Viva Amore!

With its alluring scenery, timeless architecture, delicious cuisine and expressive people, Italy is more than just pasta and high fashion

It’s impossible not to love Italy. From Milan to Verona to Venice, with majestic mountains, cobblestone streets and picturesque canals, where contemporary luxury and historic greatness are combined, it’s no wonder Italy is often called the “Bel Paese.” And now that I’ve spent 10 days in these cities, it looks as if everyone is right: Italy is magical.

ENCHANTING VENICE

In this city born in a lagoon 1,500 years ago as a refuge from barbarians, transportation is by water bus (vaporetto), water taxi, private boat or gondola, known as “traghetti.” Being ferried along the canals, listening to your gondolier sing “Volare” in perfect pitch, is a real treat. Venice is also known for its narrow, winding cobblestone streets, perfect for exploration on foot.

Right off the Saluto water stop, located between the Peggy Guggenheim Museum and the Basilica of Santa Maria della Salute, and looking directly onto the Grand Canal and St. Mark’s Square, is the Centurion Palace. This hotel, housed in the former Palazzo Genovese, is a welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of Venice. It’s a magical experience within an enchanted city.

“It’s peaceful and more quiet here than in the heart of Venice,” says general manager Paolo Morra. With a private garden and gourmet restaurant, the five-star luxury hotel takes pride in its opulence—and its simplicity.

“Our menu reflects a good balance that is not overwhelming in taste and presentation, it’s a nice blend of visual and flavourful foods,” Morra says of Antinoo’s Lounge and Restaurant, which offers elegance and comfort, indoors or on the patio overlooking the canal. “Most of our menu ingredients and foods are gathered from local sources and prepared so our guests can enjoy traditional Italian flavour with an international flair.”

The creative Mediterranean cuisine includes absolutely divine turbot wrapped in bacon over fresh green beans, along with homemade gnocchi with sweet ginger crab meat.

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SOPHISTICATED MILAN

Italy’s fashion, banking, publishing and industrial capital boasts a more modern feel than the rest of the country. One of the must-sees is the Gothic-style Duomo Cathedral, built of marble in 1520, and situated in the middle of Piazza del Duomo, Milan’s main square.

Right in the centre of the financial district is the iconic Hotel Principe di Savoia, which opened in 1927 and has housed royalty of all kinds.

“Revered as a venue for celebrities, tycoons and the sophisticated traveller, the hotel has stood as Milan’s symbol for gracious urban living for over 80 years,” says Mario Gambron, head concierge of the 19th century hotel with Lombard design that hotel guests love. “You’ll find the famous Principe Bar and a variety of live music, impeccable cuisine at the five-star Acanto Restaurant and even an afternoon tea in the intimate lobby lounge.” For an unparalleled view of Milan’s cityscape, Gambron suggests a rooftop visit, where you’ll find the hotel’s fitness centre, beauty salon and spa.

“We feel a spa is fundamental for the well-being of our guests,” says Elisabetta Bonfanti, spa manager. After some pampering and a leisurely late breakfast on the hotel’s patio—weather permitting—head over to the Museo ‘Arte Antica of the Sforza Castle (built in the 1300s as a military fortress). There you can see one of the greatest masterpieces in the Sforza’s collection: The Rondanini Pieta of Michelangelo.

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HISTORIC VERONA

The 13th and 14th century Roman ruins in this city are the true treasures of Verona. Set in a historical palazzo, built atop the ancient Roman town square, is the magnificent Palazzo Victoria, a stunning palace that seamlessly blends history with contemporary living.

“These were the original streets and ruins of the Romans,” explains Silvia Soregaroli, Sales Manager, pointing out the actual street and town square on which the hotel was built, now situated in the below-ground floor.

“Our lobby, where the old town square was used for various gatherings, is a mixture of old and modern that combines the past and present, much like the city itself does.” Palazzo Victoria is located in the heart of this beautiful, vibrant and romantic city. It’s within walking distance to the people-friendly Piazza Bra, which means “open space,” with many restaurants, park benches and a stellar view of the ancient arena that looms over the piazza.

The Roman arena that now features operas, musicals and concerts, is a vivid reminder of the city’s history dating back to Roman times. Piazza Erbe with its lively market square and exquisite Roman architecture, is a favourite spot for locals to begin their evenings with a drink or espresso.