WATERSTONE – MOUNTAINS TO SEA
CORVARA – DOLOMITES, FORTE dei MARMI AND SAN REMO
I will say it again and again, “ITALY NEVER DISAPPOINTS”! This is a fact and not fake news 😉.
I will only say two things regarding my international flights – American Airlines – non-stop – Chicago – Venice – great – I’m talking about the routing! Service in economy – bland at best. Same as on domestic flights, sometimes you have friendly and helpful flight attendant and usually, you do not.
British Airways – NEVER allow a short connection at London Heathrow (LHR) – I had a one-hour connection at LHR Terminal 5 – BA to BA – and I made my connecting flight (ONLY because it was delayed at the gate) but, my luggage did not. It had to do with a late departure from NCE and no available gate at LHR on arrival. I did learn that everyone goes thru security upon arrival at LHR – no exceptions. As for economy class service – pleasant, helpful flight attendants!
DOLOMITES – a must see destination if you like to ski in the winter – downhill, snowboard and cross country or anything to do with snow-based activities. But don’t worry if you enjoy hiking, biking and summertime activities – this locale is sure to please. The resorts are seasonal with a break between the two seasons. Oh, and let’s not forget the beautiful accommodations, CHARMING towns, wonderful food – Italian, German/Austrian and warm, delightful hospitality.
We stayed 3 nights at La Perla – https://www.hotel-laperla.it/en/hotel-la-perla/1-0.html in Corvara, a scenic 2 ½ – 3-hour drive from the Venice International Airport. La Perla is ideally situated in town with traditional Alpine architecture, local ambiance and décor throughout the hotel – a true sense of place. The culinary choices are plenty and include a 1-star Michelin restaurant, spa and great wine cellar (do not miss a private tour – nothing like you have ever experienced). The resort is family owned, The Costa Family – 2 generations and always on hand to meet and mix with the guest. The family is very proud of their hotel and love sharing the history. The staff are extremely accommodating and sincere which I believe has something to do with the Costa Family and how they treat their employees like family! The hotel is applying for Virtuoso status and it would be ashamed if they did not get an invitation to join. There is only one other Virtuoso property in the Dolomite’s and the region could very easily accommodate another option. Perhaps this would bring more guests to the Dolomite’s.
Corvara Italy (click to watch video) You can walk out of the hotel and be in town in 5 to 10 mins. – shopping, restaurants and mingling with the locals. Or ask the staff for a map and start hiking and/or biking from the front door. In the winter you have access to the ski slopes with the Gondola outside the hotel.
After 3 nights in heaven, we traveled by train from Mestre (Venice) to Florence. It never hurts to remind clients and/or each other – travel light if traveling by train. Trains are crowded and there is little space for everyone’s luggage. Also, it is best to lock your luggage to the luggage rack. We have been told thieves do jump on the trains and snatch unattended luggage, during quick stops and stations and running away with it.
Florence was hot and crowded. We were divided up into one of two groups for the Why The Best Hotels group (WTB) – L’Orologio – https://www.hotelorologioflorence.com/#home- and Hotel Santa Maria Novella – https://www.hotelsantamarianovella.it/#home. They are located across a very narrow street on the same Piazza as JK Place and Grand Hotel Minerva. Both hotels are 4 stars and have a central location for walking and exploring all that Florence has to offer.
The next day we had lunch and a sight inspection at Il Salviatino – www.salviatino.com. Beautiful hotel located a short drive from city center. The entrance gate to the hotel is in the city limits of Florence but, once you go thru the gates, you are no longer in Florence. The hotel sits on a hill in a national forest with distant views of the city. It used to be the Stanford University campus and then was left untouched for many years. It is now a Virtuoso, 5-star resort with a pool and spa and fine dining. The grounds are beautiful, peaceful and a wonderful option for those who have been to Florence and want some R & R away from the heat and crowds during the height of the season.
After a wonderful lunch on the terrace at Il Salviatino we boarded our mini-bus for 2 ½ hour drive to the Tuscany Riviera. This is an easy drive – all highway.
Forte dei Marmi is a fashionable, luxury beach destination on the Tyrrhenian Sea. Hotel Byron – www.hotelbyron.net – is a Virtuoso property and sits across the street from the sandy beach which is very wide and expansive. (there are no resorts/properties on the beach). The hotel was recently redone and is very contemporary and fresh. This is the most modern and updated of the 4 hotels we stayed at with regards to bathrooms which have a separate shower and bathtub. Our host, Salvatore Madonna was charming and very hands on at the hotel. The hotel has a lovely pool in the garden and a one-star Michelin restaurant.
My balcony/terrace was spacious with plenty of seating and a sea view but, the actual beach is somewhat hidden by all the beach clubs. The beach is only accessible when you reserve a spot thru a beach club. However, I was able to walk along the beach in the morning before the beach clubs opened for business.
It is very easy to explore the Cinque Terra from Forte dei Marmi, which we did on our 2nd day. We drove about 30 minutes to a marina and boarded a 16-passenger boat and had a spectacular day on the water. Depending on your personal agenda – you can choose to swim in the sea, have lunch on an island or visit one or more of the 5 towns that make up the Cinque Terre.
The town of Forte dei Marmi is a place to shop, meet friends for lunch or dinner and has a wonderful open-air market during the week. The town is easily accessible by walking or bicycling (Hotel Byron has plenty of bicycles on hand) on the path along the road.
Last stop, San Remo – a 3-hour drive from Forte dei Marmi and about 40 minutes from Monte Carlo. San Remo has all the charm of a small Italian town that sits on the sea. Our home for the last two nights, Royal Hotel San Remo – https://www.royalhotelsanremo.com/eng/acqua-wellness-hotel-sanremo.html – a family owned hotel with a beautiful sea view. A classic, traditional hotel with all the bells and whistles. The hotel is privately owned and perfectly maintained. The rooms are spacious, and they have various options with either a specific view, balcony or terrace. The heated, saltwater pool is a piece of art designed by Gio Ponti in 1948.
There is a private beach club across the street (again, no hotels located on the beach) and easily accessed from the main lobby. Our host and hostess were Marco D. F. Sarlo and Marianne Dorsch.
The town of San Remo has two marinas’ and a historical section. Also, it is host to a special Italian music event each year. There is a pedestrian only area with great shopping, restaurants and is a favorite meeting spot for locals – which welcomes tourist with open arms.
We were treated to a culinary walking tour with Roberta Giovannina from Med Food Lab in Sanremo. She lives in the city and has an array of touring options.
Sanremo is easily accessed from Nice International Airport – less than 1 hour by car.
For me, Italy is a mainstay, a staple, a place to return to as often as you like. It’s easy to experience a new region for the first time or reacquaint yourself with an old friend.
I’m already thinking of several places to explore on my next venture to Italy.