Winter makes me long for summer and summer makes me yearn to travel to one of my favorite countries, Italy. Of all of the places we have ever gone and all of the hotels in which we have stayed, I have to say that La Posta Vecchia, near Commune Bracciano, northwest of Rome, is among my favorites.
The hotel is a seventeenth century villa built as part of what was first an Etruscan settlement, then a Roman port city, ultimately all but covered by construction like the Castello Odescalchi, a fifteenth century structure now famous for being the location of Tom Cruise’s and Katie Holmes’ nuptials. The villa was purchased by J. Paul Getty in the 1960s and transformed into a luxe seaside home filled with fifteenth and seventeenth century art and artifacts from all around the ancient world. In fact, during Getty’s restoration of the fire-ravaged building, two Roman villas from the second century B.C. E. were discovered on the grounds; priceless remains from the excavations of those sites are on display in the hotel.
When we visited in September 2001, we stayed in one of the three Senior Suites; ours faced the water and the massive windows were hung with exquisite handmade fabrics that folded closed at night only after the three-inch thick, solid wood shutters had been latched securely. (Evidently Mr. Getty feared pirates and kidnappers approaching by boat, not unfoundedly so, since his grandson, John Paul III was snatched from Piazza Farnese in Rome in the summer of 1973 when I was twelve years old.)
The hotel is about thirty minutes from Rome but that wasn’t why we chose it, as we usually patronized The Hotel de Russie when in Rome. We decided to stay there after leaving Il Romazzino on the Costa Smeralda, near Porto Cervo, Sardinia because we were looking to extend our vacation spent doing absolutely nothing. Oh, we walked on the Sardinian beach, we read books, we visited the hotel spa and occasionally I rode the stationary bike in the gym, but mostly we flomped on sun lounges, ate, and talked with the other couple who had joined us on the trip. In fact, I never once rose for breakfast the entire fortnight we were there and on our last day, was shocked to discover something creamy and chocolaty called Nutella was served every morning. (A similar jar of it now resides in my pantry every day of the year. You cannot tell me that travel is not broadening.)
While cooler at La Posta Vecchia, the weather was still lovely as the hotel sits directly on the black-sand shore of Lago di Bracciano, a volcanic lake. Jamie continued his bronzing by sprawling across a lounge placed on one of the terraces and baking all day while I borrowed a bicycle to ride into the nearby small town and through the pomegranate groves on the way back. We were only there for a few days, as we moved to de Russie for some serious Roman shopping as we waited out the travel ban. (Osama bin Laden’s associates had tried to demolish much of the city of my birth in our absence.)
Since it’s winter in New York, I can only dream of warm and sunny Italy as Detective Montalbano plays on the AppleTV, but once the weather breaks, I am going to convince Jamie to count his bonus miles and see where we can fly next.