Is­land Life

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

Virtuozity - - Destination -

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.

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