It is tough to describe our six glorious days at Castello Di Reschio in Umbria, Italy, without resorting to clichés and big words that sound like overstatements. Awesome. Amazing. Surreal. Idyllic. Exquisite.
But when we review our images, videos and stories from Di Reschio, the one thing that has become even clearer over time is the feeling that we were transported to some unspecified luxurious time period between ancient history and tomorrow. A perfect “time is standing still” moment, offering relaxation and pampering, yet managing to surprise and delight at every turn.
With the estate itself a testament to how beautifully structures can age, combined with the extraordinary attention to detail in the restoration, and topped with every modern amenity one could wish for, it all appeared – and still does – almost too beautiful and perfect to be true.
We kept thinking that it resembled a movie set, yet there wasn’t a single fake or pretentious item in the place. Everything felt that it belonged here, and somehow always had belonged, even if reality proved otherwise.
The back story of this incredible estate and the family that runs it, is just as unbelievable and romantic as any fantasy we could conjure up. In 1994, Count Antonio Bolza and his wife, Angelika, purchased Castello di Reschio, a 2,700-acre estate in the hills of Umbria, Italy. They set out to restore and renovate the disused farmhouses on the estate that dates back to 1202.
Over time, the Count’s son Benedickt Bolza (now known as Count Bolza) graduated from architecture school and joined the family operation, taking over the planning, design and renovation.
He met his future wife, Nencia (of the princely Corsini family of Florence), at Castello di Reschio where she was hired by his parents in 1998 to paint decorative trompe l’oeil murals.
Eventually, the couple took over the estate’s largest castle as the home for themselves and their now five children. It was the most challenging to renovate, says Count Bolza, but it is beyond amazing. The couple has no regrets about the painstaking work they’ve done on it and offer tours for the guests.
So far, they have renovated about 25 villas on the estate, catering to an international elite client base of buyers and renters.
We stayed at the Palazzo that sleeps 10. The staircase in the centre of the house alone took our breath away. And the attention to detail in absolutely everything on the entire estate. From custom-design (by Count Bolza) furniture to incredible amenities including Ortiga Sicilia toiletries that we completely fell in love with.
On arrival, at lunchtime, our house was bustling with cooking and soon a delicious lunch was served at the huge table. This was a precursor to the astonishing mealtimes we were to enjoy throughout our stay.
Swimming pools, gyms, tennis, cooking lessons at your own house, and eating, of course, eating. Everything as fresh as can be and everything produced locally.
As we were focusing on doing as little as possible, we were delighted to be spectators at Conte Bolza’s Tuesday evening dressage performance. As he and his white horse moved elegantly around the paddock, we were seated under a maharaja tent, and served Italian hors d’oeuvres and wine.
The entire setup felt like we were witnessing an old-world European aristocratic tradition, and we were probably not too far wrong. Dressage does have deep European roots dating back to before Renaissance, and horses have played a vital role in this former frontier fief situated on the border between the former Papal States and the Grand Duchy of Tuscany.
And within a five-minute drive from our Palazzo was the estate’s restaurant, Osteria – that’s how large the estate is – where chef Marco Pellegrini creates the Di Reschio cuisine.
Unpretentious, delicious, fresher than fresh. Italian. Perfect bright-red vine ripened tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, basil, pasta, gazpacho, bread, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and chilli, and wine. You get the idea. We think we have found our heaven on earth and it is called Castello Di Reschio.
A short video we produced on the most extraordinary place we experienced last summer - Castello Di Reschio in Umbria, Italy. - Bill Tikos
Our search for much-needed calm, relaxation and revitalization ended earlier this month in Bali, Indonesia, where we spent two blissful weeks.
If you, too, want to give your weary body and mind a complete vacation, head to Southeast Asia where they really know how to do luxury relaxation well. They understand design; they set the trends. Some of the most luxurious resorts we have experienced have been in this region.
We’d seen the huge amount of media coverage of two Alila Villas properties — Alila Villas Soori and Alila Villas Uluwatu — and we wanted to experience them first-hand. We were not disappointed.
This is how to really experience Bali: Start at Alila Villas Soori for three nights to rest off your jetlag and get used to being relaxed. Then head to Central Bali’s Ubud and stay three nights at Four Seasons Sayan - Ubud. A few days’ stay at Ubud is a must for the bike tours, monkey forest and rafting experiences. Then continue your blissful vegging for another three or four nights at Alila Villas Uluwatu.
The best time to visit this region is from July to September when the weather is absolutely perfect.
We recommend skipping South Bali’s Seminyak although that is where all the shops, restaurants and bars are located. We found it to have the atmosphere of an adult school spring break with a few too many drunken tourists in hair braids. If you do go, enjoy dinner or lunch at the Fire Restaurant at W Hotel Bali or Sarong Restaurant or Metis Restaurant and experience the incredible massage services at Jari Menari the home base of many of the massage therapists that work at the resorts as well.
Our first stop was Alila Villas Soori, located a 90-minute drive from the Ngurah Rai International Airport. When you book with Soori, they will email you a confirmation to personalize your stay.
This includes everything from what kind of foods you don't eat to what kind of music you would like in your room to what experiences you would like to include in your stay.
The bliss starts on your arrival at the airport where a Soori concierge will greet you, take your luggage off the carousel, zoom you through express customs and whisk you to a car with fresh cold face towels and nibbles on your way to Soori. You feel like a rock star minus the noisy fans.
The images in this post are exactly how Soori looks like. Designed by Soo Kian Chan of SCDA Architects, the hotel’s contemporary villas are designed in a way you’d like your home to be designed. Alila Villas Soori’s setting is breathtaking, yet the villas feel like beach homes.
The resort’s harmonious design combines cool, grey and black volcanic stone and polished teak. The interiors are dramatic but understated.
The 48 villas are spacious, all with perfect postcard views, private pools and a fabulous outdoor deck. The villas’ standard equipment includes an Apple TV, iPod and a Nespresso machine, dramatic bath for two, an indoor and outdoor shower and linen sheets. Each villa is assigned a butler/host who will look after everything. We recommend the Ocean pool Villas.
The beach is covered in glittering black sand that looks as if fairy dust had been sprinkled on it. The waves are extremely strong which makes it virtually impossible to swim in the ocean, plus at night it can be quite loud so ear plugs are necessary if you are a light sleeper.
The ten bedroom Residence (pictured above and below) offers a sense of tranquility in seclusion with its lavish indoor and outdoor spaces spread over two levels, surrounded by West Bali’s pristine coastal beauty showcasing uninterrupted views of the Indian Ocean. Two master bedrooms and adjoining suites are on the upper level, each with its oversized Jacuzzi, in and outdoor shower and walk-in closet. Landscaped gardens within living spaces open onto the pool area creating generous living and dining spaces, which lead out to a private library, all interwoven with pavilions, and a 20-metre infinity pool, fronting an endless ocean beyond.
The massages and spa treatments are some of the best we experienced in Bali! Book one the moment you arrive to get you super relaxed.
We loved the breakfast menu that changed daily offering small servings of delicacies. The fresh juices are amazing as was the omnipresent Mangosteen fruit.
This is the kind of resort you don't leave or explore purely due to its location because everything is at least one hour away - (UBUD - Seminyak). You arrive, you sun bake, you read, you have spa-treatments, you eat, you switch off - you just enjoy it for what it has to offer. - Bill Tikos
Best time to visit Bali: July - Septemeber
Eco luxury does not get any better than this. The Singapore based Alila brand has a firm grasp of what it takes to do it right. It is a brand to watch in the coming years with 20 new properties launching in Asia as well as Portugal.
We are most excited about Alila’s Alila Villas properties. Having just spent time at their sister hotel Alila Villas Soori, we were expecting the same level of luxury and care at Alila Villas Uluwatu.
Uluwatu is only 30 minutes from the airport (depending on traffic) and does indeed have the same WOW effect as Soori.
Stunning views, cliff-top balconies overlooking the ocean, beautifully designed villas with their own pool and decking, indoor and outdoor showers and just space, so much lovely space!
This is one of the reasons why the Southeast Asian luxury is so incredible: They understand space. They design spaces that make you immediately feel you are not “in Kansas” any more. It is unlike anything we run into in our everyday lives, or even in our customary luxury moments.
They make you feel that you are somewhere special and the fact they use sustainable materials in their design makes you feel smugly happy about splurging a bit.
The service at Uluwatu is on a level you seldom see. You are greeted by name throughout the resort. The staff at the restaurants knows you preferences, dislikes and allergies but makes no big show of it. It is like a great host, a close friend would treat you.
Everyone was extremely well trained and that, we believe, comes from managing director, Sean Brennan, the Aussie who has spent the last 13 years in the hospitality industry in Asia and who is a force of nature on his own.
Over our years of staying at hundreds of hotels, we have seldom, if ever, met a hotel manager like him. Sean is the type of hotel manager you would pouch for your own hotel if you had one.
He is more hands-on with guests and staff than anyone we have observed. He greets guests personally on arrival, shows them around, offers drinks, and sits with them at lunch and dinner, literally moving from table to table making sure the guests are enjoying themselves. He is a pleasure to watch, as he clearly loves what he does.
Just like Soori - the images here show exactly what the resort looks like and these last three images were taken by my own camera.
And guests become quite giddy and silly about their dramatic surroundings and service. Guest with their $10,000 cameras with super zoom lenses took pictures constantly posing by the pool, by the cliff, in the villas, complete with costume changes every few hours. It was hilarious to watch.
We would like to help introduce you, too, to Alila Villas Uluwatu. Mention TCH and you will receive a 90-minute complimentary spa treatment per guest. - Bill Tikos
Best time to visit Bali: July - Septemeber
La Banane on St. Barts is an exclusive, retro-chic hotel of nine distinctive bungalows. This hotel's cool vibe of the 1950s is not a fake as it has a great storied past and its stories are based on real life, real events, real personalities.
La Banane's founding father was the late Jean-Marie Rivière, a luminary of the Parisian cabaret world, who was often photographed with Zaza Gabor, Brigitte Bardot and other stars.
His first sexy revue called La Banane was performed in this hotel where celebrities and Rivière's friends mixed and partied, and enjoyed the green lushness of the surrounding nature. The welcoming Rivière and his show ruled the hotel and gave it its name, its sexy glamorous air and the show-piece island in the middle of the pool.
And even more real-life story has been added when La Banane was recently completely revamped. Each of the bungalows and all of the common areas are furnished with pieces that one would expect to see in a home of an avid collector of original pieces by great modernists, with Le Corbusier the chief figure.
Several of the pieces are originals created in the mid-1950s when Pierre Jeanneret, went to India to help his cousin, Le Corbusier, who was creating a bold, new city, Chandigarh in the Punjab. There they designed and commissioned local craftsmen to build leading-edge, new-style furniture of rosewood and teak.
Each bungalow at Le Banana is named after an artist, designer or craftsman, ranging from Hungarian designer Mathieu Mategot (1910-2001) to American painter and sculptor Alexander Calder (1898-1976). Each piece of furniture is individually identified and its origin and design explained, so that the guests can appreciate the pieces that surround them. - Bill Tikos
Paris loves to show off. The recently re-opened Le Royal Monceau is by far the showiest hotel in which the TCH team has ever stayed. This is a storied hotel and a location with a fantastic, historical past, but the latest incarnation is reimagined by Philippe Starck.
We are not huge fans of Starck as we tend to consider him one of the somewhat “gimmicky” designers — together with Karim Rashid or Marcel Wanders — whose creations sometimes transcend time and become classics, yet at others appear like a flash-in-a-pan that you only want to see once. This kind of design is fun and quirky, but we get tired of it very quickly.
In Le Royal Monceau, Philippe Starck has created a classic. Two years after possibly the wildest ‘demolition party’ in history, Paris’ newest palace hotel is THE place to stay.
The location itself is a winner: Five minutes’ walk from Arc De Triomphe and Champs-Elysées.
The entry to Le Royal Monceau is super-grand, from the six doormen to the first glimpse of the foyer — it feels like you’ve walked onto the movie set of Eyes Wide Shut. The luxe-chic interiors are the grandest we’ve seen but it’s somehow magically NOT over the top. It works in Paris; it really works wonderfully.
The hotel’s point of difference is a serious commitment to art. It has its own gallery, Art District, with the inaugural Basquiat show, of works selected from Enrico Navarra’s collection. There’s also an art bookshop and a dedicated blog Artforbreakfast.
There’s also a whiff of rock’n'roll, with each room featuring its own guitar, with a portable recording studio available to guests. Trailblazing fashion multibrand, L’Eclaireur, will also host a show room in the hotel. Plus there’s a Clarins spa, Pierre Hermé desserts, a cigar smoking room, a cinema, an extensive garden.
The rooms are fantastic, and for 800 Euro a night, you’d want them to be.
We were upgraded to the hotel’s best suite on the top floor with an attic-style roof. We entered a room to find a service of croissants, macaroons, coffee, water, grapes and oranges presented in a way fit for a president. The room has a small lounge with a large mirror leaning against the wall like a painting. The mirror miraculously becomes a TV with a switch of the remote control.
While the bed with its Italian crisp linen is divine, the bathroom is a real eye-opener. It’s like ‘Studio 54 meets a Puff Daddy video’ or like bathing on the face of a Chanel diamond wrist watch. All mirrors on every wall. You either love it or hate it.
Le Royal Monceau has it all, including all the beautiful people. The in-crowd has found it and the breakfast room was buzzing with film directors, actors models, advertising gurus, fashion types ; everyone dressed immaculately looking like a tear-sheet from Paris Vogue.
Power meetings were happening over lunch and at dinner/drinks. The place was buzzing with the most flamboyant characters we’ve seen in a while and literally every night was busy. We can only imagine the vibe of this place when Paris Fashion Week comes along! - Bill Tikos
OMG! This is insane! Those were the most common — and in some situations the only — comments we made during our stay at Saffire Freycinet, the luxury resort that just-opened on Tasmania’s East Coast in Australia.
Very few resorts manage to get all the ingredients right when opening but we can assure you, this beauty of a hotel has ticked all the right boxes. We were literally left speechless — and that takes some doing — as we feasted our eyes on the breathtaking vistas, indulged our senses in our gorgeous suite and in the spa, and devoured the food that made any thought of a diet ridiculous. A four-hour walk on the pristine beach helped, too.
These were the first notes we scribbled just after departing: “Expectations were far exceeded. The resort, the location, the backdrop, the mountain walks, the spa, the room, the excellent service, the attention to detail, the happy staff, and the food, OMG the food! — Saffire is truly one of Australia's most exciting places to stay.” Without wanting to sound cocky, it takes a lot to get us to write something like this.
In the suite, the amazing bathroom was all marble with heated tiles. Our suite’s amenities included, of course, wireless internet and remote controlled blinds, but the best part was the sweet turn-down service. They supplied a hot water bottle for the bed and a thermos of hot chocolate as it is winter in Tasmania.
One of the highlights of our stay was Saffire’s restaurant Palate. The multi-course degustation menus matched with the outstanding local wines are the specialty of head chef, Hugh Whitehouse, who is an Australian icon and a master of fresh, local, imaginative food prepared and served with style, love and care. We would go back for the food alone.
Designed by Tasmanian architects Morris Nunn and Associates, Saffire consists of only 20 suites ranging in size from 80 m² (860 sq. Ft.) to 140 m² (1506 sq. ft.). The buildings are super-modern yet reflect the surrounding environment perfectly. Waves, manta rays, sand dunes are all forms that come to mind both inside and out.
The interior design, by Chhada Siembieda Australia, takes advantage of the surrounding materials and vistas. Stone and timber are the key materials but they are used in a light, airy fashion. The colour palette reflects the surroundings as well focusing on soft grays, greens and a snap of orange.
It truly was an amazing stay, and it felt sinfully delicious to work on our laptops while surrounded by this kind of luxury and gazing at the amazing views this place affords. - Bill Tikos
Rates start from $1550 per night, per suite for 2 people and includes dinner, all beverage.
Elite, exclusive, private - Soho House Group’s properties continue to exude an air of privilege and luxury that entices members and non-members with its exclusive, members-only spaces, hotel suites, several restaurant brands and the Cowshed spa brand.
The newest property, Soho House Berlin is Soho House Group’s first outside-UK European property and its largest so far.
It is a private members club and 40-room hotel located on eight floors of a 1928 late-Bauhaus building on Torstrasse in Berlin’s famous Mitte district.
The hotel rooms offer the typical upscale fare: custom beds, rainforest showers, Samsung flatscreens and in-house Cowshed spa products. Some even have restored vintage record players and vinyl LPs to evoke a retro industrial feel also reinforced by exposed concrete and dark paneling.
Soho House Berlin’s hotel rooms are a delightfully mad yet subtle mix of this hard, angular visual language with a padded-velvet lush and prissy 1930s glamour. Soho House’s cool interiors are the work of in-house designer Susie Atkinson and London-based Michaelis Boyd Associates.
Following the concept of Soho Houses in London and West Hollywood, a Cecconi’s restaurant will open in Berlin’s Soho House this fall.
Soho House Group operates five Soho House clubs and hotels in the UK and one in each of New York, West Hollywood and now Berlin. The next property, Soho Beach House Miami will open this fall in Mid-Beach, Miami, in the historic Sovereign hotel. - Tuija Seipell
When you travel constantly, you are not easily impressed by hotels. You have no patience for pretentious or poor service, and you have seen enough amenity kits and fluffy robes to turn you off bathing permanently. Design does not even enter the picture until the all-too-common problem issues, such as bad pillows, no wifi or no internet connection at all, noisy surroundings and slow service, are eliminated.
However, if the service and comfort issues are handled well, we start to really appreciate design. This is why, when in London, TCH stays at the Firmdale Hotels. Our favourite is The Soho Hotel, situated right in the centre of Soho but tucked away in a quiet lane with theatres, shops and cafes within walking distance. The rooms are spacious and luxurious, and the penthouse is extraordinary.
Firmdale is a UK-based boutique hotel operator with six hotels in London and now one in New York. Firmdale is privately owned by husband and wife team of Tim and Kit Kemp. In each Firmdale property, Kit Kemp has been in charge of interior design and her attention to detail is impeccable. Colour, texture, quirky themes and art collections are part of her signature style that manages to translate into an inviting and beautiful hotel experience. Kit Kemp’s eclectic but luxurious design work makes her hotels akin to the refined British Airways business class.
Late last fall, Firmdale opened its first-of-many-to-come North American hotel, the Crosby Street Hotel, in New York. Again, it is in the perfect location in the heart of SoHo between Prince, Spring and Lafayette Streets. It is a few cobblestones away from all the action, but on a quiet street.
The brand new 11-storey, 86-room Crosby Street Hotel was built on a vacant parking lot over a two-year period. A short film by Jean Roman Seyfried “The Reconstruction of My Views” chronicles the construction period using time-lapse photography. The film premiered in the hotel’s own 99-seat screening room. (all images here are of Crosby Street Hotel). - Bill Tikos
Firmdale's next opening will be in London. They have acquired a site in Piccadilly (called Ham Yard) and will begin to develop later this year.
Mamilla Hotel in Jerusalem describes itself as the first luxury lifestyle hotel in Israel and Jerusalem. With its city-centre location and views of the old city walls, it connects old and new gracefully. Mamilla is a refined and elegant reminder that just as the word “urban” comes from the ancient Latin word urbs for “city,” luxurious city living in aesthetic harmony with the surroundings is not something we have invented in the last few hundred years. So, yes, this may indeed be the first luxury lifestyle hotel in Jerusalem that we will have the chance to enjoy today, but it probably has predecessors in the distant past of this historic, global city.
Deftly, by letting the milieu and setting speak their language, Mamilla’s main creative forces, Massachusetts-based Moshe Safdie and Milan’s Piero Lissoni, have avoided one of the syndromes that has become boringly common in hotels aspiring to exude luxury and cool — the overuse of black and white with a few splashes of bright colour.
Many of us have vivid sensory memories about Jerusalem: the ever-present sand and stone, the strong sun, the subtle surface textures, and the soft, sun-bleached tones of colour. Mamilla expresses all of this, and that harmony creates a peaceful, classy and confidently un-trendy hotel environment.
To protect Jerusalem’s ancient ambiance, all new construction must by law use the local light-hued limestone called Jerusalem Stone. In this hotel, the use of the stone is prevalent, but not pretentious. For example, in each of the 194 rooms, the bedside walls are of exposed Jerusalem Stone in harmony with the massive metal headboards and dark wooden floors, and in contrast with the modern, Piero Lissoni custom-designed furnishing and bathrooms.
The Israel-born architect Moshe Safdie is also the planner of the adjacent Alrov Mamilla Avenue, a shopping and entertainment area overlooking the Old City.
The Mamilla Hotel is part of Alrov Luxury Hotels Holding – the hotel and hospitality subsidiary of Tel-Aviv-based real estate company Alrov, founded in 1978. In addition to Mamilla, Alrov Luxury Hotels owns the David Citadel Hotel in Jerusalem and is developing two properties in heritage buildings in Europe: the Conservatorium Hotel in Amsterdam and the Café Royal Hotel in London. - Tuija Seipell
See also Neve Tzedek Hotel, Tel Aviv
When in Barcelona, you will want to check into one of the several new or refurbished and distinctively cool hotels that have opened there recently. Among them, W Barcelona, located on La Barceloneta and designed by architect Ricardo Bofill, and the swish apartment residences of El Palauet that we featured in October.
The latest hotel launch capturing design media attention is Mandarin Oriental Barcelona. The Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group operates in 25 countries, but this is its first entry into southern Europe. Mandarin Oriental Barcelona’s official opening was celebrated in November 2009 with a lavish gala attended by the city’s style leaders and elite.
The hotel’s cool factor is a lucky combination of three elements: The convenience of the central location on Passeig de Gràcia, the good bones of the refurbished 20th-century former bank building, and most significant, the tour de force of design by Spanish-born Milano-based architect, Patricia Urquiola, responsible for the interior decor of the 98-room hotel, including most of the furnishings.
Urquiola is best known for her prolific career in designing clean-lined furniture and accessories for brands such as Foscarini, B&B Italia, Alessi, Capellini, Cassina, Knoll and Moroso. At Mandarin Oriental Barcelona she has created a strong sense of timeless elegance by using white confidently and lavishly, and by applying a Scandinavian sense of scale and clean lines.
To soften the linear angularity, Urquiola added beautiful touches that reflect the weightlessness and precious fragility of origami or intricate lace. The overall effect is stunning. - Tuija Seipell