An Italian Adventure
B4 Magazine supplement, featuring The Baglioni Hotel chain.
An Italian Adventure A B4 Magazine Publication In Association With Contents 1: Welcome to Baglioni An introduction to Baglioni Hotels by Roberto Polito An Italian Adventure A Dream Holiday My Baglioni & Travel Tips Baglioni Hotel Competition Holiday Memories Roberto Polito An interview with Baglioni President 2: 4: 5: 6: 8: 10: Luna Hotel Baglioni, Venice 14: Before Leaving Look At Us 16: Carlton Hotel Baglioni, Milan 20: Relais Santa Croce by Baglioni, Florence 24: Cala Del Porto by Baglioni, Tuscany 28: Baglioni Resort Alleluja, Tuscany 32: Regina Hotel Baglioni, Rome 36: Villa Gallici, Baglioni, Provence 40: Hotel Baglioni, London 42: Baglioni, Marrakech 44: Flying Baboo 2 Welcome to Baglioni "We travel many paths every day, and seek to discover many more paths all over the world, in order to learn and to teach. "When I opened the first hotel, I was simply taking a new path, partly for the adventure, partly for fun. It was only a while later that I realised that, hotel after hotel, the difficulties and victories were taking me on a more distant, richer journey. Every smile from my staff highlighted my successes and comforted me in my failures which, over time, taught me and my company the secret of inventing new methods and forms each day. "We never stopped, neither myself nor my family, whom I have the privilege to have by my side in this project. It is a project made up not only of hotels, but also of ambitious objectives and unstoppable passion. "Our hotels are like our home, elegant and discreet yet open and alive, made up of people who, together with their guests, seek experiences for which it is worth undertaking a long journey. "This is our path, this desire to be Baglioni Hotels, in the intimacy of its ambiance, the subtle refinement of suggested details, the passion of every single gesture and every step, which has today made us a great group, a small dream which has become a great reality. "Richard and his family have, with my pleasure, witnessed all that is good about our group. I am delighted that they have experienced our genuine hospitality, our beautiful hotels, the excellence of our gastronomy and the warmth of our smiles. Not only this, but Richard and his family have seen the treasures of Italy, its magnificent sights and the great pleasure that my fellow Italians take in serving and giving to make our visitors' time in Italy a memorable and enjoyable one. Colin and Sue have seen another face of our group in France, one of my personal favourites, Villa Gallici, where time stands still and the mind can relax and absorb an extraordinarily wonderful culture. "Enjoy vicariously the experiences of Richard, Tina, Abi, Edward, Sue and Colin, but remember... to really enjoy Italy and the Baglioni way, you must come and visit us. You are always welcome." Comm. Roberto Polito President and Managing Director About The Baglioni Hotels Group The Baglioni Hotels Group was created in 1973, when Roberto Polito purchased his first establishment in Tuscany, in Punta Ala (Hotel Cala del Porto), working with his wife Lisa to develop a unique concept of hospitality in terms of life experience: a journey into Italian style through its culture and different traditions. With this in mind, Baglioni Hotels has developed a collection which today counts twelve exclusive hotels and one residence, mostly hosted in period buildings and in the historic centres of the major cities of art. There are six hotels in Italy, five in France and one in the heart of London, a hotel inaugurated in March 2004 which marked a significant turning point in the chain's design concept. In parallel to this expansion, Luca Magni and Guido Polito have also come up with a versatile, innovative catering format: the Brunello Lounge & Restaurant, a brand launched in 2004 at the Baglioni Hotel London now also present in Italy, in Rome (Regina Hotel Baglioni). With the Brunello Lounge & Restaurant, Baglioni Hotels' much-desired project to reach the apex of the culinary market, in parallel to that of hotel hospitality, is taking shape. 1 An Italian Adventure I 2 t has always been a dream of ours to travel around Italy, but with two young children, that's not easy. But this summer, we lived that dream, thanks in no small part to Maggie Garratt (PR for Baglioni Hotels), Luca Magni (the group's Brand and Communication Advisor) and Commendatore Roberto Polito, the group's President and Managing Director, spending fourteen magical nights experiencing the very best of The Baglioni Hotels. It is unusual to see the words `industrial' and `paradise' in the same sentence, but we were about to enter a paradise where the levels of service and hospitality were dished out in a never ending stream of industrial proportions. This may sound like the exaggerations of a man stuck in the aftermath of holiday afterglow, but I can assure you that whatever it is, the Italians have mastered the art of service, style and hospitality. Our journey began in Venice, then by train on to Milan, Florence, Tuscany and finally Rome, before returning to Venice to catch our plane back to poor old England, which always looks drab and grey upon returning from sunnier climes, but this time it looked so much worse! Italy had spoilt us rotten, and we loved every minute of it. Style, sophistication, class and five star service throughout. This was hospitality on another level. The good news, is that you can experience Baglioni Hotels. The London Hotel is in Hyde Park, so pop in for a drink and get hooked. You'll be in Milan, Florence or Rome before your feet can touch the ground. The group have spread their wings into France also with five stunning properties, one of which was experienced by Colin and Sue on a three day trip to Provence. With a new hotel / villa complex opening in Marrakech in 2011, a collaboration between developers Ajensa, designer Jade Jagger and Six Senses Spa, and plans for a new hotel in India, the group are not standing still. President Commendatore Roberto Polito spoke to me about the group he has created, the economy and his plans for the future. Brand & Communication Advisor Luca Magni, also talked to me about the admirable charitable work the group is committed to with OrphanAid Africa. This is a stunning group, a collection of incredible properties, a group of individuals who have one thing in common... to make the guest's experience memorable, enjoyable and unique. The Baglioni Hotels Collection is unique. Make time for a visit one day. Enjoy sharing our adventure with us. Richard, Tina, Edward and Abi Thank you Maggie Without Maggie this wouldn't have been possible. Always meticulous in her preparation, always on hand with a word of advice, we couldn't have done it without her. A million thank you's Maggie, for a million happy memories. Itinerary Day 1: Fly from London City Airport to Venice, Marco Polo Airport Stay at Luna Hotel Baglioni, Venice See page 10 Day 4: Train from Venice to Milan Stay at Carlton Baglioni Hotel, Milan See page 16 Day 6: Train from Milan to Florence Stay at Relais Santa Croce, Florence See page 20 Day 9: Train from Florence to Follonica Stay at Hotel Cala del Porto, Punta Ala See page 24 Day 12: Train from Follonica to Rome The Team Behind An Italian Adventure Editor, Richard Rosser Richard is the Editor of B4 Business Magazine (see www.b4-business.com), which is mailed to 3,000 businesses in Oxfordshire quarterly. B4 is a part of the family publishing business, Designs On Ltd, which is also responsible for titles such as In Oxford Magazine and The Oxford Restaurant Guide. Designer, Keith Simpson Keith is Designs On Ltd's senior designer and has been working with Richard for many years. He is responsible for the design of B4 Magazine and many other publications, including the highly successful In Oxford Magazine. (See www.inoxford.com). Stay at Regina Hotel Baglioni See page 32 Day 14: Train from Rome to Venice Stay at Luna Hotel Baglioni, Venice See page 10 3 My B a g l ion i T r av e l T i p s TRAVELLING: - Get a copy of the HG2 Milan, and HG2 Rome, which are excellent guides. www.hg2.com - Hail only official white cabs, especially at the train station. - Validate your ticket at the train station � look out for the yellow boxes to punch your ticket before travel. An unvalidated ticket isn't worth the paper it's written on. - Purchase tickets through the Trenitalia website at www.trenitalia.com in advance of your journey date or ask your hotel concierge to do it for you. it's open for tours. It's an impressive stadium, but I am sure more impressive if you can see inside also! - If you decide to go to Pisa, get a cab to the tower � it's a long and not very pretty walk! - Watch the portions. Restaurants in close proximity to the main tourist attractions will not only charge more, both for the food, service and cover charges, they'll also leave you feeling hungry with small portions. O xfordshire businessman, Jonathon Minoli, Managing Director of Minoli, and his family have been visiting Italy since before he can recall, for business and for pleasure. Wherever possible, he will always stay in a Baglioni Hotel, as he explains. "The hotels are positioned not only in the right cities but in the right locations. The levels of service are truly superb, without a hint of sycophancy, a remarkable blend of professionalism and a genuine desire to provide fully for the guests' needs." GENERAL: - Don't feel you can't venture into places with kids as the Italians love them. - Ladies will need to cover their shoulders in most religious buildings � or be left outside! - Take insect repellent, especially for Milan where the canal area of Naviglio was home to some of the biggest suckers you are likely to ever see! The discretion of Baglioni Hotels is legendary, and Jonathon shares an anecdote which epitomises this discretion. "When staying at a Baglioni Hotel with my then future wife, a call came through to the room. `Signor Minoli?' A hushed voice at the other end of the line asked. `Yes this is Mr Minoli.' The voice continued. `Signor, this is the concierge. I am very sorry to disturb you, but we, ahem, have your wife on the phone.' Without reacting to what was obviously a problem, at least in the mind of the concierge, I asked him to put the call through. `Good morning mother.....' "You see, my wife was checked in as Miss Norridge and the operator, knowing this, assumed `Mrs Minoli' was my wife, and not my mother. The concierge was entrusted with the job of damage limitation. An unnecessary course of action in this case, but that's service! "No restaurant booking is impossible, no car unbooked, no request refused. Reliable, faultless perfection." 4 WATCH OUT FOR: - Cover charges and fixed service charges in restaurants Service is included in most bills at restaurants � so check before tipping twice! - Foreign Exchange Booths - I was quoted 180 Euros for �200 � I twigged eventually! - If your son wants to see the San Siro in Milan, make sure B4 Magazine. +44 (0)1865 742211. www.b4-business.com � B4 Magazine. October 2010. Whilst every attempt has been made to ensure that the content of this publication is accurate and correct in every way, the publishers cannot be held responsible or liable for any inaccuracies or errors within the publication. Information reproduced from this publication is permitted with the express permission of the publisher. All information is correct at time of going to press. o a. s. s t ic il fit fr ta ro d A de l p Ai for Al han 14 p e Or pag e se Competition Would you like to enjoy three nights in a de luxe room at the beautiful Relais Santa Croce courtesy of Baglioni Hotels? Enter our text competition (details below) and you and your companion could be spending three nights in one of Florence's leading hotels. Take tea in the music room, amble through the cobbled streets of Florence or venture out to Pisa to see the famous Leaning Tower. Baglioni Hotels have also kindly offered to provide our lucky winner with complimentary breakfast on each day plus a memorable meal for two in the hotel's elegant Guelfi e Ghibellini restaurant.* Question: In which country is Florence? A: Italy, B: Spain or C: England. Text `B4' followed by a space plus A, B or C to 82085. (eg. B4 C) Texts charged at �1.00 plus standard network tariff. For full terms and conditions see the competition page at www.inoxford.com/competition.html Please note: Competition does not include flights or transfers. *Meal only, does not include drinks. Bedroom photograph shown is a suite and not a de luxe room. Closing date Friday 17th December 2010. 5 6 7 Roberto Polito O n our last day in Tuscany (see page 24), Pia, Hotel Cala del Porto's extremely engaging General Manager, confirmed that the group's President and Managing Director, Commendatore Roberto Polito, would be able to meet me for an interview. What an opportunity to personally thank the man who had made this unforgettable two week 'vacanza' possible. Commendatore Polito's face was not unfamiliar to me as we met on the terrace overlooking `that' view (see Punta Ala article previously referred to). His holiday home was literally thirty feet below our balcony with, I should imagine, a picture perfect view of the port. I had seen Comm. Polito around the hotel, at the beach and talking to staff, always smiling, always engaging, always passionate about his hotel. If I had a hotel like Comm. Polito's, I think it's fair to say I'd always be smiling .... in fact I think I'd need to stick my jaw in a vice every night to make sure it had a chance to relax! An approachable favourite grandfather figure, Comm. Polito enjoys the fruits of his labours with a close family, the Italian way. But he does not stop. Running The Baglioni Group has become a way of life; beginning each day at 5am has become second nature. I asked Comm. Polito whether he imagined, fifty five years ago, that he would one day survey such a wonderful view and that this 8 would be just one of the many rewards his years of toil would bring him. "I started working very early, at sixteen years old. I worked hard to be able to buy this land in Punta Ala at the age of thirty, and no, I never imagined the view would be so perfect!" Born in Rome, Comm. Polito has worked in Germany and Switzerland, where he was general manager of a large resort for a national company. But his roots were in Italy, and he returned to acquire the land which is now the site of Hotel Cala del Porto in 1970. The hotel first opened its doors in April 1973. "It was my first hotel, and so will forever be special to me. We then opened hotels in Florence and Bologna and the journey had begun." Working eighteen hour days consistently, Comm. Polito has had hard work coursing through his veins since 1955, and by his own admission, only started to take holidays twenty years ago, in his early fifties. "There was never the time for holidays. I am happy in my work, I enjoy it. My family has supported me every day and without that support, we wouldn't be here, smiling!" Hotel Cala del Porto was designed by Comm. Polito and his wife, Lisa, enlisting the help of an architect to oversee their dreams come to fruition. There are no boundaries between Comm. Polito and work. The walk to his summer retreat is less than twenty paces from the hotel pool, and the walk to his table in the hotel restaurant is no more than a twenty second walk, but this is the way it has always been, business and pleasure fusing as if to make `pleasniss'! "This is my life. I relax when I work and if eating in a beautiful hotel with my family, with this wonderful view, is work, then what is pleasure?!" Sheer hard work, grit and determination does not, unfortunately, make a successful business ad infinitum. The economic downturn has posed serious questions for all businesses, globally, and the hospitality industry, especially at the higher end, has undoubtedly suffered, as Comm. Polito confirms. "The economy is very hard now. Since 2008, we have faced many pressures and problems. We recently sold properties in Verona and Bologna, and a second property in Florence, to relieve the debt pressure which had built up. It is almost impossible to run a group such as this without debt, but we have to be sensible and although these hotels were part of our history, we had to make some hard decisions and sacrifices for the good of the group long term. "In 2009 and 2010 we have not made a profit, but this is not unusual in our business. That is not to say it is acceptable. With changes in the group and new ventures, I am confident that, although we will never see the levels of success of the 1990's and early 2000's, we will slowly get back to where we were." If my experience is anything to go by, recouping the business which the group has lost in recent years is not an impossibility. With a surge in guests from emerging markets, notably Russia, the recovery may be quicker than even Comm. Polito anticipates. Significant repeat business is the Holy Grail for any business, and this has been Comm. Polito's target since he first opened in 1973. "Some of our clients have been visiting us for thirty five years. They have grown up with us and they will not accept anything other than our standards. My vision, when I started the group, was to treat my customers as family, to welcome them into our homes. The hotel business is difficult anyway, but without loyal customers, it is almost impossible. "Without repeat business, we could never have succeeded. All of our hotels are individual, they are boutiques, and it is very important that my colleagues treat our guests as family � that is the only way they will come back. For that to work, my colleagues have to share my vision and to work with each other to make every guest want more when they leave our hotels." It is a recipe for success that the group is looking to replicate in new territories. The Baglioni Marrakech will open in 2011 and Comm. Polito's son, Guido, was due back in Tuscany from Mumbai that afternoon where the group is looking to open a property in 2012. "Both projects are very exciting and I am particularly excited about the prospect of opening in India, which shares so many of our values, yet is in a completely different part of the world. I would also like to open in New York and Paris, but now is not the time for rapid expansion and we have to make sure we target the right properties and make the right choices." I cannot imagine, for one instant, that Comm. Polito and his trusted circle of colleagues would ever fail to deliver. With a portfolio which overflows with class, provides a level of service which is out of this world and captivates each and every guest so that they are seduced into returning again and again, how could they fail? Comm. Polito concludes. "Our guests are our lifeblood. Without them, we cannot work. Without them, we cannot serve. Without them, we cannot smile. To each guest I promise nothing less than excellent personal service and unparalleled hospitality." 9 Lun a Hot e l Bagl ioni - V en ice I 10 f there is such a thing as reincarnation, I should imagine that if I ever come back to Venice as an international film star, I will experience more than a fleeting sense of d�j� vu. Bridge of Sighs on their way to the torture chamber of the Doge's Palace in St Mark's Square all those centuries ago. The tap had most certainly been turned on, and as soon as the ultra chic Riva moored outside The Luna Baglioni, which will forever be known as our `home' in Italy, we had entered an intoxicating world of style, and our incredible Italian adventure had begun. Boarding a Riva isn't an everyday experience, unless, of course, you're a native Venetian. But as we left Marco Polo airport and the `Serene City' came into view, our collective sighs of joy were in stark contrast to those of the prisoners who passed under The F rom meeting the hotel's Press Officer, Serena, through to the Concierge, Antonio, the service and warmth we experienced was an unadulterated joy. However, Hotel Manager, Gianmatteo Zampieri, explained to me that discretion is the key aim of Luna Baglioni staff towards its guests. "Discretion is very important to us. It is obviously vital that our guests enjoy their stay here, but we have to make sure that whatever we do, we are discreet and attentive to our guests' needs. My Head Concierge plays a crucial role here, as he is the key point of contact for our guests. His knowledge of the area is so important to make sure he is in tune with what our guests want. If they ask for a restaurant, he has to be able to act as a psychologist � he has to know what they want and what they will like." "Attention to our guests is imperative, and for you to tell me that the service you have received is excellent tells me we are doing our job. It is vital that my staff get to know the guests personally and make them feel at home. Without this, we are not upholding what Baglioni Hotels strive for every day." The hotel oozed five star from every sparkling nook and delightful cranny. Our fabulous apartment, where, apparently, Casanova had resided prior to his incarceration in the nearby Doge's Palace, was beautifully furnished throughout. The children tried their best to claim the main room, complete with its own lounge, but two hours later, they had more than settled for the smaller of the two rooms. I don't think I have seen two more spoilt (but immensely happy) little brats, scoffing crisps and coke, complete with headphones watching their own individual DVD players, on a four poster bed in white fluffy Baglioni robes. What on earth was I going to do for an encore?! Our three days in Venice, despite the heat and humidity, were relaxing and provided us with the perfect introduction to Italy. The hotel itself never ceased to surprise and amaze, and Serena's informative tour of some of the hotel's suites revealed that the Luna has many beautiful faces, with breathtaking views over the Lagoon and St Mark's Basin. No wonder then that The Luna Baglioni is a member of the Leading Hotels of the World and Fine Hotels and Resorts, offering its guests an intimate, welcoming atmosphere combined with faultless service. The welcoming Canova Restaurant (winner of the Fogher d'Oro and Gambero Rosso awards) seats up to sixty guests. It was an extra special occasion for us all on our second night as we were celebrating Tina's birthday. We began with a glass of champagne "Venice is like eating an entire box of chocolate liqueurs in one go." Truman Capote 11 in Caff� Baglioni, watching the heads of the Gondoliers pass by providing the children with plenty of amusement and concluded our evening with the most memorable and easily the naughtiest Vanilla Slice cake you could wish for. The historic Luna is housed in a magnificent, aristocratic Venetian palace and dates back to the 12th century. During the 18th century, the building was decorated with frescoes by pupils of Gianbattista Tiepolo. The frescoes adorn the sumptuous Marco Polo Lounge which now doubles as the Breakfast Room and a ballroom for the annual Masked Ball. A unique fact about The Luna Baglioni, which Snr Roberto Polito, proprietor of Baglioni Hotels, asked me to stress when I was to meet him later during our trip in Punta Ala (See Page 24), is that even during the acqua alta (high water), when the city embraces the sea, the Luna is the only hotel close to St Mark's Square that is unaffected by this common and short phenomenon of high water, which means that Baglioni guests can continue to enjoy their stay in comfort. It is this proximity to the magnificent St Mark's Square, not more than thirty paces away, which completes The Luna Baglioni. As if the sophistication and comforts of such an effortlessly stylish hotel are not enough, guests can explore this magical city from a perfect location. St Mark's Square presents a breathtaking forum for romance, fun, laughter, and some rather annoying gentlemen selling roses! But it was here that we enjoyed some of our most memorable moments. A band playing `Happy Birthday' to Tina on her birthday, the children acting out their very own `One Euro for a Rose' sketch and just passing through, enjoying others visibly moved by the beauty of Venice and the magnificence of the Palazzo Ducale and St Mark's Basilica. The glittering fa�ade of the Basilica forms an exotic backdrop, illuminating Venice's unique role at the crossroads of Eastern and Western culture. With its five mosque-like domes, it is the most sumptuously exotic and Orientally inspired church ever built in the Roman Catholic world. As vast as the square is, the myriad of lanes feeding off the square are tiny, often wide enough for just one passer-by. It's as if this complex layout of lanes are arteries feeding the beating heart of Venice, St Mark's Square. The shaded streets and lanes provide a respite from the sun of the square, but the square is also a welcome find when feeling lost in the maze. Other highlights included our trip to the glass factory on Murano, twenty minutes away by boat; the Secret Tour of the Doge's Palace (Palazzo Ducale), for nine hundred years the focus of Venice's power and pomp; we, of course, crossed The Rialto; visited countless beautiful churches, all breathtaking in their own way; and, finally, almost mandatory for a visit to Venice, we took a trip on a Gondola to celebrate Tina's birthday. There is so much we didn't get the chance to do in Venice and it is most certainly a city for a couple to explore more without children, although our experience as a family gave us an unforgettable snapshot and more than enough to lure us back one day. 12 "I stood in Venice, on the Bridge of Sighs; A palace and a prison on each hand." Lord Byron CONTACT email@example.com 0039 041 5289840 San Marco 1243 � 30124 Venice GETTING THERE By Air: Marco Polo International Airport is 5.5 miles away or thirty minutes by water taxi � expect to pay up to 100 Euros or take public transport which is considerably cheaper. By Train: Santa Lucia railway station is 1.2 miles from the hotel, 15 minutes by water taxi (about 60 Euros). 5 MUST DO'S 1 Ride in a Gondola 2 The Secret Tour of the Doge's Palace 3 Take a water taxi from the Airport 4 Visit the glass factory on Murano 5 Walk through St Mark's Square, early morning when it's quiet and beautiful, during the day when it's full of life and at night when it's romantic and playful MAIN ATTRACTIONS St Mark's Square: 200 m (2 minutes) Palazzo Ducale: 200 m (2 minutes) Correr Civic Museum: 200 m (2 minutes) La Fenice Opera House: 400 m (4 minutes). Rialto Bridge: 700 m (8 minutes). Palazzo Grassi Museum: 900 m (11 minutes) Ca d'Oro: 1.2 km (12 minutes) Peggy Guggenheim museum: 1.2 km (15 minutes). Partnership with the Hotel. Punta della Dogana, center of Contemporary Art: 1.5 km (18 minutes) Venetian Ghetto: 2.1 km (25 minutes) 13 Before Leaving Look At Us D uring our two days in Milan, we had the pleasure of meeting the group's Brand and Communication Advisor, Luca Magni (pictured). Charming and hospitable, Luca spoke about the difficult economy and the plans for the future with the opening of a new property in Marrakech (see page 42). Our conversation turned, however, to the incredible charitable work which the group has committed to. In the two hotels we had so far visited before we met Luca, I had not fully appreciated the `Before Leaving Look at Us' mini leaflets were a subtle promotion of the Baglioni Group's preferred charities, OrphanAid Africa and a cancer research association. Luca has been involved since 2006 and responsible from 2008 for the Italian subsidiary of OrphanAid Africa, and whilst on the face of it the link may appear to be no more than a nominated charity which the group raises money for, further discussion revealed that this is no ordinary charitable association. This is a fully fledged and time-consuming activity for him and the hugely experienced OA Director and Fundraiser, Francesca Pinto, with rewarding results, as Luca explained. "Like any hotel or public facing business, we are regularly asked to contribute to charity, offer complimentary rooms, meals 14 etc..... We make a conscious decision to devote our entire energies to a worthwhile cause and we have made a `Social Responsibility', a firm commitment to OrphanAid Africa. destitute and abandoned children living at the home. This experience proved to be so life changing for Lisa that she left behind her glamorous lifestyle in Europe and moved to Ghana full-time. Her desire to help orphans was a long-lasting and substantial one, driving her to launch OrphanAid Africa with the aim of helping make sure no child should need to grow up in an institution, unloved and with few prospects for the future. A Census carried out in co-operation with the Social Welfare Department of Ghana, showed that 80% of children in institutes were abandoned because their parents simply couldn't afford to take care of them. OrphanAid Africa today support approx 4,000 children and is one of the leading organisations involved in the Care Reform Initiative. "We believe in the rights of families � and a child's right to growing up in a family." Continued Luca. "We believe in strengthening families to care for their own children." "Our programs aim to keep families together, keep mothers alive, send children to school and protect children by transforming systems." For further information, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com or visit www.oafrica.org "In addition to informing our staff and guests about OrphanAid, with the social communication campaign "Prima di partire regalaci uno sguardo" (Before Leaving Look At Us), we aim to raise funds at our hotels to donate to the two associations." OrphanAid Africa was founded by Lisa Lovatt-Smith (pictured opposite) in October 2002. Lisa is an established author whose published work includes thirteen books on design and photography. In 2002, Lisa decided to volunteer with her daughter at a children's home in Ghana. There were more than one hundred 15 C arlton Hotel Baglioni - Mil an O 16 h dear! It's one of the fashion capitals of the world and we were staying in one of its leading hotels, with THE main street for leading boutiques running behind us. They had us covered on all sides. Wherever you looked, style roamed. As soon as we arrived at the gargantuan Milano Centrale train station, you could tell that the Milanese were a cut above your average Joe. Men, irrespective of age or physique, wore their suits not just well, but bloody annoyingly well. Women were sassy, demanding attention as they pranced by on the pavement � at least that's the excuse I tried to use, without too much success! The entrance to the hotel is small but impressive, bang smack in the heart of the fashion district, backing onto via della Spiga. Literally just ten minutes from the centre of Milan, marked by the massive Duomo on the central square, Carlton Hotel Baglioni is also close to the Teatro alla Scala. G eneral Manager, Luigi Magnani, with the greatest respect dressed, rather infuriatingly, as if he had just walked off a magazine cover, greeted us warmly and enthusiastically. I felt it would have been impolite and a tad weird to tell him how good he looked! I'm sure it would have freaked out the children too. Luigi advised that we were to go on a tour of Milan in the morning and that we should allow two hours in total. `How very hospitable.' I thought. `Nice open top bus, what a great way to see Milan.' Trying to be organised, I thought I should ask where we should catch the bus from. "No, Signor Rosser, we have a private car with your own guide......who will come to collect you from the hotel." How embarrassing! I really do need to just smile and move on sometimes. Sharp exit! We were shown to our room, which was quite clearly the hotel's signature Art D�co suite � it adorned the covers of numerous magazines scattered around. With authentic period furniture, stunning antiques and exquisite soft furnishings, this was one suite even the children knew they had no right to even try and lay claim to. We spent our first evening in the hotel restaurant, Baretto al Baglioni, enjoying the attention of the mischievous Angelo who took it upon himself to play the role of the children's grandfathers (more like both of them wrapped up into one) for the evening, encouraging extra cokes, naughty desserts and generally allowing the kids to have a superb evening � how could we stop him! Even though we were in Milan for just two nights, we covered a fair amount of ground. This was in no small part due to the excellent city tour which the hotel had generously arranged. Annamaria, our highly knowledgeable and extremely personable guide, was a joy and a fountain of knowledge. From the ancient history of Milan and its history as one of Europe's leading ports (by virtue of the canal system which used to exist), to the latest natural ice cream shop phenomenon sweeping Milan, and the colossal average property prices in the centre, she knew it all. We visited Piazza Castello, the site of the city's original castle, the centrepiece of old Milan and Santa Maria delle Grazie church, home to Leonardo da Vinci's incredible fresco of The Last Supper. Tickets only with a carefully controlled entrance, this was Milan's equivalent of The Mona Lisa. We booked our tickets to return at 1.45 after a trip to Naviglio, which, as we were to find out, transforms at night into a bustling canalside honeypot of cafes', trattoria's and bars, complete with market stalls selling all sorts of "You may have the universe if I may have Italy." Giuseppe Verdi 17 goods. By day, it was hard to picture the scene we would witness later that evening. Annamaria was obviously well known in this area, more a personal shopper than tour guide, by her own admission, nonetheless, she had a passion for Milan and a knowledge base which would surely eclipse that of the most experienced Milanese tour guides. The finale of our guided tour was to the Duomo, the most magnificent cathedral you will ever see. We were all open-mouthed, and even Ed had his mouth half open! It wasn't the resplendent fifty two supports which left a mark on our conscience. It was the statue towards the back on the right-hand side, which depicts Saint Bartholomew. He was skinned alive, so is often shown in religious artwork as holding his own skin. In this case, he stands with his skin draped around him. The Flayed San Bartolomeo by artist Marco d'Agrate dates from 1562. The giveaway were the four feet, but his `second head' on his back confirmed the eerie background to this tortured soul. From the Duomo, we visited La Rinascente department store, and went to the top floor where we were presented with a very Harvey Nichols style setting, surrounded by twelve different restaurants. Not your average food store or buffet scenario, these were smart restaurants, some outside on the sweltering terrace, populated by smartly dressed locals, having business lunches or shopping spree lunches. Very `Sex in the City'! We then returned to the hotel for tea with the Baglioni Group's Luca Magni (see interview on page 14), and then changed for the dreaded `Shopping Trip'. Edward was disappointed that the new Milan shirt wasn't to be released until the following week � there is a God � but the problem with visiting a huge footballing city like Milan was that the other team, Inter, had a shop almost next door to AC's. A full boy's football kit later, and it was then Tina and Abi's turn to hit the shops, which they did with a vengeance. We then began our walk back to the hotel via a refreshing fountain and small pond which the kids found irresistible! It's funny how the simple things leave you with the fondest memories. Our final morning in Milan was all about packing, the San Siro and finding some deodorant! Ed had badgered me into taking him to visit the San Siro � or the The Stadio Giuseppe Meazza as it is officially known � and we made the short trip by taxi to see the outside of one of the most vast stadia in the world. They certainly don't do big buildings by halves in Milan, and this was big! Sadly for us, the stadium was playing host to a music concert � have you heard of Ligabue? No nor have I. So what can I say about Milan? It is easy to become intimidated by a city like Milan, but although there is a higher tempo to life, it has a charm which belies its sophistication. The hotel was perfect. The staff were welcoming and could never do enough. The two concierge we had most contact with, Stefano and Emanuele, were impeccable hosts. They were attentive, charming, and always ready with a smile and a warm welcome. We couldn't want for more and it was truly sad to be moving on to the next stage of our exciting adventure. 18 "Travelling is the ruin of all happiness! There's no looking at a building after seeing Italy." Fanny Burney CONTACT firstname.lastname@example.org 0039 02 77077 Via Senato, 5, 20121 Milan GETTING THERE By Air: Linate International Airport is about 20 minutes away. Malpensa Airport is about 45 minutes from the hotel. Orio al Serio is 35km (21.5 miles) away. By Train: Milano Centrale railway station is about 1.5km (0.9 miles) from the Hotel. 5 MUST DO'S 1 Take a walk and window shop down via della Spiga � just pretend what it would be like to buy something! 2 Take a private tour by car, preferably with Annamaria 3 Don't miss the Duomo di Milano and seek out poor Saint Bartholomew 4 Visit Leonardo da Vinci's impressive fresco of The Last Supper 5 If you don't go to Milan by train, try and check out Milano Centrale � awesome! MAIN ATTRACTIONS Via Montenapoleone: 400 m (5 minutes) San Babila Square: 400 m (5 minutes) Museo Civico di Storia Naturale: 600 m (7 minutes) Via della Spiga: 100m (2 minutes) Duomo di Milano: 1 km (12 minutes) Galleria Vittorio Emanuele: 1 km (12 minutes) Teatro alla Scala: 1 km (12 minutes) Pinacoteca di Brera: 1.1 km (13 minutes) Palazzo Reale: 1.1 km (13 minutes) Castello Sforzesco: 1.3 km (16 minutes) 19 RELAIS Santa Croce - Florence E 20 ven more hot and bothered than when we arrived in Milan, we ventured into the sunlight from the sheltered Santa Maria Novella station in central Florence. Ed was quick to commandeer the services of a white cab and we began the 3km trip to Relais Sante Croce, a stunning 18th century palazzo, arguably Baglioni Hotels' jewel in the crown. What an entrance! At the beginning of the 1700's, the Marquis Baldinucci, treasurer to the Pope, had a magnificent palace constructed, with two imposing granite columns from Rome placed at the entrance. That first glimpse past the imposing columns into the most tantalizing hotel foyer you could imagine, will stay with me forever. It may sound a dramatic thing to dwell on, but looking up into that lobby instantly told me that this place was special, it was unique. As General Manager, Eugenio Rigo, would confirm, Relais Santa Croce isn't a hotel, it is a home. It has a personality, an individuality, a heart which sets it apart from the vast majority of hotels. This is a place to indulge, to soak up, to never forget. I can assure you it will be very hard to forget Relais Santa Croce. From meeting Francesca, the Concierge, her colleague Valentina, Signor Eugenio Rigo, Hotel Manager Rodrigo Comacho and Saverio in the restaurant, we were made to feel as though these were our private staff in our own home. A typical guest of Relais Santa Croce will take over the hotel, lock stock and barrel � and what a joy that must be. Signor Rigo told me that his hotel prides itself on service, and with a relatively new team now operating, it didn't show that they had been together less than a year. "Service is key. Our guests come to our `home' and it then becomes their home. My team is young in the time we have spent together, but we work well and have been widely recognised for the experience we give our guests. Whether our guests have taken the hotel as their own completely or they are here for one night, we try to make sure that we are never forgotten." With its sweeping staircases flanked by candles, the beautiful Music Room and just the little things which make all the difference, you know that you are staying somewhere special. It was in the Music Room that Tina and I spent a relaxing half an hour (without our enfants terribles) just absorbing the grandeur and decadence of this breathtaking space. Abi was knocked out by our room, not by the massive bed or the earthy bathroom, but by the catwalk which sat as a raised floor to the wardrobe. She had obviously learnt from the `prancers' in Milan and the sunglasses gave her added credibility as a catwalk queen! She was also in her element in the sophisticated surrounds of the hotel's Guelfi e Ghibellini restaurant. Here, under the watchful eye of the hilarious Saverio, we enjoyed a memorable evening, one of our favourites in Italy. Staying at Relais Santa Croce gave us the perfect base from which to explore this magical city. The narrow, winding streets of Florence are in fact so narrow and winding that you can turn a corner and then POW!!!! you will enter a square which will knock you out with its majesty, its beauty and its power. Piazza della Signoria was Signor Rigo's number one attraction to visit, and we soon knew why. The imposing Fountain of Neptune, by Bartolomeo Ammannati, is the first significant landmark, surrounded by "Remember tonight..... for it is the beginning of always." Dante Alighieri 21 tourists like bees around a honeypot. As we turned the corner to Palazzo Vecchio, I was thrown back to days of watching the original Jason and the Argonauts. There must have been fifty ten foot plus statues, many under the canopy of an open temple like structure, proudly towering over a sea of tourists and vendors selling miniature replicas. This was the Loggia dei Lanzi, which basically consisted of wide arches open to the street. If Renaissance art is your thing, this is, effectively, an open-air sculpture gallery of antique Renaissance art which will captivate you for hours. Special mention must be given to the `The Lion' originally made by Donatello, and `Perseus with the Head of Medusa' by Cellini. Next for the magnificence of the Palazzo Vecchio. A replica of Michelangelo's David stands at the entrance to the Palace, flanked by Baccio Bandinelli's Hercules and Cacus. Palazzo Vecchio has to be on any `to do' list for Florence. It is an injustice to even contemplate writing about its aura and splendour. From the imposing Salone dei Cinquecento, a massive 170 by 75 feet, to the Terrace of Saturn, with wonderful views over Florence, and from the Stanza del Guardaroba of The Hall of Geographical Maps, to the rooms of Hercules and Jupiter, this was a myriad of rooms and splendours enough to last a lifetime. Abi found one revealing statue in particular rather amusing, infecting surrounding tourists with her cheeky laughter and amazement that in battle, the Florentines would grab more than their opponent's sword to ensure they were victorious! Our second day in Florence was split between a wonderful tour with local guide Micu and a trip to Pisa. Micu, kindly arranged by Signor Rigo, showed us why Florence is known as the `cradle of the Renaissance' for its monuments, churches and buildings. Our two hour, highly recommended tour, over, it was then a brief walk to the station and on to the train to Pisa. Pisa itself was disappointing, but the twenty minute walk to the tower was more than just reward for our efforts in the early afternoon sun. The `Leaning Tower of Pisa Complex', which isn't its official name, but sums up the area around this Wonder of the World, is in stark contrast to Pisa itself. It looks as though it must undergo a jet wash every morning. It is immaculate and the gleaming white marble complex of religious edifices is known as the Campo del Miracoli (Field of Miracles). The set of buildings in an emerald green square also known as the Piazza del Duomo celebrates the whole cycle of life, from the impressive baptistery, the cathedral and tower itself (Torre pendente di Pisa) to the monumental cemetery of the Campo Santo. We had missed the last controlled tour of the tower, but we were quite happy to take the comedy photos of the kids patting the top of the tower or just larking around on what was a glorious day. We came back to reality on the stuffy train ride home to Florence, but had agreed we would watch the sun set over Florence from the Piazzale Michelangelo, the famous square with a magnificent panoramic view of the city in the Oltrano district. This was a spectacular way to bring down the curtain on our time in Florence, which is a must see for the cultured traveller. 22 "In Paris, you learn wit, in London you learn to crush your social rivals, and in Florence you learn poise." Virgil Thomson CONTACT email@example.com 0039 055 234 2230 Via Ghibellina 87, 50122 Florence GETTING THERE By Air: The Florence A. Vespucci airport is 9 km from the hotel. By Train: Florence's Santa Maria Novella railway station is approximately 3 km from the hotel. 5 MUST DO'S 1 Even though you need to set aside at least two hours, Palazzo Vecchio is a must 2 Piazza della Signoria, to see the mercurial statues in the beautiful sunshine 3 The Leaning Tower of Pisa � don't forget to get there early to book to go up, if you want to 4 Tea in the music room at Relais Santa Croce � or at least pass by Via Ghibellina to look in through the gorgeous entrance 5 Piazzale Michelangelo � for a final sunset on Florence, there is no better view MAIN ATTRACTIONS Basilica of Santa Croce: 200 m (2 minutes) Piazza della Signoria: 600 m (7 minutes) Uffizi Gallery: 700 m (8 minutes) Florence Cathedral: 800 m (9 minutes) Ponte Vecchio: 1 km (12 minutes) Via de' Tornabuoni: 1 km (12 minutes) Basilica of Santa Maria Novella: 1.4 km (17 minutes) Palazzo Pitti e Boboli Gardens: 1.2 km (15 minutes) 23 Cala Del Porto By Baglioni - Tuscany I 24 t is well documented that more than anywhere else in Italy, Tuscany presents the ideal green Italian landscape, dotted with picturesque hilltop towns, where Cypress trees watch over twisted olive groves and vineyards act as a blanket over the gentle rolling hills. Our train ride from Florence certainly brought this description to life, with the odd glimpse of a Tuscan beach resort providing the perfect sign for the kids that they could at long last look forward to a few days relaxing on the beach. The routine of sightseeing had become slightly monotonous for the children and they had, all things considered, coped remarkably well. It might have been a different story had we not had the unparalleled hospitality of Baglioni Hotels to carry them through! T he hotel had kindly arranged for a car to collect us at the station, and after a twenty minute journey, we had arrived at Relais & Chateaux Cala Del Porto, in Punta Ala. We drew back the curtains and walked onto our balcony. It was a similar reaction to that in Florence when we first set our eyes on the Duomo. POW!!!! What a view. The pool, the lush vegetation, the port, the magnificent yachts and ........ La Mer! Not more than ten minutes later, the kids and I were in the pool. The sweat and the hassle of train journeys washed away in a second. The pool was also ours. Not a single soul in sight as hotel guests invariably spend the day at the nearby private beach shared with the group's other property, Baglioni Resort Alleluja. A considerate waiter served us a non-alcoholic cocktail and the kids seized the moment. They had earlier spotted the Jacuzzi which overlooked the port and they were in there in a flash, complete with filmstar sunglasses and their cocktails. Boy did they enjoy that moment! Tina looked down from the balcony to view the pool, the lush vegetation, the port, the magnificent yachts, La Mer and her two enfants terribles sipping a cocktail! I can't imagine it could have been a finer sight! As the other guests drifted into the pool area from a hard day's work at the beach, we frolicked and cavorted, splashed and dived to the bottom of the twenty foot pool. As the website instructed, When planning our trip we had obviously browsed the individual hotel websites to see where we were going. As the hotel's site loads onto the screen, Charles Tr�net's inimitable `La Mer' provides the perfect backing music to the images of what looks like paradise. The website actually undersells Cala Del Porto � it is honestly beyond paradise. We were greeted by the hotel's cream-suited Ma�tre de Maison, Pia Hellqvist. The windows of the light and airy reception area behind Pia giving us half an eye onto the mouth-watering view which we were to wake up to for the next three mornings, and I could honestly hear Tr�net's dulcet tones all around. We didn't need anyone to tell us to relax, but Pia told us, several times, and it certainly helped propel us to a level of relaxation which we had never previously enjoyed. As Pia opened the doors of our interconnecting bedrooms, Edward, unashamedly, leapt onto the bed and proclaimed "THIS is where my holiday begins". Pia smiled, and for three days she was the childrens' adopted auntie, and I think the feeling was mutual. "The view. The pool, the lush vegetation, the port, the magnificent yachts and ........ La Mer!" 25 "Take some time for yourself at last." Everything about Hotel Cala Del Porto oozes class, comfort, style and a complete and guilt-free detachment from the real world. With an exclusive golf club nearby and a first class beauty centre located on site, there really was nothing more you could wish for. And that's why Pia's guests come back, year in year out, as she explained. "We are unique in the group in so far as our guests will stay here for a minimum of ten days. The other hotels average two to three night stays, so we have longer to get to know our guests and they become our friends. The interaction with the guests is totally different and our relationship is a lot more familiar." "Our staff turnover is also incredibly low, so when guests return and see our enigmatic ma�tre d', Franco, who has been here for twenty five years, they feel like they have come home. We have a very strong team which has matured over a long period of time." The restaurant provides an equally breathtaking venue for breakfast as it does dinner, with the Tuscan sun illuminating the brilliant white linen and silver cutlery. Our first experience of Franco and his faithful team was on our first evening as we took our seats at the restaurant which cascaded on three levels alongside the pool. There again, that view, the pool, the lush vegetation, the port, the magnificent yachts and ........ La Mer! But this time, sprinkled with dusk and fairy lights twinkling around the pool or on the yachts, resolutely still on the perfect Tyrrhenian Sea. Our hosts for the three days in Cala del Porto made us so welcome and during the three meals which we enjoyed there we gave ourselves to Franco and his wisdom. Tina and I succumbed to Franco's insistence to have our first bottle of wine of the holiday. The meal itself was splendid, and, in the words of an admiring member of staff. "There certainly is only one Franco!" After our meal on the first evening, we strolled down to the port to enjoy local children playing football in the square and Italians, predominantly, of all ages enjoying the balmy evening. We had hoped to see some of the wild boar which frequent the nearby roundabout, `hoped' is probably too strong a word for these beasts which are predictably unpredictable. Back at the hotel, one by one, we flaked out. I was the last man standing, and had a second wind, still on a high from seeing the sun breathe new life into the kids and enjoying such a wonderful evening. I'm not quite sure why but I picked up the laptop and settled down in the now empty hotel bar to answer a few e-mails (they do rack up don't they!) There was one thing missing � an ice cold Limoncello. It was the perfect companion for a good hour as I was briefly connected with the real world. Thankyou Punta Ala, for three priceless days beyond paradise, where we will never forget Pia, Franco and all of the staff who looked after us. We will never forget the warmth with which we were welcomed and yearn to come back another time. But that's the bug, and that's why this hotel, home in the summer months to the group's owner, Signor Roberto Polito, who's property sat beneath our balcony, adjacent to the pool area, chooses this as his sanctuary (see interview Page 8). No wonder, what with that view, the pool, the lush vegetation, the port, the magnificent yachts, the birds singing, the flowers in bloom and...... La Mer! 26 "Il punto di vista. La piscine. La vegetazione lussureggiante. Il porto. Il magnifico yacht e ......... Il Mare." CONTACT firstname.lastname@example.org 0039 0564 922455 Via del Pozzo, Punta Ala, Grosseto, Tuscany GETTING THERE By Air: Closest airports: Pisa (110 km) and Rome (220 km). Private transport from the airport to Punta Ala on request By Train: The most convenient railway station is Grosseto, 35 km from Punta Ala. The closest railway station is Follonica, 20 km from Punta Ala. Connections and private transfers from the station on request. 5 MUST DO'S 1 Take in that view 2 Make a splash in the hotel pool with the kids every day, twice a day at least 3 Relax in the Jacuzzi with a cold drink 4 Let Franco take control in the restaurant 5 Escape to the bar for a chilled Limoncello if you can MAIN ATTRACTIONS The Port of Punta Ala: (5 minutes walking, 10 minutes by complimentary hotel shuttle) The beach Piazza Garibaldi: 18.5 miles The thermal baths of Saturnia Calidario Fortezza dei Senesi and Torre del Candeliere: 18.7 miles A Romanesque Pisan style cathedral Villa San Martino Museum: 22.8 miles Napoleon's summer residence Monte Capanne: 28.9 miles A cable car takes you to within metres of the highest point of Elba 27 Baglioni Alleluja Resort - Tuscany I 28 was driven the short distance to Baglioni Alleluja Resort by Pia (see Hotel Cala del Porto, page 24). We had passed by the residence on our way to our base in Punta Ala, and had admired the lush vegetation and striking pinky red buildings, given added warmth by the late afternoon sun. Pia left me with Alleluja's General Manager, Alessandro Fichera, who treated me to a very informative tour of his property, in which he obviously takes much pride. Aligning glass table tops which were, to the untrained eye, already perfect, noting missing lightbulbs, straightening chairs, Alessandro made adjustments to this and that throughout our tour. The `Baglioni way' burned like a furnace in Alessandro, putting the comfort of the guest foremost in his mind. A lessandro broke off to talk in depth with one of the many maintenance men working on the property, again, to the untrained eye, not on major construction, but improvements here and there, and general wear and tear. In any hotel you will find peeling wallpaper, cracks, dust or, heaven forbid, glass table tops which aren't straight. But not here. Perfection personified, Alessandro's natural determination to maintain the highest of standards belied the relaxed atmosphere which swept throughout this delightful retreat. Home to families for six to eight weeks at a time, this was a residence in every sense, with gloriously welcoming sofas in communal areas, breathtaking art and contemporary furniture. Alessandro showed me the full range of rooms, from the one bedroom apartment (of which there are seventeen) to the two room (of which there are thirteen) and, finally, the 1 three bedroom apartment. What makes these attractive apartments even more like a home from home are the gorgeous gardens which provide children and parents with a vast extension to their already generous living area. Nineteen of the apartments have gardens up to 800 square metres, and the other twelve have impressive terraces up to forty five square metres. Alessandro explained that the residence offers guests a perfect solution and alternative to hiring a nearby villa. "A lot of our guests have either tried or contemplated hiring one of the many beautiful local villas. But what our guests want is a relaxed holiday, not having to worry about anything. We take on the worry and we ensure that our guests can enjoy their break. We provide a first class experience for our guests, arranging everything and anything, whether it is a fishing trip, car hire, a visit to a local attraction or a table at the most exclusive restaurant in the area. "Many of our guests will return year on year as they become our friends and get to know the staff well. One of our huge advantages is that our staff love working here and, as a result, our staff turnover is very low. This helps maintain the personal environment which our guests love." "Many of our guests are Italian, and we have very few English staying with us. I know, from working in London myself, that Alleluja would suit English customers perfectly." "Never lose your childish innocence. It's the most important thing." Under the Tuscan Sun 29 T he Residence is a converted farmhouse and harmoniously combines typical Tuscan elements with contemporary furnishings: the perfect balance between function and elegance. Residents have the use of a swimming pool and 150-metre private beach, where guests of both Alleluja and Cala del Porto can be found either at the wonderful beach restaurant or on one of the comfy sunbeds arranged along the beach. After my tour, Alessandro drove me to the beach � a short walk but Alessandro insisted! Picture an old Elvis movie or one of those 1960 films with a singing star of the silver screen, relaxing in a Mediterranean resort and you will be fairly close to the beach at Alleluja. Relaxed, yet organised with attendants in abundance catering for your every whim. A cold towel, a refreshing drink, nothing is too much trouble. I was given a key to our very own cabana style hut where I changed and made my way to our allocated beds. Tina and the children were to meet me here at 12 but I had half an hour to enjoy the peace and quiet before `Dad let's go in the sea' began! By 12.30, still no sign, but by the time they waltzed onto the beach, I was, apparently, shining brightly! No time for a swim, as we were all feeling peckish, and my skin needed to escape the scorching sun. The restaurant bar was all of fifty steps from our beds, but we made it! The kids, predictably, chose the penne pasta, and I had a club sandwich. Tina had the seared tuna, which was mouth-watering. A cold beer, a cold coke and a bottle of water later, and we hit the beach, but mainly the sea. 30 "The Creator made Italy from designs by Michaelangelo." Mark Twain The kids (me included) were in their element. We spent three days swimming, cavorting, splashing and floating; hunting for fish, jumping off rafts and chasing the melon man down the beach; slapping on cream, making sandcastles and collecting shells. Poor old Rome didn't stand a chance. The kids wanted to be left in Punta Ala � me included! CONTACT email@example.com 0030 0564 922050 Via del Porto, 58040 Punta Ala, Grosseto Tuscany from Punta Ala. Alternatively, Follonica station is 20 km away. Private transfers are available upon request. MAIN ATTRACTIONS Hidalgo Tower: 1.3 km (2 minutes) Punta Ala Castle: 1.8 km (4 minutes) Isolotto dello Sparviero with Appiani Tower: 2.1 km (5 minutes) Yatch Club Punta Ala: 2.2 km (5 minutes) Golf Club: 4 km (6 minutes) Marina di Punta Ala: 4 km (8 minutes) GETTING THERE By Air: The nearest airports are Seam Grosseto Airport in Grosseto, G. Galilei airport in Pisa and Leonardo da Vinci airport in Fiumicino, Rome. It is possible to organise private transfers from the airports to Punta Ala upon request. By Train: Travel to Grosseto station, which is 35 km 31 Regina Hotel Baglioni - Rome T 32 he Eternal City, `when in Rome', `Veni, Vidi, Vici', `all roads lead to Rome', the Pope, gladiators, hold onto your bags ........... LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION!!!! Not a squeak. The kids were united, unbreakable, in total agreement for the first time in their lives � they were a spent force! As the train drew into Roma Termini Station, the kids were on the floor. And Rome didn't stand a chance! No matter its pomp, its reputation was on the floor with the kids! We were in one of THE most famous cities in the world. OK, they'd done their bit, they'd walked Florence, sprinted around Milan and soaked up Venice while they soaked in sweat. But they had also had their taste of the good Tuscan life and they wanted more. "You go to Rome and pick us up on the way back. Pia won't mind. We can stay in her office � she'll be fine." The sad thing was, they were deadly serious. I could see it unfold before me. Tina and I would go to Rome, come back and go to pick them up. Ed would have a beard and be six foot tall, running the show at the beach, while Abi would be calling the shots at Cala del Porto, even ordering Franco around (sacre bleu!), with Pia and Alessandro bound and gagged on their office chairs. `Come on kids, this is Rome!' Not a thing, they weren't budging. Did they have some sort of union? Should I call "Action Against Too Much Sightseeing for Kids" � or would they laugh me out of the negotiating room? But visibly, they stirred. A double take at a building, a slouch morphing into an almost upright seating position, even a question. The Rome effect was taking hold, before our very eyes. Call off the negotiations, I think they were showing some interest. And then, "Wow!!!!" We were in. The tragic end to our fairytale Italian adventure had been averted, by the narrowest of margins. The grand finale, the big brother city of all Italian cities, the jewel in the crown ..... Rome was to be a wonderful final curtain. By the time we reached Regina Hotel Baglioni, located on the strategic, central Via Veneto, a stone's throw from the Villa Borghese, Piazza di Spagna and Via Condotti, the famous fashion street, the kids were chomping at the bit to explore. But it was fairly late and we only had time to grab a pizza and hit the sack � tomorrow, Rome! The little ones would have to wait � the irony! Excuse me Regina Hotel Baglioni, I haven't mentioned your beauty. The brochure says it more eloquently than I could even try. "A meeting place beloved of the international jet-set, the hotel has a magnificent selection of rooms in original Art Deco style and a panoramic hall on the top floor for meetings and banquets, with breathtaking views of the city of Rome." To which the kids and I can testify. "The Brunello Lounge & Restaurant's distinguishing features are its atmosphere of refined design, the unusual arrangements and innovative menu using ingredients of superior quality." The food is also `tops' (Edward). Any hotel which can boast a guest list including the likes of Dan Brown, Jane Fonda, Mikhail Gorbachev and Liza Minelli, must surely have some very special qualities. Ed was more impressed that Luis Figo, Ronaldo, Oasis and Roberto Carlos had stayed here, and, to be honest, so was I! The breakfast room was, in Abi's words, the `Disneyworld of breakfast rooms'. We were seated in a room so palatial that the Queen wouldn't have looked out of place with her Corn Flakes. We then moved through a corridor of moody, shiny black panels, "Even now I miss Italy dearly, I dream about it every night." Eila Hiltunen 33 into a more modern second eating area and then into the `cool' (Edward) buffet area. Fruits, cold meats, eggs, cakes, yogurts and breads, hot chocolates, cereals, muffins and DANISH! `Dad, no more.' After a feast fit for a king, we simply had to walk it off. And there's no better place to walk, and walk and walk. Apart from, of course, Paris, where it is compulsory to walk thirty five miles ...... before breakfast. Rome, if you haven't been, is like being on a film set, smothered in tourists. It's hard to believe the Forum is real � you half expect something so unbelievably splendiferous (OK, I made it up, but I'm running out of superlatives) to be made of polystyrene. Gargantuan (yes I have used it before smarty pants � Milano Centrale), spaceship-esque, this is a knock your socks off piece of work. Tina was spell-bound, drifting up the steps, she was in the zone. The blue-grey sky, with ominous dark clouds coming into view, provided for a dramatic scene. We managed to prize Tina away and walked the walk, up to the magnet for all tourists, a sight which will make your eyes so sore, a place full of tales which will make you wince and cringe, a landmark, a national treasure, a flipping long wait in a queue.....The Colosseum! Do you know they used to flood it for sea battles � they got ships in there! The dressing rooms on ground level, the cells, the lions' cages � it was a spectacle to behold. What a film this would make � the biggest film set ever! I overheard a Danish guide talking to her legion of English tourists, all hanging on her every word � I joined the group, well at least I looked the part with my white skin and poor sense of fashion. I too was soon hooked by our knowledgeable leader. Her words were something like this. "Imagine, if you will...... a hot day, a scorching hot day. A lion has been caged for three days, without food. It is starving, famished, smelling the blood of slain Romans who had spent their last days shackled in a boiling cell, resigned to their ghastly fate. The lion is now roaring, its prey whimpering. The two would meet � there could only be one victor." Sounds good so far, maybe this could be the voice over on the trailer? "The prisoner is taken through the web of tunnels, past jeering soldiers, fellow inmates offering words of prayer, abuse and wit all at once. If only this man had arsenic. What a way to go. He is led to the searing heat, the baying crowd, the sand of the floor of the Colosseum, the blood soaked sand of the floor of the Colosseum, the sand of the floor of the Colosseum which would soon be soaking in his blood (you get the picture � it's a sandy floor drenched in blood, with a few torn off limbs, bits of flesh, the odd eyeball, even a foot, in a sandle, maybe a head here and there), "which would soon provide the cushion for his fall, because he was going to fall, he HAD to fall." Universal might just go for it! Luckily, we didn't fall in Rome. The batteries were starting to run empty, but the majesty of the sights and sounds of Rome helped us along the way. Sunday morning in The Vatican was almost perfect � had The Pope not been at his summer residence, less than an hour away, we would have seen his morning prayer. But maybe next time. They didn't build Rome in a day, and you certainly can't even scratch its surface in two. 34 "I found Rome a city of bricks and left it a city of marble." Augustus Caesar CONTACT firstname.lastname@example.org 0039 06 421111 Via Veneto 72, 00187 Rome GETTING THERE By Air: The Leonardo da Vinci Fiumicino International Airport is 35 km from the city centre and the hotel. G.B. Pastine � Ciampino Airport 15 km. By Train: Roma Termini station is approximately 1.5 km from the hotel. The hotel guarantees a 24-hour paid parking service: cars are collected and delivered by staff directly at the entrance to the hotel. Limousine transfer is available on request. 5 MUST DO'S 1 Walk until you drop � from the Forum to the Colosseum 2 Throw a coin over your shoulder into the Trevi fountain 3 Steal a kiss on the Spanish steps 4 Dine in the Brunello Lounge & Restaurant at the hotel 5 Queue for The Vatican � queue jump with an official `queue jump helper'! MAIN ATTRACTIONS Piazza Barberini: 600 m (6 minutes) Villa Borghese Gardens: 800 m (10 minutes) Rome Opera House: 900 m (12 minutes) Piazza di Spagna: 900 m (12 minutes) Via Condotti: 1 km (14 minutes) Trevi Fountain: 1.1 km (15 minutes) Piazza del Popolo: 1.7 km (18 minutes) Pantheon: 1.7 km (18 minutes) Piazza Navona: 2 km (22 minutes) Campo de' Fiori: 2.4 km (28 minutes) 35 Villa Gallici By Baglioni - Provence I 36 think I can say, without much doubt, that you will love the hotel. It is very, very beautiful in a slightly over the top French Chateau style. This was our introduction to Relais & Chateaux Villa Gallici by Baglioni's PR guru, Maggie Garratt during a briefing conversation we had before we left for France. I know Maggie won't mind my saying that she undersold the hotel � it was idyllic. We arrived, hot and bothered, after our flight from Gatwick to Marseille and a thirty minute taxi ride. As we approached the entrance to the Hotel we could sense this was going to be a memorable experience. The calm interior of the reception area and the friendly staff who greeted us confirmed our first impressions. We were shown to our room and we were instantly impressed by its beauty. The d�cor was predominantly pale blue and cream, with Louis XIV furniture complimenting the soft furnishings and colours perfectly. A fter a pot of tea and an exquisitely prepared ham sandwich in the room, we went down to the pool, eager to wash away the stresses and strains of the trip. Champagne had soon become second nature, and Sue continued to relax with a final glass, whilst I slowly sipped a delightful single malt Glenmorangie. It was hardly surprising that we both slept soundly and woke to a sumptuous breakfast served on our own jasmine infused courtyard, most probably the prettiest breakfast location we had ever experienced. The eggs and bacon, coffee and tea arrived on the Royal Limoges China and everything was spotlessly clean and delivered with style and panache. Monsieur Laurent Mounet then met us in the hotel reception and showed us around the hotel and, in particular, the two unoccupied suites (out of twenty two). Each room was decorated and furnished in a specific theme from a particular Provencal period. Formerly a Chateau, the building was converted in the early 1990's. Following our tour, we returned to the pool. Swim, sunbathe, swim, sunbathe. We could certainly get used to this. The restaurant by the pool was beginning to buzz with the sound of chinking cutlery, soft music and hearty laughter. There's something about swimming and sunbathing which gives you an appetite, and the thought of a We had the pool to ourselves, with the exception of the accommodating Fred, who soon persuaded us to have a glass of ice cold house champagne, as he prepared two sun beds close to the pool. This was our idea of heaven, and an hour soon melted into the glistening pool two feet from our sunbeds. Dinner was served on the Terrace, accessible either by the stone steps leading from the pool area or through the reception rooms of the villa. Having savoured our second champagne aperitif, Rose Veuve Cliquot, Sue ordered the duck foie gras terrine confit, whilst I had the fresh asparagus with crab meat and smoked haddock. With our main course we had a bottle of the local Aix en Provence 2008 Rose d'une nuit to go with Sue's roasted lamb fillet wrapped in calisson, chickpea round flat cake and baby fennel, and my roasted organic salmon in `gravlax' style, chilled celeriac `remoulade', olive oil and herbs. To follow, Sue had the cheese selection and I the strawberry �clair. "Is it any better in Heaven, my friend Ford, Than you found it in Provence?" Williams,William Carlos 37 light snack and a cold beer proved irresistible. Whilst I had an ice cold beer, Sue had a glass of the Domaine La Croix Cuv�e to accompany my salad Nicoise and Sue's tomato and mozzarella salad respectively. The sun was baking hot in the afternoon, so much so that we had to retreat to a shadier part of the pool area. To our delight, Fred served us with a complimentary coconut sorbet which hit the spot perfectly. On our second evening, we took a taxi (about 10 minutes) to the Spa Town of Aix en Provence for a quick meal in one of the many restaurants in the city. Aix en Provence is at the heart of Provence, between the Luberon and the French Riviera. The city is situated at the foot of the Sainte Victoire, a hill that was an inspiration to notables such as Cezanne and Zola. Our stay was short but memorable and an ideal retreat from our busy lives. Without doubt, Villa Gallici was the most beautiful hotel we have stayed in and everything was exquisitely prepared and the service throughout was impeccable. For that special, luxurious treat, this is a sanctuary you can't miss. "He played an ancient ditty, long since mute, In Provence, called `La belle dame sans merci'." John Keats 38 CONTACT email@example.com 33 (0) 4 42 23 29 23 13100 Aix en Provence, Avenue de la Violette, France GETTING THERE By Air: Marseille Provence Airport: International airport 30 minutes from the hotel. Direct connections to Paris, Frankfurt, Geneva, London, Madrid. Shuttle service to the Marseille Provence Airport every 20 minutes. By Train: Mediterranean Aix TGV Station: (2 hours and 50 minutes from Paris or 45 minutes from Lyons) SNCF Information / Reservations: 08.92.35.35.35 Opening hours of the station, Monday to Friday 5.10 a.m. to 10.35 p.m., Saturday, Sunday and public holidays from 6.40 a.m. to 22.35 p.m. TGV Station at the Technople of L'Arbois: The Aix en Provence TGV Station is in the largest population basin, which includes Aix en Provence, its suburbs and the municipalities of Marignane, Vitrolles and Rognac. Marseille Saint-Charles station 30 km away by train or bus. MAIN ATTRACTIONS Cath�drale St-Sauveur: 0.2 miles St.Saviour's Cloister: 0.2 miles Tapestry Museum: 0.2 miles Don Quixote in nine panels, amongst others. Old Aix: 0.3 miles Elegant mansions, old churches, graceful squares and busy caf� terraces. Place de l'H�tel de Ville: 0.3 miles Saturday mornings for the flower market. Fontaine des Quatre-Dauphins: 0.7 miles Mus�e Granet: 0.7 miles Gallery. 39 Hotel Baglioni - LONDON T o sample pure Italian style is an intoxicating experience, and potentially, quite awkward. As we walked into the lobby of the Baglioni Hotel in the heart of Kensington, the authentic charm and warmth of the hotel's spectacularly attired personnel soon dispelled any concerns that, in the words of any hip teenager talking to their parents, we `just weren't cool'. B4 were the guests of the London Baglioni for a balmy night in August. "A new vision of contemporary luxury" states the Baglioni group's beautifully crafted brochure. Not wrong. Style, elegance, relaxation and sophistication are bywords of any Baglioni property. The London Baglioni prides itself on its first class butler service, Stoke Park Spa managed Spa (the Spa is managed by Stoke Park) and the Brunello Lounge and Restaurant, where Italian cuisine is represented in its finest form. There are just eighteen impeccably decorated rooms, five of them Superior, seven Deluxe, and six Executive. We were in one of the forty nine suites, comprising a spacious lounge area, walk in dressing room, bedroom and marble-clad bathroom, with a fabulous walk in shower. The interiors were smart and perfectly presented, complete with state of the art espresso machine, plasma screen TV, with a huge menu of the latest releases to relax in front of later, a well stocked bar and an inviting sofa to enjoy two of the aforementioned three. We switched off as soon as we were in safe hands, basically as soon as we walked into the lobby. The bar area is particularly impressive at the Baglioni. Huge six foot vases adorn the lobby and bar which merge into each other. The striking bar, set at an angle, is flanked by huge columns and presents the perfect centre piece for the lobby, bar and restaurant. The refined Brunello Lounge & Restaurant, inspired by the famous Tuscan wine, is considered to be one of the trendiest restaurants in the city of London and offers its guests contemporary Italian cuisine made from fresh, high-quality ingredients. Paolo Quaranta and his staff took excellent care of us all evening, advising on perfect accompanying wine during our meal and some mind blowing dessert wines. This is the perfect hotel to relax and unwind when staying in London. Not necessarily the perfect place to explore London from � it really is too good to want to leave during a short stay � I would recommend arriving early on a Saturday, ensuring the fairer side of the couple is set up in the Spa for a treatment, leaving you to relax in the room or bar, or on the pavement in front of the hotel overlooking Hyde Park. There is no smugness or arrogance which come as part of the package in many of the more swanky London hotels. The Baglioni is welcoming, inviting and leaves you wanting more. I revisited The Baglioni for my pre Italy briefing with Maggie Garratt to go over the main Italian trip itinerary. What better way to re-engage with the Baglioni traits and customs and to really set the juices flowing for what would undoubtedly be a five star experience. 40 "When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life: for there is in London all that life can afford." Samuel Johnson CONTACT firstname.lastname@example.org 0207 368 5700 60 Hyde Park Gate, London SW7 5BB GETTING THERE By Air: From London Heathrow airport, take the Heathrow Express train from London Heathrow to Paddington railway station. From Gatwick airport, take the Gatwick Express from London Gatwick to Victoria station. From Stansted airport, take the Stansted Express from London Stansted to Liverpool Street station. By Car: From London Heathrow airport, take the M4 towards the centre of London, approximately 20 km away. Cross Hammersmith and pass the Novotel on your left, take the left lane and after approximately 2 km turn onto Warwick Road, where you will see the Tesco supermarket on the left. At the third traffic lights, turn right onto Kensington High Street and continue for approximately 3 km. The Baglioni Hotel London is on your right approximately 350 metres after the High Street Kensington underground station. The hotel entrance is at Hyde Park Gate, opposite the park and Kensington Palace. From Gatwick airport take the M23 North until you reach the M25. Travel in a clockwise direction on the M25 towards Heathrow and the M4. MAIN ATTRACTIONS Hyde Park: 100 m (1 minute) Royal Albert Hall: 0.4 km (5 minutes) Kensington Gardens: 600 m (7 minutes) Knightsbridge: 600 m (7 minutes) Harrods: 1.6 km (20 minutes) 41 Coming Soon: Marrakech T he first Baglioni Hotel comes to Africa as part of the five-star luxurious boutique resort by Ajensa Ltd including Residences by `Jade Jagger for Yoo' and Six Senses Spa. The highly anticipated luxury, boutique 5-star hotel and residential development is set within a stunning 34-acre parkland resort in the sensory city of Marrakech, where continental Europe meets North Africa. Due to open in 2011, the resort comprises five components: a 72 room boutique hotel operated by Baglioni luxury hotels internationally, four of which are part of `The Leading Hotels of the World.' The Baglioni name is synonymous with intimate atmospheres and warm, contemporary yet welcoming design and in recent years the brand has set new standards in the concept of luxury travel. Their decision to move into the Marrakech market comes following the historical link between Italy and North Africa and the growth in tourism to the region which is now seen as one of the Hotels Group; 15 four and five bedroom Residences designed by Jade Jagger for Yoo (pictured) and launching in September; a 1500m� spa and fitness club operated by Six Senses Spa; a branded destination restaurant operated by a high profile international restaurateur; and an area dedicated to private events. The Baglioni Hotels Group is a family owned company, whose passion for impeccable service along with the traditions of hospitality and care will adorn the beautifully designed hotel with an Italian touch. Baglioni currently own and operate twelve 5-star 42 world's most fashionable destinations. Designed by `Jade Jagger for Yoo', the fifteen sophisticated and elegant four and five bedroom Residences will be between 665m� to 815m�, including secure parking, extensive gardens, terraces and swimming pool. Reflecting Jagger's bohemian signature of the ultimate in glamorous and understated laid-back lux, the Residences effortlessly combine traditional Moroccan themes with the highest quality designs and amenities of contemporary living. O ther premium services and facilities provided by The Baglioni Marrakech include a concierge service with in-house cooking, shopping service, travel arrangements and chauffeurs. Owners of the Residences will also be able to take advantage of The Baglioni Marrakech rental pool programme. Each Residence has been designed so that every bedroom can be individually rented through the hotel inventory, thereby allowing owners to benefit from good returns as well as a management and maintenance services contract. members. The Baglioni Marrakech will present an unprecedented interaction of art, design, architecture, culture and history, distinguished by the fusion of the highest quality brand partners, each visionary leaders in their own specialist field. Welcomed into this most private and exclusive of destinations, hotel guests, residents and club members will be captivated by the beautiful contemporary design and sensitive yet modern architecture, and The resort is also proud to offer a Six Senses Spa, a world renowned company committed to SLOW LIFE. Sustainable, Local, Organic, Wholesome � Learning, Inspiring, Fun, Experiences. Six Senses signature packages, Asian inspired treatments and half day sensory journeys will be offered along with locally inspired treatments using ingredients such as Moorish rose, saffron and local herbs. Six Senses internationally trained therapists and wellness consultants take pride in rejuvenating, restoring, energizing and balancing the senses. The Six Senses Spa will be open exclusively for hotel guests, residential owners and private will experience an ambience of understated glamour and refinement in an oasis of calm, away from but within easy reach of the hustle and bustle of Marrakech city life. The Baglioni Marrakech is one of a kind and its unique ingredients will set it apart from other resorts within Morocco and around the world. 43 Flying B aboo F lying Baboo was an experience I would liken to an exhilarating ski through fresh snow, eating in an exceptionally modern restaurant and being waited on by the most attentive butler, all rolled into one. I must point out, with my wife's blessing, that the `butlers' in this case were extremely attractive and well mannered air hostesses who made our journey an absolute pleasure. This was a very different flying experience, and it ticked every box. But we didn't have a good start, which makes the enjoyment of our experience with Baboo all the more impressive. Having stayed in a hotel the night before just five minutes away from the airport, it was crazy that we ended up sprinting from the gate to the plane. We had over-packed (no change there) and had to pay baggage excess which took time. At the gate, my son wasn't allowed to take his ball (in case there was a bomb in it, apparently), so he tried to find a valve to let the air out � this was an airport, not a sports shop! I had to eventually toss the ball to the one member of airport staff who didn't look as though he was in on the conspiracy to make us miss our plane. The eyes were upon us as we bundled onto the plane. "Oh it's them, the late ones." I was dripping in sweat � no, not nice � and 44 had to sit forward as the overhead air con draft went to work. But there were smiles all around. The air hostesses were welcoming, not sour-faced as some in their position could have been. We took off, we reached 30,000 feet and we sat back and relaxed. Our seventy-four seater Dash 8-Q400 was a very modern turboprop airliner. It is the fastest and most comfortable airplane in its category. Featuring a revolutionary noise and vibration suppression system, it is the quietest airliner on the market for both cabin and exterior noise. What impressed me most about Baboo was the ingenious presentation of the food, and the number of times we were served � little, and often. It's hard to set yourself apart as an airline. The colourful livery of the plane was certainly bright and modern. The air hostesses were well presented, beautiful and extremely good at their job, but a key distinguishing factor for an airline, and one which many customers will remember, is the food. Accepted, with a smaller than average plane, it's easier to make the rounds more frequently. But aren't the trays packed with everything in one go on most airlines telling us that the airline can't be bothered to keep coming around offering? Not Baboo. We had food which was incredibly healthy, food which was immaculately presented, and food which was, most importantly of all, delicious. We had carrot and coconut soup, honeydew melon, sponge cake with fresh fruit, strawberry and banana smoothie � all served in very clever but small plastic pots which enhanced the whole experience. It really was fantastic food in small portions, but very, very good. You don't often see an air hostess glide down the aisle with a tray of fresh muffins do you! If I was a frequent flier, I'd fly Baboo whenever I could. The perfect start to our holiday. ABOUT BABOO B aboo was founded by Julian Cook in August 2003 following Swissair's decision to abandon the Geneva-Lugano route. The first flight to Lugano took place on November 3, 2003 with a Cirrus airlines aircraft. In May 2004 the airline obtained its AOC (Air Operator Certificate) licence from the Swiss Federal Office of Civil Aviation (FOCA), allowing it to operate with its own aircraft - a 50-seat Dash 8-Q300 leased from the manufacturer, Bombardier Aerospace. Baboo has grown constantly ever since. From 20 employees in its early days, it numbers 180 today. It currently serves 17 destinations (charters excluded) from Geneva which breaks down into permanent and seasonal destinations. Among the major developments, the recent equity increase amounting to 9.2 million Euros, which was subscribed in 2007, enabled the management to devise a sound growth strategy and to give the company a new dimension. At the end of 2009 Baboo posted a turnover of 73 million CHF. More than 1,200,000 passengers were carried to date. The fleet currently consists of two Bombardier Aerospace Dash 8-Q400s and three Embraer 190s. Baboo offers a very wide range of products and services. In addition to the various fare options for private individuals and companies and tailored packages, the airline has launched its "Flexi fares" range of products with Baboo Premium and Baboo Premium Economy. Baboo is thus able to meet the needs of both private customers and business travellers. See www.flybaboo.com 45 w w w. b a g l i o n i h o t e l s . c o m email@example.com BAGLIONI HOTELS HEAD OFFICE Via della Moscova, 18 � 20121 Milan - Italy Tel +39 02 773331 � Fax +39 02 76008333 Published by B4 M agazine The Firs, Headington Hill, Oxford, OX3 0BT E n g l a n d � Te l + 4 4 ( 0 ) 1 8 6 5 7 4 2 2 1 1 w w w . b 4 - b u s i n e s s . c o m