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Francis Bown, Bown's Best

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See below for the latest December 2014 Reviews

Brufani Palace Hotel, Perugia, Italy | Bown's Best | Francis Bown


There is only one place to stay in Perugia. And stay in Perugia you must, for any traveller worth his salt has to visit the Cathedral – wherein is housed Our Lady’s wedding ring. This remarkable relic is kept within a silver tabernacle high above one of the altars. Each year, using a system of ropes and wheels and pulleys, the shimmering masterpiece descends to earth for the last three days of July – doubtless, to the ‘restrained’ enthusiasm of the assembled crowd – and the object of devotion is taken out and exposed for veneration. Is that not irresistible? And is it not typical of the wonders of Umbria? I do not think I will ever exhaust the riches of this region. It has 800 mediaeval towns and villages and each has something to offer the civilized visitor. And the region’s capital, Perugia is particularly blessed. For the corso Vannucci is one of the most beautiful thoroughfares in Europe. This is the central axis of the magnificent old town, perched upon its hill above the ‘new’ city. The corso Vannucci runs into the piazza Italia, and here – exactly where every person of taste and discernment wants to be – there is the hotel in which you must stay: The Brufani Palace – with its stone fireplaces, columns, parquet floors and ancient paintings. It exudes the sort of patrician refinement I love.

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Castello Del Nero, Florence, Italy | Bown's Best | Francis Bown


The Castello del Nero is everyone’s dream of Tuscany. A restored 12th Century castle, full of vaulted ceilings and ancient frescoes, it sits upon a gentle hill, between Florence and Siena, surrounded by its own vineyards and olive groves. If any location in Europe can be described as idyllic, this is it. Indeed, when you visit you might care to go to the Castello’s exquisite little chapel – dedicated to St Michael the Archangel – to give thanks for the concentration of so much charm and beauty in one place. It is good that the Castello is now a luxury hotel; but it is even better that it is now such a very good luxury hotel. I attribute this in no small part to the excellence of the General Manager, Fabio Datteroni.

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Hotel Ducessa Isabella, Ferrara, Italy | Bown's Best


The Duhessa Isabella is a famous hotel in one of Italy’s most beautiful cities, Ferrara. It inhabits a Renaissance palace built around 1500, and is a five minute taxi ride from the Cathedral, an edifice which possesses a sumptuous Romanesque façade, an 18th Century interior and a row of shops along its southern outer wall. This is a town which likes the unusual, and the Duchessa Isabella has its unusual moments, for it was furnished by those who clearly had no truck with the minimalist school of interior decoration. At no other hotel, for example, have I been blessed with a pink frilly shower curtain. Some of the décor might be in need of a spot of refreshment, but the overall effect of all the paintings, the gilt, the ornaments, the trompe l’oeil and the lace doilies is to create an atmosphere of sumptuous, if faded, luxury. I liked it.

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Francis Bown 2003
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