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Tomorrow, July 1, marks the 125th birthday of mystery writer extraordinaire, Agatha Christie. This grande dame, though, wrote more than mere mysteries; she wrote of exotic lands and places that she herself had explored and consequently served to whet the appetite of her readers for travel.
In 1934, Ms. Christie traveled from Venice to Istanbul on the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, penning one of her finest stories, Murder on the Orient–Express, at the end of her journey while at the Pera Palace Hotel in Istanbul (you knew there had to a hotel in here somewhere, right?).
To commemorate this grand journey, the chefs of the Belmond Hotel Cipriani (David Bisetto), the Pera Palace Hotel Jumeirah (Arif Kemal Dogan) and the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express (Christian Bodiguel) have come together to prepare a 1930s-themed feast on her big day.
If you’re anything like us (and if you are, you have our sympathy), you will have a tiny fear of hotel toiletries. Of course, they smell delicious. Of course, they might even do wonderful things to your body and your hair. But how can you be sure they’re really hygienic?
It’s a subject we discussed in the comments a couple of weeks ago, but this week, we were pleased to find a potential solution. This is how the Starhotels brand in Italy deals with toiletries. They’ve invented a genius bottle where the lid is also the safety cap:
Welcome to a new occasional series, Hidden Gems, in which we’ll be profiling hotels you’ve never heard of – but should have. We’re talking small places without the budget for PR and marketing, and which may not have been done up by a famous interior designer, but with incredible USPs like immense history, the best homemade food, or unforgettable views. Let’s start with Classique in Lazise on Italy’s Lake Garda, which we stumbled on – literally – last year while taking a lakefront stroll, and have been dreaming of a return ever since. Two weeks ago, we finally made it!
This is the kind of room with a view that you dream of. Classique sits on the pedestrianised waterfront of Lazise, arguably the prettiest town on beautiful Lake Garda. Here, from your room – through the floor-to-ceiling windows, or from the little balcony – you can watch the sun set over the lake, behind the famous peninsula of Sirmione (a place so beautiful that the Roman poet Catullus wrote about it), go to sleep to the sound of the ducks and swans (Lazise has three ‘pet’ swans), and awake to the glassy lake waters turning pink in the light of the dawn. It is a view like no other.
Pre-stay questionnaires: yay or nay? Yay because it implies some kind of effort on the part of the hotel; nay because it’s a hassle to fill them in. Right?
One form was for breakfast – what flavor jam did we prefer? How do we like our eggs? Cheese, cold cuts? Cappuccino with whole milk or skimmed? Would you prefer it served on “Old England”, “modern” or “fashion” crockery? Argh! #toomuchchoice.
The other questionnaire was a general one. Preferred hardness of mattress. Pillow type. Beverage preference. Preferred fruits. Bread or Tuscan schiacciata. Favorite flowers. Favorite essential oils. Favorite “hobbies and passions”… Wait, what?
A Milanese Eataly
Two of our favorite things coming together in union just in time for Valentine’s Day – we’re talking about Eataly and Starhotels, both brands we love from the Bel Paese, which have just announced they’re striking up a liaison.
This will be Eataly’s first hotel relationship, but it’s bringing a lot to the table: not just mini restaurants in Starhotels properties, but the creation of special menus, and special events with Italian chefs around the country.
We thought 2015 was just going to be the year that Rosewood Hotels would expand its European presence with the reopening of the Hotel de Crillon in Paris. It is still doing that – bar any delays we don’t know about yet – but while that’s enough of a hallmark moment, Rosewood will also start managing the Tuscan estate Castiglion del Bosco this spring.
Estate isn’t hyperbole by any means, consisting as it does of the ruins of a castle, a medieval church, and the Borgo, what was once a farming village, dating back 800 years. The Borgo now forms the heart of the hotel, but there are ten additional villas in restored farmhouses in the surrounding area. That looks something like the above, which is really about as Tuscan as it can get, don’t you think?
Hotel Packages / Hotel Spas / Puglia Hotels / Italy Hotels / Luxury Hotels / Valentine's Day Hotels / → All Tags
Sadly we do not believe this man is included in your package
It’s the second week of January, and you know what that means. It means New Year’s resolutions are so over; now it’s all about Valentine’s Day. And while we’ll be seeing plenty of loved up packages with late check-outs and vomitable intimacy kits in the next coming weeks, we rather like this first one: the Broken Hearts Spa at Borgo Egnazia in Puglia (previously known for breaking your heart when Justin Timberlake held his wedding reception there).
This is no yeahhhh-single-gals-4eva patronizing spa retreat; it’s a full-on, totally nuts “renewal program” as only the Italians can do. Are you struggling with a break-up? They will knit you back together, not with fancy massages or sweet-smelling candles, but with an entire team of “soul therapists”:
Guess the Hotel Revealed / Hotel Indigo Hotels / Rome Hotels / IHG Hotels / InterContinental Hotel Group / Italy Hotels / → All Tags
It's Guess The Hotel revealed! There were several ways in which we thought we’d follow up on our Guess The Hotel from earlier this week. Never in a million years did we think it would be with the knowledge that this, Hotel Indigo St. George in Rome, will now be part of the same family as Kimpton Hotels. While we continue to process that, we’ll take you on a quick tour of one of the latest additions to one of IHG’s quirkier brands, in a setting that couldn’t be further from the Asian cities where we’ve come to love some of its design.
The 64 rooms all have their murals, but what you’ll get depends on the category you choose: for the Cinquecento, pick the Executive King/Twin, which has a bit more space than entry-level Standard rooms. Caravaggio and the angel inspired by “Amor Vincit Omnia” (Love Conquers All), from our Guess the Hotel, appears in the Executive Suites, which give you a living area with pull-out sofa.
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When you think of skiing close to Mont Blanc, France’s Chamonix will probably come to mind first of all, but if you have a case of been-there-done-that, there is a new hotel to check out this season in the Italian town of La Thuile, which will still give you the proximity to Il Bianco, or “the White One” as the mountain is called.
And if it’s new experiences you are looking for, Nira Montana, as it’s called, fits the bill in other ways too: you may not have yet had a chance to stay at a Nira Hotel, a small group with only a few properties, disparately encompassing Nira Alpina (in the Swiss ski resort of St. Moritz), Shanti Maurice (a beach resort on Mauritius), and Nira Caledonia (a city hotel in Edinburgh, of all places).
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Verdura Resort in Sicily
We knew a couple of months ago that Rocco Forte was sniffing around Venice, but plans really are coming to fruition now. Last week, it was announced that Forte is getting a $95m cash injection from Italian investors (in return for 23 percent of the company) – which he’ll use to open hotels in Venice, Milan, Naples (YES) and Sicily.
It gets better. In an upbeat interview with Il Giornale, in which he says that luxury travel will save Italy's economy, Forte said this:
We want to create a network of uber-luxury hotels in Italy – one that’ll be capable of attracting travellers wanting to rediscover the Grand Tour, that was so tantalizing to the aristocrats of the 18th and 19th centuries.
According to Forte, they’re currently sifting through potential sites in Venice, Milan and Naples. He is also “convinced of the unexplored potential of Sicily” (where they already have one resort outside, Verdura, in Sciacca). Taormina or Siracuse are on the hitlist there. Paris, New York, Moscow and the Middle East are priorities after Italy.
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Scouring around for information about the forthcoming JW Marriott Venice yesterday, we stumbled upon a rather exciting piece of news: Rocco Forte is planning to open a hotel in Venice.
According to La Nuova, RF himself said that Venice is “attractive” (no, really?), and that he’s looking for a property. The only problem is:
Venetian palazzos are small, and it’s difficult to find space for a 60-room property, which is what we’d like.
Simples, Rocco – buy an island.
That article is from 2012, so let’s hope they’re close to finding something by now. In the meantime, here are three other recent Venice openings (all 2013) that’d be worth a shot:
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As Week 1 of HotelChatter Cocktail Week(s) wraps up, here's a run-down of some of the nifty things we see going on in the world of hotel bars and bevvies. What do you see goin’ on out there? Let us know in the comments below!
There’s so Much More to Syrup Than Maple –
If you’re into cocktails there’s a pretty good chance you’ve made your own simple syrup but these hotels are going beyond the norm and creating some pretty exotic specialty syrups.
At Fifteen Beacon’s Mooo (a Preferred Hotel) they make all of their syrup’s in-house, but we particularly liked the sound of the House made Celery Lemongrass Syrup that they use in their Celery 75 cocktail, made with Berkshire Greylock gin, Prosecco, strawberry, and the syrup, of course.
Cost to imbibe: $14
Cost to stay at the hotel 'cause you've imbibed: Starts at $479
And here’s an exotic beauty from the W Bangkok: the Chor Muang cocktail. You have absolutely no hope of making this drink at home since it’s made with Butterfly Pea Flower House Made Syrup – a flower that has become so rare that it’s difficult to find it in Thai markets. This elusive ingredient, however, makes it popular with guests who want something authentically Thai, and with locals who want the same. Other ingredients in this cocktail include Butterfly Flower-infused raspberry vodka, lime juice, and it’s garnished with – here we go – a 24-carat gold dust-dipped Butterfly Flower.
Cost to imbibe: THB $275 ($9)
Cost to stay at the hotel 'cause you've imbibed: Starts at THB 4,788 ($150)