FROM DREAMY COASTAL FIXTURES TO COMMANDING METROPOLITAN LANDMARKS, THESE LONGSTANDING LEGACY RESORTS LIVE ON AS ICONS OF LUXURY LEISURE
BY AMANDA McCOY
GRAND HOTEL EXCELSIOR VITTORIA
Whether by yacht, train, or topless Ferrari, the arrival into Sorrento is dramatic, marked by electric blue water, colorful citrus groves, and pastel-tinted houses clinging to plunging cliffs. Considered the gateway to the Amalfi Coast, the seaside hamlet is swimming in culture. Narrow, winding alleyways connect medieval landmarks, lively cafés, high-end shops, and a plethora of five-star accommodations, but few are as instantly recognizable as the Excelsior Vittoria. Comprising three connected Victorian buildings keeping watch over the Bay of Naples, the iconic hotel was founded by the Fiorentino family in 1834. More than 150 years later, the Excelsior is still 100% family owned, with a fifth genera- tion Fiorentino at the helm. Oscar Wilde, Marilyn Monroe, and Richard Wagner have all witnessed a famed Italian sunset here while sipping vermentino from an oceanside terrace.
Cocooned by five acres of lush gardens, the hotel features 43 rooms and 37 suites, plus five two- and three-bedroom villas, all individually decorated with vintage chandeliers, rich cascading drapes, and luxe Italian finishes. Be sure to book a sea view room or suite for uninterrupted vistas of the sparkling Mediterranean (on a clear day, guests can also peep the towering Mt. Vesuvius). One-of-a-kind suites are fashioned after famous guests, from the magnificent, King Edward VII-inspired Royal Suite filled with sculpted woodwork, period artwork, and Louis XVI-style furniture, to the contemporary Dalla Suite featuring a massive marble bathroom and grand piano as an homage to Italian singer/songwriter, Lucio Dalla. All suites boast private ocean-facing terraces to drink in blush-tinted sunsets over a bottle of Tuscan wine. There are three full-service restaurants on site, including Terrazza Bosquet helmed by Michelin-starred chef Antonino Montefusco. Feast on curated dishes like decadent lamb shoulder, red snapper with unsmoked bacon, and vegan foie gras. Rates begin at $2,100 per night. excelsiorvittoria.com
It’s Paris at the turn of the 20th century, and a peasant-born hotelier from Switzerland is on the brink of changing luxury hospitality forever. César Ritz, later lauded as the King of Hoteliers and the Hoteliers of Kings, launches his first namesake hotel, a decadent hideaway in a former prince’s residence in Place Vendôme. It was the first hotel in the world to feature an en-suite bathroom, telephone, and electricity in every room, and it immediately attracted a distinguished guest book, from Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald to King Edward VII and Coco Chanel (the latter lived here for 34 years). Today, the legendary grande dame lives on, courting a fashionable, deep-pock- eted rolodex of moguls, celebrities, and disciples of the joie de vivre lifestyle.
In 2012, the Ritz Paris shut down for the first time in its century-old history to undergo a massive, four-year renovation led by architect Thierry Despont to once again reinvent hospitality for the next 100 years. Despont was devout in maintaining the hotel’s venerated past, from the gold-and-blue color palette and wood paneled reception rooms to the grand staircase winding up from the lobby. The number of suites increased to 71 for a grand total of 142 guest accommodations, and many were fashioned after famous guests over the years. The revamped two-bedroom Chanel Suite, for example, is draped in shades of black, white, and beige, and features an ornate fireplace, gilded chandelier, and archive photos of Coco during her time at the Ritz, all overlooking apanoramic view of Place Vendôme, which inspired the octagonal cap on Chanel No. 5. Marie Antoinette fans can slumber in a replica of the famous queen’s last boudoir in the Versailles-inspired Suite Impériale.
The common spaces are just as majestic, from Salon Proust, a wood paneled library and sitting area where guests can enjoy afternoon tea and evening champagne, to Bar Hemingway, an intimate cocktail lounge filled with rich leather armchairs and sepia photos. Be sure to book a table at Bar Vendôme, a classic Parisian brasserie open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. There’s also a full-service spa and beauty boutique with products from Hygée, LA.BR, Le Baigneur, Ebenholz, and more. Rooms begin around $2,000 per night. ritzparis.com
ALVEAR PALACE HOTEL
Buenos Aires, Argentina
The capital of Argentina is a fascinating stew of South American culture and European grandeur, where 19th century colonial monuments mingle with fiery tango clubs and buzzing parillas (Argentine steakhouses). Its most affluent enclave, the Recoleta, features a postcard of classic Parisian-style architecture, top-end shopping, upscale dining, and cultural landmarks, including this Belle Époque grande dame, born in 1932 as the premier hotel for the increasing number of well-heeled European visitors. Presidents, royals, and stars of the silver screen have all spent nights here, welcomed by white-gloved doormen into an oasis of Louis XV grandeur, dressed in gold leaf, large crystal chandeliers, velvet curtains, and classic works of art.
While the property has been renova- tion several times throughout its history, many spaces still feel like a snapshot from the 1930s, from the lower-floor guest- rooms adorned with antique gold-detailed furniture, vintage fixtures, and botticino marble bathrooms, to the marble floors and red tufted seating of the grand lobby bar, a longstanding haunt for businessmen and high society. Modern amenities do bring guests back into the 21st century, including Hermès bath products, light- ning quick Wi-Fi, and large screen TVs, featured alongside fluffy robes and fresh fruit. For the suites, a team of dedicated butlers is on hand to fulfill any request, from making dinner reservations to drawing a bath with rose petals.
In 2016, the Alvear debuted new rooftop suites and bar, plus an indoor pool and solarium. The light-drenched accommodations boast pure wool carpets, silk furnishings, and private terraces with stunning views of Rio de la Plata and the Recoleta’s many leafy parks. Rooms begin at $600 per night.
THE DON CESAR
St. Pete, Florida
Perched high on sweeping sand dunes overlooking the shimmering waters of the Gulf of Mexico, the Don Cesar is a long- standing staple of Florida’s Sun Coast. On a clear day, the commanding, Spanish-style fixture can be spotted from several miles away, known by locals and frequent guests as the Pink Palace (a reference to its all-over bubblegum tinting). If walls could talk, the Gatsby Era hotel would regale today’s visitors with fascinating stories from its 95-year history, from its tenure as a WWII sub-base hospital to hosting famous guests like Al Capone, Lou Gehrig, and Franklin Roosevelt during the Great Depression. It narrowly escaped demolition in 1971 – saved by a tenacious Save the Don committee led by June Hurley-Young – and re-opened as a full-service resort in 1973 following a $3.5 million restoration initiative. The Don has since welcomed numerous luminaries, from Elton John to Robert De Niro, and made several Hollywood cameos, from 1982’s Once Upon a Time in America to Hulk Hogan’s action-drama Thunder in Paradise.
In early 2021, the Don unveiled the fruits of a sweeping multi-million-dollar renova- tion, reimagining nearly every each of the historic property for the next century of sun-thirsty visitors, including the 277 guestrooms and luxury suites, two-story penthouse, six restaurants, two pools, and destination spa. Bright and sunny rooms with oversized windows are filled with whimsical, shore-inspired textures and furnishings, from coastal bird motifs to whitewashed headboards and soft pink drapes. The flagship Bayside Penthouse is spread over two floors and boasts a spacious balcony with panoramic views of the sand and surf. Don’t miss dinner at Maritana, the Don’s seductive, ocean-to-table fine-dining restaurant draped in shades of nautical blue and gold. Spring rooms begin around $450 pernight.