The art of living well
The Italians have raised living well to an artform. For style, beauty and effortless elegance, Italy is unmatched. Exploring the gastronomy, couture and culture of a country that has more Unesco World Heritage Sites than any other is a lifetime’s work. So indulge yourself a little and be guided by a group that has been a leading name in hospitality for generations. Rocco Forte Hotels’ Italian origins and local knowledge mean there is no better way to experience la bella vita.
A history of sophistication
The subtle sophistication of Rocco Forte’s Italian hotels continues a long tradition – a visit to Italy has always had a certain cachet. In the 18th and 19th centuries, it was the ultimate mark of refinement. A Grand Tour of Italian art and culture, culminating in Rome’s ruins or Florence’s frescoes, provided the finishing touches for a gentleman’s education and his introduction into polite society. Many young debutants had spent up to two years touring cathedrals, commissioning portraits and collecting coins and other mementoes.
Today most Italian stays are somewhat shorter but no less illuminating. In Italy, the country’s ancient history is ever present, particularly in Rome. This vibrant modern city echoes with the power and pomp of the Roman Empire at its height. It’s easy to conjure up the savage beauty of Roman life in the preserved splendour of the Colosseum or the grass-fringed ruins of the Hippodrome, but it isn’t just the ancient world that’s alive here. Over 2,700 years of history have left many lines in the character of the country and a visit, however long, will reveal more than one.
The epitome of art and culture
As the cradle of the Renaissance, even a short city break to Italy will unearth countless treasures. Every arch and alleyway transports you to a period when the Medicis’ patronage and Umbrian workshops produced a succession of artists, architects and scientists that included Botticelli, Michelangelo, Galileo, Raphael and Da Vinci.
This class of 1492 has never been equalled in art and found its perfect canvas in the churches, cathedrals and piazzas of Italy’s numerous medieval city states. While these have long since been unified into modern Italy, their individual characters still give each city a unique flavour and particular highlights of their own, whether that’s Giotto’s frescoes in Padua or Galileo’s telescope in Venice.
Regions to be cheerful
Alongside individual city identities come huge regional variations. This is a country of extraordinary contrasts. The heel and toe of the Italian boot look out over the warm waters of the Mediterranean. Meanwhile, the snow-tipped Dolomites at Italy’s northern tip offer some of the finest skiing in Europe. And in between, there is a beguiling variation of landscapes, from Tuscany’s verdant hillsides, through the marshlands of Maremma to the dark, volcanic craters of Vesuvius and Etna in the south.
If you are considering a two- or three-destination visit to capture Italy’s different faces, then Rome, Florence and Sicily are perhaps the perfect combination. Here you’ll find all of Italy: north and south; art and culture; fashion and food.
Unearthing hidden gems
On the Grand Tour, nothing was prized more highly than a good cicerone, who brought Italian art, antiquities and customs alive with his in-depth knowledge of Italian life. He revealed little-known treasures and opened the doors to lasting experiences – qualities that we at Rocco Forte Hotels hold in the highest regard.
A family group of hotels with an Italian heritage, we have developed our knowledge of Rome, Florence and Sicily over many generations. With Hotel de Russie in the centre of Rome, the Savoy Hotel beside the Duomo in Florence and Verdura Resort on Sicily’s southwest coast, we are modern day cicerones, introducing guests to every side of Italy.
Revealing Rome with the Hotel de Russie
Rome is a surprisingly intimate city. While other great capitals sprawl, Rome retains a neighbourhood feel. Hotel de Russie’s position just minutes from the Spanish Steps on the Piazza del Popolo means it is the perfect starting point to see the city with a gentle stroll. The boutiques on Via Condotti and Via Borgognona, and the galleries on Via Margutta are only minutes away.
You’ll be in good company if you make this your base in the capital. Picasso and Stravinsky gravitated here, and the hotel’s local appeal continues today. Not least because of de Russie’s rose-scented, terraced Secret Garden, which is magical by candlelight.
Making a fashion statement in Florence
Located between the Duomo and the Ponte Vecchio, a stay at Hotel Savoy puts you at the heart of Florence – and Florentine life. This bright, joyfully coloured hotel with fashion-themed interiors by Olga Polizzi is a favourite of the couture crowd.
It’s the destination of choice for visitors to Florence’s two great annual fashion shows in January and June – and in many ways it is at its best when these guests spill out onto the square it looks over, cocktails in hand.
Verdura Resort and Sicilian serenity
Set in a valley of olive groves beside the azure waters of Mediterranean, Verdura Resort captures another, equally appealing, face of Italy. Here, life is lived in a lower gear. Etna’s fiery lips, the island’s rocky mountain ranges and its powder sands are all there for guests to explore at their own pace.
Eating and drinking well is a priority all over Italy but it is particularly marked when it is unhurried, as it is in Verdura Resort. Fulvio Pierangelini is the creative director of food at Rocco Forte Hotels and makes food a highlight of every day for guests at all our hotels. Seasonal flavours, fresh, local produce and inventive yet simple rustic dishes are his signatures. And in the Verdura Resort that means everything from red snapper with braised fennel to roasted cockerel with capers.
Here, as in all our hotels, the art of living well begins with buon appetito.