Ride & Seek’s Caesar bike tour is an epic bicycle tour that will take participants “in Caesar’s footsteps” from London to Rome.
Virtuoso Life, a magazine tailored to luxury living and travel, has just released the winners of its Best of the Best Awards for 2009. Not surprisingly, the worldwide winner for the best culinary experience was in Italy.
Rosellinis, a 2-star Michelin restaurant in the Palazzo Sasso hotel in Ravello, received the top prize for a hotel restaurant among 800 properties surveyed. I took a look at the restaurant online and found these items on the sample tasting menu: Giant squid ravioli filled with crab & courgettes, creamed potatoes sauce and ricotta dumpling; Cod fillet crusted with Gaetas black olives, Sorrento beef tomatoes and anchovies sauce; and Lamb filet wrapped in rose crust & rose liquor with white asparagus tip, mirror potatoes and anchovies sun dried tomatoes sauce. YUM!
I’ve no doubt these dishes are lovingly prepared with the best ingredients. Rosellinis and its star chef Pino Lavarra have earned 2 stars from Michelin, too – not an easy feat. Then again, this award is for the best culinary “experience” so I’m guessing the setting – in a palace on the Amalfi Coast, with terraces “looking down on the fishing boats 1,000 feet below” – had a lot to do with the decision.
Either way, if you’re interested in dining at Rosellinis, book far in advance. Also note that the restaurant is closed from November through March.
Click here for more information about the Virtuoso Best of the Best Awards.
Photo from the Palazzo Sasso website
While it’s true that the travel industry is taking a hit in light of the world financial crisis, there are still plenty of people making trips to Italy. And, with the dollar improving against the euro (at least for the time being), some Americans are looking to do Italy in style.
Luckily, thanks to USA Today/Forbes Traveler, there’s now a list of Italy’s 25 best hotels. Compiled by Forbes, this is a grouping of the most luxurious and elegant lodgings “ranging from urban grande dames to breathtaking coastal villas.” Forbes Traveler has also created a nifty little slide show to showcase each of the 25.
We’ve certainly mentioned some of these hotels in The Unofficial Guide to Central Italy and/or on this site. But here are the links if you want to check them out yourself:
Italy’s 25 Best Hotels According to Forbes Traveler
Grand Hotel a Villa Feltrinelli (Gargnano)
Hotel Splendido (Portofino)
Villa d’Este (Cernobbio)
Fashion designers have known for a long time that it’s good to diversify. Not only have Italian fashion houses like Armani, Versace, and Dolce & Gabbana ventured beyond clothing to include perfume, accessories, and restaurants among their branded items, they’ve also gone into the business of designing and/or maintaining luxury hotels and suites. This weekend, in the wake of the end of Milan Fashion Week, Sophy Roberts profiles Ferragamo’s Tuscan Estate Castiglion del Bosco for the Financial Times. As the writer points out, discussing this vast estate in today’s economic climate seems “absurd.”
The numbers involved in the project – by spring 2010 it will include 20 villas, 26 “hotel” suites, a Tom Weiskopf-designed golf course, spa, two restaurants, winery and stud – are clearly not for the credit-crunched. Nor are the sums easily accessible: Castiglion del Bosco has been set up as a membership club where fees are confidential. One source recently estimated it to be 120 memberships at €2m each.
Nevertheless, Castiglion del Bosco does allow non-members (“discerning guests,” according to its website) to stay at Il Borgo, the so-called heart of the 4,500-acre estate, for roughly €600-€3000 per night, based on availability. This latest Ferragamo venture is located in Val d’Orcia, but the Ferragamos also own other (more reasonably priced?) properties in Tuscany that are open to guests. Il Borro (not to be confused with Il Borgo, above), near Arezzo, has villa and farmhouse accommodations starting at $475 per night. In addition, the family also runs Lungarno Hotels, which includes several hotels in Florence and some suites in Rome.
Of course, the Ferragamos aren’t the only designers in the hotel game in Italy. The FT article also lists The Bulgari Hotel in Milan, the (Alberta) Ferretti’s Castello di Montegridolfo and Carducci 76 near Rimini, and the Bottega Veneta suite in Rome’s St. Regis Hotel.
If luxury and design are important criteria for you when choosing a hotel, you can also check out the Fashion Designer Hotels round-up from Forbes Traveler, which includes properties from around the world designed by Italians and other big names in the fashion world.
Photo of Castiglion del Bosco
Ironically, with all the hotel review and booking sites out there, it’s become almost impossible to find just the right place to hang our hats when we travel, especially for those of us that prefer smaller, independent inns or hotels with a bit of panache. We guidebook writers like to think that travelers will use the few suggestions that we provide, but we’re also realistic. That’s why I’d like to share a hotel site that I recently found: tablethotels.com.
Touted as a website with “hotels for global nomads,” tablethotels.com has a very simple site which allows you to choose accommodations by area, name, deals, and a few other criteria including “I just want to get away,” which is a select list of hotels categorized by destination, landscape, agenda (e.g., wine region, gambling), or hotel type (e.g., “traditional elegance,” “cutting edge”).
Tablet has listings for hotels all over the world, including Italy, and you can even click on a link called “TabletKids,” which lets you define specific kid-friendly criteria, such as a crib, connecting rooms, or a kid-friendly menu. We did this search for Italy with the above three requests and found some lovely looking lodgings from as far north as Lake Como to as far south as Puglia.
Sure, some people may find that the Tablet website is a bit too cosmopolitan for their tastes (indeed, you can download soundtracks for your trips and connect to them via twitter). But they do have hotels that start at under €100 per night. And, I love the pared down, almost bespoke approach Tablet has taken to create a hotel recommendations site.
Believe it or not, I don’t have any affiliations with Tablet; I just saw the site and liked it. So, go have a look…
The Times UK’s Stephen Bleach had a fun article about romantic getaways in Europe this weekend titled “The Dirty Weekend Guide to Europe.” Bleach argues that a “place of [one’s] own” makes or breaks a romantic holiday and highlights a “dozen of the slushiest, smoochiest and downright sexiest hideaways on the Continent.” No surprise to us, four out of the 12 are in Italy:
- In Puglia, Trullo Zingaro (booking through Long Travel)
- On Lake Como, Casa Dell’Architetto
- In Sorrento, on the Amalfi Coast, Perla (booking through Wimco Villas)
- In Umbria, Castello di Reschio (booking through Abercrombie & Kent)
And, not a Tuscan villa among any of them. Be aware, however, that romance this luxurious comes at a price!
Hello all. We’ve had a few technical difficulties over the last few weeks, so I hope you’ve stayed with us. In the interim, you may have missed our posts about Jewish Resources in Italy, Scootermania in Sicily, and Tuscan Wine Picks.
Now, it seems we have cured our hiccups and are ready to keep providing you with Italy travel tips. While we were gone, travel site Gridskipper ran a contest on Dream Destinations and many readers wrote in about Rome. Two Rome dream trips are in the finals; both entries are creative and provide useful tips for sightseeing, wining and dining, and exploring the Eternal City. Check out Roman Holiday and Rome Poem. Gridskipper also ran a piece about Secret Trastevere last month. By the way, yours truly entered a Gridskipper contest last year and qualified as a finalist with this entry about seeing Rome on $100.
Other Rome tips that have come our way recently are from A Luxury Travel Blog, which ran a piece on the Hassler Hotel’s Roman Skyline Package and from the New York Times, which has a feature on Rome at Night.
So, if you’re going to Rome this summer, here are plenty of suggestions. And there’s more to come, we’re sure…
One of the pleasures of visiting Tuscany is having the chance to drive the fertile hills of wine country, sampling reds and whites along the way. Most travelers really only think of Chianti, a mini-region within Tuscany, when thinking about Tuscan wine. But another vino hotspot is Montalcino.
Montalcino is the home of Brunello di Montalcino, one of Italy’s most celebrated vintages. According to this month’s Tasting Notes newsletter from Epicurious.com, Montalcino produces other tasty wines, too. One of Epicurious’ resident wine gurus Leslie Sbrocco particularly likes products from Castello Banfi, a wine estate and luxury inn just outside of Montalcino.
While the inn looks enticing, you don’t have to go all the way to Tuscany to enjoy Castello Banfi. You can buy many wines by the bottle or case from the winery using their online store. Or, you can check your local wine seller or wine.com for Castello Banfi reds and whites.
By the way, in case you didn’t know, food site Epicurious is a great resource for wine lovers, as well. Sign up for their Tasting Notes newsletter or visit the site to watch tasting videos. For more on Tuscan wines, check out this recent article on the Top 5 Affordable Super-Tuscan Wines by Linda Murphy. The article also includes links to recipes for the perfect wine and food pairings.
Italy is not short on luxury accommodations, as is often highlighted by A Luxury Travel Blog. We have gathered several recent tips from that site for hotels that go the extra mile (or kilometer, as it were):
Here’s a hotel and restaurant that we hope Jessica over at Italylogue will have a chance to check out while she’s in Milan.
Located in the hip Tortona district, Milan’s Nhow Hotel, which opened last year in a defunct General Electric power plant, has put a high-design touch on all of its rooms and common areas. There are bedrooms decorated to look like comic strips, a “crystallized” Swarovski chair, and a flowering Alexander Calder-type installations in the dining room. According to the Nhow brochure (PDF file), the hotel changes the look of the common areas every four months. So, it’s like staying at a gallery almost every time you visit.
If the Nhow’s minimalist design starts to bore you, then head over to Dolce & Gabbana’s Gold, the fashion design duo’s restaurant/bistrot/lounge bar. Like D&G’s, Gold is deliciously over the top. Though we wonder if anyone actually eats there.
If you’re the type of person for whom money is no object, then you’d probably enjoy Nota Bene, a customized, subscription-only guidebook series. NB produces guides for the “discerning traveler.” Apparently, this is the type of traveler who can lease a “four-cabin Continental 80” boat for €6,000 per day or pay £350 for a 10-issue subscription to what amounts to a high-end travel magazine.
Nevertheless Nota Bene does produce some good-looking guides. And, lucky for us plebs, they’ve released a sample of their Portofino guide. You can download it here (PDF). If you’re satisfied, you can sign up to be a member of NB, which will entitle you to view other Italy guides including Milan, Rome, Capri, and Venice.
Now, if only we could get a free trip to Portofino, not just a guide…