In the summer, when the canals in Venice get stinkier, the Cipriani offers more than a breath of fresh air. The grounds are large enough for tennis courts, a kitchen garden, a vineyard, and a spa within the orange blossom–scented Casanova gardens, where the eponymous lady-killer wooed the neighboring nunnery. They are a haven for birds and Roberta the tortoise, who, unfortunately, hasn’t been seen since a recent acqua alta. Meanwhile, around the showpiece Olympic-size pool, the beating heart of the hotel (and a happy accident of scale, because the architect got his meters and feet mixed up), sunbathing is raised to the level of theater, with endless opportunities for people-watching around the travertine-marble terrace. Here Hollywood moguls cement film deals in loud voices while Venetian aristocrats settle into cabanas for the day, spraying complimentary Evian like Chanel No. 5 and addressing the staff as extensions of their family. Sadly, the barman Walter Bolzonella, famous for the Buonanotte cocktail he dreamed up with George Clooney, is retired. The capable Riccardo Semeria has stepped into his shoes, while Riccardo Canella, multi-Michelin superstar chef of Noma fame, takes the culinary helm. He understands that the essence of Italian style is to keep things simple, natural, and familiar, yet still fresh and inventive. This is the hallmark of the Cipriani. Others have tried to emulate its timeless Italian chic. But glamour is an atmosphere, something harder to bottle than an Acqua di Parma scent. It is synonymous with this hotel, with its to-die-for view of the Doge’s Palace and St. Mark’s, sequestered on the edge of an insignificant island on a lagoon lapping the Adriatic Sea. Doubles from Rs1,10,170; website —C.F.
Caruso, A Belmond Hotel, Amalfi Coast – Ravello, Italy
The first time my family went to Caruso, which is an 11th-century estate in Ravello at a summit in the Lattari Mountains that overlooks a 1,000-foot-plus plunge to the Tyrrhenian Sea, my son Henry was almost six months old. It was late April, and Amalfi’s lemon trees were blossoming. The hotel, an austerely beautiful, scrubbed limestone palace clinging to the side of a hill, was an appealingly easy escape. We carried cups of rich, not-too-sweet Sfusato Amalfitano lemonade into the grounds. Gardens arranged with lawns, rose borders, half-concealed hammocks, and citrus trees fanned beneath the palace like giant steps. Wisteria vines dropped petals from the pergolas, outshone by the punch-pink, first-bloom bougainvillea. We slept in the hotel’s Villa Margherita, designed by Eric Egan. I imagine artists who traveled to Ravello in the early 20th century staying here as they waited for inspiration to strike. One of us opened a set of floor-to-ceiling windows, exposing a clear sweep from the coastal slopes of Maiori to Minori, with the chapel-dotted uplands of the Lattaris rising in both directions, and the improbably empty Mediterranean filling in the horizon. It is a view nothing can prepare you for.
Last May, my husband, Andrew, and I went back to the same villa with the cowrie-shell chandelier. We aren’t in the habit of repeating trips, but we both kept bringing up that lemonade. I was seven months pregnant with our second son, and if I had to be benched somewhere with a pack of antacids—well, what a place. We mooched around the pool, an adults-only place in spirit if not by decree, edged on three sides by green hills and by the coastline to the south. Shallow terra-cotta bowls, full of pansies, sat alongside huge white umbrellas, wide enough to shade two sun loungers on the patio or, even better, on the soft lawn dented with ice buckets. On some days we never went farther than the poolside restaurant, where we ordered scrape-the-plate paccheri with burst cherry tomatoes, and eggplant Parmesan that came in a puddle of bright passata.
Food—and the leisurely eating of it—was the tentpole of our return to Caruso. We hovered over breakfast for an hour each morning, scooping up rosemary omelets and fried tomatoes with soldiers of focaccia, tart rounds of caprese al limone, and sfogliatelle santarosa, my favorite, a shell-shaped pastry filled with raspberries and cream. In the afternoons we would walk into town past the duomo for hazelnut and pistachio cones from Baffone Gelateria Artigianale, and in the evenings we stayed at the hotel—a choice that usually would have smacked of laziness to me, but instead felt decadently unambitious.