By Amy Laughinghouse
The Belle Epoque Makeover
Rosewood London, England
Located in a 1914 Edwardian landmark, Rosewood’s debut European property makes a memorable first impression, with a grand courtyard entry, a front door modeled after the Prime Minister’s at 10 Downing Street, and a marble staircase ascending seven stories toward a 166-foot cupola.
Check in for: “Here are three reasons I’ll be telling my clients to stay at the Rosewood,” says Greenwich, Connecticut-based Virtuoso travel advisor Tom Mullen: “A guaranteed room on arrival—no more waiting around until 3 pm check-in; a central location, five minutes’ walk from Covent Garden and 10 to 15 minutes from the London Eye, Big Ben, and St. Paul’s Cathedral; and, for families booking a suite, the option of a second room for 50 percent off.”
Here are two more: Sense Spa (complete with wood bridges traversing a stream), and that British attention to detail, which shows throughout the 306 guest rooms with elegant touches such as local Czech & Speake toiletries and Alpaca silver basins in the bathrooms, and quotes from Shakespeare’s sonnets and Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations en-graved on TV stands’ crystal glass.
Afternoon out: Speaking of Dickens, literary buffs can immerse themselves in manuscripts and personal memorabilia at the recently renovated Charles Dickens Museum, where the author penned Oliver Twist, on nearby Doughty Street. For one-of-a-kind boutiques selling everything from framed butterflies to limited-edition prints and antique china, head around the corner from the hotel to leafy Lamb’s Conduit Street.
Local draw: Holborn Dining Room, a brasserie mixing reclaimed oak, antique mirrors, and leather upholstery, launches in February with British dishes such as Cornish crab bisque, Highland partridge, and a Sterlingshire porterhouse. In fine weather (it happens occasionally), guests can dine alfresco in the interior courtyard. Holborn Delicatessen will offer grab-and-go sandwiches, soups, and salads alongside British-sourced charcuterie, marmalades, and cheese.
Room to splurge: The 6,295-square-foot Grand Manor House Wing encompasses six bedrooms, a dressing room, library, dining room, and several sitting rooms. It comes with a private street entrance and elevator, and it’s the only hotel suite we know of with its own postal code.
La Dolce Vita
Portrait Firenze, Italy
As you may expect from a hotel helmed by Leonardo Ferragamo, son of the late luxury-goods designer Salvatore Ferragamo, Portrait Firenze opens in May with experiences tailored to feel as comfortable as a pair of Italian shoes—private museum tours, atelier visits, and more.
The neighborhood: From Portrait’s coveted location on the Arno River overlooking the Ponte Vecchio, you’re a short walk from Palazzo Strozzi, the Uffizi and Accademia galleries, and the San Marco and Stibbert museums, as well as the artisans’ district of Santa Croce.
“Without a doubt, its privilege is location,” says Virtuoso’s on-site Florence expert Francesca Pozzi. “It’s one of the best of any hotel in the city, a few steps—really, 100 meters—from the bridge.” Grab a complimentary bike and map outlining various itineraries and go exploring, or tap the hotel staff for personal-shopping excursions and tours of the Vasari Corridor, built by Grand Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici in 1564 (or, for kids, a visit to the Galileo Museum).
Check in for: Six studios and 30 suites equipped with in-room iPads, Bluetooth sound systems, Salvatore Ferragamo bath products—even flat-iron hair straighteners. Many feature balcony views of the river, the Ponte Vecchio, and the Florentine hills; inside, classic books, linen and silk fabrics, and rich wood furnishings reinterpret 1950s Italian design.
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St. Regis New York
More than a century after it opened under the watchful eye of Colonel John Jacob Astor IV, this Fifth Avenue gem sparkles brighter than ever with a yearlong redesign of its public spaces and all 229 guest rooms.
The look: “While many of our competitors opt for muted neutral palettes and decor, we’re introducing bold royal blue, eggplant purple, and warm burgundy accents,” says general manager Paul Nash. The decision—coupled with geometric-print carpets and the occasional touch of animal print—lends a cheerful, vibrant feel to the rooms, which also received tech upgrades such as televisions embedded in bathroom mirrors and motion-sensor-controlled air conditioning and lighting. Traditionalists, rejoice: The reception’s original Tiffany stained-glass windows, hidden by a previous renovation, will be revealed once more, and the gilded entry, elaborate crown moldings, and Waterford crystal chandeliers that attracted celebrities such as Marlene Dietrich, Salvador Dalí, and Alfred Hitchcock remain.
Calling card: We wish all hotels could nail butler service like St. Regis does, but for sheer NYC style, the hotel’s Bentley car service stands out. Our pick of the house fleet: its 2013 Mulsanne, customized exclusively for the hotel, which debuted as the first of its model in the U.S. Doubles from $995, including breakfast daily and afternoon tea once during stay.
Cheers to this: The bar, with its famous King Cole mural, has expanded into the King Cole Bar & Salon, featuring an open fireplace and a restaurant by chef John DeLucie.
Originally appeared in Virtuoso Life magazine, January 2014.