Hotel Des Etrangers et Miramare • Siracusa, Sicily, Italy

Dazzling sea views in Sicily

Etrangers et Miramare, Sicily - Exterior

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The Hotel Des Etrangers et Miramare is a seafront gem located in the historic city of Ortigia. The watchwords at this intimate 78-room hotel are simple elegance and understated luxury. Imagine a candlelit supper from the hotel’s terrace. Before you lies a panoramic seafront vista that you enjoy while sipping fine Italian wine and sampling Sicilian specialties. These pleasures are to be had at either the Medusa restaurant or the equally impressive roof garden.

Sea view at Etrangers et Miramare

Hotel Des Etrangers et Miramare - Guest room

The rooms offer a lush decor with terrazzo floors, antique wooden furnishings and finely woven linens and buttery soft sheets. Many of the enchanting rooms offer the dazzling seaside vistas and the height of comfort is available in 13 suites.

Hotel Des Etrangers et Miramare - Guest room

Hotel Des Etrangers et Miramare
Location: Passeggio Adorno 10-12, Syracuse, Sicily 96100, Italy; 60 kilometres from Catania airport; inquire at hotel for airport transfers.

Luxury style: Some hotels have the most perfect location and this property is blessed with that quality. Good for couples, families, Roman ruin seekers, old maid geologists, groups, excellent value for a luxe (4-star) category hotel.

What we’ve heard: A caveat is ‘watch out for the parking’ which can be tricky. It is absolutely essential to book a sea-view room. The heart and soul of this property is in the spectacular views whether from the guest room, the terrace or the rooftop. Grab your martini, sit back, take it in.

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Hotel Pulitzer • Amsterdam, The Netherlands

25 canal houses = 1 extraordinary hotel

Hotel Pulitzer • Amsterdam, Netherlands

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When I think of Amsterdam, I think of canals. Of course, that’s because I have a not-so-secret crush on canal cities. In fact, I think my ideal European tour would be a leisurely survey by water of Amsterdam, Venice, Bruges and Saint Petersburg, preferably while staying in hotels set upon canals. To complete the fantasy, it would help to somehow be propelled back in time, so I could lounge around in a long garnet-colored velvet dress without looking eccentric.

Though I’m still working on the time-travel-with-velvet-dress part of my fantasy, I have located the perfect place in Amsterdam to stay at. And it’s the five star Hotel Pulitzer, an extraordinary establishment constructed of 25 converted canal houses dating from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

hotel pulitzer exterior

What exactly is a canal house? According to the city of Amsterdam’s Municipal Department for Preservation and Restoration of Historic Buildings and Sites (now that’s a mouthful), “Canal houses, usually built as residences for wealthy citizens, determine the Amsterdam cityscape. They are characterised by narrow, relatively tall facades, often crowned by richly ornamented gable tops.” In other words, the canal house is what our mind’s eye gloms onto when we imagine architectural Amsterdam.

hotel pulitzer guestroom

Overlooking the Prinsengracht Canal in central Amsterdam, the Hotel Pulitzer boasts 230 guestrooms decorated with exposed beams and timber flooring and canal, courtyard or garden views. The luxurious marble bathrooms are decorated with hand-painted Dutch tiles.

The lobby is filled with leather armchairs, plump sofas and fragrant flower arrangements. As you explore the hotel, you’ll find a wealth of passageways and courtyards revealing many original architectural details: baroque plasterwork, marble staircases and wooden beams. And, if you get really lucky, you’ll find George Clooney — Ocean’s 12 was filmed on location at the Pulitzer. (If you do see him, tell him I’ll always remember Vegas!)

Hotel Pulitzer
Location: Prinsengracht 315-331, Amsterdam 1016 GZ, The Netherlands; 20 kilometers from the airport.

Luxury style: Unique, historic and traditionally luxurious. You’ll feel transported back in time. (Tulip bulbs, anyone?) Also good for business travelers — the Pulitzer has 10 conference rooms, a business center and wireless Internet access in public areas.

What we’ve heard: The hotel has its own private boat launch, built in 1909. Sightseeing trips leave three times a day from its mooring in front of the hotel. Many attractions, including the Anne Frank House and Kalverstraat shopping street and Centraal Station, are within easy walking distance. For a tranquil night’s sleep, avoid guestrooms overlooking the street — the hotel across the street can be noisy in the morning.

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Palazzo Magnani Feroni • Florence, Italy

A Renaissance palace of one’s own . . .

Palazzo Magnani Feroni view

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Deep down inside, I think we all want to be royalty. Spout all you want about the ideals of democracy and equality, but what we really want is to live in a palace, eat off gold plates, sleep on feather beds. Oh, and be waited on hand and foot by loyal subjects — or at least I do.

I’m sure a childhood of too many fairy tales has led me to this affliction. But thankfully there’s Florence’s magnificent Palazzo Magnani Feroni to lead me to happily ever after.

The Palazzo Magnani Feroni is set in a fairy tale of a sixteenth century palace (palazzo = palace in English) in the city where Dante worshipped Beatrice and the Medicis wielded influence. With only thirteen air-conditioned suites, a stay at the Palazzo Magnani Feroni is the closest some of us can come to owning a Renaissance palace. (If you’re reading this and happen to be a famous musician or actor with a villa in Italy, you’re the exception to the rule. Please be assured that I envy you very much.)

Palazzo Magnani Feroni suite

But for us non-famous or famous-to-be, there’s always a private suite at the Palazzo to prove that fairy tales can come true. Each beautifully luxurious suite has separate bedrooms and living rooms. They bear noble, evocative names such as the Vittoria, the Esmeralda, the Beatrice (after Dante’s immortal beloved) and are adorned with marble doorways and bathrooms, objets d’art, Persian rugs, and antique furniture and oil paintings. Though the decor is classically Renaissance, modern amenities abound. These include CD and DVD players with extensive music libraries, and a hotel gym. Massages and hair and beauty treatments are available on site by appointment.

Palazzo Magnani Feroni suite

This five star hotel is decorated throughout with fine works of art. Antique frescoes are painted upon gracefully vaulted ceilings. There’s also a bar on site (as if you need additional inspiration!) with a roof terrace, open during the summer months, that overlooks a scenic vista. And all of Florence’s prime attractions are within easy walking distance, including the Ponte Vecchio, the Duomo and the Ufizzi.

Lorenzo Medici never had it so good.

Palazzo Magnani Feroni entry

Palazzo Magnani Feroni
Location: Borgo San Frediano 5 – Florence, Italy 50124; Florence Vespucci International Airport is eight kilometers away.

Luxury style: A hidden gem of a fairy tale palace with old world elegance. Renaissance-inspired luxury that gracefully incorporates modern day conveniences and comforts.

What we’ve heard: Though many people spend once-in-a-lifetime romantic getaways at the Palazzo Magnani Feroni, it’s surprisingly family friendly. The attentive and capable staff are praised for their warm treatment of children. Your little prince and princess will have the time of their life — and so will you. Breakfasts are fantastically delish.


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