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Posts Tagged ‘Italy’

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By Simon Fairbairn & Erin McNeaney

I fell for Procida as soon as I saw the view from the Terra Murata. A tangle of houses painted in pink, yellow, blue and green tumbled towards Marina Corricella, the sun setting behind it and lighting up the sky in a blaze of orange and pink. Small fishing boats were dotted in the water—the fishermen use the lavishly bright buildings to find their way home.

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I wondered how I’d never heard of this gorgeous island. Procida is the smallest island in the Bay of Naples and despite its location just a 40 minute hydrofoil ride from Naples it receives nowhere near as many foreign visitors as the neighbouring islands of Capri and Ischia. Procida seems to want to keep its secret to itself, although it’s popular with napoletani looking for a summer escape from the steaming, chaotic city.

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The tiny island is only 4 square kilometres and we walked everywhere—to the black sand beaches that ring the island, almost empty during the week and bustling with families on weekends; and through the winding narrow streets in the centre, the high walls hiding cube shaped houses and lush gardens. Paintwork is faded and crumbling, doors are ancient and rusted, and the streets are enlivened with pink bougainvillea and tiny white jasmine, their scent accompanying us on our strolls. Lemon groves are squeezed into every available space.

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Terra Murata is the highest point on the island and the oldest village—the fortress walls were built as protection from invaders in the 15th century. We wandered the medieval streets and visited the rather quirky and crumbling church the Abbazia di San Michele which has excellent views from its terrace.

Procida’s highlight is Marina Corricella, the colourful fishing village that’s built into the rock leading to the sea. The 17th century settlement is traffic-free and can only be reached by stairs in passageways through the houses. Along the waterfront there are piles of fishing nets and patio restaurants where you can enjoy a meal with a view of the Terra Murata and bobbing fishing boats.

 

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Pacific Ocean views, pool parties and more, these 3 unique properties attract Hollywood’s elite time and time again.

 

You already expect comfort, convenience and chic interiors from a luxury retreat. But here are several properties that go above and beyond to satisfy even your most indulgent whims.

Stone Manor, Malibu, California

Known for its “Red Carpet Treatment” of guests, Stone Manor has a 25-year-long reputation among the elite of Hollywood. It’s been enjoyed by Academy Award winners, revered rock stars and prime-time television producers.  But you don’t have to be a celebrity to feel like one.

losangeles-stonemanor_02“We want people to feel like a star in their own lives,” says Aime Lindsay, the owner. This means vetting the staff and every recommended experience. “A wonderful vacation doesn’t happen by accident, and you won’t get a do-over. It takes a team of people to put together a world-class celebration and vacation.”

We recommend booking Stone Manor for any occasion, but if you’re celebrating something special, tell your concierge and the staff will make it just perfect. Whether you want to have elegant cocktails with a few friends near the waterfall and pool, or you prefer a DJ’d dance party on the lawn looking out toward the Pacific Ocean, no request is too small, or too large. If you can, schedule your stay over the full moon, when the magic of the moonlight reflects off the water for miles.

 

Villa Contea, Tuscany, Italy

Located in the picturesque Val d’Orcia area of Tuscany, this magnificent country villa is among the rolling hills and vineyards that were the setting for the Oscar winning movie The English Patient and which provided the breathtaking panoramic countryside scenes fromGladiator. This is the kind of retreat that people dream of experiencing all of their lives.  And Villa Contea is devoted to making sure that every detail of that dream comes true.

tuscany_villacontea_10Three acres of manicured lawns, orchards, and groves make a paradise for relaxing travelers. A private chef can be arranged to provide authentic Italian meals made with local produce from Tuscan farm estates, and accompanied by wine from nearby vineyards. Several decadent spas and challenging golf courses are within an hour’s drive, as well as sightseeing opportunities in Montalcino Pitigliano, and Lake Bolsena.

If you go, we recommend asking the concierge to arrange a private, VIP tour of a vineyard in the heart of this world-renowned wine country. Cooking classes and truffle hunts are another great favorite among guests.  Most of all, we recommend seeing as much of the countryside as possible, whether by Vespa, Ferrari, or hot air balloon. Whatever you dream of doing and seeing in the Italian countryside, Villa Contea is the ideal place to make it happen.

 

Casa Ramon, Playa Dominical, Costa Rica

Surrounded by rich, tropical vegetation along the Pacific coastline of Costa Rica is a home unlike any you’ve ever experienced. Perched on a lush mountainside with vast oceanic views, it is often visited by friendly wildlife including Capuchin monkeys, toucans, parrots, and the occasional sloth. Since its opening Ramon has been a favorite retreat of celebrity guests from around the world. This is the ultimate luxe getaway: plenty to do, but no pressure to do it.

costarica_casaramon_05Casa Ramon is, of course, a luxurious home with every comfort provided. Unique arrangements of fresh tropical flowers are displayed in each room, daily maid service ensures everything remains meticulously clean, and special arrangements can be made to satisfy even the smallest of whims. Whether you are interested in a hot stone massage in the private spa, or an original epicurean adventure with the chef, or even you would like fireworks to celebrate a special occasion, just ask your concierge!

While there is no shortage of adrenaline-pumping activities such as waterfall hikes in the mountains, zipline tours in the rainforest canopy, or horseback rides along the beach, we suggest you take every moment you can to practice the true meaning of the word “leisure”.  Spend a quiet afternoon in a hammock with a margarita and a good book, or enjoy a candlelit dinner at sunset.  It is the perfect place to reconnect both with nature and your loved ones.

BY: CAMILLE MILLER

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Family skiing holidays are something to be cherished – spending time with your children in the fresh air of the mountains, all doing something you love and coming together at the end of the day to tell tales of daring do and obstacles overcome is priceless.

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A key factor in making a family ski holiday effortless is the resort you go to – get it wrong and you’ll be lugging three sets of skis and screaming kids around half the day, frantically trying to remember why you’d shelled out so much cash. But pick your resort wisely and everything else will fall into place. Here’s our choice of ten of the best family-friendly ski resorts in Europe to help you choose your next family ski holiday – whether you’ve got young tots or older teens, there’s a dream holiday out there with your family’s name on.

Alpbach, Austria

Alpbach in the Tirol is one of the prettiest villages in Austria and has long been a favorite with British families – the resort is compact, full of charm and sunny nursery slopes sit right next to it. While the slopes for intermediates aren’t extensive, they’re good for building confidence and practicing technique on, and both the village’s ski schools are very child-friendly. For those in the know there’s also some good skiing off-piste. Welcoming pensions and chalet-style hotels dominate the accommodation – some, such as Der Berghof, are as close as 20 metres from the nursery slopes. If a full day on the slopes is proving too much for the little ones there is an indoor swimming pool and outdoor ice rinks to entertain. Getting there: Innsbruck, the closest airport, is 50km away. Munich and Salzburg are 150km away. 

Alpe d’Huez, France

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Spreading out immediately above Alpe d’Huez is a vast bowl of easy green runs, served by the fast DMC gondola. It’s a veritable playground for beginners, but just watch out for the sometimes dangerously fast passing traffic from the slopes above. There’s a good range of blues for confident youngsters to progress to, plus an unthreatening terrain park near the bottom of the slopes with gentle rollers and jumps. There are plenty of self-catering apartments and more hotels than you’d expect, but perhaps the best option for families is the ski-in, ski-out Club Med Alpe d’huez La Sarenne. Getting there: Grenoble is the closest (and quietest) airport, 105km away. Lyon and Geneva are 150km 210km away respectively.

Avoriaz, France

Avoriaz may not be the prettiest of resorts, but it’s certainly one of the most functional and striking. A car-free collection of towering self-catering apartments perched on a cliff, accommodation is ski-in, ski-out and horse-drawn sleighs are the only vehicles on the snow-covered roads. The Village des Enfants is in the heart of the resort, with Disney characters and special slopes to entertain and educate children aged three and older. There’s a British-run ski school, Avoriaz Alpine Ski School, for older kids needing a challenge or friendly encouragement. Accommodation is mostly in apartments – there are a few small chalets if you’re seeking a comfortable alternative. Getting there: Geneva is the closest airport, about two hours or 90km away.

Cervinia, Italy

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Which child wouldn’t love skiing around the sunny, easy slopes, lunching on pizza and, with a bit of encouragement, making it from top to bottom of the mountain by the end of the week? Cervinia isn’t a big resort, but for ease, pick a hotel near the nursery slopes close to the village centre. From these, progression to the gentle blue runs at Plan Maison then the cruising reds at Valtournenche is a realistic and satisfying achievement for any beginner. There are kindergartens both in resort and at Plan Maison. Getting there: Turin is the nearest airport and approximately two hours (120km) away. Geneva is 2 hours 45 minutes (185km).

Obergurgl, Austria

For families with teenage kids, Obergurgl, the highest parish in Austria, is a good option. It’s a small, focused village with friendly Austrian charm and snowsure slopes, but not so many that the kids would get lost on their own. Excellent English is spoken by the ski school instructors and class sizes are kept small – a promising start for pushing teenagers to their limits and ensuring boredom stays at bay. Most of the accommodation is in three- or four-star hotels – if you’re travelling with younger children particularly, book with Esprit in one of their large chalets and take advantage of their extensive childcare options. Getting there: Innsbruck is the closest airport, 95km away.

Saas Fee, Switzerland

The car-free village of Saas-Fee in Valais is a perfect choice for young children and families – it’s a rural haven perfect for just strolling around and relaxing in. Saas Fee is also a great destination for those with older kids – it has two terrain parks, one, a truly world-class set up, with a huge halfpipe and interesting features like a gondola roof job; the other, aimed at beginners with entry level jumps, rails and lines, near the nursery slopes. Choose your accommodation carefully – the majority of the lifts leave from the southern end of the village, and the large nursery slopes are also at this end. Getting there: Sion airport, served by SnowJet, and Geneva are 75km and 225km away respectively. The nearest train station is Brig, and regular buses run to and from the station to Saas-Fee.

Laax, Switzerland

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Young families will love the extensive beginner slopes at Crap Sogn Gion, high above Laax, and the excellent ski school with fluent English-speaking instructors. For families with older kids, they’ll no doubt be wowed by the five impressive terrain parks, and if you time your visit right, you could catch one of the big international freestyle competitions the resort hosts – bound to help the brownie points with the teenagers. For maximum convenience, stay in an apartment at the RocksResort, striking modern blocks that opened a year ago and are right at the foot of the slopes. Getting there: Zurich is the closest airport. A seamless train and bus transfer from Zurich takes about two hours.

La Plagne, France

A vast expanse of intermediate cruising runs spread out above the 10 villages that together make La Plagne, and the different characters of the bases make it an ideal destination for all types of families and children, from young tots to energetic teens. Most Brits stay in Belle Plagne (good for youngsters with a children’s playground for tots to learn in), Plagne 1800 (lots of chalets so best for groups of families) or Montchavin (the village is pretty and traffic-free, and there are confidence-building wooded blue runs leading to it). Each village has good ski schools and its own nursery run or two, then there are endless intermediate slopes (225km of them) plus five terrain parks or boardercross courses to keep the more adventurous children and big kids entertained. Getting there: Chambery is the closest airport, 120km away. Or take the train to either Aime or Bourg St Maurice at the bottom of the valley.

Puy St Vincent, France

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Puy St Vincent is a couple of purpose-built stations plus an old village. Most of the accommodation, which is mainly self-catering, is in low-rise apartment blocks at the bottom of the slopes in the larger of the two stations, 1600. Tree-lined slopes sit immediately above the resort and are good for intermediates wanting a challenge, while beginners can find their feet in two nursery slope areas. The childcare facilities in resort are excellent, with both ski schools (the ESF and the International school) running kindergartens. The choice of tour operator can make or break a family skiing holiday so choose with care. Snowbizz, who have operated solely to Puy St Vincent since 1986, is a safe bet if you want a well-thought out and convenient family holiday. All the details have been taken care of, from Sunday flights (less hectic than Saturdays) to a full suite of childcare options from six months to 11 years. Getting there: Turin is the nearest airport, approximately two and half hours away.

Ylläs, Finland

If you’re looking for an alternative to the tried and tested Alpine holiday, head to Ylläs in Finland. The gentle Arctic landscape is ideal for beginners, and the alternative activities, such as husky-sledding, reindeer sleigh rides and snowshoeing, will enchant young children. The best time to visit is from March to the end of the season – any earlier and either the sun doesn’t rise during normal daylight hours or it’s February and the resort suffers the same fate as European resorts during the school holidays. Accommodation is not slopeside, but the resort is so quiet and peaceful this isn’t an issue. Getting there: Kittilä airport is 50km away.

Author: Rebecca Miles