Northern Journey to Italian Heaven

The word "Italy" usually evokes a thunderstorm of bright emotions – a sandwich made out of sunshine and sea with an enormous layer of culture. And we are not talking about history, but more about traditions. These very traditions, mixed with a unique ambiance of simple joy, make Italy an autonomous island in the archipelago of otherworldly cultures. Embark with us on the exciting journey to northern Italy, populated with an extensive collection of majestic destinations and luxurious vibes.

The region of Tuscany is one of the most popular and prestigious beach destinations globally: a fairy tale brought to life by nature and human efforts. We invite you to make way through gastronomical wonders and unique locations of the wonderland region. And while you are at it, don't forget to sample a truly divine combination: the Florentine-style beef steak, known as the holiest of holies of Italian cuisine, and a glass of super Tuscan wine Masseto. 

Forte Dei Marmi & Pietrasanta
Among other resorts on the Versilia Coast, Villa Forte Dei Marmi stands out with an abundance of members of the higher society – perhaps, because the resort has become an expensive mecca of luxury and chic. Growing steadily from a small village to a large resort, Forte Dei Marmi has become elite long before recently. One can even say that it was Michelangelo himself, who paved the road for future jet-setters and oligarchs to embrace the sophistication and charm of this unique town. Here is the ideal place to purchase your dolce-vita villa, in “the place to be”, where you can embark on an exciting gastronomic journey with MICHELIN starred Lux Lucis, get a glass of golden champagne at Sky Lounge Bar overlooking the entire Versilia coast, shop in upscale boutiques or get authentic, quality-made leather goods from locals at Piazza Marconi, and may be even visit one of the dazzling dinner parties at Andrea Bocelli's villa to meet with the likes of Sophia Loren, David Foster, John Legend, and George Clooney. 

One more famous destination for sophisticated tourists is Pietrasanta, which is no stranger to celebrities, but on a more creative side. The town is popular with its cobbled streets, intricate architecture, and artists such as Fernando Botero and Igor Mitoraj, who chose to spend their entire lives creating here, at the foot of the Apuan Alps. Its coastal part, Marina di Pietrasanta, hosts some of the best beaches, bars, and restaurants you can find around. Here, we recommend booking a yacht to explore the rugged and stunning landscapes of Cinque Terre.

A quiet, small town, set in the magnificent valleys, Montalcino has it all: picturesque orchards and clean wheat fields, aromatic olive oil, and delicious cheeses. But most of all, the city is famous for the unique "Brunello di Montalcino" – one of the "youngest" wines in Italy. Despite its tender historical age, this wine is a menace to taste buds, totally impossible to resist. Its warm strong dry taste with tannic nuances and a smell with hints of geranium finest shades of violets and wild cherries, spices and chocolate, prunes, and leather is a dream come true for avid wine collectors. There's no better way to get to know the grape-covered valleys of the medieval Montalcino than by booking a private wine tasting tour to indulge in the ultimate hedonistic feast while overlooking stately local nature.

The choice of true romantics, Siena, is a town that seems to get stuck in the Middle Ages. Here, in a Gothic palace with authentic medieval furniture and frescoes by the renowned masters of the Siena School or in quiet streets full of monuments to the glorious past, it's easy to lose oneself forever. Located in the very heart of Tuscany, the city echoes the golden era of the Renaissance, full of both romance and drama – the place where palaces, fountains, and majestic cathedrals may become the perfect backdrop for your ideal wedding. Whether you decide to hold your dream ceremony in one of the ceremonial halls, luxurious villas, or even on the ancient walls of historic buildings, your perfect love story will bloom with new colors of joy. If you are after culinary delights, we recommend checking in Castel Monastero, a luxury hotel and spa, which also plays host to Gordon Ramsay, winner of many Michelin stars. Here, you can take your culinary skills to the next level with Gordon Ramsay's masterclasses or indulge in wine tasting at small family-run firms that produce valuable niche wines that can be found only in Siena. 

One of the most underrated regions of Italy, Piedmont, stubbornly maintains the measured pace of life set by the dynasty of the House Savoy, despite the ever buzzing modern world. No wonder the region is home to the Slow Food movement and boasts many small farms and wineries. No matter when you decide to visit this sublime area, Piedmont, affluent in natural beauty and culinary delights, is exciting at any time of the year. Settle in one of the upscale hotels surrounded by rolling hills of rust-tinted vines and blessed with excellent spa treatments to have an outpost for exciting adventures ahead.

A city of a hundred medieval towers, Alba, seems very French at first sight with tiny balconies, plastered houses, authentic French windows and not an Italian pace of life. Surprisingly, in the evening, especially in winter or rainy weather, you will not find a soul on the street. It's an incredible opportunity to explore surroundings without tourist crowds. But what truly highlights Alba, famous throughout the country and abroad, is the white truffle hunt. Not without reason the master of suspense Alfred Hitchcock wrote a screenplay set in Le Langhe, called The Mystery of the Truffle Hunter during a visit to Alba or Michael Douglas buys loads of white truffles for his wife, Catherine Zeta-Jones, who has confessed to using a unique shampoo made of caviar and these very truffles. But keep in mind that this mushroom has a short life span, and its harvesting season is in November. So, plan your trip accordingly. 

Portofino, Liguria
Now a popular resort of the Italian Riviera for a wealthy and sophisticated audience, Portofino was once a quiet fishing town. And nobody would ever know about this Italian treasury if not for the famous people of the so-called "Dolce Vita" lifestyle, including actors, music stars, and wealthy aristocrats. In the 60s, they all flocked to Portofino, a quiet town that suddenly became an epicenter of exclusive parties and refined events, love stories, and sensational scandals – the town of Verona with breathtaking views. Today, notable visitors include such set trenders as Sarah Jessica Parker, Cher, Kitty Spencer, and Kourtney Kardashian, whose yachts anchored proudly in the town's coveted berths. 

But the fame comes and goes, while Portofino's main square stays stably bustling with colors of exquisite restaurants from traditional eateries like the celebrity favorite Da Puny to small bars like Bar Mariuccia, which is the perfect spot to enjoy a morning espresso or an evening Aperitif. If you are after something exclusive and unique, head to Al Faro di Portofino nestled on the terrace of Portofino's 100-year-old lighthouse, where you can enjoy a fine dining experience accompanied by spritzes, wine, or locally brewed beer while taking in the majestic sunset. In case you find yourself drowned in the gourmet abyss of too many plates of handmade pasta, book a private yoga or pilates class at hilltop farm, La Portofinese, where you can find tranquility and even sample its signature honey. 

But to truly make your vacation unforgettable, you'll need a perfect stay. Luckily you have luxury experts here, in iPREMIUM Magazine. We have prepared for you the golden compilation of local hotels – creme de la creme:

Eight Hotel
With its quiet location and a five-minute walk to Portofino's lively center and Piazzetta, this 20-room upscale hotel is a dream come true for avid tranquility lovers. From super-stylish interiors and spacious accommodations to lush hillsides and majestic marine surroundings - everything in Eight Hotel speaks of exclusivity. Even though the hotel is very close to the buzzing town streets, its verdant gardens and great spa facilities give it a distinctively chill, away-from-it-all vibe. Upon entering your room, you inevitably are drawn in relaxation induced by a classy yet modern look created by hardwood floors and a gray-and-beige sharp color scheme. This boutique hotel offers a lovely breakfast buffet with freshly baked pastries, fresh meats, cheeses, and yogurt. And although the hotel has no full-service restaurant, there's a free shuttle service to the sister Eight Hotel on the Bay of Paraggi, which boasts a great bar and an exquisite restaurant, and the city center is a stone's throw from the property. Besides, you might not even want to leave since you can spend your days relaxing at the spa with a Turkish bath, a sauna with lava rocks, and a rich selection of massages and beauty treatments.

The Hotel Piccolo Portofino
Perched on a hillside overlooking the Portofino Gulf, a modernized historic villa, The Hotel Piccolo Portofino has a garden leading to private sunbathing terraces and its own pebbly beach where you can get an impeccable drink service. Rooms are tasteful and up to the best Italian standards. Although you can pick any room you like, we recommend getting one with a big balcony facing the sea to make the most of the location. Here, you won't be starving with a great on-site restaurant and Portofino village at your doorstep, but be cautious of traveling local winding roads, which can be dangerous for pedestrians. 

The Grand Hotel Bristol
Often compared to the Grand Budapest Hotel from Wes Anderson's eponymous movie because of its pink exterior, this hotel boasts a choice of restaurants, spacious public areas, a pool, and the labyrinthine Erre Spa and fitness center, complete with sauna, Turkish, and Mediterranean baths, indoor pool, hydromassage areas, waterfalls, whirlpool, and a litany of treatments and massages along with arching views of the Gulf of Tigullio. Located a few kilometers from Portofino, it is an ideal start point for attractions hunting and casual exploration of surroundings. Although all rooms are great, don't miss out on one of the amazing suites, including the Presidential and the Kandinsky. We would also like to put an emphasis on the hotel's magnificent gourmet restaurant, Le Cupole, which serves refined seafood and fish dishes, and creative takes on local traditions complemented by an extensive wine list and enchanting views across the gulf to the hills of Portofino.

Belmond Hotel Splendido 
Nestled in a 16th-century monastery building overlooking the fabulous bay of Portofino, the hotel is set in lush, terraced gardens on a steep hillside just outside the picturesque town. Its excellent location is suitable for both lounging by the sea and sightseeing activities. The style of the hotel is traditional, yet with tangible notes of modernity with public spaces furnished with antiques and finished in grey and white marble, adorned by a great collection of monochrome photos of past guests, including The Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Ava Gardner, Liza Minelli, Madonna, and others. Here, you won't need to step out of the hotel with all leisure necessities on the site: a majestic salt-water infinity pool, fine spa, two restaurants, and beautiful gardens. But if you decide to escape the tranquil lifestyle and embark on adventures, the friendly staff can help organize an exciting trip into the mountains to visit wine, olive oil, and cheese-producers or excursions to the Cinque Terre or lovely Portovenere. Guests are also welcome to reserve the hotel's 36-ft boat for a sunset champagne cruise or book a private dinner at the Portofino lighthouse with magnificent views over the Golfo di Tigullio. The hotel offers plenty of dining options, including elite Terrazza and Chuflay as well as a poolside restaurant and a bar for a quick bite. 

Grand Hotel Miramare
Combining Art Nouveau elegance with sleek modernity, the hotel offers much more than just dreamy views of the gulf, but also a fine restaurant, an outdoor pool, a spa, and a private beach. Nestled in just over two miles from glamorous Portofino, this traditional 'grand hotel' offers spacious rooms and suites that keep an air of Classical elegance with their dado rails, stucco cornices, etc. One of the main features and pride of the hotel is its on-site restaurant – Vistamare – where chef Claudio Fortuna experiments with textures and tastes, putting an exotic spin on Italian and local Ligurian dishes. Another magnificent feature is that the hotel often hosts 'Miramart' events and exhibitions of contemporary art, photography, and sculpture – a treasure for art lovers. 

When COVID-19 gradually leaves our healthcare system, it's time to renew the cherished memories of Sundazed times with a glass of your favorite aperitif. Let yourself enjoy the time away from concrete jungles and discover the Italian definition of paradise.