We want to talk about a heavenly spot on earth, one that not everyone knows about, and that the Italians call “A pearl to be discovered.” Adjacent to the glitzy French Riviera is the gorgeous and gay Italian Riviera, dotted with coastal towns and villages that are desirable for all the senses. Our choice, Santa Margherita Ligure, a peaceful oasis on the Gulf of Tigullio, just a few minutes boat-bus away from Rapallo and Portofino …
The Grand Hotel Miramare
DAVID: She is the reigning Queen of the Italian Riviera, the proud possession of the regal Fustonini family: The Grand Hotel Miramare. This is the charm and elegance of a bygone time, with the comfort and sophistication suited to today’s traveler who wants the very best. For us, the very best was meeting Andrea Fustonini, who in turn introduced us to the real ruler of the Miramare, his dog Taboo. Andrea, a most gracious and handsome member of the Fustonini family, who owns the Miramare, made sure we enjoyed the best of his marvelous hotel with a most comfortable, luxurious, spacious room overlooking the hauntingly beautiful Ligurian coastline.
Over champagne, at the Miramare’s Le Colonne bar, Andrea (with his superb Jack Russell, Taboo), enthusiastically described plans to turn the piano bar into a wine bar and improve on what we found to be Paradise already.
JACKIE RAILS ON: After an eventful train ride, befriending a darling couple from Australia, Ann and Tony Yacono, it was a dream to enter The Grand Hotel Miramare. My first vision was a stairway leading to their garden, which was really a park! The immaculate grounds gradually wound up through a variety of flowers and at the top of the hillside, a kitchen garden full of all herbs and veggies and fruit, all overlooking their sparkling, heated, sea water pool. Captivating. And our spacey room had a wall of closets, most likely built for folks with steamer trunks who stay for months?
Our fun filled days are a blur, but it’s hard to forget the little train ride in Rapallo that Australian Ann and I waited fruitlessly because the conductor wouldn’t go with only two people. Still, a cute place to relax. We all took the boat around the bend to Portofino for lunch and some fruitful shopping! Yum and then some. With simple adventures and lovely people, Santa Margherita Ligure and the Grand Hotel Miremare, in its personal and tranquil way, has it all And then, there is the kitchen.
DAVID REMEMBERS: On our first night (which made us come back for our second night), we dined at the Miramare’s beautiful Bougainvillées restaurant; what a way to start our stay in this truly grand hotel in this spectacular setting! The service was impeccable, the food way up there with the best on this trip. I started with spaghettini alla vongole – perfectly al dente pasta with tiny clams tasting right out of the sea. Why eat pasta anywhere but Italy? JJ had a gorgeous plate of her favorite accuige (anchovies) in olive oil scented with lemon, and succulent lamb chops. I proclaimed my veal steak the best I’ve had. Simply grilled, pink with butter and rosemary. The wine, a rich full bodied Barola. Italian wines match their pasta – simply the best.
JACKIE REMINDS: This is not only a dog friendly hotel, but people friendly too. Their state-of-the-art “eSPAce” is the new wellness center of the Grand Hotel Miramare, featuring a wealth of faces and body treatments. (Please, see all that we are aimlessly trying to describe on their Internet site.) They also offer well-equipped conference rooms, a richly furnished lounge and then, for history buffs, on the front terrace of the hotel is a plaque proudly proclaiming Marconi transmitted the first centimetric radio waves from this spot, a spot that should be on lucky and knowing traveler’s itinerary.