Villa Lena, a 500-hectare estate in the Tuscan hills, hosts an artist residency and is the perfect base for a creative retreat. “Pressure was on to create a luxury resort but we wanted the people we love to join in the adventure,” says Jerome, who co-owns the creative hub. Designer Clarisse Demory injected doses of her style into vaulted ceilings and white-washed walls across three private villas, 13 apartments and nine rooms. The fun happens in the common areas, where wood-fire pizzas are served at long tables that then get pushed back for performances from visiting musicians. It’s currently undergoing renovations but will reopen in April.
This 13th-century estate previously served as a farm and country tavern but in 2012 it was converted into a cosy nine-room inn with original hardwood and terrazzo flooring. It sits next to the Tappeinerweg trail, which offers views of the surrounding valleys, and its interior – decorated with a mix of art nouveau and Biedermeier furnishings belonging to the owners, the Kirchlecher family (pictured) – is just as striking. Our favourite part of the hotel is its garden orangery, where guests can breakfast on regional foodstuffs supplied by Monocle favourite grocer Pur Südtirol.
Ristorante Reale and Casadonna Hotel
In a 16th-century monastery near the mountainous town of Castel di Sangro in Abruzzo you will find Ristorante Reale and Hotel Casadonna, run by brother and sister Niko and Cristiana Romito. It has six bedrooms in which interior designer Leonardo De Carlo has integrated Italian design and art objects while respecting the spirit of the place. Next door is a master chef school run by the Romitos in cooperation with the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Pollenzo. Students get the chance to work in the kitchen of the three-Michelin-star Reale restaurant.
Situated in one of the charming backstreets of Rome’s historic Regola quarter, D.O.M is a new hotel with a history to match its surroundings. The five-star venue was originally a 17th-century palazzo, built in part using marble blocks taken from the nearby church of Santa Lucia del Gonfalone. Opened late last year, the hotel’s top-floor is given over to an exclusive suite with views of St Peter’s Basilica.
Architect Claudio Nardi transformed a 19th-century factory into 10 contemporary lofts, blending traditional Tuscan brick and stone with pure lines, steel and glass to create a place to stay only 2.5km from famous bridge Ponte Vecchio. Guests can ride the hotel’s bicycles through the lush, historic Parco delle Cascine before relaxing in one of the hammocks at Riva. “We are frequent travellers and aesthetic-addicted, curious minds,” says Nardi’s daughter and Riva Lofts general manager Alice Nardi. “So we took the chance to create an original location with all the comforts anybody would need while travelling – but with beauty, cleanliness and quiet.”
Aman Canal Grande Hotel
Situated on the Grand Canal of Venice, the Palazzo Papadopoli was built in the 16th century by the Coccina family of Bergamo. Contemporary furniture now offsets frescoed walls in this 24-suite hotel. In a city surrounded by water, the Aman boasts a rare oasis of green space – with its garden terrace facing the Canal and a second private garden providing a footpath to the Campo San Polo. The rooftop is the place to grab a Negroni and watch dramatic sunsets but those seeking a moment of solitude and wellbeing can opt to visit the hotel’s sanctuary-like spa.
Fonte De’ Medici
Italy’s Chianti Classico country is rife with rustic medieval villages reinvented as sprawling inns, enhanced with everything from trattorias to tennis courts. Fonte De’ Medici, ensconced in the storied Tignanello and Solaia vineyards in the town of Montefiridolfi, 30 minutes outside Florence, has the added virtue of being owned by venerable vintners: the Antinori family – in business since 1385. Guests are offered tastings, vineyard tours, cooking classes (specialising in delicacies such as roast pigeon and olive oil sorbet) and visits to Badia a Passignano,
an abbey-cum-vineyard, where a 23-year-old Galileo began his ruminations on the nature of gravity in 1584.
Commissioned in 1928, architect and painter Hubert Lanzinger designed Pension Briol in a Bauhaus style, with loggia-type balconies and views over the forest and the Isarco valley. Owner Johanna von Klebelsberg, the great-granddaughter of the original owner, took over the Pension Briol from her aunts. The Spartan decor, wooden Lanzinger chairs and rich breakfast of local cheeses and salamis help maintain the pension’s character. But upgrades are welcome too; new for this year are a couple of renovated holiday houses on the 1,310 metre high mountain, and the opening of a baking academy. Open from mid-April until the end of October.