February 22 2012
If it’s gastronomic gratification you look for in a weekend break, then Italy will naturally be one of the countries at the top of the potential-destinations list. And now it’s proving exceptionally hard to resist, for Orient-Express has come up with a tasty series of gourmet weekends at its five-star hotels in Venice (Hotel Cipriani), Portofino (Hotel Splendido & Splendido Mare), Taormina (Grand Hotel Timeo and Villa Sant’Andrea), Ravello (Hotel Caruso) and Florence (Villa San Michele). The ingredients for each weekend: two nights’ B&B in a junior suite; two dinners cooked by different, Italy-based Michelin-starred chefs; and one specially prepared excursion, exclusive to the location.
If you can’t decide between the locations/chefs, you don’t necessarily have to: the dates do not clash. First up is the famous Cipriani in Venice (first picture, March 17-18), where the chefs in charge will be Filippo Chiappini Dattilo of Piacenza’s one-Michelin-starred Antica Osteria del Teatro, and the three-Michelin-starred chef of Modena’s Osteria Francescana, Massimo Bottura, who won the prestigious Grand Prix de l’Art de la Cuisine award last year. The exclusive outing for guests here is a guided visit to the Fortuny atelier on Giudecca island – usually closed to the public – where Mariano Fortuny-designed fabrics are still created in the 18th-century weaving mill Bevilacqua.
Next on the itinerary is Portofino’s Hotel Splendido and Splendido Mare, where on April 14-15 the passionate-about-pudding Cerea brothers (three Michelin stars) will cook one night, and Pino Cuttaia (two stars) the next. The day-trip is to Cervera Abbey, where, after a tour, a private harp-and-violin concert will be held in the garden.
Palates (and waistlines) take a break over the summer, then it’s off to Taormina in Sicily (September 29-30), to the Grand Hotel Timeo (second picture) and Villa Sant’Andrea. Pietro Leemann and Heinz Beck take over the kitchens, while a trip to Catania fish market and a puppet-making workshop promise much brio. Ravello follows on October 20-21, and Florence on November 3-4, by which time guests might need to let out their waistbands. But it will be worth it, for they’ll have devoured not only some fabulous dinners, but some amazing sights too.