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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.
As I’m writing this, the baby is due in a couple of weeks, and I hope our second trip ends up being the start of something. I hope we’ll return to Caruso as a family of four, and open the windows in that villa, and remember why we keep coming back. From $990. —Jo Rodgers
Grand Hotel Tremezzo – Como, Italy
In an increasingly rapacious Italian hotel scene, some iconic family-owned properties retain that made-in-Italy, one-of-a-kind elixir that the bigger players can only dream of. The decadent Grand Hotel Tremezzo is decidedly one of these: It has been in family hands since opening in 1910 and comes with Grand Tour charm in spades. Sitting a little back from Lake Como, looking out onto Bellagio, the Liberty-style building conjures a Grand Budapest Hotel set, an impression that grows when you enter the formal lobby with its sweeping red-carpet staircase, antique gilt-framed mirrors, and marble-encased bathrooms. I also love the flowers in abundance all over the property. But the hotel still manages to feel intimate thanks to its smaller cozy spaces: a cocooning spa with a heated swim-in, swim-out pool and Santa Maria Novella products; an outdoor pool surrounded by a forest of trees and blooming flowers; and tucked-away bars and corner banquettes in the restaurant (be sure to try the gold-leaf risotto). The hotel effortlessly pulls multiple punches, with a covetable shop stocking brands like Bric’s Milano, Borsalino, and Chez Dede, and a beautiful vintage wooden boat for lake excursions and to avoid road traffic. But the true pièce de résistance is the floating pool sitting on the lake—cinematic grandeur incarnate with a Lido-like beachfront, bright orange and white umbrellas, and chic custom loungers. From $775. —Ondine Cohane
Villa Igiea, a Rocco Forte Hotel – Palermo, Italy
This graceful estate is such a sharp contrast to wild Palermo that once you arrive you feel as though you have traveled to the other side of Sicily, not simply 10 minutes from the city center. Villa Igiea is a legacy resort in the area, bought as a private estate by the Florios, once one of Italy’s wealthiest families, but then converted in the early 1900s into a wellness retreat that was popular with royalty. Decades later, it had lost its luster until hotel magnate Rocco Forte brought it back to life in 2021. Now its pool, bars, and breezy guest rooms feel like a glitzy clubhouse of sorts for European dynasty families, who congregate for aperitivo hour in dresses and loafers on the outdoor terrace overlooking the bay, a dapper pianist tickling the ivories in the corner. You will want to order that third ice-cold martini just to muster up the courage to chat with the multilingual family—from Sweden? England?—at the table next to you (but eavesdropping is a fine runner-up). Inside, Art Nouveau touches include whimsical frescoes and grand staircases; while no two suites are alike (mine was done in tidy navy and white with beautifully colorful tiled bathrooms), they feel like a modern extension of what still is very much a classic seaside resort. Even in this newest iteration, Villa Igiea feels like a hotel with its own orbit, and one that creates a micro universe of characters rollicking against the most fanciful backdrop. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that? From $575. —E.F.
São Lourenço do Barrocal – Alentejo, Portugal
A morning saunter through this 2,000-acre estate in Portugal’s Alentejo is a sensory journey back in time. Paths carve through the montado landscape, where wildflower meadows are punctuated by cork, oak, and olive trees. Lusitano wild horses mingle with cattle; the medieval hilltop town of Monsaraz looms in the distance, and granite dolmens give a glimpse of the region’s pagan past. Although it’s just 90 minutes from Lisbon, it’s conceivable that these views haven’t changed in centuries. The same cannot be said for São Lourenço’s luxurious lodgings. Balancing the rustic and the refined, the agricultural and the artful, is where this elegant 40-room hotel and organic working farm excels. Humble, whitewashed farm buildings have been sensitively transformed into sophisticated suites centered on a geranium-lined courtyard. The guest activities—beekeeping lessons, foraging, and stargazing (the region is a Dark Sky Reserve)—are almost as old as the surrounding hills. Two centuries of winemaking heritage make São Lourenço a key stop-off on Alentejo’s rota dos vinhos, which winds through the region’s best wineries. Here, robust native varietals have been skilfully tempered down and pair beautifully with polished takes on traditional dishes—gazpacho, migas, and cozido stews—that are as nourishing as late nights by the firepit. Effortlessly stylish yet wholly unpretentious, this rural retreat provides a compelling case for swapping Portugal’s coast for its countryside. Doubles from $430. —Ben Olsen
Hôtel de Crillon, A Rosewood Hotel – Paris
Known by locals simply as Le Crillon, it’s the kind of spot celebrities roll up to with the intent of blending in and mere mortals show up to with the hopes of standing out. First opened as a hotel in 1909 and owned by dukes and counts prior to the Revolution, the palace—which this summer celebrated nine years since its $300 million makeover—is Paris’s most magnificent in both reputation and design. Precious stones, elaborate floral arrangements, and so…much…marble—it’s all there in extravagant droves. As a local, I’ve popped in several times over the years, but the most memorable visit was in 2021 when the city was still closed to foreigners and the hotel rearranged the Leonard Bernstein suite, and its wrap-around balcony, into a bar for Parisians to sip cocktails and snack on tartines while overlooking the Place de la Concorde. The suite has been returned to its grand apartment glory, but at least we still have Les Ambassadeurs bar, which has a David Bowie–Labyrinth vibe that—thanks to a sky mural on the ceiling where crystal chandeliers are draped in chains—is dark, moody, and ultra-ethereal. Perhaps the hotel’s only snafu is that it’s so “fit” for royalty, its bathrobes are Napoleon-sized. (A “large” was short and snug, even for this five-foot-one Madame!) Still, comfort and class are key, from fresh hydrangeas in the room and toiletries by French apothecary Officine Universelle Buly to a charging cord appearing minutes after requesting it and an on-call butler service accessible via WhatsApp. And mon dieu, that bed! It’s like sleeping on a giant cream puff: soft, pillowy, and oh-so-sweet. In all, you come to Le Crillon for heritage with a splash of modern swank and savoir faire. From $1,915. —Sara Lieberman
Le Meurice – Paris
Talking point: Would Paris hotels be quite so palatial had la Révolution never happened? The Louis XIV vibe—gold leaf and satinate sheen, baroque chairs and chandeliers—has been so mimicked and dulled by repetition, it’s easy to forget how showstopping it can be. Le Meurice is a reset: Callas at La Scala compared to The Phantom of the Opera of certain other grandes dames whose scenery wobbles a little. A piece of immersive theater where all the details—the greyhound emblem stamped on the butter, the fold of the maître d’s silk scarf, the trompe l’oeil fruit by pastry chef Cédric Grolet—are scrupulously choreographed. And yet, for all the marble-lined grandeur, surprisingly cozy and contemporary. Sit amid the Versailles pomp of the Ducasse dining room and you can idly swivel on your Eero Saarinen Tulip chair while waiting for your truffled eggs. On my last stay here, I joined one of the hotel’s private art tours, following in the footsteps of Monet and up to the Belle Étoile penthouse for a view almost identical to the painter’s 1876 study of the Tuileries. Because unlike many of the city’s palace hotels, this isn’t tucked away in a posh enclave but is right in the heart of proper Paris: the Jardins right in front, the main museums spread around. When Art Basel debuted in Paris in October, Le Meurice was the obvious choice for collectors—it’s a fully authenticated masterpiece. From $975. —R.J.
Hôtel du Palais Biarritz – France
Back in 1854, when Napoleon III bought a beachfront property in sleepy Biarritz and built a palatial holiday home for his wife, Empress Eugénie, little did he imagine that the crowned heads of Europe would follow suit and turn the city into a buzzy resort with a casino. Now, after a massive four-year renovation, the former Villa Eugenie, transformed into the stately fin de siècle grande dame Hôtel du Palais in 1892, is ready for her close-up. Talk about imperial presence: Everything from the fairy-tale frescoed ballroom to the plush Napoléon III Bar, crowned with a 900-pound crystal chandelier, calls for a lighthearted waltz, flute of vintage Bollinger in hand. Add to that the impressive antique-reviving craftsmanship: armchairs, curtains, bedspreads, moldings. But there’s nothing museum-like about the 142 rooms and suites—places to throw open the windows, breathe in the ocean air, and watch the spectacle (the beach below, La Grande Plage, is big-wave surfer territory). Nautical details, like the porthole windows on the upper floor, abound. The ocean-liner vibe continues at the panoramic, curved La Rotonde, where chef Aurélien Largeau whips up eight-course seafood menus; homestyle Basque cooking can be found at the informal Côté Maison next door. The emblematic high point is the 32,000-square foot Guerlain Imperial Spa (Guerlain invented a cologne in 1853 just for Eugénie) for its regal Black Orchid facial treatment. From about $400. —Lanie Goodman
Beau-Rivage Palace – Lausanne, Switzerland
It’s been more than five years since I last set foot on the grounds of the Swiss grande dame Beau-Rivage, presiding over Lake Geneva like some proud Belle Époque aristocrat. But the memory of my suite remains vivid—of my feet on the thick padded carpet, of the fairy-tale terrace where I’d watch the light hit the Alps at dusk, of pressing a single bedside button to bring up the blackout shades before I ordered a fresh carafe of coffee. The interiors were regal and restrained; the staff, many the product of the nearby École Hôtelière de Lausanne, were efficient and kind. I spent my days strolling the manicured waterfront gardens; at night, after dining on artful plates of sole meunière at the two-Michelin-starred restaurant Anne-Sophie Pic, I’d retreat into the sleek darkness of the bar, cradling a glass of amaro while watching businessmen conduct negotiations beneath Old World tapestries. In some ways, it was all a distraction—a way to waste time until I could politely excuse myself and retire to my room, to step back into the fantasy. One I long to return to. From $510. —Betsy Blumenthal
Deplar Farm – Iceland
Some places defy, or maybe transcend, the whole notion of what a hotel is. Deplar—a turf-roofed former farm on northern Iceland’s Troll Peninsula, where sheep outnumber people—is one of those. It lingers in the memory as a series of sensations: the shuddering tingle of the icy plunge pool after meditation in a 200-degree sauna; the sight of ephemeral sea spray against the pinkish morning light on a silent sea-kayak trip among the seals; the shimmering, blissful half-sleep of a sound bath, in a small candlelit room. This all might sound a touch woo-woo, but Deplar Farm—like its parent company, Eleven, owned by the skiing- and fishing-obsessed former Blackstone executive Chad Pike—is anything but. Though it almost looks like just another black timber farmstead on the drive up the valley, the 32-guest lodge is a lair of pure-grade hedonism.