There is no doubt in my mind that the Belmond Hotel Splendido in Portofino is one of the best run, most relaxing hotels in the world. I attribute this happy state of affairs to the fact that it possesses one of the world’s great hotel managers, Mr Ermes de Megni (photographed, with your correspondent). This fine gentleman - when he is not away collecting awards and titles for his establishment (‘Best Hotel in the World’, and so on) – has the gift of ubiquity. He is here, there and everywhere at his property, ensuring that the highest standards are maintained. If there is ever a slight hiccup in the service – and such a thing is astonishingly rare in this manicured corner of Paradise – he will know all about it, and it will be rectified. His principle is the one which should guide every luxury hotel: when you are striving for perfection, only the best will do.
There are few pleasures more exquisite than sitting on a terrace in a comfortable chair with a pot of tea on the table and with a soothing panorama of Lake Como upon which to gaze. Thus did I pass my afternoons at the wonderful Grand Hotel Tremezzo next to the Lago di Como. Across the water the pretty little town of Bellagio nestled on the opposite shore. All was as it should be, and as it has been since this imposing Belle Époque palace opened its doors in 1910. For over a century the great and the good have relaxed within its gilded halls – including, in 1934, the fabulous Greta Garbo.
Italy is blessed with many beautiful little towns. Sestri Levante, on the Ligurian Coast, is one of the most delightful. You can picture it by thinking of a larger version of Portofino. Its proximity to the A12 motorway means that it is readily accessible to those of us who like to motor in France and in Italy near the Mediterranean. Having found it, I am slightly shocked that my discovery of its charms was not made decades ago. The prettiness of the seaside setting is enhanced by the discreet symmetry of the architecture. Colourful harmony is all around. This is a place one likes immediately – once one has negotiated the highways of the modern town and reached the quaint streets and promenades of the Old Town. And looking out over and above this gorgeous scene is a charming hostelry, the Hotel Vis à Vis.
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