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Hotel Splendido & Splendido Mare, Italy
Tel: 39 01 8526 7801
Owned and run by the Orient Express group, the Splendido is an Italian hospitality legend: It vies with the Villa d'Este on Lake Como and the Sirenuse in Positano for the title of Italy's most desirable high-end leisure hotel. Perched on a south-facing terrace above the Bay of Portofino, the 64-room grande dame boasts a celebrity guest list that stretches from the Duke and Duchess of Windsor to Bill Gates. Although you might not agree with the hotel's claim to be "quietly democratic" when you're paying nearly $4,000 a night for an Exclusive Suite, it's true that there's nothing ostentatious about the place: It feels lived-in, like the home of a globe-trotting uncle with good taste. Rooms are frequently refurbished, but the default style is French country, with soothing cream walls, flowery curtains and furnishings, and antique prints in gilt frames. Bathrooms are generally large and well appointed, complete with toiletries from Bulgari, Molton Brown, and Penhaligon's. The gardens, with their shady pergolas and hidden benches, are delightful, and the restaurantwhich serves a surprisingly unfussy Italian menu with a focus on fresh fish and homemade pastahas an unbeatable view of the harbor. The small but efficiently run Wellness Centre was added in 2003. Since 1998, the Splendido has had a waterside offshoot, the 16-room Splendido Mare. The bedrooms tend to be a little smaller than those in the mother ship; about half have a ringside view of the Piazzetta, Portofino's waterfront square. Breakfast is served in the Chuflay Bar Restaurant downstairs, which is also a great spot for people watching around aperitivo time. For those looking for more privacy at mealtime, there's also a panoramic rooftop terrace.
Closed early November through early March.