Discover the best of Italy with these wow-factor boutique hotels
There is something indescribably romantic about Italy – the honey-hued villas and rolling hills of Tuscany, the pastel parasols of the citrus-scented Amalfi Coast, the cinematic waterways of Venice, the list goes on…Natural beauty and architectural splendour aside, it is the laid-back Italian lifestyle, “the good life”, which keeps travellers coming back for more. Whether it’s the lazy, hazy days spent soaking up the sunshine, or the long, leisurely strolls before sitting down to an alfresco dinner, time seems to move more slowly here. We’ve handpicked soul-pleasing properties with plenty of pizzazz, which put the quintessential Italian escape at your feet.
1. Drive back in time along the Amalfi Coast…Villa Franca, Positano
With an enviable spot amid Positano’s old streets, yet moments from the shore, Villa Franca is a peaceful haven overlooking the enchanting Amalfi Coast – made for channelling your inner Sophia Loren. Once a private home created to celebrate its sublime setting, Villa Franca is still run by the same family who have filled its whitewashed walls with contemporary works of art and unique pieces by designer names. This hilltop retreat offers a ‘Dolce Vita Driving Experience’ for guests looking to relive the region’s Hollywood heyday by getting behind the wheel of a vintage car and taking one of the world’s most scenic routes.
Stop off for freshly-made limoncello beneath the shade of Amalfi’s many citrus groves, or to photograph the breath-taking sea views and gelato-coloured towns clinging to the cliffside. Return to the hotel’s Gold Champagne Bar & Seafood Grill or reserve a table at the fine-dining restaurant Li Galli to drink in the iconic coastline with an aperitivo in hand.
2. Wine and dine amongst the vines…Villa La Madonna, Piedmont
Verdant hills, vineyards, and terracotta roofs – the Bormida Valley in Piedmont is a timeless spot where life slows down. And overlooking this sleepy valley is Villa La Madonna. Each aspect of the hotel makes the most of its oil painting-worthy location, from the market-fresh ingredients in the kitchen to the swimming pool, fringed by vines. The 18 restful rooms are flooded with natural light and brimming with hand-picked furniture infused with the owners’ Scandinavian background.
Here, truffles are on tap and Barolo wine flows freely from the hotel’s cellar which plays host to sommelier-led tasting evenings – you can even dine between the vines after lending a hand with the grape harvest, or ask the staff to point out the perfect picnic spot so you can tuck into the world-famous Robiola cheese from the little town Roccaverano, just a few kilometres away from the hotel.
3. Hide away (and ride away) in a hilltop castle…Castello di Reschio, Umbria
Huddled amidst rolling green hills lined with cypress trees, Castello di Reschio is a one-thousand-year-old castle which has been meticulously restored and stylishly reimagined by architect Count Benedikt Bolza and his B.B. for Reschio team into several bespoke farmhouses, dotted across a staggeringly beautiful 1,500-hectare landscape. Renaissance artist-approved views filter through shuttered windows providing plenty of natural inspiration for creatives, while sun seekers can lie beside a rustic outdoor pool overlooked by Il Torrino, the castle’s original watchtower turned trendy pool bar.
With state-of-the-art stables created by the estate’s founder, Count Antonio Bolza, who was inspired as a boy by the famous Lipizzaner horses of Vienna, Reschio is now home to some of the world’s most skilled dressage horses – their weekly performances by in-house trainer Antonello Radicchi and his wife Francesca in the estate’s Teatro Equestre are not to be missed. Featuring spectacular indoor and outdoor arenas, the hotel’s multilingual instructors are on hand to help with all things horse-related, from dressage lessons to guided hacks through the Umbrian wilderness.
4. Set sail and sunbathe in style…La Villa del Re, Sardinia
Striking the perfect balance between an exclusive adults-only resort and a welcoming Sardinian home, the atmosphere at La Villa del Re is intimate and laid-back. The 48 rooms are housed within terracotta orange walls, framed by palms and fragrant cacti – all except the converted 1950s boathouse, which is set apart from the main building on the sea front. Outside, an infinity pool merges with the horizon, while down on the private beach, refreshments are brought straight to stylish sun loungers to be sipped to the sound of waves lapping the sugar-white shore.
In keeping with its coastal setting, La Villa del Re offers offers a full-day sailing expedition on a traditional yacht which takes guests towards the marine protected area of Capo Carbonara, stopping off in impossibly blue coves for wild swimming and homemade snacks on deck with the skipper.
5. Follow nature’s flow in the Dolomites…FORESTIS, Brixen
Cool, calm and connected to its stunning setting, FORESTIS is a summit-level sanctuary in the South Tyrolean mountainscape. Water, air, sun and climate are the four elemental pillars that inspire everything at FORESTIS – including the experiences. For sun salutations in a striking setting, the Wyda Room is a modern space made for practising centuries-old Celtic yoga. Delve into the Druid history of the surrounding forests, who settled in this part of the world and developed their knowledge of the healing powers of woodland meditation.
This perfectly poised spa hotel is all about feeling at one with nature, from sipping Plose mountain spring water on your panoramic balcony, and setting off for sunrise hiking with headlamps and herbal tea, to stargazing the crystal-clear skies beside a crackling fire.
6. Settle into rustic relaxation…Susafa, Sicily
Get an authentic taste of Sicily from Susafa, a 200-year-old family-run farmhouse which harvests and presses its own olives and cherries, and where chefs pick herbs and vegetables from the gardens, ready for dinner. Bucolic beauty abounds here – take a stroll around the idyllic grounds of fragrant orchards, before settling down to a picnic of homemade jams, organic oils, freshly baked breads and just-picked herbs and vegetables beneath the cherry trees.
Time your visit for June to experience cherry season, or July if you’d like to lend a hand with the wheat harvest, when you’ll learn the ancient agricultural secrets surrounded by a sea of golden fields. After working up a sweat amongst the crops and kneading fresh bread in a cooking class, sink into the sun loungers beside the lagoon-like pool for a well-earned cocktail.
7. Glide into Hollywood glamour…Vista Palazzo Lago di Como, Lake Como
The Italian Lakes are home to some of Italy’s most beloved scenery, and have long drawn an A-List crowd to their head-over-heels romantic landscape. Quickly becoming a film-star favourite in the golden age of Hollywood, the glitzy villas strung along Lake Como’s Y-shaped shore have graced cinema screens ever since. With the city at its back and Lake Como at its door, Vista Palazzo Lago di Como has the perfect anchor point.
The apricot-coloured façade with romantic balustrades gives way to the kind of marble bathrooms you only find in Italy. The clue’s in the name here, this ritzy retreat lets the views do the talking, particularly from its two outdoor rooftop terraces. For an in-depth discovery of the lake’s best kept secrets, book onto an exclusive four-hour tour with your personal outdoor butler, or hop aboard one of the hotel’s Bond-worthy Riva boats and watch the sun set over the tranquil waters.
8. Wake up to ancient wonders…Hotel Vilòn, Rome
Immortalised on screen in Roman Holiday and La Dolce Vita, a city break in Rome feels like stepping onto a fabulous film set. A tucked-away oasis in the heart of the action, Hotel Vilòn offers the best of both worlds – putting guests a few streets away from world-famous sights, including the Trevi Fountain and Spanish Steps, while every inch of this boutique retreat spells calm.
The original mansion house windows flood the rooms with light, some of which come with private balconies overlooking the celebrated Borghese ‘secret gardens’. It always seems to be coffee or cocktail hour out on the sun-soaked courtyard, with views over the palazzo’s landscaped lawns, classical columns and majestic statues. If you can tear yourself away from the chic interiors and idyllic outdoors, this Campo Marzio neighbourhood is made for romantic strolling.
9. Soak up seaside simplicity…La Peschiera, Puglia
A former fish hatchery turned boutique hotel, wake up to the sound of the sea at La Peschiera, an exclusive slice of paradise on Puglia’s shores. Natural stone walls, thatched canopies and crisp, white interiors give this thalassic refuge a cool, calm look. But the oceanic backdrop takes the starring role – gaze at the Adriatic from your terrace, dip your toes in the water at the hotel’s private beach, or swim in one of the seven pools which seem to melt into the waves beyond.
Make like the locals and explore the sleepy shoreline on the hotel’s vintage Vespa or cute Cinquecento, scooting through olive groves and vineyards with the breeze on your face, fragrant with rosemary and oregano, en route to Alberobello – home to Puglia’s quirky Trulli houses. When it’s time to eat, head back to La Peschiera’s Saleblu restaurant which serves fresh seafood on a lantern-lit terrace right beside the water. And if you’d like to make your Apulian plate all the more authentic, you can catch your own octopus along the rocky shore and cook alongside the chef.
10. Fall in love on the lagoon…Ca’ Sagredo Hotel, Venice
Amore is in the air at Ca’ Sagredo, a heart-throbbingly beautiful 15th century palace which sits proudly between Ca’ d’Oro and the Rialto Bridge on the spectacular Grand Canal. There are alluring artworks at every turn within the hotel walls, from 18th-century stuccoed ceilings, and breath-taking bas reliefs to elaborately painted wall friezes.
Artistry aside, the Venetian lagoon has captured many hearts over the centuries – including Romantic poet Lord Byron, who took refreshing dips in its swirling waters in between penning some of his most famous works. Ca’ Sagredo has dedicated its vintage yacht experience to the poet, which takes guests on a full-day tour around Venice’s most fascinating islands, including Sant’Erasmo, Burano, and Poveglia for off-shore swimming and sunbathing. Then it’s time to put your feet up in the pretty pink palazzo with an Aperol Spritz in hand.