Named in honor of Queen Margherita of Savoy and part of the Baglioni chain in Italy, the Regina Hotel Baglioni was our home for four nights during a recent visit to the Eternal City. The hotel was one of the Baglioni City Hotels located near the city center of Italian cities that tout their elegance and “luxury with an Italian touch.”
Le Capanne was a short two-hour drive from Florence, and a world away. The magic began to unfold with the last mile of our journey, as we started up the narrow, intermittently paved country road to Camporsevoli. It meandered steeply upward, each turn revealing more spectacular views of the valley below, a rolling landscape of vineyards and olive groves punctuated by centuries-old farmhouses. Soon a discrete wooden sign announced Le Capanne; an unassuming name ( capanne is Italian for shacks) for this superb $2.5 million fieldstone villa perched on five acres (two hectares) of beautifully landscaped grounds. It turned out to be merely an allusion to the humble origins of the villa. Le Capanne was for centuries one of the many farmsteads on the 500-acre (200 hectare) hillside Camporsevoli Estate. It was only recently restored into a five-bedroom rustic beauty with an inviting country Tuscan décor and the latest comforts and conveniences, including satellite TV, WiFi and a large swimming pool. The housekeepers, Francisco and Maria, were on hand to welcome us and ensure we were happily settled in.
Tuscany is famous the world over for its rich history, its artistic status as the cradle of the Renaissance, its magnificent churches and palazzos filled with stunning art and its picturesque countryside of rolling hills dotted with sun-baked medieval villages. All have contributed to making this 8,880 square mile (23,000 square kilometer) triangle of land, barely the size of New Hampshire, one of travelers’ favorite places to visit in Italy, a country that is itself one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. While Tuscany’s regional capital, Florence, is said to lure close to ten million visitors a year, it is but one of six United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Sites in the region. The remaining five, also vastly popular destinations, are the historical centers of Siena, San Gimignano and Pienza as well as the square of the Cathedral of Pisa and the Val d’Orcia, a remote valley south of Siena.
Our week-long trip aboard the SeaDream II was reminiscent of the by-gone days of classic ship travel where passengers had an opportunity to meet each other while sharing time and space with fellow travelers and crew members. In an era fraught with time constraints our “cruise” aboard SeaDream II provided us the luxury of meeting like minded people while enjoying a leisurely and luxurious voyage along the coast from Italy to Spain in the prime of the area’s tourist season.
We thoroughly enjoyed the pluses the sailing offered such as a limited number of passengers (there were 108 of us) and high crew to passenger ratio (there were 96 crew members).
Established by famed hotelier Cesar Ritz at the request of the Italian president in 1894, this Roman jewel is said to have its foundation over the Baths of Diocletian. The hotel, built on land belonging to Pope Sistus V, recently underwent a $35 million renovation requiring 450 workmen, including 151 skilled craftsmen and one million man hours of work.
Arriving at the Hotel Hassler after a transatlantic flight and dizzying taxi drive from the airport, I was relieved to discover my room was ready. Inside, the charming and comfortable black and white themed room with a delightful view of the city and welcome fruit basket, helped reenergize me. In spite of the lack of sleep and jet lag, I was eager to revisit Rome after a long absence. From the small balcony I could see the Spanish steps and beyond them, in the distance, the Vatican. And what a location! The Hassler is in the heart of Rome, at the top of the famous Spanish Steps, an excellent point of departure for tourist oriented visitors. The wholly independent and small family run hotel, which has been temporary home to many celebrities over the years, had a historic character.