You’ve got to give it to the Italians, the masters of reinvention and pioneers of effortless chic. Italy’s coasts are born blessed with long sultry summers, pristine beaches and beautiful marine reserves. Then there’s all that we love that they’ve honed over centuries: gorgeous architecture, a rich cultural history, Tyrrhenian charm and of course, the food and wine!
The Italians are no strangers to challenging social history either; and have always emerged from such periods stronger every time. Italy has shown this in the pandemic, going from being a country that was a major cause for concern at the start of 2020, to one celebrating the rewards of rapid recovery by the end. From a luxury hospitality perspective, we couldn’t help but note that they’ve taken stock and learnt lessons too: stepping-up on the luxury stakes to achieve greater value from tourism, ensuring greater privacy for guests and re-imagining familiar favourites to create brand new experiences to bring the chic-set back. We think what’s happening on Italy’s coasts is simply spectacular.
If like us you love your grande dames, then you’ll adore the Hotel La Palma: the ‘godmother’ of hospitality on the Neapolitan Riviera, welcoming guests to Capri since 1822. It’s the first-ever hotel on the island and will be completely transformed by Oetker Collection into a ‘masterpiece hotel’, from its current 80 rooms into just 50 keys. The property, just steps from the Piazzetta in Capri (we have a funny story about the landmark, involving being slapped on the backside by an Italian nonna), will be brought up to date for the contemporary traveller – complete with a new pool deck, rooftop bar and beach-club, but without losing its timeless elegance. Plus, foodies will delight in Chef Gennaro Esposito’s two Michelin-star culinary charms, coming with plenty of pizzaz (and perhaps even pizza!) with modern interpretations of Neapolitan comfort food. Opening in 2022, two centuries on from its first incarnation, Oetker’s Hotel La Palma will be the epicentre of the social scene on the island. We love that Oetker is upping the standard of luxury on this iconic property. So many hotels these days are doing the opposite, trying to maximise as many keys as possible from their footprint. It’s refreshing to hear of a re-opening in an already popular destination that is seeking to increase the value of a stay for its guests, not to mention embellish their social-centric concepts. We anticipate some unique experiential activities too, but we’re unclear of what that may be as yet, but we’re sure it will encompass the natural splendour of one of the greats on Italy’s coasts. Capri itself needs no (re)introduction. We can’t wait to return to catch another glimpse of its Faraglioni and the magical Grotta Azzura, where the sea glows electric blue thanks to a quirk – one our nonna will call ‘heavenly’ – of nature.
Just Southeast of the city of Genoa in resplendent Portofino, Belmond is reopening its Splendido Mare, down the hill from its glamorous and historical Belmond Hotel Splendido. With everything we know about Belmond, we’re convinced that ‘The Mare’ will lead the way in reviving the allure of Italy’s coasts when it launches this spring. This once humble fishermen’s guesthouse is reinvented into a contemporary home, with a touch of the old and a sense of place with its cinematic surroundings. Portofino’s nautical heritage is infused throughout the 14-suite property – we expect lashings of varnished wood, rope and perhaps even a porthole or two. But it seems that the hotel’s French designers are keen to keep the theming local – they’ve commissioned some seven thousand handmade floor tiles from Ligurian craftsmen that will emulate the undulation of the sea underfoot.
Portofino’s glamour isn’t all ancient history either, it was a favourite escape of the stars of the screen from the 1950s. Hence, mid-century modern furniture and accessories will feature throughout the property to bring in that nostalgia – think Ava Gardner and Humphrey Bogart – after all, Gardner was a frequent visitor to the house when she was filming the Barefoot Contessa.
With an experiential brand like Belmond, we expect all the maritime stylings to be followed with sea-themed experiences. We’re hoping to score a visit as soon as we can, hopefully long before the joys of the Italian Ferragosto. The Italians like to keep the best for themselves, so with its low number of keys, we expect this property to be full all summer long.
There are hidden gems, then there are hidden gems. The soon to open Borgo Sant Andrea, tucked away in an awe-inspiring corner of the Amalfi Coast – but close enough to step in and out of the buzz of Positano or Amalfi – has got the tongues of Italian luxury staycationers wagging. Conca dei Marini has since its founding given off the air of a sleepy, quiet fishing village, but those in the know will spot its 16th-century watchtower that once protected this important strategic position on Italy’s coasts from invaders. Beyond its maritime history, it means that the views from high up in this hamlet stretch as far as the eye can see and is magnificent. The Borgo Sant Andrea makes the most of this, its owners have created a contemporary 29 room and 16 suite escape, with every single accommodation showcasing panoramic sea-vistas. Eight elevators transport guests from the property down to its sandy, private beach and club – making it a super-exclusive hideaway for those who want to keep away from the paparazzi or from other sun worshippers. It sounds right up our street.
While the property makes the most of the sea, it is also wrapped in an enchanted Mediterranean garden that will be in full bloom when the property opens in spring. Here, the hotel’s Chef Crescenzo will tantalise tastebuds with homegrown ingredients, cooked in the property’s unique, open kitchen.
Back in-suite, the vibe is also mid-century, with each room individualised with furnishings from an important time for modern Italian design. They feature hand-made tiles, local stone, completely bespoke furniture and Murano glass. You’ll spot a few antiques too, although the aesthetic clearly shows that this property is looking more to the future of Italian hospitality than its past. That and of course framing the deep blue sea that can be enjoyed at every turn. Good job we like blue!