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Hotel Splendido & Splendido Mare

A hotel has set itself a high bar when its name translates to "splendid." And the Hotel Splendido lives up to its title in every regard, from the extra-virgin olive oil to the extra-large bathrooms to the extraordinary views.

The view from the Splendido paints a picture postcard of pastel-colored houses, sailboats and outdoor cafés that wrap around the crescent-shaped harbor-front piazzetta of Portofino, Italy's chicest town. A mandatory stop for the mega yacht crowd, Portofino is tiny, exclusive and oh-so Italian. The restaurants are few, but excellent, serving fresh and ultra-local seafood, while shopping includes Prada, Armani and Gucci. Yet the former fishing village is a timeless spot, where the only choice for luxury accommodations is the Splendido. It has hosted entertainment royalty—and just plain royalty—since the former sixteenth-century monastery became a grand hotel in 1952. The first guest was the Duke of Windsor, followed by a parade that's included Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall and Ava Gardner (while shooting The Barefoot Contessa, which put Portofino on the map), Clark Gable, Madonna and Tom Hanks (on his honeymoon).

What makes the hotel so special? Each of its 64 unique rooms is exquisitely decorated, featuring lavish baths. Most have balconies with sweeping views of Portofino Bay. All have been renovated by owner Orient-Express, hiding modern technology behind silk and fine linen. In 2003, a spa and wellness center was added. The hotel's hillside nook is surrounded with gardens and outdoor terraces. Century-old wisteria vines climb the Splendido's façade, and guests sip prosecco poolside. The views prevail almost everywhere, whether you're at the heated and filtered saltwater infinity pool, a hidden private massage bed or La Terraza, the excellent fine dining restaurant. The hotel's breakfast is perhaps the best in Italy. And despite its tranquil, secluded setting, guests can be in "downtown" Portofino in minutes by shuttle or foot.

The hotel overcomes the one weakness of its stunning location—it's not on the harbor—by operating a satellite hotel, the Splendido Mare (splendid by the sea), at the harbor's best location: the piazza's center, looking out to sea. The two properties share facilities and are linked by van. Popular with guests arriving by sea, the 16 rooms are similar in size, decor and luxury to those in the main hotel. Guests float above the heart of the village at the hotel's private rooftop restaurant and bar. Prime front row patio tables are hotly contested at The Mare's Chuflay Bar, the town's best lunch spot, with first preference to guests of either hotel. In an increasingly hectic world, the Hotel Splendido remains the kind of place where days are filled with long lunches and boat rides, and nightlife means room service on the balcony or a piano bar.

Visit www.hotelsplendido.com or call 800-524-2420.