Italy’s most famous hotel just gets better and better. How it achieves this logistical miracle – for how can one improve on perfection? – I do not know. But it must be to down to those admirable folk who know that only by the application of intelligence, skill, hard work and good taste does the Villa d’Este retain its position as one of the very best hotels in the world. I make no apology, therefore, for bringing you pictures of these fine people. Chief among them, of course, is the General Manager, Danilo Zuchetti – seen here with your correspondent in the main corridor of the hotel. Tall, charming, dapper and constantly about his property, Mr Zuchetti is the model of what the director of a true luxury hotel should be. He ensures that the Villa d’Este is the true Lady of Lake Como - gracious, serene, beautiful and always perfect in her manners and in her dress. Thus she carries easily that for which so many others can only strive – breeding. She is on intimate terms with the great and good, and yet she treats all her guests, however high or lowly, with the same care and courtesy. She stands alongside every great hotel and yet, somehow, she stands above them. As the late, great Jean Salvadore (who dealt with the hotel’s public relations for so many decades) never tired of reminding me: the Villa d’Este is unique.
There is a lot to be said in favour of the seriously rich. For example, they tend to live in the prettiest places. One such is the Cap d’Antibes, as lovely a piece of land as you will find on the French Riviera. It sticks out into the Mediterranean in a jaunty, nautical manner and its carefully tended palm trees and manicured lawns provide a delightful setting for the villas and mansions of the wealthy. Hidden among them is a hostelry which shares the comfort and sophistication of its neighbours. It, too, is in the style of a low-built Mediterranean villa. Within its gardens of ancient olive trees and carefully tended lawns stands a sculpture of wings in white marble. This charming retreat is the Hôtel Impérial Garoupe
It was a wonderful privilege to be able to stay in a five-star hotel in the very centre of St Tropez. No steps, no hills, no long treks, no waiting for a shuttle ‘bus – just a moment’s stroll along a pretty street and I was exactly where I wanted to be, next to the harbour. This is what – uniquely – is offered by the Hôtel de Paris. And this is what I enjoyed each day: a leisurely stroll in the sunshine to my seat at the Café de Paris (no relation), opposite the yachts of the visiting rich. Much is said and written about the importance of location, but that of the Hôtel de Paris is beyond splendid. It is almost miraculous, and afforded me immense pleasure. I love St Tropez. And now I love the Hôtel de Paris.
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See also Dining in France & American Farm to Table