Imagine it. You’re coursing through the crystalline waters of Lake Como in a vintage mahogany speedboat. It’s a Riva, the Cadillac of wooden-hulled speedboats, the ones that epitomized the heyday, glamorous times of the 1950s and 1960’s in Italy – and beyond. Like a fetching duo from a James Bond film escaping a villain’s grasp, you power toward shore, as terraced, mustard and saffron-hued, villages and imposing villas, as fancy as wedding cakes, become a blur. She’s wearing a scarf, and it flutters in the wind like a kite’s tail. You’re both sipping champagne, though it’s hard to drink at such velocity. When you dock, the wind’s music lingers as a whisper in your ears, and as you walk toward your hotel, Vista Palazzo Lago di Como, the euphoria fuels your steps. “What shall we do tomorrow?” you ask her. “Let’s drive the Ferrari,” she answers, saying what you hoped she would, knowing the hotel can arrange it, just as they did today’s outing on the lake.
Hotel Vista Palazzo, lording above Como’s Piazza Cavour has 18 seductive rooms, some with balconies overlooking the lake. An amalgam of splendorous Italian design, the intimate, romantic refuge brims with regal details, from marble terrazzo floors to Dedar fabrics and Castiglioni lamps. On the rooftop, a bar and restaurant serve contemporary Italian specialities. In your suite, your bathtub, by a window, has water views. On your nightstand, housekeeping has left you chocolates and a journal to record your days. It’s easy to imagine just staying within this sanctum forever. But, this family-owned hotel knows how to tempt you outside. Using their local connections, they offer guests a realm of once-in-a-lifetime experiences (like driving a Ferrari with the assistance of a personal coach, exploring the lake’s largesse in an opulent Riva, gallery hopping with a local artist or wine tasting in a nearby castle). You wish you could stay for a year to try everything. Too bad the honeymoon can’t last that long. But, no worries. You’ve already booked to return—for your anniversary.
From the sixth floor rooftop playground of Florence’s Grand Hotel Minerva, you sip an Aperol Spritz and marvel at the astonishing Brunelleschi’s Dome. It looks close enough to touch. You take a break from the view to splash in the pool. Just then, the sun sets behind you, rendering the sky a kaleidoscopic melange of pinks and purples. It has been a perfect day, so you’re not surprised to see her face light up with a halo of golden light. You might think she were that woman from that Botticelli painting you saw today in the Uffizi Gallery – if she weren’t your new wife. Continuing your Italian fantasy honeymoon, you took the train from Lake Como to Florence early this morning (thank you Eurail passes, which made the journey easy), dragged your suitcases across the cobblestones the short way from the train station to Piazza Maria Novella, where you found this 150-year old, family-owned, totally refurbished, chic haven of a hotel. Part of a 13th-century structure, once a hostel for pilgrims, it evokes Mid-Century Florentine savvy with leather-sheathed doors, gilded mirrors, retro furniture opulently upholstered, and modern art. Some suites’ windows frame Giotto’s Tower in the distance. One has an ancient fresco. Your’s, the Romantic Suite, features a Juliet balcony, overlooking the cloister. Admit it, you’re smitten.
A few days in Florence is never enough – you find that out the hard way. Nevertheless, Grand Hotel Minerva’s stellar location makes it easy to see the sights – from the Pitti Palace to the Medici Chapels. One day you take a day trip by train to Lucca for lunch, another day you explore Pisa because you have to get that Instagram photo of yourself holding “up” the famous leaning tower. At MamaFlorence, an acclaimed cooking school, you put on aprons and learn to cook Tuscan-style. But, by far the highlight is the VIP tour you booked with Access Italy. Skipping the lines, you enter the Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral. Accompanied by your guide, Veronica, and an official staff member, you climb a legion of twisting stairs to the rooftop, taking a passeggiata that wraps around the Duomo itself. Down below, the other tourists looked like pieces of confetti awhirl. Allowed to plod carefully beside the masterpiece where few people ever have the chance to wander, you take advantage of the extreme exclusivity provided by Access Italy—the only guide service to offer this tour that walks the roofline all around the famous dome. By the time you teeter back down the spiral staircase, join the throngs and look back up at the monument, it all seems like a dream.
If You Go:
Vista Palazzo Lago di Como
Grand Hotel Minerva