SET AMONGST THE BREAKERS OF THE ADRIATIC, SVETI STEFAN ISN’T JUST A LUXURY HOTEL; IT’S AN ISLAND AND TOWN IN ITS OWN RIGHT. VIRTUOZITY EXPLORES ITS ANCIENT CHARMS
AS BOND LAIRS GO, very few can beat the Sveti Stefan Hotel in Montenegro. It just ticks all the boxes. Originally a fishing village perched on its own rock just off the shoreline of the Adriatic in the former Yugoslavian republic of Montenegro, it reeks of world domination plans.
It has tall, rocky walls, with the sea crashing against them, perfect for a Bondesque sea approach. It also has arrow slits in the walls, rambling corridors and twisting alleyways to negotiate whilst being pursued by a bunch of henchmen. As a film set, it’s a location scout’s nirvana.
Although the weather is hardly Mediterranean, on approach the hotel still retains a serious wow factor. Linked to the shore by a thin isthmus, you enter through a well-protected entrance, which is sure to have seen some serious action over the centuries.
I’m staying in one of the upstairs cottages, requiring a hike up a small flight of clearly ancient, worn stairs. Behind the creaky wooden door is a bit of a surprise. Inside it’s thoroughly modern, with all the amenities you’d expect from a five-star hotel. The owners have clearly been careful about how they integrate the things people now take for granted into the old buildings, as it’s all very well hidden in the beautifully appointed rooms.
There’s excellent Wi-fi, a large-screen TV and good heating for the colder months.
ment turned it into an upscale resort for their political cronies. At one point, one of the churches on the island was turned into a communist casino—surely these are two words that shouldn’t really coexist in the same sentence?
During its many lives, the island has hosted a range of famous visitors, including Orson Welles, Elizabeth Taylor, Sophia Loren, Princess Margaret and Kirk Douglas. Famous tennis player Novak Djokovic even used the island for his wedding.
Nowadays, of course, the hotel enjoys a more peaceful existence. Part of the Aman Hotels group, the resort is now one of the most recognised and sought-after destinations on the Adriatic.
The hotel has 58 guest rooms, cottages and suites in total, including eight suites that are part of the Villa Milocer, which is on the mainland, away from the island. The villa, which was built between 1934 and 1936, was once upon a time the summer residence of Queen Marija Karadordevic.
The hotel’s dining revolves around the piazza, an open-air square in the heart of the island’s village, which includes the Taverna, which serves breakfast and Mediterranean dishes for lunch and dinner.
There’s also the Enoteca, which is located on a terrace facing the sea, serving al fresco tapas and drinks. The piazza also includes the Pasticceria, serving traditional pastries for breakfast and lunch.
The three main dining venues on the mainland part of the resort are the Queen’s Chair, serving Pan-adriatic-italian cuisine and overlooking the Bay of Budva; the Olive Restaurant, overlooking the beach, which serves a range of cut-to-order meats and seafood prepared on two signature wood-fired grills and an olive-wood-fired rotisserie; and the Beach Café, in an alfresco setting, flanked by shady cypress trees and century-old olive groves. Inside the villa, the Dining Room, overlooking the Milo er Beach, with its seven-table dining space and grand open fireplace, is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, as is the Loggia, with its colonnade, and the Living Room which serves locally caught seafood and produce.
Despite the inclement weather, I slept with my window open and fell asleep to the sound of waves crashing against the rocks below. As a setting there is little to rival the Sveti Stefan. It’s well appointed, clean and the staff are excellent. Unfortunately you need more than one night to see the place properly, as I only managed to explore small parts of it.
This hotel clearly obeys the old hotel mantra of location, location, location. In that regard the Sveti Stefan has it pretty much spot on.