Opened in the 1960s on a wild, rocky stretch of Tuscan coast by a dashing British aviator and his American wife, Il Pellicano has just celebrated its 50th birthday. For its fiercely loyal clientele, this discreetly elegant seaside refuge is a club as much as a hotel, one where staff are greeted like family and fellow guests become good friends. So how do first-timers fare? Pretty well, these days. Savvy socialite Marie-Louise Scid, who runs the hotel with her father Roberto, likes to keep things fresh and interesting. In her time, she has raised Il Pellicano Restaurant to dizzying heights with exquisitely presented, surprisingly light dishes. It was first under Antonio Guida (later poached by the Mandarin Oriental in Milan) and currently with Pugliese chef Sebastiano Lombardi, ably abetted by Federico Morosi, one of the most talented bartenders in Italy (Bono is a fan of his watermelon-based Angurita cocktail).
Two books have been published on II Pellicano and its food, with contributions from the fashion photographer Juergen Teller and writer Will Self; the hotel has even launched its own travel app. Only the interior design of the 50 bedrooms remains resolutely old-school, with wonderful Tuscan antiques, terracotta floors, Carrara-marble-lined bathrooms and floral-paisley four-poster canopies. There are rooms in six cottages in the landscaped grounds, set amid olive and cypress trees, but the suites in the main building outdo all others by providing the fastest route to the heated seawater pool and beach terrace.