"To travel through Italy is as close as one gets to being in paradise." That statement -- with which it is hard to argue -- is the opening line in a description of a book that was published after my Tuscany and Umbria book (or else I would have included it in my recommendations). The book is entitled Great Escapes: Italy (edited and compiled by Angelika Taschen, text by Christiane Reiter, Taschen, 2010) and it is the sort of book that sends you straight to your wallet after you've turned the pages because you will want to buy an airline ticket a.s.a.p.!
'Escapes' is the right word to describe these accommodation choices as every one not only captures the spirit of its Italian place but makes you feel as far from your daily life as possible.
Taschen has selected 35 hotels and inns throughout Italy, and while some are famous and expensive (Villa d'Este, Villa Feltrinelli, Hotel Splendido, Il San Pietro, Villa Cimbrone, etc.) the surprise is that a number are quite moderately priced while still being quite appealing, including the Pension Briol near Bolzano (rooms from 72 euros); Locanda Cipriani on Torcello (rooms from 100 euros); Hotel Flora in Venice (rooms from 120 euros); Villa Pisani near Padova (rooms from 170 euros); and the Casa San Ruffino in Montegiorgio (rooms from 110 euros). Even the rates at the hotel featured in the photo above -- Hotel Palumbo in Ravello -- are 200 euros for rooms and 350 euros for suites, which is not inexpensive but is also not the 900 euro rate at the Villa Feltrinelli on Largo di Garda. (Plus, if you want to discuss the finer points of paradiso, Ravello's got all the points covered and then some.)
Color photos accompany each entry, along with practical details but also suggestions for "Book to Pack," which I love. So for the Locanda Cipriani, for example, the recommended book is Hemingway's Across the River and Into the Trees, and for Sextantio Le Grotte della Civita in Matera it's Christ Stopped at Eboli by Carlo Levi, etc. There are 5 recommended properties in Tuscany: Torre di Bellosguardo in Florence (see my book and see my blog notes in 'older posts' for more about this very special place), Villa Bordoni in Greve in Chianti, Adler Thermae in Bagno Vignoni, Castello di Vicarello near Siena, and Il Pellicano in Porto Ercole (about which I will post more later). There are 2 Umbrian recommendations: Palazzo Terranova near Perugia (rooms from 305 euros, villa from 840 euros) and Locanda del Gallo in Gubbio (rooms from 70 euros, including breakfast!).
[For the record, the place in this book that appeals most to me is the Convento di Santa Maria di Costantinopoli in Apulia: no fax, no website, no e-mail address. Nine rooms without television, telephone and internet. Price upon request. Sign me up!]
This is an expensive book, $50, so I recommend it for purchase for true Italian enthusiasts and those who travel a fair amount to Italy or for those very interested in interior design and decorating. Otherwise, borrowing a copy from the library may be a better option. But don't overlook this book when planning your next trip - it is hugely inspiring!