The Bellevue Syrene, Excelsior Vittoria, Imperial Tramontano and Royal hotels in Sorrento, with breathtaking views of the Gulf of Naples.
A pioneer of international tourism in the city of the leaning tower, it started out as the “Locanda Campostrini” in the sixteenth-century Palazzo Ca’ Giannini, an amalgamation of typical fifteenth-century Pisan tower-houses. It is said that Count Ugolino della Gherardesca once lived in one of them. The hotel, is particularly elegant, and contains medieval frescoes and precious vestiges of the convent from the time of Lorenzo the Magnificent.
The brainchild of Alberto Pirona, who dispensed jams, fine desserts, preserved fruit, sugar ‘galanterie’, pastries and biscuits – but also wines and spirits, which were much appreciated by James Joyce as he struggled to write his Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Frequented by literati and artists, including the composer Antonio Smareglia, who lived next door, it became a highly popular institution, holding high the great pastry-making tradition of presnitz, pinza, putizza, fave triestine and marzipan. Showcases, furnishings and scripts in the linear Liberty style of the early twentieth century.
A wine tavern with a kitchen. That was the Giannino when it all began, when Milan was not yet a metropolis and the international jet set was yet to come. The fame of this restaurant spread far and wide from the moment it was founded, and in over 120 years of history, it has become one of the icons of Milanese gastronomic tradition. Gregory Peck and Maria Callas, Grace Kelly and Ian Fleming have been just some of its illustrious guests. Recent renovation work, under the watchful eye of the proprietor, Antonio Fantini, has returned it to the almost aristocratic elegance of its glorious past. Refinement and discretion reign once more in the rooms of the Giannino.
For a century and a half, it has witnessed history in the making:
King Victor Emmanuel II, Lenin, Oscar Wilde, Robert Louis
Stevenson and the brightest stars of Hollywood have all stayed
here. The hotel was chosen for the Allied command during the war
and, in recent years, for President Eltsin and his delegation.
The original Art Nouveau facade and the elegant interiors, the
glorious furnishings and historic library with its 700 nineteenth
and twentieth-century volumes have all been beautifully preserved.
A perfectly intact Liberty-style masterpiece by the architect
Sommaruga, it is set in a park on the Colle Campigli, with views
over the lakes all the way to Monte Rosa. All is Belle Époque: the
building, entrance canopies, the lobby with its seven-metre tall
windows, the halls, bar, restaurant, chandeliers, wall sconces,
frescoes, ornaments, forged iron, and marble and wooden
staircases. Wilhelmina of the Netherlands spent a month here,
Umberto of Savoy came when it was a war hospital, Tamagno
played cards with Mascagni and Puccini, King Farouk came with
fabulous women, and Nureyev drove people mad with his whims.
Time takes its time in the “City of 44 Churches”. Also at the Taverna Rovita we can relish the details and let our eyes wander dreamily across the eighteenth-century tiles of the fireplace and the original beams on the ceiling. Initially a friary and then a taverna, it is a haven of excellence where one can discover the delights of Lucanian cuisine in one of the most picturesque alleyways in Maratea. Everything here – the seven tables, the ceramics by master craftsmen on show in the room – invites us to take things slowly. The most memorable visit was by Guttuso, who devoted a painting to the Taverna Rovita. And then there is the proprietor, Mariastella Gambardella, who accompanies us on a journey through the finest dishes of local cuisine.
From the Medici to Napoleon, by way of the Savoys and presidents of the Italian Republic: the whole history of Italy is written in the San Rossore estate. Here, just a few miles from Pisa, stands a bastion of traditional Tuscan food and wines. For three generations, the Ristorante Poldino has been home to the finest regional specialties, a place where the colours and aromas of the estate blend with the flavours of dishes like no other. Wild boar and deer, pecorino cheese and beach honey are at the heart of the cuisine at the Poldino, to be enjoyed in a delightful, historic nineteenth-century building.
A stone’s throw from the Via Margutta and the world’s oldest lithography workshop, the name of the Hotel Locarno points to the Swiss origins of its first proprietors. Its rooms are gems of Art Nouveau and have betrayed its inextricable bond with art and culture ever since it was founded in 1925. Books and filmscripts have been written here, and Chaplin and Dietrich, Kerouac and Borges all spent sleepless nights in its rooms. Abandoned after the war, when the Americans took it from the Nazis, it was given a new lease of life in the 1960s by the interior decorator Maria Teresa Celli. Her daughter Caterina Valente, who has recently completed a meticulous renovation, is now at the helm. “Change everything to remain the same” is the creed of the Locarno, which reflects the timeless fascination of a bygone era
Next to the four numbers that spell out 1801, carved into the granite of the entrance door, stand the initials of Francesco Bazzoni, the innkeeper at the time. Since then, the magical walls of the Osteria il Governo have told the story of a distant age, of Carbonari and libertarian uprisings. Here Silvio Pellico spent his last night of freedom, amid the dreams of great men determined to create a unified Italy. And here, today as then, one can enjoy the simplicity of a platter of cold cuts and cheeses beneath the pergola in the garden, or enjoy the ever-changing menu of Chef Roberto. A few years ago, Pietro Giuseppe Bazzoni, the seventh direct descendant of the founder, rediscovered the history of this place, where every shelf and photograph tell us more than any history book.
Almost nothing has changed since wine and salt were sold here, along with minestrone and barbecued meat sold by weight. The welcoming fire, or fogolâr, that greets guests with its delicious aromas is still in its place today, at the Trattoria alla Vedova. And yet the origins of this restaurant in Udine are lost in time. One just need look through the family objects that fill the rooms to relive the story of Signora Felicita, who in 1924 was already known by all simply as la vedue – “the widow”. The atmosphere has remained the same, with the loving touch of the Zamarian family, who have preserved all the enchantment of an ancient world.