HOTEL CIPRIANI, ITALY It is impossible not to fall in love with a hotel at which you arrive by motor launch and a waiter who looks like an Armani model arrives unsummoned to present you with a bellini, made from fresh white peaches, and a thin slice of margherita pizza. On its own Venetian island, Isola della Guidecca, Hotel Cipriani meanders through a congregation of mostly Renaissance-era buildings and offers 95 guestrooms and suites plus palatial annexes and the shadowy Casanova’s Gardens, where the famous seducer conducted his trysts. Dine at Cip’s Club on a canopied patio by the Guidecca Canal (try the baby shrimps from Lake Garda, simply dressed with olive oil and parsley) and keep an eye out for regular guest George Clooney sipping on head barman Walter Bolzonella’s special cocktail, Goodnight Amigos, made with Casamigo tequila from Clooney and Rande Gerber’s Mexican distillery. More: belmond.com.
LAWRENCE’S HOTEL, PORTUGAL Tiled Iberian villas, tiny shops stacked with linen and lace, cafes, wine bars serving crisp and green vinho verde, pretty squares and clear, cool air … UNESCO-preserved Sintra, 28km northwest of Lisbon, is the most endearing hill-town imaginable. Once the summer capital of Portuguese royalty, Sintra has also been a magnet for writers and wanderers, including Lord Byron, who refused to stay anywhere but the rose-painted Lawrence’s Hotel, perched like a belvedere, with flower-filled terraces, vaulted corridors and a wood-panelled bar. Built in 1764, Lawrence’s has 11 guestrooms, most with blue-and-white azulejos, and six suites with deep views, one of which is named for that literary lord. But Byron wouldn’t like the day-trippers nor, perhaps, the delightful hotel’s shameless trading on his name. More: lawrenceshotel.com.
HOTEL LA VOILE D’OR, FRANCE At Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, on a promontory near Nice on the Cote d’Azur, this hotel (The Golden Veil) is all about location, with blue-and-white views in three directions, including of the little port, with its billionaire yachts and cabin cruisers; even the workaday fishing craft look gussied-up for perfect picture ops. The best of the 45 shuttered chambers have balconies, marble floors, carved bedheads and armoires, and writing desks, harking back to the days when one penned letters home full of the “season’s” best gossip. It was for such socialite guests and their entourages that an Englishman, Captain TW Powell, opened the establishment in 1925, then known as Hotel du Parc, with a private beach and fine food and soon a magnet for the likes of W Somerset Maugham, David Niven and Peter Sellers. When Powell died, the local Lorenzi family took over and added a second seawater pool, olive trees and beachside restaurant. More: lavoiledor.fr. On the waterfront at St Mawes, on southern Cornwall’s Roseland peninsula, this lovely redoubt is owned by Olga Polizzi, sister of famed hotelier Rocco Forte and mother of Alex Polizzi of reality telly fame. Alex, also a hotelier, is the unflinching fixer-upper on The Hotel Inspector; she sorts out B & B and guesthouse horrors across Britain, smartening up the staff and junking the ornaments and bathroom carpets. Tresanton Hotel, in a cluster of buildings that once served as a yacht club, needs no such makeover, its decor a mix of nautical touches, bowls of hydrangeas and a palette that echoes sea and sand. Even the cheapest chambers have style; mine, No 21, is folded under the eaves, with sloping walls and navy-and-white striped flourishes, like an old-fashioned bathing box. It feels snug and secretive, with a seagull’s-eye of the fishing village. A plate of fish and chips with crushed peas and house-made tartare sauce, served in the mosaic-floored dining room, is divine. More: tresanton.com.
Clockwise from above, Hotel Cipriani; Hotel La Voile D’Or; Tresanton Hotel; Lawrence’s Hotel