Category Archives for "Italy"

Must see locations, events and places to travel and enjoy in Italy.

Merry Christmas From Venice!

Visiting Venice at this time of year will offer you an experience quite unlike the one you would have if you were to join the throngs of tourists in mid-summer…

I am awakened by a loud and annoying noise. I am confused, it seems like a nightmare, perhaps I am still sleeping. I get up and try to stretch my neck and I feel the pain. I walk towards the window to look outside but I cannot see anything apart from the thick white fog which is shrouding everything — the caigo (this is what we call the local fog in the Venetian dialect). The level of humidity is so high that it seems to penetrate my body, it is time to put aside the lightweight jacket I was wearing in London and swap into my Venetian clothing — my down-filled coat and a big scarf with a woolly hat. I will now blend in with my fellow Venetians.

Perhaps it is going to be a white Christmas, but of a different kind — the caigo makes Venice look more mysterious and ethereal than ever. Today the fog is combined with the acqua alta (high water) and the noise of the siren warning everyone is loud and clear. Venetians are used to it —  from October to February it is quite common and they cope with it in their daily routine.

The image of Venice enveloped by fog is only one of the many you might encounter if you visit in December. Don’t expect the traditional white Christmas as it very rarely snows — only a couple of times since I was born! Often, it is crispy cold and sunny and you can see Venice in detail — the palaces and the churches in definition, the smooth and lustrous marble, the colourful reflections on the canals which look like paintings on water. You can see the city with a theatrical background — the perfectly sculpted Dolomites covered by snow against the bluest sky. The winter months in the Lagoon show Venice in a different light, quite literally.

On the contrary however, when, like today, the caigo falls on Venice, everything loses definition; you become enshrouded in an enchanting and almost mythical environment where you, along with the grandeur of the palaces, are cloaked in mystery.

Whatever the weather, it is during winter that you get to know this “beautiful woman” best. I once read that it is only in this period of the year that you can see “her” with no make up on. I completely agree, as within this season you witness the real Venice, the city Venetians reclaim from the thousands of visitors during a special few months. The queue to get on a gondola disappears and even the endless rows of people lining up to get a glimpse of the Basilica’s mosaics gets much shorter. Walking along the meandering calli and crossing the bridges becomes far easier and stress free. You can even take a seat on the vaporetto and — assuming that you are wearing the same warm gear as the locals — enjoy your boat ride!


A clear night on the Grand Canal, though often in winter the city is surrounded in a thick white fog

Obviously, there is more to all these advantages. Venice’s atmosphere is magical during the festive period with Christmas lights shimmering across canals, decorations in the pretty shop windows and of course, the true incense of Christmas spilling out onto the calli — Italian cooking! If you have never been to Venice for Christmas, be prepared, as it is very different from its British or American version. I am not saying that the Christmas spirit is not present and people are not excited, quite the opposite. Celebrations, however, are not ostentatious and you will not find the flashy decorations and Christmas music playing loud in every shop and at every corner. All the locals are busy preparing for the events, which means shopping — and lots of it — but, mainly, spending time together with their family. Being with the family is so important that there is even a way of saying “Natale con i tuoi, Pasqua con chi vuoi” (“Christmas with your family, Easter with whomever you wish”). The lights are not everywhere but the ones over Rialto bridge and under the arcades of the Procuratie in Saint Mark’s Square definitely make up for the shortage and create an enchanting setting. A big tree in the Piazzetta dei Leoncini is the most popular destination for children together with the ice rink in San Polo. Traditionally, parents take their children to see the nativity scenes displayed in the many churches around the city. One of the best examples is the one in the stunning church of Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari.


Looking over the water through the ‘caigo’ to the 16th-century Benedictine lights

Every year, on the afternoon of the 26th of December, a free concert takes place in this church. It is only one of the many concerts that the city offers in different venues throughout this month.

During the festive season there are also some interesting regattas, such as the regatta of the Santas and the one of the Befane (the Befana is the good old witch who, on the night of the 5th of January, flies on her broomstick and fills in children’s stockings with sweets or coal depending on whether they have been good or naughty).

Befane Regatta on The Grand Canal - Venice

Befane Regatta on The Grand Canal – Venice

The festive atmosphere is definitely strongest at the Rialto market the mornings before Christmas — all the locals are trying to get the freshest fish for the Cenone della Vigilia (Christmas Eve dinner) — eel traditionally but, nowadays, lobster and baccala are much more popular. The meal is usually based on fish and vegetables, in keeping with most dinners being served the day before any religious celebration, when you are meant to “eat lean” in order to purify your body. However, as you might guess, being an Italian meal it is not as lean as it should be!

After Christmas Eve dinner, one experience that you really must not miss out on is Midnight Mass in Saint Mark’s Basilica. Here, in a solemn atmosphere, surrounded by stunning gold mosaics and by their reflections which are enhanced even more by candlelight, you will find the real Christmas spirit. After Mass, in the early hours of the morning, it is tradition to have another slice of panettone or pandoro (if you don’t like dried fruit) with a glass of Prosecco straight from the heart of the Veneto region, just before heading to bed.


Saint Mark’s Basilica

After having recovered from your not-so-light dinner, on Christmas morning you should get ready for the brodo con tortellini (meat-filled pasta with broth) followed by meat and many other delicacies. To follow more panettone, of course, and (as if it was not enough) some chunks of mandorlato (nougat)!

So, if you want to really get to know Venice intimately then do visit the city at Christmas when you can immerse yourself in the freedom and mystery of this beautiful city, free from the hordes of summer visitors. Do remember to wrap yourself in impenetrable winter clothes, wander among the calli, indulge in food and wine and treat yourself to a thick hot chocolate in between meals to warm you up!

The Temple Of Asclepius – Tiber Island, Rome

This pretty tittle palace is the Temple of Asclepius on the Isola Tiberina (Tiber Island) in Rome. It is not the only Temple of Asclepius, though it is the only one in Rome …

Naturally, it would never do to have just one Temple of Asclepius (or one ‘Asclepeion’, as posh people say) in the ancient world any more than it would do to have just one hospital in a modern-day state  —  because Asclepius (or ‘Esculapius’, as the Romans called him) was the Greek god of medicine, and his temple was a place of healing, where those who were feeling a bit poorly would go to be cured.

We can readily assume (without wishing to offend anyone who still believes in the existence and power of the god Asclepius) that those who arrived with serious illnesses did not recover. Yet we can also assume, because there were many temples of Asclepius in the ancient world, and people did visit them, that lots of people did find  that they felt just an ickle bit better after spending  some time resting up at an edifice such as this one.

It may have been simply that the combination of good food, clean water and a bit of time off work perked them up. (Or, of course, it may have been because the place is magic!) It’s not so strange. We know that people used to go to Stonehenge for similar reasons, and that they still do go to Lourdes, and other places, and that sometimes healing does occur. Maybe that’s why spa holidays are so popular these days.

Italy’s Hidden Gems: Emilia-Romagna

Artisanal cuisine & supercars

Even in a country so rich in gastronomical gifts, the Emilia-Romagna region, bordered by the Po River to the north and the Apennine Mountains to the south, is without culinary peer, bringing more Denominazione di Origine Protetta (D.O.P.) — literally “Protected Designation of Origin” — foods to the global table than any other area of Europe.

Only D.O.P. products can bear the word traditional on their labels, and the prized certification ensures that the region’s shortlist of 19 delicacies, which include Parmigiano-Reggiano, prosciutto di Parma and aceto balsamico di Modena — the world’s finest balsamic vinegar — are painstakingly crafted by farmers and artisans using centuries-old methods. Emilia-Romagna’s affinity for food is on display in 25 separate museums dedicated to the subject, which pay tribute to everything from the art of Italian home cooking to the eels of Comacchio, a lagoon town in the province of Ferrara that claims the slithering creature can be prepared a thousand different ways.

To glean the flavor of both the D.O.P. production process and the region, take a tour of some of its top purveyors. At Antica Corte Pallavicina, a sprawling 14th-century estate in the Po Valley, sample the rare and coveted culatello di Zibello, a slowly cured boneless ham that purists contend makes prosciutto di Parma pale in comparison. (Its proprietor, Massimo Spigaroli, is widely regarded as Italy’s culatello king.) Take classes ranging from pasta making to pork production, dine at the Michelin-starred restaurant or stay over in one of the castle’s rustic rooms, featuring fireplaces and 16th-century paneled ceilings.


Antica Corte Pallavicina

Antica Corte Pallavicina

The Amalfi Drive


The Amalfi Drive

The legendary stretch of coastal road between the towns of Sorrento and Amalfi represents the harmony of nature and man. Technically known as SS163 Amalfitana and dating back to the Romans, it’s a peerless driver’s road, with twists and turns that cut through small villages, panoramic views of the Tyrrhenian Sea, precipitous drop-offs Spe tunnels carved into sheer sea cliffs. The combination of pristine beauty and gut-checking thrills provides a visceral boost of dopamine you just can’t buy from a dealer.


Bottles of balsamic oil from Acetaia di Giorgio

For the best balsamic, visit Acetaia di Giorgio, considered the most esteemed house for the liquid gold in Modena, where the Barbieri family will guide you through the minimum 12-year fermentation process. For its exquisite sweetness, Giorgio’s Primo Reserve Juniper D.O.P., aged more than 25 years in juniper barrels, is worth its $160 price tag.

Hombre Organic Farm is the only local maker of organic Parmigiano-Reggiano on a closed-cycle property, meaning everything that goes into its production, including the corn and barley that feed Hombre’s 500 Italian Friesian cows, comes from the premises. Call ahead to book a tour, on which you can observe artisans carefully crafting the cheese in giant copper cauldrons. A modest outbuilding also happens to house the world’s most complete collection of Maseratis.


Parmigiano-Reggiano produced in Hombre Organic Farm

A mecca for exotic car connoisseurs the world over, Emilia-Romagna’s celebrated Motor Valley, encompassing the area from Bologna to Modena, is the birthplace of Maserati, Ducati, De Tomaso, Lamborghini, Stanguellini, Pagani and, of course, Ferrari.

With 14 museums and 11 private collections devoted to high-octane titans, it feels like the mythical land of the car gods.

Ferrari is feted religiously here, with flags bearing its famous black horse flying far and wide. Founded in the Modena suburb of Maranello in 1947 — where the original Ferrari museum remains — the prolific racing brand unveiled its latest showstopper, Museo Enzo Ferrari (MEF) in Modena, in 2012.


Museo Enzo Ferrari

The brainchild of founder Enzo Ferrari’s only living son, Piero, the museum is a futuristic engineering triumph on par with Ferrari’s most-seductive creations. MEF’s gleaming white, pillar-less exhibition space was designed by the late visionary Czech architect Jan Kaplicky and displays more than 20 cars; its double-curved aluminum roof — the first large-scale application of its kind — measures 35,500 square feet and is painted bright yellow, the official color of both Ferrari and Modena. In addition to a range of Motor Valley-related exhibitions, MEF offers an F1 simulator that you can upgrade to “professional” mode for an even greater rush.


The interior of Museo Enzo Ferrari

The factory and museum of Pagani, Italy’s most secretive carmaker, founded by Argentinian Horacio Pagani in 1992 in San Cesario sul Panaro, is a high temple of automotive achievement. Here you’ll get a firsthand look at the unparalleled craftsmanship and engineering that bring handmade marvels like the Pagani Huayra BC to life. When the supercar debuted at this year’s Geneva International Motor Show, the entire fleet — just 20 cars — had already sold for $2.5 million each.

You can get behind the wheel yourself with the Imola Faenza Tourism Company, which customizes experiences by request, including some spins around the track in a Ferrari 430 at the storied Imola racing circuit, former home of the Formula 1 San Marino Grand Prix, with two-time GT1 champion Thomas Biagi cheering you on from the passenger seat. Modenatur, another local tour provider, arranges test drives like the two-hour “precision tour” in a Ferrari or Lamborghini, where a professional driver will sharpen your skills in the rolling hills around Maranello as you channel Italian racing legends and relish la grande bellezza of it all.

Italy’s Hidden Gems: Lake Como

Italy’s Legendary Lago

Long a haven for Versaces, Pirellis and other Italian royalty, along with high-profile men of the world like Sir Richard Branson and George aooney, the 56-square-mile, wishbone-shape jewel — just an hour’s drive from Milan — is one of Europe’s most singularly captivating destinations. Hat are our picks for the best places to stay, dine and imbibe on Lake Como.


Villa d’Este


This lavish compound in the hamlet of Cernobbio has been the undisputed grande dame of Como since it opened in 1873, attracting a steady stream of luminaries and discerning travelers. Made up of two “palaces”, its 152 rooms — many with terraces and balconies offering unrivaled views of the lake — are furnished with antiques, paintings and brocade accents that recall the villa’s 16th-century royal roots. For the regal treatment, book Villa Cima, the hotel’s three-story, 7,000-square-foot lakefront residence, built in 184 by Caroline of Brunswick, who later became Queen of England.

Grand Hotel Tremezzo


In the 1932 film Grand Hotel, Greta Garbo called the Grand Hotel Tremezzo “that sunny, happy place,” and the glittering resort overlooking the heart of the lake still lives up m the compliment.

Happiness can be found everywhere, from the floating pool, private beach club, clay tennis court and world-class spa (with indoor infinity pool to the five acres of exquisitely manicured grounds. Art nouveau interiors and grand public spaces evoke the belle epoque, while rooftop suites, a recent addition, come with a private butler and big-sky views from an outdoor Jacuzzi.

Il Sereno Lago di Como


One of the most anticipated European hotel debuts of the year, the 30-suite sister property of Le Sereno in St. Barths opened its doors in August, bringing a contemporary aesthetic to the otherwise traditional locale. Designer Patricia Urquiola, whose former clients include Louis Vuitton and Cassina, was the visionary behind suites outfitted in stone, walnut and bronze, while the hotel’s three boats were custom-designed by legendary local boatbuilder Cantiere Ernesto Riva.

A 60-foot freshwater infinity pool suspended over the lake and two vertical gardens by French botanist Patrick Blanc accent the grounds.

Private Villas

 Villa Pliniana


Built in 1573 and set on 18 waterfront acres, this spectacular palazzo consists of four separate villas, where Napoleon, Lord Byron and Percy Shelley all once laid their heads.

Besides the massive ballrooms and waterfront gardens that can accommodate up to 500 people, the 19-bedroom villa also features a spa, private dock and on-site helipad. The owners of Il Sereno Lago di Como, about a half mile away, took over the villa’s management earlier this year, so guests can expect world-class service, too.

Villa Sola Cabiati


The six-suite baroque-style villa, which dates back to the 1500s, once served as the summer residence of the distinguished Serbelloni dynasty. Today it’s a living artifact, with antiques from the family’s collection in every room. (And a few modern luxuries, like a helipad and cinema.) Serbelloni descendants still own the property, and they’ll happily escort the curious to the family’s private museum on the top two floors, where heirlooms and centu-ries-old pieces remain perfectly preserved.

Il Cigno Estate


Set amid seven acres of gardens at the end of a gated road, the sprawling estate comprises two villas, separated by a harbor, that can be booked individually or by the pair. Suites come outfitted in the finest Italian linens and overlook a huge private swimming pool, but Il Cigno’s standout feature is unquestionably its wood-burning fireplaces, which pair perfectly with bottles of vintage Barolo.


Il Gatto Nero


George Clooney is a regular at Il Gatto Nero, a casually elegant mainstay perched high on a hill in Cernobbio, where the views of the lake are as impressive as the cuisine. An acclaimed wine cellar and dishes like pasta with fish, raisins, pine nuts and bread crumbs, and veal tenderloin with foie gras and chestnut honey help cultivate a loyal and well-heeled clientele.



Specializing in just-caught sea-food since 1919, this fifth-generation family-owned restaurant and hotel is the star of Lake Como’s quaint Bellagio village. Sit under Silvio’s vine-covered pergola or at a table on the veranda — you can’t go wrong with either — and order the catch of the day, prepared by the chefs in a Parmesan and truffle sauce.

The Market Place

Highly imaginative tasting menus and local ingredients make this upscale farm-to-table spot a can’t-miss for epicureans. The dining room is intimate, with just 24 seats, and each dish — like the rabbit ravioli with chanterelles, or fish with zucchini carpaccio and scampi — is meticu-lously constructed.

Locanda La Tirlindana


If there’s one thing Locanda La Tirlindana has mastered beyond its flawlessly tender calamari and mascarpone-filled ravioli, its personalized service. The owner has been known to jump on her Vespa in search of lost customers, then usher them through narrow cobblestoned streets to the idyllic waterfront venue. The entrees are outstanding, and desserts, like red berry tiramisu, are even better.


Fresco Cocktail Shop


While Lake Como’s nightlife is largely relegated to low-key soirees at private villas, this lively tavern is a popular option for after-dinner drinks. Bow-tied bartenders craft cocktails using fresh ingredients and are known for putting a unique spin on typical Italian libations. Try their take on a digestivo, a chocolate sangria with ruby port, fresh orange, sugar and white chocolate mousse.

I Tigli in Theoria


Built in 1013, this former bishop’s palace turned Michelin-starred restaurant radiates character with a wooden coffered ceiling, candlelit courtyard and rotating art exhibitions. The upstairs lounge serves up a selection of drinks like the Spritz des Alpes, a spicier version of the Italian classic made with nutmeg and prosecco.

Italy’s Hidden Gems: Pantelleria

The Mediterranean’s best-kept luxury secret

Known as “the black pearl of the Mediterranean” for its striking black-lava cliffs, the volcanic island of Pantelleria consistently draws Italian glitterati (Giorgio Armani has owned a villa hat for nearly 40 years) looking for a respite far from the fanfare of perennial hot spots like Capri and Portofino.


Sikelia, Pantelleria’s first true luxury hotel

The largest of Sicily’s satellite islands, about 40 miles east of Tunisia, Pantelleria has an arid, windblown climate and a rich history — its long Iist of inhabitants includes the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans and Arabs, who began arriving thousands ofyears ago — that informs its calm and ancient charm. This summer’s debut of Sikelia, Pantelleria’s first true luxury hotel, promises to lure a new influx of sophisticated travelers to the tony paradise.

The 20-suite oasis, owned by financier-turned-winemaker Giulia Pazienza Gelmetti, is the result of a 10 year labor of love. Sikelia’s suites, each unique, are contrasts in lush velvet and linen, framed by metal, concrete and glass, with vaulted ceilings that lend an airy ambience. The resort comes to life at dusk, when guests gather in the palm-studded courtyard for cocktails and freshly fried polenta chips; on a clear evening, you can climb a few stairs to the roof and see Tunisia. At Sikelia’s restaurant, Thema — a joint venture with Milan’s celebrated ll Ristorante Tussardi Alla Scala — executive chef Roberto Conti melds Arabic and North African flavors with traditional Italian cuisine. Its served alongside wine from Sikelia’s sister property, L’Officina di Coste Ghirlanda, a stone-terraced vineyard with an outdoor dining area illuminated by candlelight after dark.


L’Officina di Coste Ghirlanda

Pantelleria’s zibibbo grapes — which grow nowhere else on earth — make the island a destination for oenophiles. Passito di Pantelleria, the area’s famous dessert wine, is on hand at the Pantelleria outpost of world-class Sicilian winemaker Donnafugata, where you can sample multiple vintages along with small plates like ravioli with fresh ricotta and mint.

A day at sea exploring the island’s craggy coastline is a requisite part of any Pantescan adventure: Procure some famous Sicilian arancini (baseball-size rice balls) and wine, and charter a gommone — an inflatable motorboat with a large sun bed and a captain — from La Tortuga at the main port. At sunset, head to the island’s famous Lago di Venere, a heart-shaped natural lake known for its thermal springs and mineral-rich mud.


Lago di Venere

Italy’s Hidden Gems: Sardinia

Seafaring on a vintage sailing yacHt

While Porto Cervo — the seaside bastion of privilege on the Costa Smeralda in northern Sardinia — guarantees prime parking for your superyacht, the island’s appeal extends far beyond its premier port. For a more earthbound experience, head two hours south along the east coast to Cala Gonone. Virtually isolated from the rest of Sardinia until the late 19th century (a tunnel connecting the town to Dorgali to the west first opened in 1860), it’s the gateway to seriously spectacular beaches, with waters so blue and clear they seem photoshopped.

Dovesesto - An Yacht Full of Historical Richness

Dovesesto – An Yacht Full of Historical Richness

The quintessential Sardinian day at sea begins with chartering Dovesesto, an impeccably restored, 75-foot sailing yacht that departs daily from Cala Gonone’s port during summer. Originally built in 1941 in Varazze, a town known since the Middle Ages for shipbuilding, the schooner’s current owners discovered it languishing in disrepair 16 years ago, then spent a year painstakingly bringing it back to life.

Dovesesto will take you and it guests along the Gulf of Oresei, cruising past limestone cliffs and caverns and stopping at a half-dozen unspoiled beaches accessible only by boat (and in some cases, a death-defying hike). You’ll explore the deep, luminescent waters of Grotta del Buc Marino, with stalactites, stalagmites and other wonders.


Gulf of Oresei

And by day’s end, you’ll arrive at the awe-inspiring Cala Goloritze, a UNESCO World Heritage site capped by the famous Aguglia di Goloritze, a natural monument that soars nearly 500 feet into the sky. At Grotta della Contessa nearby, don’t be surprised if the crew reaches into the cavern’s rocky overhang and mysteriously produces a bottle of mirto — a Sardinian digestif — to toast the voyage.


Cala Goloritze Beach – Sardinia

The Dovesesto is also available for a longer jaunt northward to the La Maddalena archipelago, a five-day excursion for six guests that hits pristine ports like the island of Tavolara — a divers’ haven that also happens to be the smallest inhabited kingdom in the world — and Budelli, whose Spiaggia Rasa (“Pink Beach”) owes its blush to a microorganism that colors the sand.


A beautiful landscape from La Maddalena archipelago – Sardinia

Italy’s Hidden Gems: The Dolomites

“You may have the universe if l may have Italy,” Giuseppe Verdi, the prolific composer, once said, a trade-off that generations of Italophiles might concur is a pretty good deal. And while the splendors of cities like Rome, Venice and Florence can’t be overstated, there’s a deep inventory of lesser-traveled national treasures packed into th is boot-shaped cradle of modern civilization that remain, at least to outsiders, relatively unsung — places where you’ll find more actual Italians than people holding guidebooks.

True to character, Italy’s most rarefied escapes offer something to fuel every passion. For momentum junkies, there’s skiing down the largest glacier in the Dolomites — a mesmerizing mountain range — or ripping through the Tuscan countryside on an all-terrain Ducati. Those in search of off-the-grid privacy and wine — in that order — can find it on the wind-swept island of Pantelleria, while gourmets and autophiles will savor the distinct charms of Emilia-Romagna, home to Italy’s greatest gifts to the world: artisanal cuisine and supercars.

The rugged beauty and mystical aquamarine waters of Sardinia’s east coast will rope in yachtsmen and explorers, and Lake Como — that sanctuary to the leisure classes that’s inspired writers and artists for centuries  —  will satisfy aesthetes looking for grand villas and even grander views. These are the hideouts of bella Italia that celebrate the art of living well, where you’ll come away understanding that la dolce vita is that much sweeter for the journey.

The Dolomites – High Adventure in The Italian Alps


Enrosadira (a natural phenomenon) – The Magic of Dolomites

If Italy represents the unrelenting opportunity to gorge oneself on pasta and negronis, well, that’s just part of the magic. Nothing goes better with carbs than exhilaration, and the Dolomites, Europe’s premier winter playground, have plenty to offer.

Rising over 10,000 feet in the northern Italian Alps and bookended by Cortina d’Ampezzo to the east and Bolzano to the west, the world’s largest ski resort — named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2009 — encompasses nearly 750 miles of trails and impossibly gorgeous valleys. Once described as “the most beautiful natural architecture in the world” by French design master Le Corbusier, the mountains, which Italy annexed from Austria after World War I, have an ethereal quality, thanks to their vertical rock formations, verdant valleys blanketed with evergreens, and clouds that seem close enough to touch. A natural phenomenon called enrosadira (“becoming pink”) gives the outcrops an otherworldly glow —  depending on the hour, their color changes from bright yellow to fiery red to violet.


Dolomiti Superski map

With a variety of terrain (only to percent of its trails are expert level), the Dolomites accommodate every type of skier. For an all-out skiing safari, purchase the Dolomiti Superski lift pass, your seven-day ticket to its 450 chair lifts and 12 ski areas — or enlist the expertise of Dolomite Mountains, a luxury tour operator with an office in the U.S. The company’s highly curated trips include multiday, off-piste ski expeditions from the top of Marmolada, the region’s highest peak, complete with helicopter transfer to the base. For those who prefer hairpin turns on asphalt, Drive Elements offers over-the-top Dolomites driving experiences like the “Dolomiti Hero,” where a 200-plus-mile course and 13 hair-raising passes put even the most intrepid motorists to the test. Choose the ultimate itinerary and you’ll be picked up by helicopter at your arrival airport (Munich, Milan or Venice) and flown to a top-tier hotel to unwind in the best suite in the house.


This Lambo is ready to become a “Dolomiti Hero”

From there, the chopper transfers you to a mountain pass, where your supercar — a Bugatti Veyron, Lamborghini Huracan or Ferrari 458 — awaits. And you don’t have to pick just one: The Drive Elements team will follow behind with the rest of the fleet, so you can switch out cars on the fly. Its photogra-phers will capture the drive from the road and the air, and a film crew will shoot and produce your very own version of a James Bond film, with you in the starring role.

An extensive network of rifugi, or slope-side restaurants, means that Italy’s gastronomic pleasures extend to the very top of the range.

Nowhere is this more evident than in Alta Badia, a region comprising six villages in the southern part of the Val Badia valley that’s considered the bona fide foodie paradise of the Dolomites. Every December, through its Sciare con Gusto (“taste of skiing”) program, a group of world-class chefs descends upon its 14 ski huts to compose a series of signature dishes, which are then served until April. For an unforgettable taste of Alta Badia culinary artistry, head straight to Hotel Ciasa Salares. Hidden away in the sleepy village of San Cassiano and frequented by Italian VIPs — like former Ferrari chairman Luca Cordero di Montezemolo and Olympic ski champion Alberto Tomba  —  it’s home to La Siriola, where Italy’s youngest Michelin chef, 27-year-old Matteo Metullio, presides over the kitchen. (South Tyrol, the province in which Alta Badia is located, has mom Michelin stars than any other Italian province.)


Hotel Ciasa Salares

Metullio offers five multicourse menus inspired by trees — “Fir,” for example, includes dishes like hazelnut gnocchi with goat cheese sauce and quail breast, and pigeon with Jerusalem artichokes, cherries and nettles — or a 10-course tasting menu for the table; all of them include a visit to the restaurant’s chocolate room, which features 40 varieties from around the globe and a fountain of olive oil-tempered Venezuelan chocolate.

La Siriola’s wines — each personally selected by third-generation owner Stefan Wieser — come from the hotel’s atmospheric, amber-lit wine cellar. Housing nearly 25,000 bottles and 1,850 different labels during the winter season, its one of the largest cellars in the country, with an annual turnover of around 350 labels. You can host a dinner around its hand-hewn wooden tables for groups of up to 22, or try a wine and cheese tasting in the cheese room, where 50 to 70 selections will spoil you for choice. Upstairs, Wine Bar Siriola‘s elevated comfort food includes spaghettone cacio e pepe and an organic egg, bacon and asparagus salad with Parmigiano sauce and black truffle, while La Terraza the hotel’s open-air restaurant, serves plates of credo Montali (Italy’s best prosciutto di Parma, according to Wieser) with fried potato bread and spinach ravioli in brown butter sauce, alongside wide-angle views of the surrounding valley.


Wine Bar La Sirola

Though the Dolomites beckon in winter for obvious reasons, their appeal in summer is steadily growing. The Dolomiti Supersummer pass offers access to some 100 lifts from June through early November, allowing intrepid climbers and hikers to explore hundreds of vie ferrate mountain routes, connected by suspended bridges and fixed ladders.

First built by Alpine guides at the end of the 19th century, they later came in handy for moving troops and supplies along the ltalo-Austrian border during World War I. Down on terra firma, road and mountain bikers can choose from hundreds of miles of cycling routes at varying altitudes. Alta Badia alone offers twice-daily road bike tours three times a week, as well as six electric-bike rental stations.

Capri – Italy

The sparkling isle off the Amalfi Coast has been famed for elegance and indulgence since Roman times

A bikini-clad Brigitte Bardot made Saint-Tropez famous back in the Fifties, but the chic Italian island of Capri makes the celebmagnet French Riviera look positively arriviste in the glamorous Mediterranean hangout stakes. Capri, you see, had a 2,000-year head start after toga-clad Caesar Augustus holidayed here in 29BC.

One successor, Emperor Tiberius, took it a stage further and ran the Roman Empire (via a prefect in Rome) from the island. Sitting extremely pretty in the Bay of Naples, Capri has continued to attract the great and the good in more recent times, from Jackie Onassis to Leo DiCaprio.



La Fontelina Restaurant

A Caprese institution, Fontelina restaurant sits at the bottom of a sinuous trail down a cliff face and on the water’s edge overlooking the iconic limestone Faraglioni rocks that rise vertiginously from the sea just offshore.

Despite its charmingly low-key vibe (thatched roof, open sides, sun umbrellas), it is so popular it does two lunchtime sittings. Order spaghetti vongole and a jug of the delicious house sangria and, when you’ve finished, go for a swim around the rocks.



Al Picolo Bar – La Piazzetta, Capri, Italy

Head to La Piazzetta, the finish line for Capri town’s traditional passeggiata, the evening stroll/ people-watching promenade. The tiny square is home to four fun bars, the best of which is the original, Al Piccolo. Try to grab a (gold dust) table on the first floor terrace and watch the square fill while nursing a bellini made with fresh, island-grown peaches (they’re only available from June to September).



The wine cellar of Aurora Restaurant

Possibly the poshest pizzeria in all Italy, Aurora is home to the pizza all’aqua (a lighter take on the traditional Neapolitan dough base) and every visiting A-lister. Blag yourself a table (again, gold dust) outside on buzzing Via Fuorlovado for prime people gazing and choose an oversize bottle from the peerless Italian wine list.



Beyonce and jay-Z at Taverna Anema e Core

Taverna Anema e Core is nominally a restaurant — until midnight when owner/local legend Guido Lembo takes to the stage with his band and serenades diners with pop hits and improv skits, corralling the inevitable stars (Beyoncé and Gisele of late) in the house into crooning along. Great fun.


Daytime crowds in Capri town by visiting the isle’s second largest village Anacapri which, built at a higher elevation, has even more breathtaking views. The island is crisscrossed with well-marked walking trails to many dramatic viewing points, some of which are steep enough to really work off all your excess holiday dining.



Pants created by Laboratorio Capri

If you’re going to open doors here you need to look the part. Capri pants (women’s cropped-leg trousers) may be the island’s key contribution to fashion, but never, ever, think you can pull off the calf-length look. So instead, seek out family-owned Laboratorio to get measured up for a dapper pair of trousers that fall all the way to the ankles.


exploring-the- blue-grotto

Exploring the Blue Grotto

Capri’s large Blue Grotto sea cave that glows a mysterious piercing azure as if a light is shining up from its floor. In the day, it’s crowded with day-trippers rowed out in tiny boats from the Amalfi Coast. Come early evening, your skipper can draw up outside the cave (only rowing boats can fit through the entrance) and you can swim in to the eerie interior.



JK Place Capri Hotel

One of the easier choices I’ve had to make because JK Place Capri is probably my favourite hotel in Europe thanks to its superb setting overlooking Capri’s main harbour and the Amalfi Coast; the deeply stylish interior design; the excellent JKitchen restaurant overlooking the sea and the Negroni di Sera (Hendrick’s gin, Carpano Antica Formula, Campari and orange bitters) cocktails in the JK Lounge Bar. Impeccable.



Faraglioni rocks

As part of the model day on Capri, after lunching well at Fontelina and a revitalising swim, arrange for a boat to pick you up (ideally, a vintage wooden Riva) from the jetty and then take an afternoon cruise around the coast. Your skipper will keep you stocked up with iced Peronis as you pass between the majestic Faraglioni rocks (location for the near X-rated David Gandy and Bianca Balti ad for Dolce & Gabbana’s Light Blue scent). Next stop, the Blue Grotto.


I’m not necessarily suggesting going in April, but if you want to stand even a slim chance of bagging a room at JK Place in the 2018 high season, you need to be organising it right now!


Wear white. And sunglasses. At all times.

Rosewood Castiglion del Bosco – Tuscany, Italy

Rosewood Castiglion del Bosco just became the “it” place to visit in Tuscany from November 27 to April 12, because its now staying open in winter. Visitors will have their pick of the luxury villas, which are restored 17th- and 18th-century farmhouses. Villa Alba is well suited for some restful peace and quiet, as it is located on a quiet hilltop, overlooking the Val d’Orcia. Hint: We hear Villa Alba is quite the romantic hideaway. Another villa option, which sleeps nine, is Villa Sant’Anna, which has its own tennis court. Good to know: Fireplaces create cozy eve­nings in both these accommodations — just add wine.


Villa Sant’Anna sleeps nine and has a tennis court

The resorts Winter Villa Escape program provides locally sourced groceries and a dedicated concierge will be on call to arrange excursions to Siena, Florence, San Gimignano and other nearby destina­tions. Foodies should book a truffle- hunting expedition, adventurers should ask for a hot-air balloon excursion. During their stay, travelers will have access to the on-site winery for tours and tastings. (Make sure to sip the estates celebrated Brunello di Montalcino wine.)


Villa Alba is located on a hilltop and provides a romantic setting for couples



Florence – Where History and Hospitality are Your Best Friends

J.K. Place Firenze is the groups flagship property, overlooking the restored Piazza di Santa Maria Novella. We’ve admired J.K. Place Capri and J.K Place Roma for their combi­nation of haute design and comfort and J.K Florence is no exception. What is unique to J.K Florence is the presence of GM Claudio Meli (; 011-39-055- 264-5181; fax 011 -39-055-265-8387), whose

exuberant love for his birthplace is contagious. Meli has been GM since the hotel opened in 2003 and is credited with organizing Firenze, Si, a cooperative venture among 12 luxury properties with the aim of promoting the city. His pocket-sized book, “J.K. Essential Guide to Florence,” contains his suggestions for shop­pers and sightseers.


Dining at J.K Place Firenze – Italy

The boutique hotel has 20 different rooms decorated in neutral and pastel tones and each comes with a remote control called “the soap,” which operates the light­ing. In both rooms and public areas, there is extensive use of Italian menswear fabrics for upholstery and draperies, resulting in a tailored and comfortable ambiance. Like the J.K. Place hotels in Rome and Capri, this one was designed by Michael Bonan.


Suite Master Bedroom – J.K Place Firenze

There are four Master Rooms, including Room No. 12, which overlooks the expansive piazza. Master Rooms are about 500 square feet and include a full living area with sofa and chairs and a fireplace, as well as the bedroom area with four-poster bed. The bathroom is large, with tub, shower and separate WC. Guests booking Master Suites are entitled to a private transfer from / to the Florence airport.

The 400-square-foot Penthouse Suite, Room No. 24, is on two floors, with the bathroom upstairs and sleeping area down­stairs. From the small terrace (and the bath­tub), there is a view across the red-tiled roofs of the city, including Brunelleschi’s dome.


Penthouse Suite Bathroom

The Panoramic Loft Room, No. 22, overlooks the cathedral of Santa Maria Novella and would suit two couples traveling together, as well as a family. On the lower level of the 500-square-foot suite is a spacious living room with a king-size sofa bed. There is a bathroom with walk-in shower on this level. Upstairs there is a bedroom that can either accom­modate king or twin beds. There is a second bathroom with walk-in shower.

On the top floor of the hotel is a Duplex Junior Suite, Room No. 21, which measures about 400 square feet. Downstairs is a living area with a sofa bed, while the upper level includes the main bedroom (twins or king) and bathroom with walk-in shower. Most rooms at the hotel have a separate bathtub and shower.

For guests wishing complete peace and quiet, J.K Place also has rooms and suites over­looking the courtyard rather than the piazza.

The J.K Terrace on the piazza has both inside and outside dining and the J.K Lounge is available for private events.

To discuss details, ask about dining, or to make booking requests, contact Angela Berti (; 001-39-055-264-5181); fax 011-39-055-265-8387), operations man­ager & head concierge.

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