Editor’s Letter | March/April 2011

Courtesy Hotel Santa Caterina

Could we even do an issue called Global Style without tipping our Borsalino to Italy? A recent five days in Milan at the men’s shows highlighted the latest and trendiest in Italian fashion, but the latest and trendiest is merely…well, the cuff of the trousers. Italy, as our favorite Latin teacher reminded us, belongs to the centuries. But the Italy pictured here, which I find myself gazing at endlessly with affection and nostalgia, is what I like to think of as My Own Private Italy. Not that I mean to be territorial. I have less claim genealogically than many of you reading this. I was introduced to the property last summer by 41-year-old Crescenzo Gargano, whose family owns the Hotel Santa Caterina. I spent three days, alas, only two nights, at its Romeo & Juliet villa. Even though I was there only 72 hours, it was my home away from home—or so it seemed.

The Santa Caterina does not belong to any high-gloss, überluxury brand but does epitomize, perfectly, what makes a small hotel grand. Now there are other and certainly more baroque places on the sea, but this hotel is the type of small, family-run property that sometimes gets overlooked in our craze for the latest and greatest.

Located in Amalfi, right on the ledge of a particularly dramatic cliff overlooking the Mediterranean, the two-bedroom Romeo & Juliet “cottage” was built in the 1700s as a hunting lodge for Italian nobility who lived along the famous Amalfi Coast. Here, one now stays in comfort and simple style at the hotel itself or in the villa with its flat-screen TV, winding staircase, mini–infinity pool and landscaped gardens. It is also, I might add, the only such property on the coast that not only allows but encourages children. Gargano describes it as the perfect romantic getaway and will tell you how Liz Taylor and Richard Burton, Anna Magnani and Roberto Rossellini all stayed here before its refurbishment and how more recent guests have included Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. That’s all fine and dandy, but its real charm is that it seems to belong only to you. And in a world of increasing globalization and name-branding, that has become a rarity.

Having just returned from Shanghai, where hotels start on the 50th floor and proceed upward another mile or so, the Santa Caterina seems rarer and rarer. Here is a place where Crescenzo’s mother, Giuseppina Gambardella, and her sister, Carmela, meticulously tend to the gorgeously landscaped gardens whose Florentine roses begin to bloom in May and continue throughout the summer. You can pick one of those enormous baseball-sized lemons from the grove on your way back to the villa from, say, lunch and a swim at the beach club below, or after dinner in the terraced restaurant. Here, mozzarella is brought daily from one of the nearby buffalo farms, pasta is cooked to perfection and vegetables are so amazingly fresh that you will literally weep over the fried zucchini blossoms and salad caprese. Not particularly obsessed with the latest or trendiest, the Santa Caterina is the small hotel that the songwriter had in mind, a comfort zone somehow made all the more special and timeless in a world of skyscraper chic.

The Short List

What caught our eye at men’s week in Milan

Giorgio Armani: If Mr. Armani has his way—as so often he does—gray will be the new black. armani.com

Tod’s Leather Boots: Rugged but luxe in distressed suede. tods.com

Uman’s “Automotive Travel Jacket:” Umberto Angeloni creates the perfect modern uniform. uman@mclink.it

Canali: presented grown-up clothes—with polka-dot scarves over classic blazers. canali.it