For years tarps and scaffolding masked a mysterious construction project taking shape at the corner of Vieira Souto and Joaquim Nabuco streets in Ipanema. Everyone in Rio knew it was Philippe Starck’s latest hotel, but the delay had us all shaking our heads. Another undertaking mired in Brazilian bureaucracy, we thought. Too bad. The neighborhood—the hippest in the entire city—was screaming out for a luxury boutique hotel.
Then last summer the tarps and scaffolding disappeared and the Hotel Fasano Rio de Janeiro, with its glass balconies and polished rosewood interiors, materialized as the latest addition to hotelier and restaurateur Rogério Fasano’s mini hospitality empire.
Overlooking Arpoador—the beach named for the hearty men who used to harpoon whales off its shores and today, the most fashionable sand-and-surf spot in town—the hotel began drawing Rio’s beautiful people almost immediately. Many of them can be seen nightly at the hotel’s Barreto-Londra Bar, sipping caipirinhas and listening to old LPs by The Clash, Rogério’s favorite band. Why do we so adore the new Fasano? Here, our top ten reasons. From $530 to $3,100; fasano.com.br.
- The view of Arpoador from the floor-to-ceiling windows in the shower stalls of each of the 91 rooms. The deluxe suites (rooms 507, 607, and 707), nearly 1,500 square feet each, offer the most spectacular scenery—even on a rainy day you can spend hours watching the mist swirl around the peaks and the sea.
- Bartender Alex Miranda’s Watermelon Hot martini, a mix of Absolut vodka, red pepper, and watermelon. Also, Rio’s best caipirinhas. Miranda makes a yellow fruit version with mango, pineapple, and tangerine.
- The single six-ton hunk of pequia wood from northern Brazil that forms the monolithic front desk. It once lay rotting in the Amazon and was rescued by Tora Brasil, an environmentally correct furniture boutique in São Paulo that specializes in tables and decorative blocks made from local hardwoods.
- The bossa nova piped into the bar and lobby—a throwback to the fifties, when Rio was the capital of cool. The Fasano spins everyone from Bebel Gilberto to Elis Regina, one of the country’s greatest chanteuses. Hang out long enough and you’ll catch her incredible “Waters of March” duet with Antonio Carlos Jobim.
- The cartoonishly striped Gaetano Pesce Up 5 chairs—known as Big Mammas—on every floor, as well as the comfy club chairs in the bar, each with an image of a blindfolded Queen Elizabeth etched into the leather.
- The Uruguayan caviar and tagliatelle with artichokes and shrimp at Fasano al Mare, the best seafood restaurant in Rio. The chef hails from the Michelin three-star Enoteca Pinchiorri in Florence.
- A real cappuccino. Brazil might be the world’s largest coffee producer, but it exports all the good stuff. Everywhere else in the city cappuccino comes from a mix, but here barista Massimo Leoncini brings in Illy Caffè from Italy and brews perfect made-to-order cappuccinos and lattes.
- The vintage-looking and oh-so-hip black-and-white Havaianas flip-flops, left in all guest rooms and yours to keep.
- The whimsical sinks in the bathrooms off the lobby, crafted with rare yellow onyx imported from China.
- The 180-degree vistas from the rooftop pool and bar, both for the exclusive use of hotel guests. You can see Arpoador, Christ the Redeemer, and the Morro Dois Irmãos mountains.