Our Top Picks for a Luxurious Stay in Italy

Nick Nomi

Senior Contributor

With such a staggering wealth of culture and beauty lining Italy’s streets: towering churches and palazzi raised towards the heavens by Brunelleschi, Giotto and Raphael, it’s easy to see any visit as one of immense luxury. But woven between this everyday cultural topography is an ever-growing collection of lavish experiences, ideal for those seeking the experiential over everyday tourism. From the all-new Orient Express trains bringing La Dolce Vita to the Italian railways to the Michelin-starred restaurants of Emilia-Romagna and the Puglian village-come-hotel promising to merge hyper locality with luxury living, these are some of our favourite luxury experiences in Italy today.

La Dolce Vita, a new Luxury train from Orient Express

Train travel is perhaps the best way to see the world, a method to immerse oneself in an ever-evolving landscape, a cinematic ramble where a perpetually developing destination is woven from the very fabric of the journey. But travelling aboard the Orient Express is arguably where this romance for train travel began, and the new La Dolce Vita whisks guests away on Italy-wide itineraries in the company of chic design, exquisite food and exemplary taste. 

The new Orient Express carriages, named after the elegance and whimsy of La Dolce Vita, offer a materialisation of 1960s-style with all those beautiful curves and angles accentuated by chic metallics and polished natural tones, a grand theatre perfectly posed for views of Portofino, Venice,Siena and Palermo. The 1-night and 2-night sleeper trips begin in Rome for the most part but stretch out across the various ligatures of the Italian boot, steaming along the coast and into the countryside, but additional international routes are promised to begin within a year.

A Puglian Local: Borgo Egnazia

Puglia is known for its communities of locals who live an enviable life in whitewashed hamlets dotted with limestone houses laced with delicate foliage. But at Borgo Egnazia, this way of life has been captured, rebranded, and finely tuned to become one of Italy’s most memorable luxury escapes. The entire hotel feels authentic, just like a village with narrow lanes and cobbled squares coloured by vines, but in fact, Borgo Egnazia is a contemporary invention, founded in 2009 and just well-trodden enough to give a perfect impression of a true Puglian village. 

The rooms at Borgo Egnazia come draped in waves of white and beige, and the villas with private pools are ideal for guests seeking a quiet, solitary retreat with all the thrills, services and conveniences of a hotel. Food lovers will adore Michelin-starred Due Comini with its vegetables clipped fresh from the village fields, while the Vair Spa offers massages with local Olive Oils as well as a full wellness menu incorporating Roman thermal baths, countryside foraging, music recitals and aromatherapies. The nearby Puglian sights are numerous, with delightful Alberobello and the pretty beaches of Polignano a Mare less than thirty minutes by car.

A Food Tour of Emilia-Romagna

Think Italian cuisine, and all too soon, one’s mind turns to wide bowls of tagliatelle coated with molten Parmigiano Reggiano along with slithers of parma ham served with breadsticks and Balsamic vinegar — all Emilia-Romagna locals. Begin amongst those sunset-coloured streets in Bologna to savour Gnocco Fritto di Modena (fried Gnocci) in a lively square, and follow up with a trip to Modena to lick up the Balsamic vinegar directly from the medieval cellars of its vineyards.

One of Italy’s most coveted tables is nearby on Modena’s Via Stella: the exemplary Osteria Francescana, which has three Michelin stars and a Michelin Green star for its commitment to sustainability. The food here is deceptively understated, with meticulously smart but unflashy presentation to showcase specialities from Emilia-Romagna.

Travel to Parma to strain a muscle or two looking up to the heavens and Correggio’s frescoes in Parma cathedral before following your ears to the clankiest, rattliest, most cacophonous trattoria to savour plates of parma ham and Parmigiano with steamy bowls of Bollito Misto (a bit like an Italian pot-au-feu). For something more refined, seek out a table at Inkiostro for local fare served with a distinctive international personality, with dishes like ramen, pickled Asian vegetables and sake alongside Parmesan desserts and local wines.

Sail from Venice to Croatia

Venetian luxuries are manifold: from arrivals aboard the Venice Simplon Orient Express to breathtaking views of the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute floating as a baroque angel — with a halo fitted with a dome — above the waters of the Grand Canal from the Gritti Palace. But perhaps one of Venice’s greatest luxuries is to leave knowing one can always return, usually by speedboat, zipping along the canals, past ancient palazzi towards the admittedly bland airport. But another way is by private yacht charter (usually sailing from La Certosa or the anchorages in the lagoon near Burano), sailing southeast across the northern Adriatic.

Sailing in Venice offers a real local perspective of a city shaped by life forever on the water, and sailing away, watching as she becomes a topography of towers and domes, is a superbly rewarding experience. A long day sail will bring sailers to Istria’s Rovinj where the entirety of Croatia’s superb Adriatic coastline is open for exploration, whether one intends to cruise for the Venetian influences across Istria or journey into the storied ports of Split and Dubrovnik to see the relics of the Romans, Slavs and Byzantines.

Become a member to join the conversation!

Become part of the world's leading travel & lifestyle community!