles, tuna, swordfish and sunfish, rare mobulas (Mediterranean mantas) and schools of whales.

Start your exploration at a beach like the one found at Hotel Cala di Volpe, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Costa Smeralda, decidedly the most beautiful and exclusive location in Porto Cervo for its immaculate white beaches, incredible setting and lineup of activities from flora and fauna spotting to boat rides to Maddalena Island.

For land lovers, the countryside is lined with nature hikes, including the local favorite Pevero Health Trail. Starting from the grounds of Hotel Romazzino, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Costa Smeralda, a series of pedicured trails circumnavigate Pevero Golf Course, with fitness stations, inclines and more.

Stroll along trails or play a round of golf. (Photo: Marriott International)

For Romance Seekers

By its nature, the Costa Smeralda is romantic. Any sunset will inspire a poem, or declaration of love at the very least. Though Porto Cervo is a hub of who’s who, it’s the quieter corners that are made for couples.

Spectacular landscapes of rolling hills and hidden coves are inspiration for stories, and as Italians will tell you, they are stories that you have to make.

Nestled in a grove of pine trees and cascading to the bay of Liscia di Vacca is the Emerald Coast’s best kept secret, Hotel Pitrizza, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Costa Smeralda, a sprawling complex of suites and rooms with its own private beach. You’ll find ample privacy for just the two of you.

Costa Smeralda heats up after dark. (Photo: Marriott International)

For the Fashionista

Expect to find luxury everywhere you look. Above all, stroll through La Piazzetta and La Passeggiata, the area’s most exclusive fashion hubs.

Boutiques here introduced the island to some of the world’s most innovative designers. You’ll also find a lineup here of the major fashion houses, while the Promenade du Port is a concept retail mecca with small boutiques and surprise pop-up shops.

Before the sun sets, the see-and-be-seen set will want to stake a claim at the Atrium Bar at Hotel Cala di Volpe for a cocktail, or head to Cala Beach Club and Nikki Beach for an afternoon of drinks, dining and dancing.

For Foodies

For decades, foodies have migrated to Porto Cervo to taste regional seafood dishes, which has inspired a dynamic food community in the small town.

Savor the many flavors of the region. (Photo: Marriott International)

Every year, Porto Cervo kicks off the summer season with its annual Wine & Food Festival, an exhibition of Italian food and wine products.

Chef Nobuyuki Matsuhisa launched a restaurant that has officially staked its claim at Hotel Cala di Volpe, overlooking an iconic pier and sparkling bay.

Meanwhile, the iconic Porto Cervo restaurant, Al Pescatore, has welcomed a partnership with the Nerano restaurant Quattro Passi, run by Michelin-starred Chef Tonino Mellino. A selection of Tonino’s signature dishes from Quattro Passi is now included on the Al Pescatore menu.

For Wellness Travelers

Wellness has always been integral to Sardinian lifestyle, and no more so than in the Costa Smeralda, which boasts some of Italy’s most beautiful coves and beaches and integrates holistic ingredients into a lifestyle that turns down the dial on vacation to a focus on relaxation and wellness.

The natural beauty and peaceful exclusivity make Hotel Romazzino, Piccolo Romazzino and Hotel Cala di Volpe the most coveted areas for total recharge, which can be as easy as taking a dip in their beaches’ emerald waters.

For a truly decadent way to unwind, make your way to Hotel Cala di Volpe’s SHISEIDO Spa and Hotel Romazzino’s Spa My Blend By Clarins, which each celebrate Sardinian wellness with beauty and fitness offerings. Both properties collaborate with nutritional expert Amanda Hamilton to curate bespoke wellness programs that include healthy menus, spa treatments and exercise regimes that include yoga, pilates and hiking.

This article originally appeared in Marriott Bonvoy Traveller, June 2019.

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 start from €462.

Checking In

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.

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.

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

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.

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

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

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

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.

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.

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.