DH Lawrence penned a love letter about it, Mussolini held court during the war, Churchill was moved to get out his watercolours and his memory lives on in the ancient resident cat of the same name that slinks around picking up titbits of the Michelin-starred food. This peachy-pink palazzo on the still waters of Lake Garda has been stealing hearts since the 1890s, and at the turn of the millennium, it was opened as a hotel, the loveliest in all of Italy. But what makes it so special are all the non-hotel bits: the exquisite antiques everywhere, the silver photo frames filled with black-and-white family shots, the engraved tumblers of fresh roses, the deep bath tubs, and the circus-striped umbrellas by the charcoal-grey slick of swimming pool. Helicopters land on the pristinely manicured croquet lawn and return guests arrive to a fanfare of hugs and kisses, pats on backs. They come here to feast like kings at night on plates of tortellini carbonara, spend the day lolling fatly by the pool watching the ducks and the windsurfers pootle past, and sleep outrageously well under frescoed ceilings in beds made up with crisp, scallop-edged Frette linen. Steep mountains provide a dramatic backdrop for the garden, and early mornings are particularly magic, the silvery pale ethereal light drifting across the lake. The feel of the place is old-school, spick and span, timeless, a bit matronly – and for anyone who likes a bit of Great Gatsby-style cosseting, it’s a dreamy retreat. By Issy von Simson
Flanking the northern base of Blackcomb Mountain, The Four Seasons Resort and Residences Whistler prides itself on its picturesque surroundings, upscale lodging and first-rate service. Previous visitors recommend booking a mountain-facing room. Although they're pricier than other accommodations, these rooms come with cozy comforts such as designer bath products, flat-screen TVs and complimentary Wi-Fi. You'll also find an abundance of activities to choose from: Wintertime yields skiing and sleigh rides, while summer offers opportunities to hike and whitewater raft. And at any time of year, you can lounge along the heated outdoor pool, rejuvenate with a Canadian maple syrup and brown sugar scrub or enjoy wine tastings. In the evening, sip a cocktail at the on-site bar or sample prime slices of tenderloin at Sidecut Modern Steak + Bar (recent visitors mention that meals here are pricey, but worth every penny). Recent guests were thrilled with the exceptional service at this Four Seasons property, but thought the parking fees were a tad high.
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Sitting on the sand of a Georgia barrier island, this 1928 grande dame is a readers’ favorite for its country-estate aesthetics: Turkish rugs, overstuffed chairs, and marble baths (as well as an old-school Sweet Shop, home of the pecan-covered Gold Brick Sundae). That stately ambience helped secure its No. 4 ranking in the business hotel category: its generous meeting space has hosted a G8 Summit, and offers downtime at three championship golf courses (including Seaside, designed in 1929 by famed architects Harry S. Colt and Charles Alison). It also scored well for multi-generational travelers, thanks to the less formal diversions of bingo nights and low-country boils on the beach.
Those longing for the timeless elegance of Old World Europe need look no further than the Fairmont Hotel. Since its opening in 1897, this grand dame on the banks of Hamburg's Inner Alster Lake has drawn travelers for its elegance, service, discretion, and attention to detail. (The hotel counts Maria Callas, Peter Ustinov, and Prince Heinrich of Prussia among its former guests.) Notable, too, are its spacious rooms, curated interiors, and two-Michelin star Haerlin restaurant. The hotel even has a "dog waiting room" for restaurant guests reluctant to part with their pooches—talk about service.
Travelers are hard-pressed to find much to complain about at the Montage Kapalua Bay. Located on the northwest corner of Maui, this 24-acre property offers panoramic views of the beach and ocean. Visitors can spend their time on the water with activities that range from sport fishing to snorkeling. The resort also offers more adventurous pursuits like zip lining and helicopter tours, as well as traditional Hawaiian luau shows. Other activity options include shopping, golfing on two award-winning courses or playing a round of tennis at the hotel's courts. If you're looking to relax, you can enjoy the complimentary beach towels and chairs, take advantage of the poolside Hana Hou Bar & Sunset Patio or indulge in a spa treatment. Accommodations here are one-, two-, three- or four-bedroom suites and each come equipped with separate living and sleeping areas, and furnished lanais. Additional amenities include flat-screen TVs, in-room laundry facilities and bathrooms with separate tubs and showers. To top off their great experiences, recent guests said all staff members, from the pool attendants to the restaurant servers, went above and beyond to ensure they had a pleasurable stay.