A palatial 19th-century hotel filled with mod-cons, this historic landmark was where Joyce met Proust and where Gershwin composed ‘An American in Paris’. Carefully restored over the course of four years by craftsmen (some of whom worked on repairs to Versailles), The Peninsula is one of the city’s finest examples of architecture.
Inside, its Belle Epoque good looks mix with plenty of light and space, and the lobby filled with hundreds of crystal leaves is breathtaking. Diners flock to L’Oiseau Blanc located on the roof as much for its menu as its smashing views – from the Sacre-Coeur to the Eiffel Tower – and this year (2017) sees the introduction of ‘the most exclusive table in Paris’ – a table for two accessible via a private staircase. Frankly, the whole place is a recipe for indecent behaviour.
Honeymoon high: Touring the city in the hotel’s 1934 Rolls-Royce Phantom II.
Room key: The Katara Suite has the feel of an elegant Parisian apartment.
Overflowing with drama and Edwardian elegance. The Savoy is where royals, heads of state and visiting A-listers lay their heads (Frank Sinatra. Christian Dior and Katharine Hepburn among them). Think lashings of gold leaf, perfectly plumped velvet cushions and swathes of canary-yellow silk. Take a moonlit stroll along the Embankment before turning in for Pickering Place cocktails at the hotel’s gentrified American Bar – where Elton John is known to swing by and belt out a tune from time to time.
Room key: One-bedroom River View Suite.
Bari’s busy seaside fish market is a male domain. Slap, slap, slap is the soundtrack, as weathered fishermen beat their catch of octopus on the quay with wooden palettes. Five minutes of tenderising, and it’s time to clean the octopus by swilling it about in a bucket of seawater. Vito, with a smile that lights up his face, carries a huge octopus over to his lockup and disappears inside before re-emerging with a long hook to lift a bucket of water from the harbour. ‘I’ve fished for 70 years,’ he says.
‘I started with my father when I was eight years old.’ Behind him, his brother, squinting in the sunlight, washes more octopus, rhythmically swishing the water back and forth. Once Vito has cleaned his octopus, he puts it in a wicker basket and shakes off the water, another stage in its long preparation. All this labour is particularly important, because the Barese like to eat their seafood raw.
As the day moves on, the port gets busier. There are fierce arguments over card games with twice as many onlookers as players. A hanger-on explains: ‘They play games like la Scopa, or la Briscola… not for money, but for beer.’ The social hub is centred on the bar, where more and more people turn up, some buying and selling fish, but mostly to pass the time. Men argue over the price of fish at the market stands. As his brother pounds octopus on the quay, a young fisherman called Maurizio sells the local passion – ricci di mare (sea urchins; ricci di terra means hedgehogs). He cuts them in half to display the sweet-tasting orange eggs.
Raw octopus tentacle, usually washed down by a cold beer, is another favoured Barese aperitivo. Recognising that diners may be squeamish about this, restaurants often serve the dish grilled too – Osteria Le Arpie, for instance, hidden under a stone archway in the heart of the old town, its outdoor tables scattered over cobblestones, does a roaring trade in polpo alia brace.
WHAT’S THE STORY BEHIND THE LOOK?
A discreet front door, even discreeter signage – if you didn’t already know that Hazlitt’s existed, you’re unlikely to spot it. And in one of the shoutiest parts of town, that’s exactly how it likes it. Entering the front door is to step into Georgian London, a welcoming cocoon of wonky, creaking floorboards and antiques tucked into strange nooks, with a fire crackling in the grate, a gin ready to be poured at the honesty bar, and a cat asleep in the lounge. Twenty-first-century Soho disappears when you cross the threshhold.
WHICH ROOMS ARE MOST MEMORABLE?
WHAT’S THE STORY BEHIND THE LOOK?
This small Dorsoduro hotel is a celebration of the very Venetian art of decadence, and has its own private jetty to boot. Located inside the walls of a 16th century palazzo, traditional décor abounds – flocked wallpaper, marble, velvet curtains and carvings in dark woood – but charming eccentricities (liket he vases that contain swimming goldfish as well as lilies) stop it feeling over the top.
WHICH ROOM IS MOST MEMORABLE?
WHAT‘S THE STORY BEHIND THE LOOK?
Opened in the ’30s, when Palm Springs was firmly establishing itself as the A-list holiday destination of choice, the Viceroy is the epitome of restrained glamour. With a nod to the Hollywood Regency style popular among its early patrons, rooms are monochrome with the odd bit of buttercup-yellow upholstery. The pool looks like somewhere you might stumble across Grace Kelly, cocktail in hand.
WHICH ROOMS ARE MOST MEMORABLE?
WHAT’S THE STORY BEHIND THE LOOK? This handsome house, with its Victorian filigree-laced veranda, has been lovingly restored by its current owners. Room are pretty, with white walls and antique wood furniture, but it’s the building that’s the star here, sat among neat lawns and rose bushes in beautiful countryside east of Cape Town.
Round the back there’s an open conservatory, where evening meals made with ingredients from the kitchen garden are served.
WHICH ROOM IS MOST MEMORABLE? With a four-poster bed, fireplace and rolltop bath, it has to be the Honeymoon Suite.
WHAT’S THE STORY BEHIND THE LOOK? Tucked away in the Kasbahof Marrakesh, this mansion is the culmination of over 300 years’ worth of expert craftsmanship. Rooms, strewn with berber carpets, feature hand-cut mosaic tiles, painted cedar wood and carved plasterwork.
WHICH ROOM IS MOST MEMORABLE? The roof terrace at the top of the house has views over the Atlas Mountains.
WHAT’S THE STORY BEHIND THE LOOK? Built in the 17th century fora wealthy sugar trader, this nine-room hotel on the Prinsengracht canal still has the feel of a grand private home, and is full of period furnishings and gilt-framed artworks. Extras like afternoon tea in the library (pictured) are included, so you can sit back with a book and a slice of cake and pretend you own the place.
WHICH ROOM IS MOST MEMORABLE? Room at the Top is a rich, duck-egg blue, with views over surrounding rooftops.
Try to imagine a perfect Italian fishing village – it would probably look exactly like Portofino. Yachts bob in the sheltered harbour and the dockside is awash with a fashion-forward crowd. Add to this a glamorous, grand hotel and you have Belmond’s Splendido, overlooking this little port since its days as a monastery.
It is quintessentially Italian: relaxed, chic and decidedly flirtatious, floating on a celestial staircase of garden terraces with airy bedrooms, a saltwater pool, spa and tennis court. The freshest fritto misto di mare is served by smiling staff in the open-air Terrazza restaurant, with a panorama of speedboat action below.
In the evenings the Piano Bar is the place to be for local villa owners and smart visitors alike. Antonio Beccalli, barman of 45 years and friend to the Hollywood greats, may even join you on the dance floor. From here, expeditions along the Ligurian Riviera are essayed on the Splendido’s handsome launch, seeking out beaches inaccessible by road.
Should, however, sun or fun take their toll, one can always submit to a massage in the shady garden overlooking a bay in where models cavort aboard Rivas off Villa Berlusconi.
There are no road signs for this 2,500-hectare private estate, set back on a wild peninsula near Sartène; discretion has always been key since the Corsican owner Paul Canerelli started developing the hideaway on a hefty chunk of family property (10 times the size of Monaco) back in 1994.
Once guests have set foot in the grounds (leave stilettos and Gucci loafers behind) they might not venture out again. There’s a positive extravaganza of things to do, including all possible nautical sports, fishing, horse-riding, mountain biking, botanical walks, hunting (for those who fancy whipping up a wild boar stew) and teeing off on a nine-hole golf course.
The maze of red-dirt roads leads to 16 isolated, rustic stone cottages hidden away in verdant mini-valleys, or at the edge of crystalline coves. All of them – from the romantic sheepfold for two to the sprawling villas for up to 13 – have pools, fireplaces and proper kitchens, although it’s difficult to resist the temptation to eat at all three restaurants.
With a vegetable garden, fruit orchards, olive groves, 150 resident cows and 500 goats (the domaine’s fromagerie churns its own brocciu, a soft, creamy ewe’s-milk cheese), Murtoli’s farm-to-table food is the real deal.