Looking for a relaxing stay after the crush of activities at Venice? Here are a trio of locales that will intrigue showbizzers.
Eternally worth a visit, the Tuscan city of Florence has updated in recent years, improving the visitor experience.
From the central piazza outside the Duomo — now closed to vehicles — to high-style hotels, Florence’s Renaissance core beckons just two hours by train and 2 1/2 by car from Venice.
Florence’s famed art attractions, the Uffizi Gallery and Michelangelo’s David at the Galleria dell’Accademia, have express ticket options available to avoid the often-long lines. The rooftop cafe at the Uffizi is a pleasant spot to get a new angle on the Duomo and a close-up view of the Palazzo Vecchio’s upper floors and landmark 14th century-built tower.
Tuscany is fabled for its culinary arts: study and learn to cook in the regional style with American-born chef and cookbook author Judy Witts Francini (divinacucina.com) who conducts one-day classes, market tours and weeklong cooking courses.
Since 1988, Francini has been a go-to resource for foodies traveling to Florence and Tuscany. Her classes offer intros to local bakers, purveyors, meals at authentic trattorias and cuisine based on local ingredients.
The largest spa in the city center, the Four Seasons Florence is in a restored 500-year-old Renaissance palace. Its indulgent treatments include a gold dust-infused facial mask and body massage using virgin olive oil. (Four Seasons Florence, 99 Borgo Pinti, phone +39 (0) 55 262 61).
The Gallery Hotel Art (5 Vicolo dell’Oro, phone +39 (0) 55 272 63), one of the Ferragamo family’s four Lungarno Collection hotels, is showing “On the Heels of Marilyn,” a Marilyn Monroe photo retrospective, through Sept. 15.
Rooms at the contempo-designed hotel have leather finishes, sandstone bathrooms and Salvatore Ferragamo toiletries. Free entrance to the Salvatore Ferragamo Museum comes with the stay; the designer was known for crafting footwear for Hollywood thesps such as Judy Garland, Audrey Hepburn and Greta Garbo.
Need inspiration for the next screenplay? The Hotel Savoy, one of the Rocco Forte Hotels, conducts a nightly ghost tour that revives Florence’s paranormal past from executions to haunted piazzas. (Hotel Savoy, 7 Piazza della Repubblica, phone +39 (0) 55 273 51).
Overlooking Lake Garda, northeast of Venice, and surrounded by olive and lemon groves, the Lefay Resort & Spa (118 Via Feltrinelli, Gargnano, phone +39 (0) 36 5241 800), is a modern eco-resort. An infinity pool, full-service spa with five types of sauna and treatments that embrace Chinese therapies are on the extensive spa menu. Built into the terraced hillside, the Lefay uses solar panels and a biomass plant, which produces thermal energy, to power its facilities. Other energy and water-saving systems distinguish the property.
Far from tourist haunts, opened in March, Francis Ford Coppola’s Palazzo Margherita is a nine-room, restored manse in the Basilicata region of southern Italy, close to the white sand beaches of the Ionian Sea.
Coppola’s daughter Sofia was married here in August 2011 and his connections to the spot are numerous, as Bernalda was his grandfather’s ancestral village.
Many original features of the 1892-built palazzo remain, such as the marble and tiled floors, although Coppola and his family, working with designer Jacques Grange, have added personal decorative flourishes to the frescoed walls and ceilings.
High-tech amenities include free Wi-Fi, HD 3D TVs, Blu-ray players and a salon-screening room connected to a digital library of Italian films. Dining gets the star treatment here, too. Guests can take part in cooking classes and are encouraged to learn more about local cuisine, artisan wine makers and small family farms. (Palazzo Margherita, 64 Corso Umberto, Bernalda, phone +39 (0) 83 554 9060).