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Italy

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RIVA LOFTS- Florence
- Stop dreaming about your own fabulous apartment in Florence and go acquire one! (well, for a few days anyway). We’re loving the sensational Riva Lofts- a collection of 8 contemporary, individually designed studio loft spaces replete with austere hand-selected modernist objects, intriguing artwork, antiques and soothing stylish colors that envelop you in an oasis of chill.

Years ago, father/daughter architectural design team Claudio & Alice Nardi blended their wealth of global experiences and tastes to create a curiously beautiful homestyle, welcoming atmosphere whose rooms are as individual as each guest. Spaces are all slightly different from one another when
comes to elements and style, ranging from 300-1000 sq. ft...some with private terraces, others opening directly onto the private garden that surrounds a stunning metaphysical white sandstone swimming pool.

You've got the absolute best of Florence right here , just minutes from the city by foot or complimentary bicycle and the spectacular Tuscan countryside in the other direction. The property sits along the Arno River, just opposite the Parco delle Cascine which extends the tranquil feel. Indulge in a gorgeously prepared breakfast including freshly baked breads & croissants, cereals, yogurts and fresh j
in a gorgeously prepared breakfast including freshly baked breads & croissants, cereals, yogurts and fresh juices before heading out to explore. A most fabulous, fashionable Florence feel...

EXPLORATEUR EXCLUSIVE- Spend 2 nights in a beautiful Loft Studio and save 390 EURO, plus be gifted with
a welcome bottle of Prosecco in your room upon arrival, complimentary breakfast and one 35-minute massage for 2 people. Connect with us at info@theexplorateurportfolio.com for more information and as always, be sure & tell ‘em The Explorateur sent you!Link

* Valid until may 31st (06-09 Apr excluded)

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PALACE DEL PRETE DI BELMONTE- Venafro, Italy
Have you ever wanted to feel like a royalty? Seeking an experience just a bit different than the usual glitzy, touristic-high street-style hotel? The historical Palace del Prete di Belmonte is the place for you. There's no shortage of incredible locations in Italy, however, Palace owners feel they've selected the most prestigious and beautiful place that offers a stay that is one of dreams. (and we do too)

Their goal? To surprise guests by continuously revealing undiscovered Italian artistic gems of royal life. and to put this feeling into real life, giving them the opportunity to indulge in aristocratic Italian style and antiquity. Guests here have the chance to live in an enchanting estate rich in regal tradition and customs, with a fair amount of quirkines as well, so much so that one feels instantly transported to the truest sense of a bygone era.

Residing for several generations by the Marquis del Prete Belmonte, Mrs. Dorothy Volpe del Prete di Belmonte is now the sole ruler of the palace, which also serves as a private apartment for the family del Prete di Belmonte itself. The ground floor, once used to keep carriages, has been transformed into a beautiful hall available for small conferences, private meetings and other special events. On the main floor, guests enjoy breakfast in an elegant drawing room decorated with frescoed ceilings depicting views of the town and the Del Prete country estates. Outside, guests enjoy a delightful courtyard with charming central garden with old-fashioned fragrant roses.

The rooms in the upper floor of the palace are furnished with period furniture and are available for guests. All are air-conditioned, wi-fi, and have private bathrooms. Gastronomy is a celebrated revival of classical Italian recipes from the 17th-18th Century, a true sensory and intellectual experience, at times complemented by a classical Italian music concert under the direction of orchestra conductor Claudio Luongo.

The Palace is located on the edge of Italy's largest National Park, surrounded by ancient olive groves, vineyards and numerous pre-Roman archaeological sites. The 16th Century Historical Palace del Prete di Belmonte has been newly renovated in neoclassical style, and its privileged location provides easy access for tour options from Rome, Naples, Pompeii, the Amalfi coast, and Capri.

EXPLORATEUR EXCLUSIVE - 10% savings on 3 night stays or longer, 1 Free guided tour through the city of Venafro + free entry to the Archeological Museum of Venafro.

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HOTEL BYRON-Forte dei Marmi, Italy
When it comes to grace and tradition, the Hotel Byron sits proudly at the top of that list, consistently retaining its inherent charming allure, intimate mood and refined elegance not easily found elsewhere. This 5-star luxury retreat is set in the heart of Forte de Marmi, overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea, verdant private gardens and beautifully graced with the Alps in its background. Hotel Byron is an homage to years past, to those that have left their signs, echoes and imprints still evident today.

The villa which houses the retreat was commissioned during the first half of the last century by José “Pepito” Caferino Canevaro Duke of Zoagli, as a family holiday residence. It has since stood the test of time, serving as an elegant escape for diplomats, noblemen, businessmen, artists and celebrities from the 18th Century onwards with an inherent welcoming spirit. The original features have been carefully maintained, and the décor reflects the commitment to the preservation of this piece of history.

Each of the 29 bedrooms and suites all overlook either the beach or the Alps, personally decorated by the owner whose favored art nouveau furnishings, yellow and green stained glass, floral lamps and bay windows with upholstered yellow seats that enrich the elegant environment. Outside, the hotel is embraced by fragrant and vibrantly colorful plants and flowers, making it feel as though you’ve arrived at your own private residence where you can enjoy the delightful swimming pool, relax with a creative libation at the hotel’s bar overlooking the garden, or engage in a game of tennis on property.

As if the surroundings weren’t fabulous enough, the glimmering gorgeous beach is just steps from Hotel Byron’s doorstep, along with horseback riding and an 18-hole golf course. La Magnolia, the property’s centerpiece restaurant, consistently delivers impeccable cuisine served in traditional style (poolside service available in the summer months), complemented by an incredible selection of Italian and French wines. La dolce vita indeed…

EXPLORATEUR EXCLUSIVE- Complimentary room upgrade, bottle of sparkling wine in room upon arrival and one 2-course light lunch during your stay. Click HERE for more info and as always, be sure & tell 'em The Explorateur sent you!

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dAMEDEI CHOCOLATIER- Tuscany

If you're anything like us, you once wished that you could have been one of those lucky Golden Ticket-winning kids that got to explore Willy Wonka's factory in one of the most memorable movies of all time. (OK, we still have that fantasy but so what!). Well, now's your chance to get as Wonkified as possible. Amedei has opened its doors to chocolate connoisseurs who can indulge Augustus Gloop-style for hours on end.

For those that want to immerse themselves in a magical chocolate atmosphere, Amedei of Tuscany takes chocolate fans through the journey from the bean source through the complete creation of each distinctively crafted product...tasting all of the chocolate and pralines along the way. The tour allows you to follow the entire production of the refined Amedei chocolates, from granules to cocoa to decadently delightful treats. Amedei follows the emotions that transform chocolate into a precious delight that evokes childhood memories and an instant satisfaction of the senses. You're already indulging in amazing food whilst in Italy, top it off with something sweet and special.

Our pick? The Ultimate Journey, where you'll be treated to robust tastings of Crema Toscana which will put Nutella to shame, Toscano Brown milk chocolate and the Blond, crafted with peaches and apricots. If that wasn't enough, the Toscano Red will be rolled out, filled with berries, extra dark award-winning Madagascar, Jamaica and Trinidad blends. Move on to the pure Creole style Porcelana, a steaming cup of hot chocolate, 5 flavors of praline and top it off with an Incontro, rich with chunky hazelnuts. 2 ½ hours of chocolate bliss. Tours run Monday to Friday, 9A - 5:30P and run with a minimum of 4 people. Oh, just go for it.

www.amedei.it

EXPLORATEUR EXCLUSIVE- Sweet savings! Take the Ultimate Journey for 120 Euro per person. Click HERE for more info and, as always,

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PALAZZO MAGNANO FERONI- Florence, Italy
Pack your cloak, polish your crown, shine your scepter and get ready to walk proud, with your shoulders held back, master of all you survey. Or, skip these steps and check directly into Palazzo Magnani Feroni if you’re just dying to know what it must have felt like to live like true European nobility. This regal hideaway has served as a luxurious retreat for members of the aristocracy since the 1500’s, and now it awaits your arrival as well- ready to treat you in the same spectacular noble fashion.
Attention to details here- marvelous. Attention to the most minute details- meticulous. Service that makes you feel as though you're a member of elite high society- ridiculous (in an amazing way of course). Breakfast the Palazzo manner means dining in an extravagant hall graced by an incredibly ornate Murano crystal chandelier, evening cocktails here are meant to be sipped in romantically illuminated galleries once home to the most elegant of parties thrown in spectacular, indulgent fashion by the Feroni marquises.

We recommend the Feroni Deluxe Suite for the best possible experience. Featuring it's own en-suite laptop connected to wi-fi and printer, lavish marble bathrooms with fab Bulgari amenities and perhaps the best possible amenity we've ever seen- a Vibro Power machine which is one of the hottest pieces of fitness equipment around designed for slimming, massage and exercise all in one. No visit to the Palazzo Magnani Feroni is complete without enjoying a dinner or nightcap on their unique panoramic terrace, one of the most special yet hidden gems in all of Florence providing amazing views of the entire city. Trust us, it's much better to enjoy Florence as a noble, even if it's only for a few days. http://www.palazzomagnanoferoni.com/

EXPLORATEUR EXCLUSIVE- Save 20% on a 3 night stay or longer in a Palace Suite, plus enjoy a complimentary cocktail at the Palace Bar and continental breakfast served in the Murano Hall. Click HERE for more information and as always, be sure & tell 'em The Explorateur sent you!

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VILLETA MIMMA VITTORIA- Calabria
Take a look at a map of Italy and follow along the boot-like peninsula. At the toe of this boot, at the very tip of the toe lies the final frontier of Italian splendor. A land of unparalleled beauty where mountains melt into clear blue waters, where shores tell tales of thousands of years of history, and where you can tuck in to some of the most incredibly authentic dishes this magical land has to offer. This is Calabria, and it’s best enjoyed when based at your own homestead…just like Villeta Mimma Vittoria.

This two-floor independent townhouse is jam-packed with amenities you’d want in your own home- an open plan living room with leather sofa bed, stainless steel full kitchen with modern appliances, marble staircase, skylights, balconies., even a wood burning Franklin fireplace for the occasional chilly evenings. It’s been in the owner’s family for generations, and they proudly share this sanctuary and their love for this vibrant region resplendent with friendliness, proud enthusiasm and the signature Italian passion for life. The Vileta is secluded, special and splendid, just like the region itself so discover this smooth side of Italy when next you visit.

EXPLORATEUR EXCLUSIVE- Stay a week and it’s yours for only US $1800, that’s a savings of over $3000! Plus, they’ll throw in a cooking class and excursion to the family olive orchard and mill. Click HERE for more info and as always, be sure & tell 'em The Explorateur sent you!

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RELAIS VILLA L’OLMO- Tuscany
Tuscany…with its verdant vibrant vineyards, traditional terracotta, fabulous food, casually chic and colorful charm, it’s really no wonder it’s someplace on just about everyone’s list of dreams. Who hasn’t at one point or another said they’d love to have a villa in Tuscany? It used to be that you just couldn’t get one (good catch Seinfeld fans), and today it’s all about the “downmarket”. We say it’s so much better to borrow. Our call- the apartments at the Relais Villa L’Olmo.

The Relais is an enclave of traditional stone structures nestled perfectly amongst olive groves and the elegant lines of the Chianti hills. Opt for your own private villa, or a cozy apartment which are all outfitted with mod technology, furnished in true Tuscan style and feature access to private pools and lush gardens. Either way it’s entirely your own temporary home, your very own piece of real estate for as long as you choose, only a short drive from the colossally culture-centric city of Florence.

Start your day with a breakfast created from the freshest local ingredients on a patio overlooking the hillside, amble into the small center of town, hop from vineyard to vineyard, or take a jaunt to the city via chauffeured driver and private guide. And ride high on the bragging rights of having your very own piece of property in Tuscany (even if only for a few idyllic days). http://www.relaisvillalolmo.com/

EXPLORATEUR EXCLUSIVE- Book an apartment at the Relais at discounted rates and enjoy complimentary WI-FI plus a welcome bottle of their famous homemade wine upon arrival. Click HERE for more information and as always, be sure & tell 'em The Explorateur sent you!

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LA TORRETTA BIANCA BED & BREAKFAST- San Benedetto, Italy
When innkeepers Romina Abbadini andThomas Christel opened La Torretta Bianca Bed & Breakfast just as a place for their friends & family to stay when visiting them in the Marche Region of Italy (talk about generous), they couldn’t yet have known what a stellar reputation this “little white tower” was to acquire just a short time after. This 18th Century hillside farmhouse-turned-country villa is simple, special, and offers comfortable, traditional Italian homestyle feel, inspired by the owner’s passionate feelings about family, the quality of the Italian lifestyle, and eagerness to show visitors this stunning side of Italy. And you really do feel like family here.

There are 5 guest rooms to choose from, including a stunning Vista Mare room on the 3rd floor with gorgeous views of the sea, and a larger apartment if that’s more your style. But the beauty really lies in the natural setting, terraces of gardens with all kinds of fruit and nut trees, homemade breakfasts made with homegrown figs, apples, plums, fresh baked rolls topped off with a cappuccino. OK- we’re officially hungry now.

It’s a different, more authentic Italian experience if tours are not your thing, and a perfect base when seeking to experience the essence of the countryside. Why? because it’s just a short drive to the mountains for hiking and castle exploration, minutes away from the beaches on the Adriatic Sea, steps from the delight of the open-air markets of downtown San Benedetto, and in the center of some of Italy’s best wining and dining. Romina and Thomas’s doors are always open for your arrival. Enjoy. http://www.bebtorre.com/

EXPLORATEUR EXCLUSIVE- Save 10% on stays at La Torretta Bianca through the remainder of 2010*. Please click HERE for more information or to book and be sure & tell ‘em The Explorateur sent you!
*not valid for travel July and August 2010

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LA TAGLIATA- Monte Pertuso, Italy
“Just go up- up up the mountain- make a left when you see the shrine and go up all the way towards Monte Pertuso, you can’t miss it”, said Ralphie, our trusted waiter at a local eatery we’d become accustomed to during a stay in Sorrento who as we found out spends 6 months in Italy and 6 months in Brooklyn because “he’s got his things here, and got his things there”. Funny that he was pushing us to try another restaurant other than his own so we took it seriously and embarked on a nailbiting journey over the cliffs of the Amalfi Coast in the dark AND the rain in a quest to find this “La Tagliata” eatery that he forbid us to miss.
When we arrived, this gorgeous place looked more like a rustic Italian dining room in a home rather than a restaurant and it was stark empty. Yet, the host looked around, eyed us suspiciously and asked quite seriously if we had a reservation. We laughed, he shrugged and then profusely apologetically sat us near the kitchen...in a place like this, we’re pretty sure we call that a JACKPOT. Though the nighttime views out over the hills are pretty magical, they’re nothing compared to the magical sights of chefs on the grill, cooking a variety of meats and home-grown vegetables to a whole new level of perfection, or the ladies hand-rolling the homemade pasta using the freshest local ingredients. The dishes came out one by one, and kept coming…we didn’t want to tell them to stop. By the time we left, this little home was packed to the hilt with a line of cars streaming down the side of the rocky inclined street waiting quite impatiently to park. Go early, DO make a reservation and do NOT miss this while on the Amalfi Coast (or anywhere near there for that matter). It’s easy to find- just take the coastal road, turn, and go up-up-up the mountain- trust us, you can’t miss it. www.latagliata.com

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ARANJAYA-Catania, Sicily
Touch down in Catania, head south for about 20 clicks, make sure you pass Mount Etna on your right and head for the orange groves. See them yet? Good, that means you've arrived at our lovely new find, Aranjaya. Ensconced in its own organic citrus farm, it's a rustic yet chic charming villa-turned-boutique hotel, but don't let it's 8 rooms fool you. It's a vision in terracotta & whitewash and completely immersed in Sicilian character, offering its own infinity pool, tennis courts, lazy billowing palms, multi-colored flora, and ubiquitous views of the volcano.

After all, it's been run by an aristocratic family for over 300 years, who have preserved the tasteful, almost "lived-in" feel which makes guests feel like it's truly their own private home. Complete with gorgeous olive-oil bath products, Espresso machines, artistic touches and even an in-house chef (who happens to be Tunisian and produces the most incredible Mediterranean fare with a locavore flair). The lovely town of Catania sits just nearby, making this a beautiful, private spot to spend your stay in Sicily.

EXPLORATEUR EXCLUSIVE- Book a week's stay and receive your choice of either 2 COMPLIMENTARY nights or an upgrade to an Orchard Suite. Visit http://www.aranjaya.com/ for more information or reservations, and as always, be sure & tell 'em The Explorateur sent you!

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PALAZZO MAGNANI FERONI- Florence, Italy
If you've ever strolled down a street abroad that's rich in history, pondering what a sweet life it must have been for European nobility- we know of a place that delivers you as close as possible to the real thing. Palazzo Magnani Feroni stands confidently and regally in the heart of this fantastically historical city amongst towers and palaces, and steps from the Ponte Vecchio. Period furnishings from the 1500's and ancient frescoes adorning the walls- marvelous. Attention to details- meticulous. Service that makes you feel as though you're a member of the nobile aristocracy from centuries' past- ridiculous (in an amazing way of course). Breakfast the Palazzo manner means dining in an extravagant hall graced by an incredibly ornate Murano crystal chandelier, evening cocktails here are meant to be sipped within romantically illuminated galleries once home to the most elegant of parties thrown in spectacular, indulgent fashion by the Feroni marquises.

It's not all entirely about classical elegance of ancient times, the stunning contrast of modern and chic fare presented within the palace experience is phenomenal. Each of the 12 suites are phenomenally spacious- offering a master bedroom, separate private living room, lush private marble bathroom with fab Bulgari amenities, and then of course the high-tech fare which is perfect. We recommend the Ferroni Deluxe Suite for the best possible experience. Featuring it's own en-suite laptop connected to wi-fi and printer, and perhaps the best possible amenity we've ever seen- a Vibro Power machine which is one of the hottest pieces of fitness equipment around designed for slimming, massage and exercise all in one. No visit to the Palazzo Magnani Feroni is complete without enjoying a dinner or nightcap on their unique panoramic terrace, one of the most special yet hidden gems in all of Florence providing amazing views of the entire city. Trust us, it's much better to enjoy Florence as a noble, even if it's only for a few days.

As a Luxury Travel Advisor EXPLORATEUR EXCLUSIVE- Receive a complimentary wine welcome with a beautiful array of culinary treats en suite upon check-in. Contact guestcare@florencepalace.it , visit http://www.palazzomagnaniferoni.com/ or call +390552399544 to book and be sure & tell 'em THE EXPLORATEUR sent you!

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GRAND HOTEL DES ILES BORROMEES, STRESA, ITALY

We're just back from our latest discovery along Italy's Lake Maggiore, STRESA. Sure, the name to Americans may make you smile a bit quizzically at first, and absolutely, the nail-biting super-winding one-car-at-a-time road leading down to this town may be a bit on the stress-ful side, make you question why you actually chose this place out of everywhere else in the region to stay...and then you arrive. And then you instantly know. Places like this with such stunning natural beauty and elegance are few and far between, and its privileged location set along the crystalline lake framed by picture-perfect mountains and lush green hills make this possibly one of the world's most beautiful locations. The Grand Hotel des Iles Borromees is exactly where you want to stay when visiting Stresa, and going off-season still provides you with the region's signature luxury feel, naturally beautiful crisp scenery (snowcapped mountains included!) without breaking the bank. Starting rates are just under US$200 per night including a sumptuous breakfast at the moment for this 5-star luxe property. The original building dates back to 1800's but careful renovations, keeping with its Belle Epoque theme have transformed it into an exquisite gem. Although it's served as a holiday retreat of choice for royalty around the world, it is so surprisingly down to earth and comfortable, and the ubiquitous staffmembers take time to get to know you, your preferences, and make you feel as if you're the only ones in house. Although the decor is regal and grand, t's the little touches that are so memorable here, like the concerned concierge making sure he personally handed us a comprehensive printout of directions for wherever we were planning to venture that day either by car or on foot.

Stresa has a beautiful old-world charm, like most towns around the Italian lakes it is quite seasonal so it can be challenging at times to find most shops and restaurants open on a consistent basis, so just make note. However, we made some great discoveries such as La Cascinetta, a rustic farmhouse in the hills serving dinner by the fireplace in a quaint dining-room-style space along with some of the villages just over the Swiss border such as Locarno, that are brimming with restaurants, sailboats along the lake, families taking their daily stroll, and just an overall atmosphere that is as far away from the word stress as you can get.
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ANTICO CASALE DI SCANSANO, ITALY
"Keep going, down the road, straight down the road and there you'll find our little Casale", said the front desk manager through the phone after we called from the car. Take one wrong turn in this part of Tuscany and you could be lost for hours (point proven) but wow is it worth it when you arrive. Set in a beautifully restored farmhouse, and surrounded by impeccably manicured gardens, this piece of heaven is just steps from the charming center of town and offers a fully equipped European spa, equestrian center, Italian cooking classes, and the most charming accommodations. The full breakfast (inlcuded by the way) was laden with the most wonderful fresh breads, cheeses and fruit, and dinner was absolutely gorgeous, with treats like homemade fettuccini, wild boar, and incredible desserts. It certainly feels like Mom is in the kitchen working her magic, and absolultely feels like home. Special spa and wine/culinary packages available now. Note to self- rent GPS along with your rental car to avoid unnecessary directions-related spats with your traveling companions! http://www.anticocasalediscansano.it
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