sperlonga : latina : italy

sperlonga : latina : italy

We’d not previously heard of this place, but now we know about it, it’s very definitely somewhere we’d revisit next time we’re in the province of Latina. Halfway between Rome and Naples, the very pretty village, perched high on a hilltop overlooking the sea, is a welcome break from the monotonous road south from Rome. Apart from gems like Sperlonga, this coastal stretch, down the west coast towards Naples is not particularly one for sight-seeing, so finding this village was a real treat. Like a lot of Italian towns, the newer part sprawls out below, with the historical centre much higher up.

Sperlonga is a warren of narrow alleyways and steep steps that often open out onto small piazzas. If you’re a bit unsteady on your feet, or with small children, you need to be prepared for a bit of an uphill climb, but it’s worth it. It’s more of a very large village, than a town, but has all of the essential ingredients of an archetypal Italian town – churches, pealing bells, small but upmarket boutiques (Sperlonga is a getaway for Romans…), very chic restaurants & bars, and stunning cliff top views of the (very well regimented) beach & sea, far below. There’s a small port which we took a stroll down to – think Monaco in miniature! There were serious boats moored up, as well as the odd speedboat zipping around the coast. All very nice!

We visited in late September – it was still very warm (air con was needed), but not stifling. The beach was beautiful – long, expansive and like I said before, very well regimented. But that’s generally Italian beaches for you. I’m not sure how I’d like Sperlonga in the height of summer and I imagine it would be very hot and very packed, but it’s a definitely a place to visit if you like history, beauty & out-of-season visits.

A friend recommended a hotel – Hotel Corallo – and we were so impressed by it, that we’d definitely recommend it ourselves. For just over 80 euros, we had a very large double room, with a large en-suite bathroom and a small balcony. Our lack of sea view (obscured by beautiful medieval buildings), was made up for by a stunning view of the sunset. Breakfast was included – if you’re not a sweet-tooth you may struggle with breakfast here, as it was a bit of a saccharine overload, but the coffee was very, very good.

Cake, cake and more cake, for breakfast...

Cake, cake and more cake, for breakfast…

Our stay in Sperlonga was short – an afternoon and an overnight stay, but because we were based in the old town, it was sufficient time to get ourselves familiar with it. It really is a beautiful hilltop town, close to Rome and it definitely does break up that very monotonous SS7 road down the west coast. And, soon, we were back in the car, leaving Sperlonga and back on that road, heading south, on the next part of our Italian road trip.

Brondo Architect Hotel : Palma : Mallorca

Brondo Architect Hotel : Palma : Mallorca

Over the last few years, we’ve been very lucky to be able to pack in a huge amount of travel – as well as actually move abroad, relocating from Manchester to Istria, in northern Croatia. We’ve spent the last couple of years renovating a stone house and exploring our new environment. But, one place has so far eluded us – Mallorca. Even though it’s always been on our radar, we’ve always found ourselves plumping for somewhere else. Until now. A combination of being very busy with our design business, cracking on with the house renovation and some pretty unseasonal weather – rain, rain and more rain – made up our minds and we booked flights to Mallorca. First port of call was Palma, and a night in the absolutely beautiful Brondo Architect Hotel.

There’s so much choice, accommodation-wise in Palma, but we have a very clear idea about the kinds of places we want to stay. Wherever we stay must be at least as nice as our home. It must be unusual. It must give us interiors inspiration. It must also be mid-range, budget wise. Too cheap, you get what you pay for. Too expensive – just silly. We’ve not got a bottomless money pit. So, Brondo Architect Hotel seemed to tick all of our boxes when we spotted it on Booking.Com.

Tucked away down a cobbled side street, but less than a 10 minute walk away from Palma’s iconic cathedral, the hotel is set in a 17th century Mallorcan building. From the moment you step into the reception area, you know that this is going to be a special experience. A huge eye-catching mural, featuring Rubenesque women dominates the entrance – it is bold and brassy and totally in keeping with the style of this unusual hotel. Public areas feature quirky artwork, astonishingly beautiful Spanish floor tile, exposed brickwork and copper piping with striking lighting features.

Our room was more of a junior suite, with a large bedroom and seating area, and a big separate bathroom, with an adjoining corridor. The decor and furnishings were really lovely – a super comfy four poster bed, two squishy armchairs, great artwork, map wallpaper. A stylish mix of retro and modern.

Our stay was short, unfortunately – but, we will return as we genuinely loved this hotel – so we didn’t get to experience the roof terrace. There’s also a gym, and massages can be arranged. However, we did enjoy a welcome drink (a nice touch) on the terrace outside the restaurant. We stayed early season, so there didn’t seem to be too many guests, which was lovely as we largely had this decked courtyard area to ourselves. Eclectically furnished with low sofas, brightly coloured parasols, big cushions, olive trees and bouganvillea and mis-matched tables and chairs, this is the perfect spot for an early evening drink, before heading out into the bright lights of Palma.

Morning coffee, in the warm May sunshine, was an absolute treat on the terrace. Those colours. And that sky…

The restaurant is quite simply, stunning. Packed full with interesting and unusual objects and pieces of furniture – and a very pretty cherry blossom tree – it’s the perfect place to enjoy breakfast. And, what a breakfast! There’s a huge choice – pastries (sweet and savoury), pies (yes, pies for breakfast!), cold meats, cheeses, fruit, youghurts, juices, breads and a really good hot selection. I always tend to avoid the hot options, which have usually sweated all morning in silver catering trays. But this one was exceptional – the food is obviously refreshed regularly, rather than allowed to sit and become rubbery, and we enjoyed a Spanish style full English. Very, very tasty.

Communal areas are filled with quirky artefacts and artwork.

The hotel is located on a pedestrianised side street, but we found a car park, just a 5 minute walk away which meant that we could dump the car and not worry about parking restrictions etc. Brondo is also really centrally situated, so wandering the labyrinth of Mallorcan streets is a joy.

I’m delighted that we opted for this hotel for our first night – and by sheer coincidence, as we had absolutely no idea when we booked that they were connected, our next stop was the exquisite Lluna Aqua Hotel in Sóller. The sister hotel of Brondo, and the second in the tiny chain of Unusual Hotels…

This is NOT a sponsored post. We paid the full price as quoted when we booked & have received no payment for this blog. We just wanted to share this lovely find of a hotel in Palma.

the georgian townhouse : walton-on-the-naze : essex

the georgian townhouse : walton-on-the-naze : essex

Recently, we travelled south to Essex to visit a We Are Life client and decided to make a bit of trip of it. Not having ever been to Essex before, assuming it was all brash a-la “The Only Way is Essex”, we weren’t really sure what to expect and I certainly didn’t have high hopes for a bit of high end, but affordable, luxury. In fact, this was probably what I thought Essex was all about…

But, Walton-on-the-Naze, is so much more than jellied eels. Sure, there are very traditional English seaside touches but there’s also a lot of beauty…

And, in a major stroke of luck – especially as they don’t have a website or a twitter account – we found The Georgian House. It’s described as a “B&B” over on website booking sites, but I don’t think it would be stretching it too far to say that it’s as good as any self-described “boutique hotel” we’ve stayed in. The house itself is very large – a stunningly restored Georgian townhouse over four floors, full of the original features. Perhaps one of the reasons it is described as a “B&B”, is that it is primarily a home, lived in by the owners, Geoff & Chris. However, it’s not the kind of B&B where it’s stuffed full of the owner’s mis-matching knick-knacks. This one exudes style, taste and elegance. Everything – from light switches to door handles to cutlery to taps to bedding to Farrow & Ball heritage colours – is in keeping with the style of the property, whilst acknowledging that guests probably also want a bit of 21st century luxury. It is beyond clean – taps literally sparkle. The bathroom was pristine – and like a boutique hotel, with complimentary toiletries. No half used bottle of liquid soap here. Towels were big, white and fluffy. Lush!

There are two “rooms” available for guests. Ours was just off the main staircase on the first floor and it was not a room at all. It was a mini apartment. A huge bedroom (again attention to detail was superb) with a separate bathroom (free standing bath) & toilet – although our room didn’t overlook the sea, this was not a problem because the accommodation was just spectacular.

Now, breakfast. I always have an issue with B&B breakfasts. Either the dining room is pretty horrible, or the food is bland or just plain awful. But The Georgian House does breakfast, with bells on. There’s only one table in the dining room – which is at the front of the house so all you can see is the sea – but as there are only two rooms to let, I don’t think you’d ever be fighting for a seat. Fresh fruit, juices, cereals, fresh breads & croissants, proper coffee served in a proper silver coffee pot and a full English that ranks up there with one of the best I’ve had.

Our first visit to the Georgian Townhouse was in 2013 and we always said if we were ever in the area again, we’d definitely do a stop-over. Fast forward to 2019, and we’d moved to Istria from Manchester. But on a trip back to the UK in September 2019, we drove and did a ferry crossing from Harwich, meaning were back in Essex and close to the Georgian Townhouse, so we made a booking.

It was good to see that, after fouor years, the high standards were still there. We got to stay in the same room again – but were shown the other – and everything was still pristine. Just as we remembered. As was breakfast – superb quality ingredients, fabulous presentation and all served in a room, with huge Georgian windows, overlooking the sea, right across the road.

We have not been paid to write this blog post – we paid full price for both of our stays – but we felt that The Georgian Townhouse is well deserving of a very high recommendation.

Hotel Rocca Della Sena, Tropea, Calabria

Hotel Rocca Della Sena, Tropea, Calabria

When we were in Italy, last year, we had an awful experience with a hotel in the beautiful Calabrian town of Tropea. We’d booked into Hotel Valemare for four nights, but it was so terrible, we left the next morning, not knowing if we’d get a refund*. We’d heard of Hotel Rocca della Sena and reviews suggested it was amazing, but as were doing a lot of travelling we thought it might be a bit too much above budget. However, lady luck was on our side, and through Booking.com we secured a room, packed our bags, left Valemare and checked into Rocca della Sena. And what a difference…

We were offered coffee on the terrace, over looking the sea as we were checked in – and then told we’d been upgraded. And, this was a real upgrade, as there’s no way we would have booked the honeymoon suite! For three days and three nights we lived in the lap of luxury – and because we’d booked last minute, bagged ourselves the most amazing deal. And after nearly two weeks on the road, this unexpected treat was much appreciated! As well as an en-suite bathroom, we had the added bonus of a huge walk-in shower, with mood lighting. (Well, it was the honeymoon suite, after all!) Plus, a beautiful balcony, with a hammock, sun-loungers and a jacuzzi ? Fresh fruit was delivered each afternoon, but because the breakfasts were so generous, to be honest, this was an unnecessary luxury!

Hotel Rocca della Sena is located about 10 minutes from the centre of Tropea, which is a perfect stop-over point if you’re travelling onwards to Sicily as it’s only about 40 minutes away from the port of Reggio Calabria.The whole experience can  only be described as “understated elegance” – every need is clearly catered for in this hotel, but in a way that is effortlessly unobtrusive. This was a real experience and a stay that we’ll certainly remember for a long time to come.

Tropea itself is described as a jewel, and this description isn’t an exaggeration, especially as it hugs the south west of Italy and so also benefits from glorious sunsets. Perfect to watch from your jacuzzi on the balcony ?

We stayed here in September 2013 and booked through booking.com, receiving a very unexpected upgrade upon arrival.

* We did get a refund, some weeks later, but only through sheer persistence – the refund came from Booking.com, rather than the hotel who steadfastly refused to acknowledge that their accommodation was NOT as described on their website.