Like us, you might think you know Jamaica: Montego Bay, Ocho Rios, Negril.
All boast beachfront all-inclusive resorts with any kind of activity you can imagine. “Party All the Time” could be the soundtrack of a vacation here. Yet, a totally different vibe awaits if you drive about two-and-a-half hours southwest from Montego Bay’s Sangster International Airport.
The view from South Jamaica
Our journey takes us over mountains that dominate the central part of the island. Major road construction promises a shorter drive, but regardless, the scenery is captivating and passing through small towns offers a glimpse of local life.
Our final destination is Treasure Beach in St. Elizabeth Parish, where we’re eager to check into a lesser-known, beachfront resort, the family-owned Jakes Treasure Beach. This area is Jamaica at its roots; some call it the “Real Jamaica.”
The area’s welcome sign affirms we’ve arrived at the “Home of Community Tourism,” and over the next two days, we start to learn what that means in this rural, rocky and tremendously friendly side of south Jamaica.
Our insight begins as our little bus hired through Paradise Tours stops in front of an antique, four-door, London taxi-type vehicle (actually a Ford) with the hotel’s name painted on its sides. Next to it is a fanciful, mosaic entranceway, the resort’s name spelled out within the pink stucco block wall.
The eye-catching vehicle outside Jakes
Fanciful entrance to Jakes Treasure Beach
The unique property was obviously built with care—full of creative architecture and thoughtful, personal touches. Bohemian, yes, in all the best ways.
Love letter to Jamaica
Jakes Treasure Beach is an intimate, one-of-a-kind seaside property. A virtual love letter to Jamaica courtesy of the Henzell family, the resort takes its name from a beloved pet parrot.
Casual-chic Jakes sports dazzling colors and sweeping architectural curves resonating with patterns and shapes of Barcelona artist Antoni Gaudi. From reception to the pool, spa to rooms, oceanfront bungalows to flower-embraced cottages, it all fuses with nature. The result is a setting that’s peaceful, colorful, creatively functional, organic, joyful and totally welcoming.
A cottage tucked in the flora
We’re delighted with our waterside, coral-colored bungalow where earth and sea seem linked by design.
View of Frenchman’s Bay from our room
Inside, traditional West Indian flare prevails, like louvered windows and doors, wood floors and mosquito netting over beds. (It is wise to pack your favorite repellant. Ours was a brand named Proven, which proved quite effective.)
Most intriguing is how Caribbean colors reflect off the unusual walls, headboard and outdoor shower half walls—unusual because each element employs upright colored bottles inlaid in thick mortar. They reflect changing hues depending on sunlight and sky cover.
Our room at Jakes Treasure Beach with bottles in the walls
Jakes Treasure Beach offers 33 rooms on the property and an additional 33 rooms and villas off-property—some owned and others managed. Most rooms have showers rather than tubs; in oceanfront rooms like ours, those open-air, outdoor showers encourage stargazing come nightfall. Jakes’ own brand of Jamaican-made toiletries, Driftwood, takes its name from its stand-alone Driftwood Spa. Inside our room, the louvered French doors lead to a private wooden sun deck (sans railing) offering an unobstructed view of Frenchman’s Bay. A quick change into bathing suits and we are water bound.
Our deck with a view
A whimsically adorned, kidney-shaped, saltwater pool sits a few steps below the courtyard (just off the lobby area). It’s here in the courtyard where farm- and sea-to-table meals are served amid lush foliage. Nearby Dougie’s is a tidy bar and late-day gathering spot. Alongside it, guests can rent snorkeling equipment.
A small pier juts out into a cove protected on each side with rocks. Water access is via a little sandy beach but we opt to jump off the pier and are soon sharing refreshing, cool waters with a family from England, here on a return visit. They encourage us to keep this little paradise a secret. A Canadian couple agrees.
Keeping an eye on the sky, we head to our private deck in time to watch a stellar Jamaican sunset and toast our arrival.
Sunset view from atop our villa at Jakes Treasure Island
Driftwood Spa at Jakes Treasure Beach
Reception area at the Driftwood Spa
Arriving at Jakes Driftwood Spa is a little discovery down a stepping-stone path with foliage surrounding us. As it comes into view, the spa’s ocean blue stucco exterior stands in contrast to all the surrounding green plants and bushes and the lighter blue sky above. At one side, a curved staircase with mosaics fronting each step leads to an upper platform deck. The open doors bid us welcome as do the staff.
Inside, it’s hard to focus on the new guest form; we’re too busy studying the colorful patterns in the unique, over-door, Gaudi-esque, stained glass windows. In our couples massage room, a door beyond the side-by-side massage tables is open to the sea beyond. Within the first few moments of our session, we know we are in good hands as the travel stress starts to melt away.
The next morning we get a treat when we take a yoga class led by Empress Thandi Wise of the nearby Rasta Wellness Centre. Her smile fills the space as she instructs us to go at our own pace.
Our yoga teacher, Thandi Wise
Yoga with a view
How this treasure came about
Over dinner with General Manager Jason Henzell, we meet his mother, Sally, the designer behind all this funky fun—those bottles in the walls and headboards, the curved architecture, the decision to make each room and villa unique. Her love of Barcelona architecture is apparent throughout.
Always a writer, artist, art lover and designer, she and her husband created this little tropical escape. That husband, the late Perry Henzell, was a screenwriter and director widely known for his movie The Harder They Come, which introduced reggae music to the world. Sally designed the costumes. Post-dinner, Sally regales us with stories of old-style Jamaica that she and Perry joyfully explored. Among their friends were Bob Marley and record producer Chris Blackwell, who founded Island Records.
Jason Henzell is the property’s third-generation owner. His grandparents came from Devon, and eventually purchased the resort’s original one acre (for a thousand British pounds) and built a two-bedroom, getaway cottage they named “Treasure.” When the grandparents passed away, the cottage went to Sally. Jason is hopeful his son will be the fourth generation in charge.
Treasure, indeed. We completely surrendered to the vibe at Jakes in a less-traveled part of this tropical island. As to keeping it a secret? Sorry, this place has to be shared.
What’s appealing to the over-50 luxury traveler?
Seeing a totally different side of Jamaica in a unique spot far away from the large all-inclusives
A slower paced getaway where guests don’t feel compelled to do anything except relax
Simple meals using fresh local seafood, produce and fruits plus the chance to try local specialties like breakfast ackee and codfish or steamed callaloo
Available classes in painting, mosaics and cooking
A quiet, two-story spa with daily yoga on its upper deck offering outstanding views
Warm, welcoming staff who quickly make you feel at home
Supporting a local, family-owned, multi-generational endeavor with heart
Some villa sun decks jut out over rocky edges and have no railings, and there are uneven surfaces around the property.
There’s no direct water access from waterfront rooms and villas.
Access to the ocean is via a metal ladder with rungs a bit far apart; otherwise, enter from land via a few low steps.
The small pool is shared by local crabs and is often sandy.
Don’t forget the bug spray.
There are four beaches within walking distance.
Jakes oversees popular tourist spot Lovers Leap, a 20-minute drive away and home to the highest lighthouse in the Western Hemisphere at 1,700 feet.
Popular boat excursions are available to overwater Pelican’s Bar and an outing with Capt. Joseph Brown who can arrange a fresh, lobster lunch at his private, seaside hideaway called Seagrape.
For meals off property, there’s Jack Sprat next door and a limited number of other local spots in this rural location.
All photo credits: Fletcher/Newbern (except two lead photos, Brie Williams Inc. for Jakes Treasure Beach
Disclosure: The authors’ trip to Jamaica was supported by the Jamaica Tourist Board.
I got hooked on Carménère while visiting Chile, so it seemed only natural that a trip to Argentina should include learning about Malbec, the country’s flagship wine. That meant flying to Mendoza, Argentina’s premier wine-growing region. Located on the central western edge of the country in the Andes foothills, the Mendoza wine region produces almost two-thirds of the country’s wine, with Malbec the lead player.
Before heading off to wine country, however, my traveling companion and I decided to spend a couple of days in Mendoza city (Mendoza is the name of both the capital and the province), giving us time to acclimate to our new surroundings and to work up the courage to rent a car. As responsible adults, we stopped at the city’s tourist office to inquire about the rules for drinking and driving, but the woman behind the desk seemed genuinely surprised and more than a little amused by my question.
“There isn’t any limit to how much you can drink,” she said, her colleague nodding in agreement, and then she laughed. “Police won’t stop you. Have fun!”
Argentina’s Mendoza wine region
Of course, that just made us wary of all those other drivers. But the great thing about driving in Mendoza is that wine country begins almost immediately south of city limits, with flat roads and relatively little traffic, making it both easily accessible and easy to navigate. Soon we found ourselves tooling through an arid, flat landscape, with the majestic Andes rising in the distance.
As we learned on our winery tours, Mendoza offers the perfect conditions for growing grapes. It occupies a flat plain about 3,000 to 4,000 feet above sea level, giving it high-intensity sunny days and cold nights, and some of the highest-altitude vineyards in the world. Its soil— comprising sand, silt, and clay, with little organic matter— is considered optimal for grape vines.
While Malbec has seen a decline in France … the grape has star status in Argentina.
Mendoza’s ideal wine-producing climate didn’t escape the notice of European immigrants, who began cultivating grapes here in the 19th century. By the turn of the 20th century, Argentinians kept the wine industry afloat by consuming up to 100 liters per person a year. By the1970s, however, competition from Coca Cola and beer caused wine consumption to sink to fewer than 24 liters per person a year, forcing many wineries to close their doors.
Clos de Chacras is an Argentinian boutique winery with a restaurant and old-fashioned production system.
Luckily, international interest in wine has breathed new life into Mendoza, which now has some 1,500 wineries, ranging from world-renowned companies to small family-run affairs, spread through Mendoza’s several wine-producing regions. These include Maipu, which stretches just south and east of the city and is the historic center of the wine region; Lujan de Cuyo, a 40-minute drive south of Mendoza city and home to many modern wineries and boutique hotels; and Uco Valley, a 75-minute drive south of the city and known for its high-altitude vineyards.
We decided to base ourselves in Chacras de Coria, a picturesque community in Lujan de Cuyo, with tree-lined streets, an Old World charm and an attractive small plaza, plus quick access to wineries in both Lujan de Cuyo and Maipu. We stayed in Casa de Coria, a six-room property that was once part of a winery, and offers a pool and good breakfasts.
“I fell in love with the climate and people,” says Bruce Byers, a retired American pilot and one of the owners of Casa de Coria. “The area used to be popular for vacation homes for people from Mendoza because it’s a cooler climate, but really, little has changed. Except now, we’re seeing more Americans and tourists from other countries.”
Learn more about the Mendoza wine region at the history museum at Bodegas Lopez.
Malbec and other Mendoza wine region wines
Malbec grapes were brought from France to Argentina in 1868. While Malbec has seen a decline in France, where it’s used mostly for blends and is found primarily in the southwest part of the country, the grape has star status in Argentina. The country boasts more than 75 percent of the world’s Malbec vineyards.
A purple grape with robust tannins, Malbec is aged in mostly French oak barrels or stainless steel tanks and can have hints of black cherry, plum, blackberry, chocolate, mocha, molasses, vanilla and countless other notes. It also offers good value. While you can spend upwards of $150 for an exceptional Malbec, bottles costing less than $20 can have full, fruity flavors that pair well with Argentina’s famous beef.
While Mendoza produces chiefly Malbec, it also offers Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Tempranillo, as well as Cereza and Criolla Grande, two white wines introduced by Spanish settlers; the latter is rarely found outside Argentina. Because Mendoza’s climate and geography are also conducive to growing olives, some wineries also produce olive oil.
Visit local wineries
Short of staying in Mendoza a few years, most visitors are faced with narrowing the wineries they choose to visit. We decided that four wineries were perfect for our three-night stay, choosing both world-famous and small, family-owned properties, some with restaurants on site.
A vineyard at Bodega Norton in the Mendoza wine region.
Bodega Norton is one of the big names in Argentinian wineries, producing 22 to 26 million bottles of wine a year. Located in Lujan de Cuyo, it was founded in 1895 by an English engineer who came to help build a railway across the Andes and fell in love with Mendoza. Now with five extensive vineyards, old-style cellars, and a high-tech production line, Norton exports to 65 countries around the world.
Its Malbec tours begin in a vineyard, take visitors through the wine-making process, and conclude with a walk through Norton’s century-old cellar, where tastings are held at several stations along the way. To make the most of our visit, we had lunch at the winery’s La Vid Restaurant, which unsurprisingly specializes in seasonal ingredients meant to complement its wines.
Wine barrels at Bodegas Lopez winery in Argentina.
Bodegas Lopez, in Maipu, was established in 1898 and has the distinction of being owned by the same family through four generations. Its 2,471 acres of vineyards are spread throughout the region; it also devotes 240 acres for the production of its own olive oil. Free one-hour tours begin with a short video about the winery’s history and its wine-making process and include tastings with instructions on how best to appreciate wine, from the color to the swirl to swallowing and breathing through the nose. On grounds are also a museum and a gourmet restaurant.
Trapiche winery has an idealic location and historic buildings.
Trapiche has a beautiful location on the edge of Maipu, making it my favorite winery tour. Its roots stretch back to its 1883 founding by an Italian. The attractive Florentine-style brick building erected in 1912 still stands beside train tracks that once transported its barrels of wine for bottling elsewhere. Plummeting interest in wine in the 1970s, however, brought the winery’s demise. It stood abandoned for 40 years before Trapiche revived it in 2006.
The winery now produces 5 million liters a year, 6 percent of which is exported, mostly to the United States, Canada, and England. Interestingly, 4,000 bottles a year are produced only for local consumption and are sold only at the winery. Tours here include more history on the region’s viticulture than the other tours we took and begin with an olive tasting; some of its olive trees are more than 100 years old.
Aging and fermentation facilities at Clos de Chacras
Clos de Chacras
Clos de Chacras is a wonderful example of a boutique winery. Located close to where we were staying in Chacras de Coria, it’s literally a hidden gem, secluded from the main street and revealing its 2.4-acre vineyard and salmon-colored 1921 winery only after you’ve been admitted into its long driveway (reservations are a must). Its other 40 acres of vineyards are located in Uco Valley and elsewhere, together producing 100,000 bottles a year.
Established in 1883 by a Swiss Italian and once one of the largest operations in Argentina, it, too, fell on hard times and closed in the 1970s, only to be bought in 1987 by a family member, making it one of the rare wineries with the same Argentine owners. Its wine is still produced the old-fashioned way, including women picking the grapes and an old de-stemming machine. In addition to using French and American oak barrels for aging, it is also the only winery that uses cement tanks for fertilization.
I highly recommend coming here for a meal in its greenhouse-like restaurant overlooking the winery’s courtyard, where you can watch production from February to May.
Guanacos (related to llamas) at Villavicencio, an easy side trip when visiting Argentina’s Mendoza wine region.
Worthwhile side trip
It’s worth taking a small vacation from wine time with a drive through Reserva Natural Villavicencio, a spectacular nature reserve sited about an hour north of Mendoza city. It’s traversed via a rough gravel road that winds about 34 miles ever higher than the flat plains leading from the city. Numerous switchbacks lead through changing landscapes of scrub brush, rock formations, rippling ridges, and multi-colored stone hills strewn with boulders, with views of the Andes in the distance. The going is slow, so be sure to bring water and food, and plan on at least half a day to make your way through, if not longer. Trust me, you’ll want to make many stops along the way to admire the views. (Note: the website is in Spanish only.)
What’s appealing to the over-50 luxury traveler?
Although Mendoza is to Argentina what Napa Valley is to California, it’s a lot more low-key. With its many boutique hotels, country estates (some located on winery grounds), luxury hotels, great restaurants and fun winery tours, the Mendoza wine region is the perfect couple’s romantic getaway.
Driving is easy once you’re outside Mendoza city, with flat roads and marked streets. There are, however, tour options for visiting wineries, including a hop-on, hop-off wine tour lasting half and full days, for those who prefer not to drive.
Visitors come mainly for the wine, so there’s little of the mass tourism that plagues other areas.
Argentina’s seasons are reversed from those in the United States. Mendoza’s winter months (June, July, and August) are generally mild with sunny days, with vistas of the snow-covered Andes a bonus. Summers are hot but arid.
Reservations should be made for wineries and restaurants at least one day in advance, which can be done by the concierge or owner of the property where you’re staying or sometimes online. There’s generally a charge for tours, although some are free. And be sure to bring pesos, as many wineries do not take credit cards.
It’s tempting to buy wine to bring home but be sure to pack it securely in your checked luggage. There’s a 1-liter limit on the amount of alcohol you can bring back to the United States tax-free; for extra bottles of that special reserva you just can’t buy at home, the extra duty might be worth it.
For more ideas on what to do in Argentina, see Beth Reiber’s article on TravelReiber.
Whether we’re traveling abroad or taking the railroad into Manhattan for the day, we always take a portable charger with us.
We find that even half-day jaunts spent touring a city—perhaps, as part of a cruise, land tour or road trip—can drain a cellphone battery, especially if you’re a heavy user of maps and social media apps.
And unless you snag a seat next to an outlet or charging station, it can be hard to find a place to charge your smartphone at airports, even in some premium lounges.
The answer: Stashing a backup charging device in your purse, backpack or pocket of your travel vest offers the convenience of being able to charge your phone on your lap or in your pocket—and gives you one less thing to worry about!
A Simple Solution: The myCharge HubPlus
We recently received an all-in-one myCharge HubPlus portable charger for review. The unit offers a simple, functional solution for battery-drained travelers. We liked that it came already-charged out of the box without a wait.
What else we liked about this unit:
The portable charger allows you to quickly recharge your phone (or other USB device) up to 4 times. The charge is 3x faster than the iPhone cube plug-in.
Although the charge will be slowed down somewhat, you can simultaneously charge three devices (e.g., smartphone, tablet, e-reader, wireless headphones).
If you do find a wall outlet in your travels along the way, you can recharge the unit again (a full recharge takes just over three hours).
Built-in charging cords
No need to worry about bringing along separate cords, the cables are cleverly integrated into the unit. The charger comes with its own Apple Lightning and Android/Samsung micro USB cables as well as integrated, foldable wall prongs.
The unique lay-flat design allows you to recharge it in a bedside outlet in a hotel or in an outlet above the kitchen counter at home, without annoying cables getting in your way.
The unit is attractive, compact, portable and relatively lightweight. About the same size as an iPhone, it’s actually 30% smaller than its predecessor. There’s an on-off switch, and a power supply indicator light at the top lets you know how much charge is left. Our last battery charger was black, and I found that the anodized aluminum case on this one made it easier to find in my cavernous purse.
my Charge HubPlus specifications:
Battery Capacity: 6700mAh
Input: 100-240VAC, 50-60Hz 0.3A
Output: 3.4 A
Weight: .5 pounds
Made in: Michigan
Warranty: The myCharge HubPlus comes with one-year manufacturers warranty
The myCharge HubPlus Portable Charger Giveaway
myCharge has agreed to send one randomly selected reader of GettingOnTravel a HubPlus Portable Charger. It will be useful to any traveler, and if you are an armchair traveler, it’s a great gift for any of the travelers in your life.
To enter the giveaway, leave a brief comment below on or before midnight, September 5, 2019 telling how you would most likely use the charger.
Entries limited to U.S. addresses only. The winner will be announced here shortly thereafter.
The retail value of the charger is $79.95.
Need a portable charger right away and can’t take a chance on winning? You can see the full line of myCharge battery packs here.
***myCharge is running a special discount now until July 26, 2019. Readers can use the code 20OFFPOWER on Amazon to receive 20% off their purchase of a HubPlus, HubPlus Universal, HubMax or HubMax Universal.
Disclosure: We were provided with a HubPlus for the purposes of this review.
Claudia Caporaso flashes a broad smile as she welcomes us into a trullo, her home in Alberobello, Italy. Outside, the white building with its conical roof blends into a scenic row of trulli converted into shops and restaurants. Inside, the home features a modern interior: bath and kitchen, a comfortable bedroom and a cozy living/dining space centered around a stone fireplace. Sometimes, and today is one of those times, she invites visitors in for a glimpse of past-made-present. In her shop next door, also in a trullo, Ms. Caporaso sells terracotta whistles made by local artisans.
Tom and I were in Alberobello to experience Arboris Belli, an annual festival celebrating local traditions and culture. We stayed in a trullo, ate in trulli restaurants and with Alberobello as our base, we explored the surrounding countryside. It will be a year until the next Arboris Belli festival, but the city’s cultural offerings, dining and touring opportunities and accommodations provide reasons to travel to Alberobello any time of year.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site
Alberobello is located in the heart of the Valle d’Itria, and is readily accessible from the region’s airports in Bari and Brindisi. The city is considered Puglia’s trulli capital and its two historic centers — Rione Aia Piccola and Rione Monti — consist entirely of the stone dwellings, whitewashed with quicklime and with the conical roofs that give the town an otherworldly, fairy-tale air. Alberobello is a must-see for many travelers in Puglia, either as a day trip from Bari or nearby towns, or as a destination in itself.
Many of the city’s trulli are inhabited by locals, although others now house shops and tourist accommodations
Alberobello’s first trulli were built here in the 14th century. By the late 18th century, when the village was designated a city by the King of Naples, the city’s trulli numbered 3,500. In 1996, the historic centers were awarded UNESCO World Heritage status as an exceptional Historic Urban Landscape. Today, approximately 1,400 trulli remain, many of them inhabited by locals, like Ms. Caporaso.
The simple structures were built using drywall construction and the limestone abundant in the region. They were originally intended to be dismantled at the whim of feudal lords, in order to evade taxation as houses. Built of wood and stone and insulated with hay, the trulli maintained a constant temperature of 18 degrees Celsius year-round, much like a cave or grotto.
Trulli with pinnacles were used as homes, and the more intricate the pinnacles, the richer the family. Several generations of large families lived together under one roof, with children sleeping on wooden planks set under the conical roof above the living space.
Many of the roofs are painted with symbols from the 16th century, including the Islamic crescent, as well as crosses and other Christian symbols.
A living museum
A wander around the little city offers glimpses into what life might have been like in earlier times, a church that pays homage to trulli architecture, and the building that represents the city’s transition from feudal village to an 18th-century city.
In Rione Aia Piccola, citizens of Alberobello, dressed in period costume, demonstrate the use of original tools and explain how their ancestors lived and worked here. In Rione Monti, grandmothers make pasta in different shapes: orecchiette, cavatelli, and vermicelli. The ladies readily take a time out to offer tastes of liqueurs made with apple seeds, basil or laurel leaves, and sweet cherries. Nearby, artisans carve limestone into pinnacles and weave baskets.
Guiseppe Maffei, architect and Cavaliere of Italy, explains the construction of trulli in his shop
Puglia needle arts, with colors from nature: camellia, mimosa/lemon, pomegranate, wisteria, almond, blueberry, parsley, plums, basil (bright green)
Trullo Sovrano, now a museum, is an Alberobello trulli ensemble of fifteen connected domes
Other Alberobello sights
Casa d’Amore on Piazza del Popolo was the first house built after Alberobello received its designation as a city in 1796. Its two-story structure illustrates the moment of passage and change for Alberobello. Across town, the Romanesque styled Church of Sant’Antonio was built in the shape of a trullo and consecrated in 1929. Inside, local artists painted a Byzantine-style fresco and sea rocks were used to make an altar and priest’s lectern.
“Tree of Life” fresco in Alberobello’s Church of Sant’Antonio
Trullo dining in Alberobello
Puglia is known for its Cucina Povera (literally poor kitchen), which means seasonal dishes prepared with fresh, local ingredients, whatever is at hand. In this historically impoverished region, it also meant creative substitutions—wheat for meat, for example—and imaginative uses of vegetables, olive oil and herbs. Today’s chefs have taken their cues from this tradition and embellished or transformed recipes passed down through generations of Puglia home cooks. It is world-class cooking!
Restaurants abound in Alberobello and the surrounding countryside and the region offers many opportunities to sample Puglia dishes and wines. During our visit, several chefs in Alberobello surprised us with their creativity and winsome style.
Sleep in a trulli
Trulli dot the landscape of central Puglia, nestled among olive groves, oak forests and fields separated by low limestone walls. However, nowhere is there a concentration of trulli that outshines the historic center of Alberobello.
Here are a few options for trulli accommodations with a touch of luxury:
La Chiusa di Chietri Grand Hotel is located in a park filled with olive trees a short drive from Alberobello. It offers accommodations in either hotel rooms or the twelve trulli of Borgo Chietri. Guests can enjoy in-house spa services and meals from Executive Chef Pier Luca Ardio in the hotel’s Nobis Restaurant.
At Le Alcove-Luxury Hotel nei Trulli, accommodations are in trulli near Alberobello’s main square. A full home-cooked breakfast, free reserved car park and shuttle to airports, train stations and ports in the region are included.
Trulli e Puglia Resort is located in the center of Rione Monti. The family-owned property also offers wellness packages and local food tastings in Italian and English, as well as airport shuttle service from Bari or Brindisi airports.
What’s appealing to an over-50 luxury traveler?
Alberobello is compact, atmospheric and authentic
English is widely spoken
Locals are welcoming and appreciate visitors
A car is necessary for exploring the countryside
Accessibility to some Alberobello trulli in the UNESCO zones may be limited
Disclosure: The authors’ visit was hosted by ARTECA Alberobello and the Comune di Alberobello. All opinions expressed are their own.
IF YOU GO
For more information, take a look at our dining recommendations on Anita’s Feast!
Here are at least six reasons why you’ll want to take this Ekster smart travel wallet on your next trip…
The rationale for having a travel wallet
While a travel wallet and everyday wallet may be one and the same for minimalists, most people find they really need to prune the contents of their everyday wallets before a trip.
Unfortunately, our wallets tend to become repositories for many things that aren’t necessary to take on a trip—for example, old charge receipts, store credit cards, automobile registrations, dry cleaner receipts, etc., things that could potentially lead to problems if they got in the wrong hands.
Now a young, innovative Dutch company named Ekster has developed a line of smart wallets that are perfect for travel. The company recently sent us one for review and agreed to offer a reader giveaway on GettingOnTravel.com.
What’s so smart about the Ekster Smart Travel Wallet?
1) It’s ultra slim
Ekster markets the wallet as the world’s slimmest wallet—and it is ultra-skinny. It can fit in almost any pocket and takes up little space in a woman’s purse.
The Ekster Smart Travel Wallet easily fits in the palm of one’s hand
2) It’s convenient
With one click, its clever design offers instant access to 6 credit cards. Believe us, you will never need more than six cards on any trip.
Convenient access when traveling
3) It’s secure
If you haven’t read up on RFID (radio-frequency-identification) technology, you really should. Without making physical contact, an electronic pickpocket can surreptitiously steal data from your wallet using a small handheld device. This can give a thief access to your bank account and make you vulnerable to identity theft, even on crowded trains or buses. The Ekster smart wallet has built-in RFID protection to keep the contents of your wallet secure.
4) It’s stylish
This sleek wallet is made of genuine leather that’s beautifully stitched and crafted, and it comes in a choice of seven different colors to suit your personal preference.
The inside of the smart travel wallet has an elastic strap and two ID card slots
5) It’s trackable
The distractions of traveling make it challenging to keep track of your “stuff”—even important stuff. So if like many of us, you’re prone to losing or misplacing things, you’ll appreciate the wallet’s optional GPS tracker. Here, technology’s put to good use rather than nefarious purposes: The tracker allows your smartphone to generate a ring signaling the location of an errant wallet (you can also track its location on a map). The wallet’s solar-powered tracker is also the first to be voice activated, using Google Assistant or Amazon Echo.
The tracker explained
6) It’s unisex
While we initially thought this wallet was perfect for men, it is equally appealing to women who, admittedly, often tend to be more in need of pruning and paring down of the contents of their wallets before a trip.
The tracker might even help you find your purse
The Giveaway: Ekster Smart Travel Wallet
Ekster has agreed to give one randomly selected reader of GettingOnTravel a “Parliament” wallet and tracker. The Ekster Smart Travel Wallet is the perfect gift for any of the travelers in your life. Once you have one in hand, you might even decide to make it your own everyday wallet.
To enter the giveaway, leave a comment below on or before midnight, August 2, 2019, naming the first thing (that comes to mind) that really doesn’t need to be in your wallet when traveling. Entries limited to U.S. and Canadian addresses only. The winner will be announced here shortly thereafter.
The retail value of the wallet is $79; the value of the tracker is $49 (totaling $128).
Can’t take a chance on winning? You can see the full line of Ekster wallets and accessories here.
Disclosure: We were provided with an Ekster Parliament wallet and tracker for review. Any opinions expressed in this post are our own. We only work with companies whose products we admire and would recommend to our friends.
One of the greatest joys of traveling is discovering hidden gems that embrace local culture and cuisine and also that engender authenticity rather than the typical commercialism that defines so many tourist destinations these days.
I’d like to think I discovered Blaye, France, on my own but the truth of the matter is my Viking River cruise to the Bordeaux region was the compass and navigator. Program Director Susann Otto was the organizer who coordinated this personalized tasting and excursion.
Blaye is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its historic location on the Gironde River and its important role in defending upriver Bordeaux and its wine production on the Garonne. Strategically located, the 17th-century citadel, fortified city walls, and two nearby forts make up the world heritage site that was built on the orders of King Louis XIV.
Blaye: Where all paths lead to wine
Fortunately, Blaye is small, very walkable and all paths seem to lead to wine. (After all, this is the right bank of the Bordeaux region where reds are king.) Fortunately for time-compressed river cruise passengers, one of the best places in the area to taste, learn about and shop for French wines is to visit Les Kellen, proprietor of La Petite Cave.
Some of the wines poured during wine tasting at La Petite Cave in Blaye
I was with a small group of wine aficionados from the Viking Forseti, and Kellen narrated our tastings while showing us his wine shop, gallery and apartments — so we could see how the French live. (Of course, that started me daydreaming about how nice it would be to stay for a month or two under the guise of a writer’s retreat.)
Inside La Petite Cave
Back to the wine, Kellen’s passion permeated his very being. It was easy for me to relate to his statement that wine is the heart and soul of the Bordeaux region, noting how intricately intertwined it is with the daily lives of people who live there.
Hailing from South Africa, where he practiced law, Kellen made a concerted lifestyle change that would bring him closer to wine.
“Why Blaye?” I asked, knowing that the town only has a population of about 5,000 people.
“Blaye is ideally situated because it’s close to the winelands of the Medoc and St Emilion bourgs and, of course, Blaye,” he responded as if it should be obvious. “Add to this the delightful authenticity of the town and the fact that I fell in love with the Villa St Simon, and you have the answers as to why I chose Blaye.”
Courtyard of Villa St. Simon in Blaye
Kellen explained why French wine is so different. “Well, there are two kinds of wines in the world: French and others. I was passionate about wine before coming here 20 years ago, so I knew I had to choose France,” said Kellen. “Generally, in France wine is art, whereas in the new world—South Africa, Australia, Chile, and California, etc.—it is science. So, for me, while I love wines from many countries, France has no peer.”
The exceptional wines of Bordeaux
Those words stuck with me as if they were a big “Aha”. They were simple, yet insightful: Wine is art in France whereas in the rest of the world it is science. And maybe that is the gist of why French wines have a terroir and vitality that continues to grip the world and reign supreme.
I muttered quietly that I had one last question. But dare I ask? I took the plunge: “Why is Bordeaux considered the standard against which to measure all other red wines?”
Kellen smiled softly, a gentle twinkle in his eye that betrayed his wisdom. “Bordeaux owes much of its reputation to the English who loved their Claret, a typical Bordeaux blend. Then there was Thomas Jefferson, who was a great Bordeaux fan. One of his favourites was Chateau Haut-Brion from Graves, southeast of Bordeaux city.
Wine expert and proprietor Les Kellen of La Petite Cave
“The soil, climate and topography in Bordeaux combine to offer one of the best terroirs in the world. On the right bank of the Gironde estuary, you have Blaye, Bourg, St. Emilion, Pomerol and others, where winemaking started in Roman times around the 11th century.
“On the left bank, the Medoc region began producing wines in the 17th century after the Dutch drained all the swampland. This left lovely terroir, with round pebbles from the swamps, which retained the heat from the sun, and made it ideal for the Cabernet Sauvignon variety. The fact that every second year, the greatest wine exhibition in the world, Vinexpo, is held in Bordeaux, offers testimony to the esteem in which this appellation is held.”
It was time to go, but not before Kellen invited me and the rest of our small group to come back again soon to share his passion for the Bordeaux region and its wines.
What’s appealing to the over-50 luxury traveler?
This is an easy walking tour over some cobblestone while your ship is docked in Blaye, France, on Viking River Cruise.
The expertise of Les Kellen is phenomenal. He shares and narrates tastings of his wines along with cheeses and shows his studio as well his rental apartments. It’s a unique opportunity to see how the locals live.
Several guests on Viking Forseti mentioned how this was the highlight of their cruise.
The short walk from the dock to La Petite Cave is over some cobblestones.
Be sure to wear a hat and apply sunscreen. As this is a southern Mediterranean climate, days can get quite warm during the summer.
First-timers checking in to the Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel might not know where to begin their Watkins Glen, New York weekend. Should they visit a nearby winery? Check out Seneca Lake? Cruise the charming village of Watkins Glen? Try to find that gorge? Do something, in an area associated with NASCAR, with motor cars? Fortunately, a tuned-in concierge offers plenty of suggestions and can follow up as needed. Remembering that this is a getaway, what visitors might want to do first is find their guestroom.
Why Watkins Glen?
What did I do on a recent road trip to this oh-so-scenic and suddenly quite trendy destination located halfway, sort of, kind of, between New York City and Niagara Falls? The former vacation destination of the likes of John D. Rockefeller of Standard Oil fame, this village received 50,000 to 60,000 visitors a year back in the 1870s, a correspondent for the New York Times reported way back when.
The lure then, of course, was the fresh air, the glen and the convenience of train lines that converged in the general vicinity.
As motor cars, not quite as reliable as they are today, emerged as a popular form of transportation, Watkins Glen made for a good stopover for those trekking between the Niagara River and Manhattan.
Things to do in Watkins Glen
What’s Watkins Glen’s draw now? This village of just under 2,000 people offers a little something for every type of traveler. Outdoorsy sorts trend toward Watkins Glen State Park to see more than a dozen waterfalls propel water along a 400-foot descent through a gorge formed by glaciers.
View of Seneca Lake from the Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel
Even city dwellers might like a hike through the park, which features sturdy walkways, staircases, and railings. Still, be prepared to get just a little wet! That cascading water likes to go its own way, and some puddles seem never to quite dry up. Sensible shoes most definitely become a necessity here.
Driving the Glen
Just five miles from the village is Watkins Glen International raceway, a 3.5-mile long course with nine grandstands and my favorite location for viewing a race, the Jack Daniel’s Club. Even if car racing is not your thing, the 1,800-acre “Glen” hosts what it charmingly designates as “non-racing events” like beer and wine festivals. Be certain to check the raceway’s calendar and to purchase tickets (and make hotel reservations) as early as you can. Other travelers have already figured out how much fun is on sale here.
Watkins Glen International Raceway
Possibly the best deal in the entire world is the opportunity to drive the raceway yourself. For $30 per vehicle (and a willingness to sign a liability waiver), a driver can do three laps around the track behind a pace car.
Not one to watch NASCAR races on television, I had possibly the best time of my life pushing my VW Beetle to its limits, images of “Herbie Rides Again” dancing through my head.
Seriously, the experience thrilled. I must go back. Be certain to check the raceway’s website for specific availability as blackout dates apply.
Follow the Seneca Lake Wine Trail
Those seeking a very different sort of adventure might appreciate that wineries and vineyards in the vicinity of Watkins Glen make up a part of the Seneca Lake Wine Trail, which some might call the Napa of the East (although this particular place in the East more likely would describe Napa as the Seneca Lake Wine Trail of the West). Indeed, in 2018, a USA Today Readers’ Choice poll named the Finger Lakes as the Best Wine Region.
Lakewood Vineyards in Watkins Glen, NY
I stopped by family-owned and operated Lakewood Vineyards in Watkins Glen and savored some Lemberger and a few other options during a wine tasting and tour. From my position on the covered patio, I looked down the hill toward Seneca Lake while sipping some very sustainable product (what with the grapes growing just yards from where I stand). I couldn’t help but appreciate sunny days here in the seat of Schuyler County.
Also, the wine vastly exceeded my expectations, which is how I ended up with more than a few bottles of New York state wine in my own tiny little cellar. For those preferring harder stuff, nearby distilleries, such as Finger Lakes Distilling in Burdett, also offer tours in season.
A room with a view at Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel
Standing in the lobby at the Watkins Glen Harbor hotel with the weekend before me, having breezed through check-in (friendly and fast, my favorite way to travel), I opted to set my gear in my room before heading back out to explore Seneca Lake, which happened to be just yards away. I almost couldn’t bring myself to leave my waterfront suite (Room 300) with a living room, bedroom, a vast bathroom with a whirlpool tub, and a balcony that was absolutely perfect for reading and just being.
Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel
Ready for a bit of refreshment, I headed down to the Coldwater Bar’s outdoor seats facing the lake.
Built just over a decade ago, the Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel reinvigorated an area that had seen better days. It’s a sparkling addition to a region not necessarily associated with upscale hotels.
Finishing my wine, I abandoned my perch on the hotel patio to take a 30-second walk to the Seneca Lake pier.
The largest and deepest of the Finger Lakes, Seneca Lake’s 38 miles allow boaters to reach the Atlantic Ocean, eventually, thanks to New York State’s canal system. Several boat tours offer more immediate ways to appreciate the lake.
A revitalized Village of Watkins Glen
On this visit, though, I wanted to explore the village of Watkins Glen. Originally named Jefferson and later renamed for Dr. Samuel Watkins who happened to own a certain gorge in town, “Glen” was appended in 1926. Today, charming shops and restaurants grace the first floors of elegant historic buildings in the Village of Watkins Glen.
Watkins Glen State Park
The privately owned gorge opened to ticket-buying visitors in 1863. New York State purchased the property in 1906. The village entrance to the state park is just a bit over a half-mile from the Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel.
Back from my walkabout, I stopped in at the hotel’s Blue Pointe Grille for seafood scampi that beckons and pairs perfectly with a sauvignon blanc by Shaw Vineyards of Seneca Lake. Then it was up to my tub for a soak and a book before a long evening’s nap.
What’s appealing to the over-50 luxury traveler?
Situated at the head of Seneca Lake, the Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel offers an ideal launch point for plenty of weekend of activities, most of which are conveniently nearby.
The hotel, with its indoor pool and hot tub and suites featuring whirlpool baths, is perfect for a romantic getaway, a girls’ weekend or a solo adventure. No matter with whom you happen to be traveling, indulge in a martini and dessert in the Coldwater Bar for a memorable and somewhat decadent vacation combo. I am partial to the apple pie, but far more chocolatey options also beckon.
The concierge can arrange for wine tours and drivers and put together activities for hotel guests.
The Blue Pointe Grille, the on-site restaurant at Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel, offers waterfront views and friendly and prompt service, but should you be fortunate to be staying in a room with a balcony and a lake view, order room service and enjoy that vista all on your own.
Opt for turndown service at the Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel. Staff will turn down your bed and generally make your room comfy for the evening by rearranging pillows and drawing drapes. Plus, there’s chocolate!
Remember that even on hot days, a 38-mile-long lake can become a little windy. Bring a sweater.
Consider wearing a hat and a rain poncho on any visit to Watkins Glen State Park. There will be water.
Off-season can be an ideal time to visit for those seeking a more quiet getaway that still offers impressive scenery.
The term once in a lifetime has become rather cliché, especially when referring to travel destinations or experiences. But some of these experiences are truly exceptional and so unique that they’re truly worth the cost. Often, travelers splurge on a travel adventure to mark a major milestone or celebrate a special occasion. A train trip on the fabled Orient Express is indeed such an experience.
Bar and Piano Car on the Orient Express
Agatha Christie’s book Murder on the Orient Express” and all of the subsequent movie and television versions have kept this train route in the forefront of the romantic imagination, even though the original Orient Express train died a slow death in the nineties.
The current version, the Belmond Venice-Simplon Orient Express has taken all the best that the original offered in the heyday of cross-continental train travel, and packaged it into an ultra-luxurious offering in restored vintage train cars that draw sold-out cabins despite the hefty price tag.
Beautifully restored woodwork on one of the vintage cars of the Orient Express
Sure, you could fly there in a few hours, or take an overnight high-speed train, but the experience of traveling from Venice to Paris on the Orient Express is really is all about the journey and not the destination.
A first-class cabin
This is also an opportunity to dust off your dressiest outfits and show them off again. While you may not be traveling with a ladies maid or valet to dress you, you will receive guidance on the expected dress code, especially for dinner. Cocktail dresses for women and suits for men are required at a minimum–gowns and tuxedos are highly recommended.
In keeping with this formal ambiance, meals are equally elaborate and probably worthy of at least one Michelin star. With three different restored period dining cars, each multi-course meal is a unique event. And if that were not enough, continental breakfast and afternoon tea are served in your cabin, where you can savor the delicacies as the scenic countryside rolls by. Make sure your pants have an elastic waistband; you’ll need it.
Breakfast in our cabin
Afternoon tea on the Orient Express
All this comes with the personal attention of your own steward who manages to be both unobtrusive and attentive at the same time. Every need, even ones you did not know you had, are easily addressed so all you have to do is sit back and enjoy the ride.
For a few brief days, you can be pampered and pretend to be the movie star or royalty who traveled in such style in the early part of the last century. Everyone should get to experience the ultimate royal treatment at least once in their life, and an Orient Express experience does just that.
What’s appealing to the over-50 luxury traveler?
You’ll enjoy decadent food and attentive service while traveling through Europe’s scenic countryside.
The compartments are all in beautifully restored vintage train cars. During the day, they are configured for comfortable sitting. At night, the seats are converted into beds with luxurious linens.
This one of a kind train experience isn’t replicated anywhere else.
Cabins fill up quickly so it’s prudent to reserve well in advance.
The compartments do not have bathrooms, just sinks for quick wash ups. Very nice toilets are located at the end of each car.
There is a (highly) recommended dress code. Since you can only take a small bag into the compartment, you will want to plan and organize your clothes and luggage accordingly.
Be sure to get the whole scoop on traveling from Venice to Paris on the Orient Express on Rosemarie’s blog, Quiltripping.com:
Every year thousands of people descend on Louisville for the Kentucky Derby. During our springtime visit, the only horses we saw were painted statues scattered throughout the city, but we found plenty of other reasons to visit Louisville.
We timed our trip to coincide with a different event—the Humana Festival of New American Plays, but that isn’t the only reason to visit Louisville, Kentucky.
The internationally renowned festival occurs over a six-week period at the Actors Theatre of Louisville. Celebrating more than four decades of nurturing new contemporary works, the Humana Festival plays have gone on to win three Pulitzers and countless awards.
While sitting in the audience, you might find yourself conversing with a producer, playwright, or a professor. More than 38,000 people attend the festival, which hosts special weekends for college students and for industry professionals. By purchasing a ticket, you’re supporting the creation of American theater.
The plays are staged from Wednesday through Sunday, with several running back-to-back. The shows start mid-afternoon and conclude after midnight. Patrons conceivably can see all five world premieres in two days.
We opted for a more leisurely four-day stay, giving us ample opportunity to see several plays and experience Louisville.
The bourbon barrels motif repeats throughout the Omni Louisville. (Credit Omni Louisville/Berry Craig, C2 Strategic)
2. Splurge at new luxury digs
The talk of the town is the Omni Louisville, which opened in March 2018. The $320-million property’s intersecting soaring towers transformed the city skyline.
The stunning lobby, inspired by the shape of a whiskey barrel, makes an elegant first impression. Guests gravitate to the Library Bar, with a modern fireplace and dozens of cozy seating arrangements. A speakeasy, Pin + Proof, is hidden down a hallway. The intimate bar, serving vintage cocktails and nostalgic bites, features four professional-size bowling lanes.
The hotel, with 612 guest rooms and 225 apartments, also has two restaurants, an art gallery, retail shops, a rooftop swimming pool, fitness center, and the Mokara Salon & Spa. Room service and valet parking are available. The 20,000-square-foot Falls City Market, connected to the lobby, offers a variety of dining options. These range from a taco truck and barbecue to a gourmet grocery store and a bakery.
Our deluxe guest room featured floor to ceiling windows and a minibar stocked with curated bourbons.
Curl up with a good read and a good drink in the Library Bar at Omni Louisville. (Credit Omni Louisville/Berry Craig, C2 Strategic)
3. Visit Louisville and follow the Urban Bourbon Trail
My husband drank more old fashioneds during our four days in Louisville than he has in a lifetime. This classic is the city’s official cocktail, and the Pendennis Club asserts it was created there in the 1880s.
I didn’t count, but we did enjoy sampling cocktails from the bars and restaurants along the Urban Bourbon Trail (UBT). More than 40 establishments, each stocking 50 or more types of bourbon, are selected each year and featured in the UBT Passport.
Pick up a free passport at the Louisville Visitor Center (4th & Jefferson Streets downtown) or at any participating member. Have it stamped every time you make any type of purchase (it doesn’t have to be a cocktail). After earning six stamps, redeem them for an Urban Bourbon Trailblazer t-shirt.
Using our passport as a guide, we ate bison burgers at Proof on Main, which earned Best Restaurant status from Esquire magazine. It’s located in the hip 21c Museum Hotel. We lingered after lunch to peruse the hotel’s art exhibition. The 21C Museum Hotel group collects and exhibits 21st-century art. The free exhibits change at each of its hotels and are open to the public.
The Lobby Bar of the Brown Hotel is a stop on Louisville’s Urban Bourbon Trail.
Another hotel well worth visiting is the Lobby Bar in the Brown Hotel. Opened in 1923, the Historic Hotels of America property created a Louisville signature dish—the Hot Brown—a hot turkey sandwich.
Much more casual eats can be enjoyed at the Garage Bar, with wood-fired pizza and a beer garden. Housed in a former auto repair shop, there are Ping Pong tables on top of crushed cars.
The Troll Pub Under the Bridge, located on Whiskey Row, serves gastropub fare and stocks some 80 brands of bourbon.
Barbecue sandwich at Feast BBQ accompanied by an Old Fashioned served in a mason jar.
4. Shop and Eat in NuLu
We spent an entire day strolling downtown’s East Market District, also known as NuLu (New Louisville). Whatever they call it, the shops and food are fun. The most bizarre shopping experience is Joe Ley Antiques. This three-story, historic schoolhouse is packed with weird, wacky, and wonderful treasures. Whether you are a collector or just curious, it’s a must-see. Stylish home accessories and decor can be found at Scout. The work of local artists is the focus of Revelry Gallery, where you can pick up a painting or a pair of earrings.
No visit to Louisville would be complete without feasting on barbecue and Feast BBQ is sublime. At nearly 100 years old, Muth’s Candies is a Louisville tradition. In the spirit of respecting tradition, we sampled chocolates, caramels, and bourbon balls.
For another sugar fix, stop by Please & Thank You, which deservedly brags it bakes the best chocolate chip cookie in the world.
Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory is one of six attractions on The Main Ticket.
5. Six Louisville attractions for less than $10 each
Louisville’s Big Four Bridge spans 2 miles (including ramps).
6. Bridge the gap
When you visit Indiana, walk across the Big Four Bridge. The former railroad bridge spanning the Ohio River links Louisville Waterfront Park to Jeffersonville, Indiana. It’s now a wheelchair-accessible bicycle and pedestrian bridge. Each ramp is one-half-mile long and the bridge is a mile long. Opened to the public in 2013, the attraction draws 1.5 million visitors annually.
When you visit Louisville, savor a flight of bourbon and a bourbon-infused chocolate at Peerless Distillery in Louisville.
What’s appealing to the over-50 luxury traveler?
Most of Louisville’s major attractions are located within a walking distance of each other. The Omni Louisville is barely half a mile from the Actors Theatre of Louisville.
Louisville offers diverse attractions and plentiful opportunities to sit and relax. Sipping a flight of bourbon at a distillery tour was one of our favorite experiences.
Theater lovers may be surprised at how much Louisville offers. From touring shows, such as Hamilton, to the summer-long productions of Kentucky Shakespeare, there’s always something on stage. Visit Theatre Louisville for information.
Many downtown restaurants do not take reservations and the wait times can be long. Plan accordingly, especially if you have theater plans.
“It’s the way of the future,” says Pietro Rusconi, manager of the Palazzo Morosini Degli Spezieri, as we relax in the sunny, secluded courtyard of this elegantly reimagined 15th-century Venetian palace.
Rusconi is a third-generation hotelier, with deep connections to the dazzling, opulent hotels that occupy the banks of the Grand Canal in Venice, but he sees a new trend emerging in luxury family travel.
“Today families want to switch off their electronic devices and reconnect with each other while on vacation. Here at the Palazzo Morosini, they’ll find a home away from home complete with everything they need and more,” he says.
A palace born in the past prepares for the future
Palazzo Morosini apartments feature Venetian architecture and state-of-the-art electronics
The Palazzo, located in Venice’s San Polo district, has a rich history. It was first recorded on Jacopo de Barbari’s Venice Map of 1500, when it overlooked a church—since demolished—that stood in the Campiello Sant’Agostin.
From the plant motifs on the bezel above the water gate and carvings of the Rod of Asclepius (minus the snake) above the windows, it appears that the original building was the home of a merchant, called a spezier. At a time when Venice ruled the market, merchants imported medicinal herbs and exotic spices from the Far East to be sold across Europe. In recognition of the original owner, each of the nine apartments in the palazzo is named after a spice or an herb. There’s the Cayenne (where we stayed), Dill, Myrtle and Coriander, among others. Each apartment is as unique as its namesake.
In later years, the palazzo was one of many owned by descendants of Domenico Morosini. In 1204, as a commander in the Fourth Crusade, he brought the four famous horses, the Quadriga Domini, from the Hippodrome in Constantinople to adorn the rooftop of St. Mark’s Basilica. Today they have been replaced by reproductions, and the original horses are on display at the Basilica to protect them from the elements.
The latest restoration
Over the years, the original two-story building was raised and rebuilt several times, changing owners and utility as time went by. The four-year restoration, undertaken in 2012 by the architectural firm Studio Negri and Fauro, unearthed traces of Gothic-era frescos, brickwork and ancient wooden beams.
Each apartment offers pleasing views (Credit: Palazzo Morosini)
Many of these elements (including some of the original terrazzo flooring) were retained by the interior designer, Umberto Branchini, to add touches of antiquity to the completely modernized apartments. The newest inspirations in lighting from Italian designers Catellani & Smith hang from ancient beams. Chairs made of structured cellulose, wood fiber, recycled paper and natural glue by Staygreen Venezia pop up throughout the palazzo. They are upholstered in fabric by Rubelli, a firm that has been creating fabrics in Venice since 1889.
Palazzo Morosini offers a taste of Italy
The one, two, and three-bedroom apartments each have a unique colour palette relating to the spices they are named for: The Cayenne, for example, had draperies of rich Venetian red and ruby accent cushions. The units range in size from 40 to 150 square meters. Luxurious oversized Egyptian cotton bed linens are made in Italy by Rivolta Carmignani. Toiletries are by (Malin+Goetz) of New York.
Families will find plenty of room with sofa beds and connecting room configurations. The entire second floor can become a six-bedroom apartment for groups up of up to 32 people. Rollaways and cribs are available upon request.
Guests will enjoy an elevated apartment experience. Many units have outdoor patios, and all have access to the lush green garden overlooking the canal. The state-of-the-art heating and cooling system is driven by the tides of the lagoon, there is in-floor heating in the generously sized, Istrian stone-tiled bath, and fast, free Wi-Fi. Temperature, lighting and music are controlled by a programmable system.
Take time to enjoy the garden overlooking the canal at Palazzo Morosini (Credit: Palazzo Morosini)
The European-style kitchens are complete with every utensil and appliance (including a dishwasher) a cook could desire. Additional items, such as highchairs, blenders and cutlery for babies’ meals, are available upon request. The local grocery store is a five-minute walk from the palazzo.
Fully stocked kitchens with Nespresso coffee machines and more (Credit: Palazzo Morosini)
Guests also can order breakfast from the nearby Majer Bakery, have dinner delivered from Taverna da Baffo, or to arrange for a chef to create a unique dining experience in their apartment.
Venice at your feet
When it’s time to explore Venice, the Palazzo Morosini is a ten-minute walk from the Rialto Bridge and seven more minutes by foot to St. Mark’s Square. Hop on a vaporetto for a ride on the Grand Canal or wait until sunset and take the most romantic gondola ride of your life. The choice is yours. Don’t miss the breathtaking Tintoretto paintings in the Scuola Grande de San Rocco and the sculptures in the Basilica dei Frari. Both are just a five- minute walk, over picturesque bridges, from the Palazzo Morosini at the Campo dei Frari.
This is the right time and the Palazzo Morosini is the right place to experience both the rich history of Venice and the future of family travel.
What’s appealing to the over-50 luxury traveler?
From the private canal entrance to the secluded garden with its trees and pergolas, the Palazzo Morosini is the very definition of elegance and ease.
Choose to relax and feel at home in the comfort of your apartment or venture out at any time of the day or night to enjoy the delights of Venice, one of the safest cities in the world.
Although there is no concierge, the staff provide an outstanding level of support. They can arrange for cabanas on the beach, massages, yoga mats and gym passes upon request.
Italian rules regarding apartments mean that self-catering is the rule. Towels and sheets are exchanged once each week, however, there is a washer in each apartment and a dryer is available on request.
Be prepared to carry luggage up one flight of stairs or pay an additional fee to a porter.
There is no manager on duty during the night, but there is 24/7 e-butler support.
The entrance to the property is only marked by a discreet brass plate on an ancient green door.
Centrally located in the quiet district of San Polo and tucked up beside the Rio de San Polo canal, the Palazzo Morosini is a pleasant 12-minute walk from the Santa Lucia Railway station or the Piazzale Roma Car Terminal. Porters are available to transfer your luggage.
The nearest vaporetto stop is San Toma, about a 10-minute walk. If you prefer to arrive by private water taxi, ask your driver to stop at Campiello Sant’Agostin, near Taverna da Baffo. The ride will take around 40 minutes at an approximate cost of 120 Euro.
Disclosure: The author was a guest of the Palazzo Morosini Degli Spezieri. As always, her opinions are her own. Follow her on Instagram at where.to.lady