Italian Allure in Sicily & Puglia!

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Belmond Villa Sant'Andrea

ROME, SICILY & PUGLIA

What a whirlwind of year this has been, first I launched my Mexico Riche tours with my tour partner Annette Zubani to great success… then we quickly followed up with this extravaganza to southern Italy with a small, equally fab crowd.

Nettie and I do things a little differently to most tour companies as we take you to places off the beaten path and present experiences that are far too fabulous to find out about any other way, this is “insider intel” at its chic-est!

In Italy it was all about Sicily, Puglia and Rome… and who knew that it would still be super sunny and busy mid September?

ROME – ALDROVANDI VILLA BORGHESE

This is where we start at the luxe Aldrovandi Villa Borghese (part of the exclusive Leading Hotels of the World), this classic Rome hotel has a private pool and stately Italianate gardens – it was the perfect place to meet the group, chill out and prepare for the adventures ahead.

SICILY – BORGO ALVERIA & BELMOND VILLA SANT’ANDREA

A whirl through Noto and day trip to the Agrigento make this a very special part of our private tour… we experience the Valley of the Temples and include lunch with a prime view of these Roman wonders. Then it’s two nights spent luxuriating in Taormina Mare at the ultra fabulous Belmond Villa Sant’Andrea where days slip by at their exclusive beach club and nights are spent in some of the best restaurants in Taormina – we’ll even order for you if you like?

PUGLIA – BORGO EGNAZIA

After Sicily we jetted to Bari in Puglia and onto the exquisite Borgo Egnazia in Fasano, the perfect base to explore this very fabulous region of Italy (and it comes with its very own exclusive beach club). We’ll show you gorgeous hilltop towns way off the tourist map (Lecce, Alberobello, Locorotondo are a few) and share food experiences you won’t forget in a hurry.

In Puglia you’ll experience a sun-bleached countryside, agriturismo, farm kitchen goodness, lemony scented evenings and rustic, olive groves for days and pastoral views. This is relaxed and chilled Italy!

After Puglia we all jetted back to Rome and checked into the sleek JK Place Roma (read my JK Place Roma blog post here) for some last-minute shopping and a whirl around the Vatican … privately of course! Seeing the Sistine Chapel with your own eyes before the crowds descend is a once in a lifetime experience.

Come experience Italy with us… our 2015 departure is July 27, but be quick as this small exclusive tour will fill fast. Contact me for details.

My Home in Rome!

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JK Place RomaJK PLACE ROMA

Ok, here I’m serving up one of my favourite hotels ever. You’ve heard me recommend JK Place Capri and the original JK Place in Florence before, well now their latest property JK Place Roma might just take the title of most glamorous city hotel .. Ever!

JK Place RomaStylish 50’s interiors with a handsome twist by Michele Bonan help this glam city-slicker rise above the rest in Rome. Beds you never want to climb out of and a complimentary mini bar also help to win this boy over!

Rome has its beautiful classic hotels of course, but if contemporary chic is your scene, reside at JK Place Roma. It is officially my “Home in Rome” where I check-in and don’t move, though if you are in need an instant shopping fix, Via Condotti is right round the corner and you’ll never have to stray far from home to experience everything the Eternal City has to offer.

JK Place Roma

Book with me to receive exclusive luxury amenities such as upgrade on arrival, lunch or dinner in the hotel restaurant (best burgers in Rome by the way!), breakfast daily and late check-out /early check-in.

HOT TIP – Book yourself in for a shave around at the new Acqua di Parma Boutique on arrival and clean up Italian style with master barber Pierpaolo, contact me for all the details.

Mykonos Now!

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MYKONOS

As I wing my way back to Sydney, above the clouds aboard Etihad Airlines (one of my very favourite airlines), I finally have the chance to catch you up on the last four weeks spent in Europe… so I’ll start with Mykonos.

Sunset from Rochari

What is left to say about this iconic Aegean jewel that hasn’t been said? White beaches, great food, superb hotels and locals that embrace you with open arms… Mykonos doesn’t disappoint and here’s why.

Elia BeachBEACHES

Head straight to Elia beach and do not pass go, I find this my favourite place to retreat on the island with comfy beach chairs and smiling beach boys. With just the right amount of sassy in the crowd it attracts, there’s something for everyone here. Grab your sunbeds for the week and don’t move, except when you head up to the beachside, Elia Restaurant for lunch… I recommend the Calamari Fritti and a green salad. Crystal clear water and a sexy crowd to match, Elia is my number one choice.

Jackie O Beach ClubYou could also try Jackie O’ Beach Club on Super Paradise Beach if you really want to glam it up. Come after 6pm if you like sunsets and drag queens… it’s the best show in town with a jaw dropping backdrop. The bar tenders here are a bit of fun too.

RESTAURANTS

The KitchenThe Kitchen is my fave… it’s a place only the locals will tell you about, and is run by two handsome brothers whose food comes fresh from their farm daily. Try the Lemon Chicken, I would eat if every night if I could. For a sushi scene, you can’t beat Matsuhisa at the Belvedere Hotel. Here sushi is served up ultra-glam style – with prices to match. For an equally fab Japanese dinner at half the price… head down to Sakura located in Mykonos town.

HOTELS

RochariMykonos has something for everyone, take a room at the Belvedere Hotel if seeing and being seen is your thing, or the Rochari next door which delivers honest family hospitality with a decidedly entertaining gay and lesbian clientele (it also has the deepest pool with the best view in Mykonos). Don’t take anything less than a room with sea view and balcony to capture those quintessential Mykonian sunsets.

*INSIDER TIP: Book well in advance for next season, I prefer early July when it’s not so busy… although being there for the closing of the season this September lent a nice buzz to this stay I hadn’t experienced before… and the weather was perfect!

NET-A-PORTER Poolside!

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NET-A-PORTER PARADE COCKTAIL SOIREE & RUNWAY SHOW

So the last event of the week for me (and definitely the most glamorous) at Audi Hamilton island Race Week was the NET-A-PORTER runway show held poolside at qualia.

This must be the chicest fashion event held in Australia. It really was sensational, awash with the most fabulous Australians all enjoying a world-class fashion show… discreet luxury and the jaw dropping beauty of poolside qualia at sunset. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.

In the crowd… members of the ever stylish Paspaley family (their gorgeous Paspaley pop up boutique at the yacht club had all the girls in a whirl), super models Zac and Jordan Stenmark spent the evening charming the crowd with their handsome, laid-back effortless style and posed for a million photos. I met the inspirational Amanda Shadforth – creator of the trend forecasting style blog Oracle Fox and spotted über stylist Penny McCarthy who was on hand to style the show (and looking as fabulous as ever!). Chatting to Aussie photog expat Angie Silvie who is now based in San Francisco and Los Angeles was another of my highlights.

Brent with Jordan & Zac Stenmark

Brent & Shelly Horton

Brent & Shelly Horton

Penny McCarthy & Brent

I’d have to say I was most impressed with the entire week’s events on Hamilton Island for Audi Hamilton Island Race Week and kudos to the island’s Corporate Communications Director Sophie Baker who, with the help of her team (and assorted others) pulled off one of the most glamorous social events in Australia.

Say no more… get yourself up there next year. I’ll be there with the all the usual funsters… come join us!

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Hamilton Island Audi Style!

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AUDI  HAMILTON  ISLAND  RACE  WEEK

Hamilton Island for Audi Hamilton Island Race Week (or #AHIRW in hashtag land), where everyone who’s anyone converged this week… is Audi’s premier sailing event on the Great Barrier Reef and has become one of the highlights of the Aussie luxe social calendar. From beachfront lunches at qualia hosted by Charles Heidsieck and MR PORTER, to the poolside fashion show by NET-A-PORTER  this event attracts the leaders of fashion & design… and of course Australia’s sailing elite.

AUDI  KYLIE  KWONG  DINNER – PEBBLE  BEACH  RESTAURANT  QUALIA

It was off to Pebble Beach restaurant at qualia the first night and the scene was set… one long, chic table for the Audi Kylie Kwong dinner. Kylie happens to be an Audi Ambassador – along with Collette Dinnigan and her dashing husband Bradley Cocks who were also at the dinner. I had the good fortune of sitting next to in-demand Sydney architect Nick Tobias who was giving me insider tips for my up coming trip to Puglia, (Nick is also a member of the Style Council for MR PORTER) and global-roaming journalist, author and editor Mitchell Oakley Smith impressed who me with his sartorial elegance (I voted Mitchell as best dressed at this event!). Opposite were seated the Stenmark twins, Zac and Jordan who are now jet-setting around the world modeling for the likes of Tom Ford. The boys impressed me with their down to earth honesty and subtle Aussie humour. Not only are they blessed with perfect faces and charismatic smiles, they are the nicest guys you could meet… the perfect role models for young Australia.

Needless to say Kylie’s dinner was delicious with her dim sum starters my favourite and I washed it all down with a delicious Oatley Sauvignon Blanc… naturally!

CHARLES  HEIDSIECK / MR PORTER.COM  CHAMPAGNE  LUNCH – LONG PAVILION  QUALIA

The next day I fronted up to Long Pavilion at qualia for the hottest ticket of Audi Hamilton Island Race Week – The Charles Heidsieck / MR PORTER lunch. They were all there – television darling Melissa Doyle, Australian fashion icon Collette Dinnigan, Hotel Insider Bradley Cocks and my new bestie Thomas Staunton – he of the chic concierge company Managing Luxury. I was perfectly seated front and centre at Actor Tim Draxl’s table (he MC’d the event) and we enjoyed a delicious three course lunch all washed down with three very special Charles Heidsieck vintages. My favourite was the silky smooth Blanc des Millenaires 1995.

Lunch effortlessly turned into drinks poolside, down beside Pebble Beach Restaurant where I enjoyed the view… perfectly poised beside the pop-up champagne bar (Charles Heidsieck of course) with Georgina Safe, National Fashion Editor at the Sydney Morning Herald along with other assorted funsters and the ever stylish Oatley family (and owners of Hamilton island) who generously opened the bar and picked up the tab!

We lined up for our special MR PORTER gift, a pair of Riviera boat shoes (very fitting – I chose navy and red of course!) and afterwards we mingled with fun fashionistas and models till the sun went down. I called it a night after a deliciously funny dinner at coca chu. (And thank you to Audi who supplied chic E-tron taxis to get us home every night!)

CRUISE  ON  ANDIAMO

Thursday I was up early for a whirl through the Whitsundays to watch the start of one of the races on Sandy Oatley’s luxury cruiser Andiamo. I chatted NET-A-PORTER style tips with Kei Chen, head of marketing for NET-A-PORTER Asia-Pacific who had flown in for that evening’s NET-A-PORTER runway show, Channel Seven’s Sunrise Executive Producer Michael Pell and I swapped grooming tips and Shelly Horton… Chief Columnist of Life & Style and Channel 7 Morning Show regular, kept everyone entertained with her infectious wit. We were even lucky enough (as if on queue) to spot a whale from our luxury posi while we sipped Mimosas (topped up with Charles Heidsieck of course).

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Next up on the blog the NET-A-PORTER runway show!

* Some photos from the Charles Heidsieck lunch credited to photographer Belinda Rolland

 

Contemporary Luxury in Capri!

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J.K. PLACE CAPRI

Finally I made it… Capri had been calling and I arranged my first visit around a very special friend’s birthday. Thomas Hamel… the jet-setting interior designer who now calls Sydney and Los Angeles home was celebrating his milestone in such chic style on Capri that I couldn’t possibly miss it, (more on this… the party of the year soon!) and besides, this trip gave me the perfect opportunity to sniff out one luxury hotel that has been on my bucket list for years… the ultra stylish J.K. Place Capri!

CONTEMPORARY ELEGANCE

Perched on a cliff above the Marina Grand, J.K. Place Capri offers dramatic views across to the Amalfi Coast and its elegant seaside interiors by Italian architect Michele Bonan redefine sophistication. This is the most stylish hotel on the island without a doubt. It’s so beautiful it hurts … perfect interiors of blue and white instantly calm and envelope you in a sense of discreet luxury.

Is this the perfect beach hotel? I think so… cool and comfortable interiors, picture perfect views, the large pool and a luxurious spa make this a one stop resort.

The new GM Martino is on hand to help make your stay seemless along with the entire J.K. team… you’ll love it I promise!

It’s Italian perfection.

Contact me to book your very own stay at J.K Place Capri and receive the following Where’s Brent Been amenities:

  • Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
  • Daily full breakfast, for up to two in room guests
  • $100 USD Spa Services credit
  • Complimentary Transfer from/to Capri’s port
  • Fresh Fruit Plate upon arrival
  • Bottle of wine in room on arrival
  • Early check-in/late check-out

Coming up next on the blog… where we ate, partied, played and tanned!

 

The Most Beautiful Hotel in the World!

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LE SIRENUSE
Elegant luxury abounds in this temple of hotel sophistication, and my second stay at the legendary Le Sirenuse didn’t disappoint. It’s more than fifteen years since I first checked-in and she’s better than ever. Refreshed rooms (made beautiful every year while closed for winter) and polished service from the staff that have worked at the hotel for more than 40 years, help keep this property a firm favourite with all who stay here. Oh and did I mention the view is jaw dropping??

One of my favourite hotel addictions is beautiful sheets, and the beds at Le Sirenuse are perfectly made with the most luxurious linen sheets… a habit-forming luxury indeed and just another reason to make your way to Positano!

The owners of Le Sirenuse, the Sersale family know what they are doing… this is refined seaside luxury at its best in picture postcard Positano. Combine this with their stylish and well-edited boutique Emporio Le Sirenuse across the cobblestone street and you also have the best shopping in Positano at your doorstep!

Pick up a pair of their collectable swimming trunks and my new favourite finds… Swamp loafers made from a washable canvas (in Navy of course) and two-tone “St Tropez” espadrilles by cult Spanish designer Mint & Rose. I guarantee you will become obsessed with their hotel scent Eau d’Italie so grab a haul of these addictive bath products while you are at it and take a piece of Positano home.

HOT TIP: The Amalfi Coast is peppered with fab beach clubs to dine at, so use Positano as your base to explore and sail around to one of my favourites… Lo Scoglio for an alfresco lunch. Dine with the locals and savvy-insiders on the house specialty… Spaghetti alla Zucchini with perfect blue seaside views to match… and of course a crisp glass of the local Pino Grigio.

You must check-in to Le Sirenuse at least once in your life, (or more if you should be so lucky) and experience what I’ve named one of my favourite hotels in the world.

Don’t hesitate to contact me to make your reservation at Le Sirenuse and to receive the following exclusive Where’s Brent Been amenities:

  • Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
  • Continental breakfast daily, for up to two in room guests
  • Early check-in/late check-out
  • $100 USD Spa Services credit

Perfect Praiano – Casa Angelina!

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CASA ANGELINA

The next stop after Florence, was the gorgeous town of Praiano on the Amalfi Coast. Hop on the Frecciarossa to Naples as I did for one of the nicest express train trips in the world and spring for First Class… it won’t cost you much more and trust me, it’s fab. From here the driver will whisk you south through Positano and onto Praiano, breath-stealing views included.

I checked into Casa Angelina – a shiny white, modernist sanctuary perched on the cliffs as you enter Praiano. It’s fresh and crisp with perfect views across to Positano to match. Days here will be spent luxuriating poolside on the decked terrace or make your way down the cliff elevator and the next 200 steps to ”One Fire” – THE beach club of Praiano where Casa Angelina guests get the full VIP treatment with a reserved section of waterfront lounges, bottled water and designer Italian snacks. Don’t come here for the food it’s all about the scene (and the cocktail list!)… rest assure, the crowd this beach club attracts is as smooth as the music the DJ spins. Expect to mingle with local families and the international jet-set who come to One Fire for its laid-back chic ambiance and perfect crystal-clear water. Stay until sunset as the music and the mood gets louder. Oh and tell the owner Piccoletto I sent you, he’s the perfect host!

Casa Angelina makes a great base to lay your weary designer head along the Amalfi Coast. The compact all white rooms are comfortable and cool – just add some colour to the open wardrobe to brighten it up a bit! It’s only a few minutes around to Positano (a hotel shuttle can whisk you there and back) but its best attraction is the beach club below. Oh and breakfast from the restaurant terrace was a lovely way to start the day… HOT TIP: Don’t forgot to try a bombolino.

I’d definitely recommend dining at the hotel’s restaurant “Un Piano nel Cielo” one night where the elegant terrace and its perfectly romantic Amalfi views is breathtaking (just beware of the “water” menu – bottles here go for EUR180! – I thought I was seeing double!). I’d also recommend dinner at La Strada, up the steps from Casa Angelina in Praiano proper. It’s all about stairs on the Amalfi Coast… so girls swap out those heels for stylish flats!

Highlight of my stay at Casa Angelina? … meeting the interesting guests that the hotel attracts such as Andrew Weitz of The Weitz Effect (Andrew is an ex-talent agent turned trusted go-to style guru to LA’s elite) and the stylish Californian couple Anna (of the blog Busy and Beautiful) and Adam Ackerman (a successful Amazon entrepreneur) … needless to say we had the best of times.

Contact me today to book Casa Angelina and to receive the full Where’s Brent Been VIP treatment upon check-in!

A Room with a View!

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PORTRAIT FIRENZE 

Slipping into Portrait Firenze – the latest luxury hotel offering from the Lungarno Collection was an easy task, I’d heard all about its legendary sister property Portrait Roma so was excited to experience the unveiling of their brand new Firenze outpost. As it happened, the first stop on my three-week Italian sojourn turned out to be a beauty.

Not exactly a fashion hotel, though it is steeped in fashion pedigree (it’s part of the luxe Italian hotel empire owned by the very chic Ferragamo family) and it’s attracting the world’s luxury travel flash-pack who are arriving in droves. Distinctive, and I think masculine interiors shine here at Portrait Firenze… this is refined luxury on the banks of the Arno. Being only a short hop to the Ponte Vechhio, the hotel is also located in a perfectly central position.

My spacious suite overlooked the Arno (80% of rooms do) and I felt as if I was floating over this famous river with the breathtaking views from my bedroom and sumptuous sitting room, it even came equipped with a hidden (but welcomed) wet bar and kitchenette, though I wasn’t exactly sure what I was going to do with the later….

I dined at Hotel Lungarno’s restaurant ‘Borgo San Jacabo’ my first night with the gorgeous Caroline Corteau from Lungarno Collection (she looks after all of my bookings) and the interiors here are as pretty as the food (loving the grey felt furnishings) *I suggest you book a table on the terrace for maximum romantic effect.

Lunch of “Fiocchetti di Pera in Salsa di Taleggio e Asparagi” at Trattoria 4 Leonie was as good as I remembered and my final dinner was at Fusion Bar and Restaurant at Gallery Art Hotel where I dined on the freshest sushi (seriously so delicious, I ordered it twice) and mingled with Firenze’s beau monde. It was a Lungarno weekend!

Combined with a whirl around Florence’s stylish shops and world-famous attractions (can you ever tire of gazing at The Duomo?)  and a visit to the Pontormo e Rosso Fiorentino exhibition at Palazzo Strozzi, my stay in Florence at Portrait Firenze was a perfect one.

Make sure you book your next Florence stay at Portrait Firenze directly with me for the following exclusive Where’s Brent Been amenities:

  • Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability.
  • Daily Buffet breakfast, for up to two in room guests.
  • A bottle of Italian sparkling wine in room upon arrival.
  • One-way transfer to airport or rail station.
  • 50 EUR Food & Beverage credit.
  • Early check-in/late check-out. (subject to availability)

For more insta-inspiration follow me here: http://instagram.com/wheresbrentbeen

Merida to Mexico City!

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Flowers Tekik de RegilHere are a some final scenes from my latest Mexico Riche adventure. We whirled around the Yucatan staying in beautiful 17th century haciendas, witnessed breath-taking cathedrals and even did a cooking class with Christian Bravo at historic Hacienda Tekik de Regil. Exclusive pop-up lunches at private cenotes are also part of the Mexico Riche allure.

This is authentic Mexico .. our way. It’s small-group luxury touring with a contemporary twist. Join us August 17 where we kick off again on the Riviera Maya!

Head over to the website for more! http://www.mexicoriche.com

Puebla Cathedral

Sam Hacienda Temozon

 

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