5 Inspiring European Hotel Destinations with Travel Influencer Giacomo Sonzini
Words By Alice Florence Orr
Ten Minute Read
There aren't many things 22-year-old hotelier student Giacomo Sonzini loves more than travel. Discovering new and inspiring destinations is Giacomo's raison d'être — reason for life — and the only hobby that rivals his wanderlust is his passion for delicious cuisine. The self-proclaimed proud Italian searches for beauty in every place he visits and shares his photography with his growing social media community — his way of cultivating his eye for authentic travel, even in lockdown.
Studying at the prestigious Ecole Hoteliere de Lausanne has given Giacomo insider knowledge of the hotel industry, so it was only natural that we chatted to him about his favourite European hotel destinations. When we asked Giacomo what inspired him to start travelling, he told us that he looks for beauty in every detail, from restaurants to local architecture. "For me, travel represents a way to escape reality," he said, and we agree that a sense of adventure is something many of us have been searching for recently.
Recent travel restrictions gave Giacomo an idea: why not explore more of his local area and discover incredible destinations within driving distance? "You will always find something in Italy that will leave you speechless," he told us, "even a little town has something special." Rather than visiting resorts or package hotels, Giacomo searches for inspiring and unusual locations. "During my trips, I look for folklore, local culture, people and food. If I had to choose the best places I visited up to now — of course, without considering Italy which is for sure number one in the world — I would probably say India, Japan and Marrakech. They all have strong cultures that make the trip even more interesting and challenging."
Quality is important to Giacomo. He shares our commitment to craftsmanship by refusing to settle for mass-produced experiences. Keep reading for his 5 favourite European holiday destinations, guaranteed to inspire you to discover beautiful places, whether at home or abroad.
5 Authentic European Holiday Destinations by Giacomo Sonzini
In Lupaia, you will lose perception of time. Situated in the middle of the Val d’Orcia, this UNESCO Heritage Site is known for its stunning nature and hills famous all over the world. Lupaia is a beautiful property managed by an Austrian family who make you feel truly special. The rooms and suites are very comfortable and unique — authentic is the perfect adjective to describe this place.
Just eight minutes by car from Pienza, Lupaia is close to many Tuscan villages, such as Pienza, Montalcino and Montepulciano, that you will regret not visiting. On the other hand, if you want to have a day off and relax a bit, lay down beside the pool and spend a peaceful day there.
Lupaia boasts wonderful regional cooking. You can taste the local cuisine from breakfast to dinner, created with fresh products directly from the land. Make sure to take your car on a trip to Lupaia to make the most of the picturesque villages and natural landscapes — and don't forget to snap a photo.
Eat: Castello Banfi
Visit: Cappella della Vitaleta
Best time to go: May-June, September-October
Head to the southern coast of France and you will find the Chateau de La Messardière. Dominating the hills of Saint Tropez, this is one of the most exclusive destinations to be in Cote d’Azur.
The chateau's architecture is incredible: enter through a huge entrance gate and follow a straight road leading you to the main building that looks just like a castle from a fairy tale. Top tip: Don’t spend too much on accommodation here. Save your money to get the maximum from bars, beaches and restaurants.
Head up to the terrace for views of Pampelonne beach, often painted with sunset colours in the evening. You'll also catch sight of the Gulf of Saint Tropez, renowned for leaving guests speechless. The colours, the location and the kindness of the staff make this a stay that's hard to forget. This hotel represents an extreme expression of luxury and is completely different from the other four properties which were more authentic and in line with my travel style. But I want to be honest with you: this hotel was a dream.
Stay: La Ponche, Hotel des Lices, Bastide du Port
Visit: Loulou, La Reserve, Club 55
Eat: Salama, Plage des Salins, Kinugawa, La Voile (La Reserve)
Drink: Lily of the Valley (Gagaro), Senequier, Pan dei Pai, Le Tigrr
Best time to go: June-September
An hour away from Naples, Maison la Minervetta is one of the most beautiful places I have ever stayed. I don't consider it a traditional hotel, more like a bed and breakfast. There is no restaurant, but the staff serve morning breakfast and “aperitivo” (an Italian must-have before dinner time) at sunset on the huge terrace facing the Vesuvius.
From day to night, you will be able to see all the different shades of colours: from the morning deep blue sky to the red sunsets. I can still hear the music from the pianist playing while sipping my Aperol Spritz and staring at the Vesuvius. Truly unique.
Another great plus is the rooms. It doesn’t matter which suite you book, every single room is exquisite, with an amazing and redefined interior design. And of course, Vesuvius can be seen from each of the rooms, making a morning at Maison la Minervetta one of the best stays you will experience.
Eat: Ristorante il Delfino (Marina Grande in Sorrento), Bellevue Syrene, Villa Treville, Le Sirenuse
Visit: Conca del Sogno, Tommaso allo Scoglio, Maya Beach, Pompei
Best time to go: June-July, September
Not many people know Bastide de Moustiers, but if you're looking for a peaceful stay when visiting Provence, this is a perfect spot. Classic french Provençal style makes this property authentic, from the rooms to the exteriors, to the menu created by the Michelin starred chef Alain Ducasse. I still remember the freshness of the products and the tastiness of every single dish.
The hotel has its own fruit and vegetable garden that is offered to the guests. I had the best burrata of my life, served with fresh multicolour tomatoes. While sampling that simple dish, I could feel the freshness of that amazing land. Top tip: Take a car and explore the rural roads through the villages.
Bastide de Moustiers is the best place where to switch off from the rest of the world. Walk to the picturesque village of St Marie de Moustiers, considered one of the most beautiful villages in France, is the perfect way to feel regenerated by nature. Top tip: Visit the summer lavender fields of the Valensole plateau. They look like a real-life Impressionist painting and remain one of the most gorgeous landscapes I have seen in my life.
Visit: Saint Paul de Vence, Gordes du Verdon, Menerbes, Roussillon, and Saignon
Best time to go: End of June and July - you have to take advantage of the lavender blooming which is something you cannot miss
Last but not least, we travel to the biggest island of Italy and probably one of the best regions for food and landscapes: Sicily. Tonnara di Scopello is situated 1h30 by car from Palermo — not quite a real hotel, it only has ten rooms all facing the Gulf of Castellammare and no restaurant nor breakfast service. Simplicity is the keyword. What makes Tonnara worth the stay is the morning sunrise. It comes up slowly, right in front of your eyes. After watching the horizon, try having a swim alone in the Faraglioni — a priceless experience. Top tip: If you want to have breakfast or aperitivo before dinner, you have to ask at the reception and they will make sure the staff from a nearby bar will serve your request ASAP.
Visit: Palermo, Riserva dello Zingaro
Eat: Bar Nettuno
Best time to go: May-July, September-October
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