“I’ve seen kitchens in Florentine restaurants that are smaller than this one,” says chef Andrea Mattei as he hunches over a seafood starter, piping alternate blobs of almond, apple, beetroot, and turnip sauce in an orbit around a red disk of beetroot-marinaded amberjack carpaccio. Behind his prep shelf is a professional range with six induction cooktops, where a sous-chef is making an asparagus, licorice, and mint risotto.
All of a sudden, a figure in a jaunty blue-and-white-striped polo shirt puts his head through one of the glassless windows of the open-to-view kitchen, yells,“Waves!” and continues on his way. Mattei stops his piping, while the sous-chef reaches out to grab an open bottle of olive oil. The kitchen lurches and tilts a little, once, twice, until the wake of the Portoferraio-to-Piombino ferry ripples beyond the Satori to break on the deserted beach of the Elba island cove where we have anchored for the night.
The Satori is a 136-foot wooden yacht, newly built in a Turkish boatyard for its Danish owners, Jeanette and Claus Thottrup. It’s part of the growing portfolio of the Borgo Santo Pietro Group, named after the Thottrups’ much-in-demand destination hotel in the Tuscan countryside southwest of Siena. The Thottrups designed the boat, Jeanette says, in the “spirit of the schooners from the 1920s and 1930s,” but with a more informal experience in mind. “It’s about living on the water and cocooning with your loved ones and friends, surrounded by friendly, professional service.” It’s available to sail throughout the Mediterranean in Italian, French, Greek, Turkish, and Croatian waters, with a weekly itinerary that can be customized by guests.
It is, to be honest, a marvel: a boat that wows as much from the water as close up, with its sleek, midnight-blue outer hull, twin masts over 100 feet, and spacious deck cabins. Most of the structural wood is mahogany, including the hull (a rare specification these days), with teak decks and walnut interior detailing.
This floating boutique hotel is equally impressive inside. Above deck, that roomy kitchen—big enough to accommodate cooking classes—sits behind the captain’s control room. Another, larger cabin on the main deck houses a lounge whose decor owes very little to its maritime setting. “The crew thought I was crazy putting loose furniture on a boat,” Jeanette says. This includes ten walnut chairs inspired by originals in Harry’s Bar in Venice, which are arranged around a large middle-deck dining table.
Downstairs, four double bedrooms (cabins seems reductive) and a spa treatment room—convertible into a fifth bedroom—are done in style, complete with contemporary Art Deco lamps by Dutch designer Pieter Adam. In the master bedroom, there’s even a stand-alone walnut bathtub. Bathrooms are lined in warm gray-brown Turkish marble; vanity mirrors slide back to reveal portholes. Little extras include an under-stairs wine cellar, four electric bicycles for shoreside forays, two Jet Skis, two Seabobs, and an Optimist dinghy for budding sailors. Oh, and a cinema on the front deck, its screen illuminated by a projector concealed above the captain’s cockpit.
You’ll find yourself marveling at how thoroughly the labor of love seems to have trumped the profit motive, just like at the owners’ hotel. The Borgo Santo Pietro opened in 2008 with a modest eight rooms inside a restored villa of 13th-century origins, set amid 13 acres of meticulously landscaped grounds and a tasteful assemblage of rare marbles, antique Murano chandeliers pieced together in Paris, vintage claw-foot bathtubs, and silk and velvet textiles by Fortuny and Rubelli, all sourced by interior designer Jeanette.
Building a brand on the foundation of a single small hotel flies in the face of conventional business logic. “We’ve toyed with the idea of opening another hotel,” Jeanette says, “but that would feel like a betrayal. So we always end up adding things to the one we have.”
Those additions include 11 Garden Suites (four of them new for 2017); a spa in a separate farmhouse-style building; the Sull’Albero bar, brasserie, and trattoria, which juts out over the countryside on a wooden platform built around an ancient oak tree; a cooking school and pastry workshop; and several more acres of land adjoining the hotel, which includes a farm with around 300 sheep and an artisanal cheese factory. The hotel’s vegetable gardens and fruit orchards supply its two restaurants, Sull’Albero and Michelin-starred Meo Modo, which is helmed by Mattei—as well as the group’s La Bottega del Buon Caffè restaurant in Florence (aka Borgo Santo Pietro in the City) and the Satori.
Lesser hoteliers would stop for breath at this point, but Jeanette is in the midst of launching Seed to Skin by Borgo Santo Pietro, her own skincare and beauty line made in a purpose-built laboratory just outside the hotel perimeter. A new, 26-acre vineyard, on a parcel of land recently acquired by the estate, has added a winery to the Borgo portfolio, with the first vintage due in 2018.
While strolling around Portoferraio, Elba’s main town, we come across a derelict covered market. Jeanette’s eyes light up. “That would make a great hotel,” she murmurs. “Come along,” hubby Claus says briskly. “We need to get back to the boat.”
Rates from $106,400 per week; satoriyacht.com.