7 of the most romantic stays in Europe for a romantic summer
Divani Apollon Palace & Thalasso
Incredible views near Athens
Divani Apollon Palace & Thalasso certainly has a conference hotel feel at first sight, but inside it has everything you need for a respite from the hustle and bustle of the capital. Just under an hour’s drive from the city center, its award-winning restaurant serves up fresh seafood dishes to savor while overlooking the Athens Riviera. There are two pools that are bathed in sunshine most of the day, meaning you can spend almost 12 hours sipping cocktails at the poolside bar, while lounging on a plush lounge chair. The All Sea View Suites are split into two sections, each with a balcony offering coastal views, perfect for watching the sun set or rise.
Stella likes: the enormous spa and thalassotherapy center is the largest in Europe, consisting of several swimming pools, treatment rooms, a huge gym and even a hairdresser.
Outside : The hotel’s private Apollon beach which is across the road (you can also access it through a secret underpass, directly from the hotel) is so lovely that you don’t need to go much further. The white sand and straw umbrellas are impeccably maintained by a friendly team of staff, who can whip up a strong fruity cocktail or serve you a nice glass of crisp Greek white wine. A short walk along the coast leads to a small row of local restaurants serving typical Greek dishes made with fish from nearby waters. Restaurant Garbi is always packed with locals and tourists enjoying dishes like zucchini fritters, fresh octopus and grilled whole Barbouni (red mullet), while tiny island cats wait patiently for leftovers.
How to do: The rooms of the Divani Apollon Palace & Thalasso (divaniapollonhotel.com) from £220 per night in low season.
By Helen Gibson
Remote romance in Tuscany
This former noble family home on a hilltop, overlooking the vast Tuscan countryside, is a veritable pick list of Italian idyllicism. Cobbled courtyards, olive groves, vegetable and herb gardens, two swimming pools and nine beautifully designed suites, plus stunning hillside views, make this a Dolce Vita experience. The castello is run by the family who owned it for decades before launching the hotel, the limited number of rooms ensures the pool is never crowded, while the food and wine are locally sourced and explained in fascinating detail. Beware, these Super Tuscans pack a punch. Dinner is a particularly special affair, served on the grassy rooftop of the castello. The moon is the only accompaniment you will need for digestives.
Stella likes: The cozy feel amidst the grandeur and informal wine education as you sip.
Outside : Feeling energetic? You can hike, bike or horseback through the rolling hills of Maremma, take lessons with a local chef, truffle hunter or leatherworker (he’s been featured in the New York Times, no less) , or earn your bread by helping with the grape and olive harvest.
How to do: Stays at the Castello di Vicarello (www.castellodivicarello.com) from £880 per night including breakfast in high season.
By Jessica Doyle