6 new hotels in Italy – in Rome, Milan, Venice, Sicily and Umbria – from five-star luxury to affordable style, if you’re lucky enough to get there
- Reschia in Umbria took 26 years to restore, the pool deck at Palermo’s Villa Igiea is built around Sicilian ruins, and Galleria Vik’s rooms blossom with art
- Taormina’s Four Seasons is built into a cliff, Hoxton Rome lets you choose arrival and departure times, and Venice’s Ca’ di Dio is a monument of Murano glass
For most of us who have spent the last year and a half mostly cooped up, laying eyes on the sun-dappled Tuscan hills would be like rediscovering the entire range of the visible spectrum.
Loosened coronavirus border restrictions now allow entry to Italy by travellers from across the European Union, the US and several other countries so long as they’re vaccinated or demonstrably Covid-free. Hong Kong and Macau remain on Italy’s E List, which forbids entry for tourism purposes, perhaps until the current state of emergency in Italy expires on July 30. By then, Hong Kong’s own quarantine regime may have been relaxed.
Whether you’re itching to get back to Italy as soon as possible or brainstorming a future trip, know that you’ll still find the cypress-lined landscapes, but they’re dotted with new hotels. Here are some worth building itineraries around.
Although he’ll tell you it was “a millennium in the making”, Count Benedikt Bolza and his wife took 26 years to restore this 3,700-acre estate in Umbria. That’s partly because the scope of the project – which includes 50 farmhouses and a 1,000-year-old castle – is massive, and it’s partly because Bolza, an architect, decided to design an entire line of custom-made furniture to fill its 36 wood-beamed guest rooms.
A visit is like entering an Italian fever dream, with cotton-candy sky and umbrella-shaped pine trees reflecting off a grass-lined infinity pool. Inside, the castle’s wine cellars have been converted into Roman-style baths, and a dilapidated courtyard has been turned into the “palm court”, a glass-domed spot for tea or spritzes.
The estate includes truffle-filled forests, olive trees and an abundant farm to supply the restaurant. There’s also a stable housing purebred Spanish horses and a “boot room” in which to lace up before rides through the surrounding pastures. Rooms from US$820.
Villa Igiea, Palermo
The family-owned brand Rocco Forte has been on a hot streak in Italy. Not long before the pandemic, the operator of the iconic Hotel de la Ville and Hotel Russie in Rome had celebrated the opening of Masseria Torre Maizza in Puglia, which was met with immense critical acclaim. Rocco Forte continues to impress in 2021, this time in Sicily, where Sir Rocco and his sister, Olga Polizzi, reopened the 100-year-old Villa Igiea on June 3, having infused its 78 rooms and 22 suites with their signature blend of streamlined classical design.
The goal is to honour what was already there, which is why the pool deck was built around Sicilian ruins and the rooms all have French doors to allow in the cool sea breeze. But the family also employs thoughtful staff who know just when you need a Negroni vs. a fresh-squeezed OJ or who can take you to the market for a crash course on abundant local ingredients. Rooms from US$765.
Four Seasons San Domenico Palace, Taormina
On the eastern side of Sicily – where there’s plenty to see but few great places to stay – Four Seasons has taken over a dramatic 14th-century convent built into a cliff. In the building’s subsequent life as the San Domenico Palace hotel, it welcomed all sorts of cultural dignitaries, including Britain’s King Edward VIII, Audrey Hepburn and Oscar Wilde.
The current iteration adds a cocktail bar to the cloistered courtyard, fragrant gardens filled with jasmine and hibiscus trees, an impressive collection of restored frescoes, and a yacht for snorkelling trips near Grotta Azzurra, a sea cave with blue reflective water. Many rooms have private terraces for soaking up the sun, but it’s worth alternating between lazy days and leisurely walks to Taormina’s charming old town for shopping and outdoor day-drinking. Rooms from US$970.
Well before it was trendy, Hoxton invented contact-free room service with its breakfast bags, a signature of the brand that was created by Pret-a-Manger co-founder Sinclair Beecham in 2006. For about US$5, you get a brown paper bag packed with a pastry, fruit, yogurt and juice – all hung on your doorknob before your alarm goes off.
You’ll find more low-key genius like that at the new Rome outpost – the brand’s 10th location – with affordable, compact-but-stylish rooms within easy walking distance of the Galleria Borghese and its surrounding gardens.
The all-day dining spot downstairs, Cugino, is run in partnership with the local bakery Marigold; it’s an easy way to get signature pastries like orange- and cardamom-infused cinnamon swirls without the typical wait. Also convenient is the hotel’s “flexy time” policy, allowing you to customise your arrival and departure times – a perk that many five-star resorts struggle to deliver. Rooms from US$130.
Ca’ di Dio, Venice
Ca’ di Dio features Murano glass everywhere, from sconces, vases and bedside lamps in every suite to the free-form chandeliers in the common areas and the custom line for sale in the boutique. But most importantly it’s everything that cruising is not. Its sustainability features include a thermal system powered by recycled lagoon water. There’s also an abundance of reclaimed materials salvaged from the site’s original church in the lobby.
The sumptuous rooms simply inspire longer stays in the city rather than blink-and-you-miss-it excursions. Rooms from US$450.
Galleria Vik, Milan
Hoteliers Carrie and Alex Vik don’t do anything small scale: their bold resorts in Uruguay have set them apart as some of the most creative, pie-in-the-sky hoteliers anywhere. That’s thanks to some degree because of their taste in art, which acts as the defining feature of the couple’s first Italian outpost.
A cast of Rodin’s Thinker is in the lobby, along with a neo-mythological mural from Italian painter Alex Folla. No two of the hotel’s 89 rooms are the same, with each one doubling as a miniature art gallery. Much of the work was commissioned by the Viks for the space, created in collaboration with local artists, or came from their personal collections. The sheer quantity of pieces makes it feel like you’re sleeping in a private museum, albeit one that’s a few short blocks from the Pinacoteca di Brera. Rooms from US$620.