Set Jetting: Following The Book Club On A Grand Tour of Italy - The Gloss Magazine

Set Jetting: Following The Book Club On A Grand Tour of Italy

Arguably the most appealing character in Book Club: The Next Chapter, a light-hearted tale of a girls’ trip through Italy, is its setting. Here’s where to stay in each of the idyllic film locations according to budget …


Budget: Ottantotto

Florence’s hipster neighbourhood is Oltrarno where you’ll find Ottantotto Firenze, a seven-room boutique hotel spread over four floors, one of which is a suite with a terrace and kitchenette. The hotel has an impressive pedigree and in previous iterations has been the home-workshop of a renaissance baker before being transformed into a noble residence, then into a philanthropic institution before being restored and converted into this boutique hotel. The style is whimsical and cosy – with soft lighting, lots of books and a lovely little garden where breakfast is served all year round (under a heated awning in winter). The management style is quite laissez-faire (the reception is manned until mid-afternoon) and there is an honesty bar in the lounge area. As for dining spots, there are plenty of bistros and in the vicinity, but if you are crossing the river then I recommend Il Borro Tuscan Bistro, owned by the Ferragamo family, which combines a wine bar and deli too. 

Mid-range: Casa Howard

This Belle Epoque beauty enjoys a strategically sublime position – in Via della Scala, near the famous Officina dè Profumi, the baptistery, the Duomo, the Tornabuoni street and also ten minutes away from the fascinating Mercato di Sant’Ambrogio. Casa Howard is the perfect blend of quirky guest house and boutique hotel decorated with the owner’s antiques with colonial-style furnishings ranging from chinoiserie to oriental and Scottish tartans. There’s no formal reception, but staff can organise everything you need – from museum bookings to wine tastings or cooking classes. Facilities are limited but there is a small snug terrace. If you like Italian wine – my favourite producers are Antinori – try the Cantinetta Antinori in the vaults of its former cellars. For sweeping lunchtime views over the city, a favourite spot of mine is also the small terrace of La Rinascente’s restaurant – a great location post retail therapy. 

Blow-out: Hotel Lungarno

Florence is home to a few notable sartorial icons – the Pucci Palazzo is a must-visit, while the Ferragamo-owned Lungarno collection of hotels are each impeccably dressed and positioned. I’ve stayed at the elegant Hotel Lungarno, where all the A-list sights are a short stroll away, and in prime position for watching the barchetti boats floating under the Ponte Vecchio on the river Arno. The décor in its 65 rooms is in crisp blues, whites and rich reds with statement artworks (there are some 400 pieces in the hotel); toiletries are Bianco di Carrara by Salvatore Ferragamo. The hotel also boasts a Michelin-starred restaurant, Borgo San Jacopo, while its refined Picteau Lounge is a tribute to Picasso and Cocteau, the setting for afternoon tea and apertivos. If that’s a bit too high brow there are plenty of more relaxed restaurants nearby – Il Pizzaiuolo for wafer thin pizzas, and Trattoria Sabatiino for hearty pasta dishes, away from the tourist hoards. Do try a wine tasting session at Enoteca Pitti. 


Budget: Hotel Galleria Dorsoduro

Small and charming with only nine rooms, this budget-friendly hotel is on the Grand Canal in a gorgeous 16th-century building, right at the Ponte dell’Accademia in the heart of the calm Dorsoduro district. It’s in prime position therefore for all of the key museums – The Guggenheim Collection, Palazzo Franchetti, The Accademia Galleries and more. Breakfast is served in the rooms, all of which ooze old-world charm with parquet floors; some have frescoed and stucco ceilings. And there are plenty of cafés and bars a short walk away, for aperitifs and delicious cicchetti. Bibliophiles, take note, this was a favourite bolt hole for Henry James and Robert Browning during their Venetian stays. 

Mid-range: Il Palazzo Experimental

The décor of this waterside Renaissance palace on the Giudecca Canal gives good Wes Anderson vibes – shades of terracotta and soft yellow predominate juxtaposed with exposed beams and Gothic windows. It’s no surprise to discover Il Palazzo is part of the Experimental group which includes the Henrietta Hotel in London and the Grand Pigalle Hotel in Paris, so its style quotient is impressive. Guests can summon a gondola to its private pier or take a trip on its pontoon. The restaurant specialises in modern Venetian cuisine, and there’s an outside courtyard for breakfast and afternoon teas. Do try one of its signature cocktails at the bar before popping out to some of the nearby restaurants. Highly recommended is Amo, where chef Massimiliano Alajmo whips up all sorts of pizzas (fried, baked and steamed), or the Venetian institution, Osteria al Portego, for cicchetti. 

Blow-out: Ca’ di Dio

This Patricia Urquiola-designed hotel is the perfect base if visiting the Arsenale area, known as the Contemporary Art District of Venice, the setting for the iconic Biennale, which opens on May 20 and runs until November 26. Urquiola’s aim was to honour the history of the building – formerly a pilgrim’s hospice, women’s refuge and old people’s home– without losing its charm. Her update has cultivated a sense of calm with bigger than average bedrooms, an airy lobby and two internal courtyards, home to the hotel’s Alchemia Bar and Essentia Restaurant and the indoor-outdoor Vero restaurant overlooks the lagoon. There are 57 suites and nine deluxe rooms with lots of warm wood, convex mirrors and Murano lamps that give an art deco vibe. There are two restaurants in addition to a Pura Spa using products from Venetian fragrance and skincare brand The Merchant of Venice. One of the many other benefits of this chic oasis is the tranquillity at night – it is at the furthest end of the waterfront and the rooms facing the lagoon are quiet. 


Budget: Grand Hotel Gianicolo

Immersed in the greenery of the Gianicolo hill and a few steps from San Pietro, Trastevere and Villa Panphili, this art nouveau palace is neither chic nor haute, it’s classic Italian. From its formal oak-panelled lobby to its functional rooms, the overall vibe harks back to its former iteration as a monastery. The hotel does have a beautiful pool though as well as a vast tree-lined garden and given its vantage point, it’s guaranteed to be quiet with discreet service assured. 

Mid-range: Casacau

With the enviable location of being a few minutes from the Trevi Fountain and ten minutes from the Spanish Steps, there are six one-bedroom apartments with kitchenettes in this 17th-century building. The studios are seriously stylish and decorated with vintage finds, with dramatic headboards, flamboyant art prints and mid-century modern fittings. Guests are delivered breakfast bags each morning – with pastries, bread, eggs and milk. There is no restaurant on site but do try the authentic Armando al Pantheon where the Gargioli family has been serving up classic pasta dishes for 50 years. More upmarket is Eit with tasting menus. For a gelato – Il Gelato di San Crispino is on Via della Panetteria. 

Mid-range: Hotel Castello della Castelluccia

Featured in the film as the wedding venue, the striking Castello della Castelluccia is in a wonderful hilly area just outside Rome. (It’s easily reachable from the city with a short detour from Via Cassia and in a great location to reach Lake Bracciano and the park of Bracciano-Martignano). The Castle’s charm and medieval atmosphere make it the perfect setting for celebrating milestone birthdays, weddings or multigenerational holidays. The castle has a private chapel and the outdoor cloister which can host religious celebrations. Rooms are decorated with antiques furniture and four-poster beds (some have working fireplaces) and the hotel also has a stylish restaurant, outdoor terrace and swimming pool. There’s also an airport shuttle. 

Blow-out: Hotel Hassler

The Hassler Roma describes itself as the “Stairway to Heaven,” and, like the song, it’s an icon located at the top of the Spanish Steps, minutes from the luxurious Via Condotti. It’s owned and managed by Roberto Jr and Veruschka Wirth, the sixth generation of a famous dynasty of hoteliers, (the hotel has been owned and run for over 125 years by the same family). The Hassler has been the base for film stars, writers, heads of state and aristocracy when visiting the Eternal City. Recently the hotel underwent a revamp, the style remains classic with contemporary touches. The Michelin-starred restaurant Imago boasts panoramic views of the city. The heart of the hotel is the Palm Court, the coolest garden in town during the heat of the summer. Of course, the hotel is close to all the must-see landmarks – Pantheon, St Peter’s, the Coliseum, the Borghese Gardens and the Trevi fountain, though if I stayed here I’d be lapping up its views and discreetly observing the other guests! 

Main featured image from The Gloss archives.

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