Belmond Hotel Splendido, Portofino
As we’ve come to know so well, summer in Italia means heat and crowds. But the scents, the sights, the culture and cuisine always seem to “spring” to life in springtime – as we so magically experienced on a recent luxurious whirl through Liguria and the Veneto, stopping in two of our most beloved cities.
Firstly, we cannot emphasize enough that if you’re thinking of returning to the Amalfi Coast, consider heading north instead, were we found solace and wonder in the magic that is lovely Portofino. An elevated oasis just about two hours from Milan, it’s the sort of place people are talking about when they speak of the Italian dream vacation.
We were in the mood for a splurge, and so booked a three night stay at the gorgeous Hotel Belmond Splendido. An historic property perched on a hillside overlooking the Portofino harbor, rooms come with balconies and breathtaking views of the Italian Riviera (for aesthetes, some have original frescoes). We were in good company, as the hotel has hosted a glittering parade of real and Hollywood royalty, from The Duke of Windsor to Madonna to Elizabeth Taylor and Steven Spielberg; there’s even a suite dedicated to regular guest Ava Gardner.
From Splendido it’s just a short stroll to the town’s famous Piazzetta. But with so much glamour and tranquility, we found it often difficult to leave the hotel. To wit, the hotel’s in-house spa offers a signature treatment program that is one hour and forty-five minutes of plush pampering – complete with cocktails matched to your nail color.
And for epicures, dinner at La Terrazza offers seafood risotto, crunchy king prawns and quinoa/pistachio crusted tuna with those breathtaking vistas.
We later took the train from Milan to Venice, to splash out not at some or other crowded San Marco hotel, but rather the legendary Belmond Cipriani, across the way on the much more private Giudecca. This is the sort of place where you might just bump shoulders with George Clooney, Sandra Bullock, Donnatella Versace or Lady Gaga. Though we were so warmly welcomed by legendary greeter Roberto, you would think we were movie stars.
And indeed, the Cipriani is equal parts enchantment and luxury. We dined at the casual-chic Cip’s Club along the water’s edge with a view across the Lagoon to Piazza San Marco in the distance, happy to be just far enough away from the crowds. (It’s only a five minute boat ride to the main island, but you feel miles and miles away.) The food – roasted codfish with rosemary, risotto with turmeric and scampi – somehow manages to equal the setting.
For something a little more fancy, Oro boasts a Michelin star.
The property is surrounded by abundant gardens and the rooms have awesome vistas of perhaps the most ethereally beautiful place in the world. Another big plus? Cipriani boasts the only Olympic size salt water swimming pool in central Venice.
Truman Capote once famously said, “Venice is like eating an entire box of chocolate liqueurs in one go.” And at Belmond Cipriani, those chocolates come with the most breathtaking views in the city.