In the vanguard of world tourism, Italy is always changing, but like the city of Rome itself, the country remains eternal. Here are some of the latest developments.
Among the new hotels, the oddly named Yes Hotel, Via Magenta 15 (tel. 06-44363836), is an affordable choice in a restored 19th-century building near Stazione Termini. Bedrooms are simply but comfortably furnished. A much more expensive and more elegant opening is the Inn at the Roman Forum, Via degli Ibernesi 30 (tel. 06-6919070), in a restored 15th-century building dripping with antiquity. The inn, though thoroughly modernized, even incorporates a small section of Trajan's Marketplace on-site. For supremely elegant living, check into Portrait Suites, Via Bocca di Leone 23 (tel. 06-69380742), in a historic building restored in the vicinity of Piazza de Spagna. It's decorated in an elegant La Dolce Vita style with spacious, well-decorated bedrooms. Its special feature is a rooftop terrace opening onto panoramic views of Rome.
One of the most acclaimed chefs in the city is Marco Fadiga Bistrot, Via Rialto 23C (tel. 051-220118), serving Bologna's most creative Italian cuisine at his chic bistro. In the historic center, his kitchen turns out unusual and good-tasting flavor combinations. His tables are in demand, so reserve ahead.
Two Scottish expats have restored and opened Villa Bordoni, Via San Cresci 31-3, Localitá Mezzuloa (tel. 055-8840004), which grew out of a 16th-century villa with an olive mill and chapel. You sleep in grand comfort and enjoy a first-rate cuisine of market-fresh ingredients. Even though it's in Tuscany, the villa evokes an English country house.
The island of Capri has another hot address with the opening of JK Place, Via Provinciale Marina Grande 225 (tel. 081-8384001), which has become the epitome of seaside chic. An offshoot of a jewel-like hotel in Florence, it is an elegant abode with an avant-garde decor, everything inspired by the blue of the sea.
In the very historic core of this Renaissance city, the owners of In Piazza della Signoria, Via dei Magazzini 2 (tel. 055-2399546), have restored a four-story palazzo from the 14th century. Each room is elegantly furnished with antiques, the choice units opening onto Florence's landmark square itself.
One of the rising stars of the Tuscan kitchen is chef Marco Stabile, who operates Ora d'Aria, a restaurant in the center at Via Ghibellina 3C (tel. 055-2001699), serving a superb Tuscan cuisine near Piazza Santa Croce. He makes his own pastas, including some imaginative ones such as a pasta platter with a bitter cocoa sauce and a wild boar ragout. He also serves classical Tuscan dishes as well.
In the historic center, Palazzo Alexander, Via Giustine, 48 San Michele (tel. 0583-583571), is a former residence of Lucchesi nobles with a pedigree dating from the 12th century. A small boutique hotel has been created out of the historic premises, with elegantly decorated bedrooms and public areas filled with antiques.
This city of fashionistas continues to open elegant hotels, even moderately priced ones on occasion, as evidenced by AC Milano Hotel, Via Tazzoli 2 (tel. 02-20424211), a 3.2km (2-mile) drive from the center. Part of a chain, the gray stone monolith offers minimalist-designed but comfortable bedrooms, often with Japanese decorative touches.
Among restaurants, a hot new dining ticket is Gold, Via Poerio 2A (tel. 02-7577771), which is aptly named considering its glittering decor. Established by fashion designers, the luxurious new address houses a gourmet restaurant, bar, and a casual bistro, even a gourmet food store.
In a city known for its ancient art, Museo d'Arte Contemporanea Donna Regina has opened at Via Settembrini 79 (tel. 081-5624561). On three floors of an old palazzo, it is a showcase for a superb collection of modern art, everything from a Warhol silk screen of Elizabeth Taylor to the jeweled suit of an Elvis cult-like figure.
In the heart of Naples, a former bordello has been converted into the boutique Chiaja Hotel de Charme, Via Chiaia 216 (tel. 081-415555). Instead of prostitutes, the hotel today attracts some of the most discerning visitors to the city, especially those seeking elegance, comfort, and grace--all at a moderate price.
The renovation has been completed at the home of the great conductor Toscanini, and the museum reopened. Casa Natale e Museo di Arturo Toscanini, Via Rodolfo Tanzi 13 (tel. 0521-285499), was the birthplace of the conductor in 1867, and the house is filled with mementos.
One of this city's best moderately priced hotels has opened right near the Leaning Tower. Grand Hotel Bonanno, Via Carlo Francesco Gabba 7 (tel. 050-524030), has an undistinguished facade but well-furnished, comfortable bedrooms inside, opening onto private balconies.
For motorists, one of the most romantic B&Bs, Poste Regie, Via della Montagnola 68, Anacainano (tel. 349-4754995), lies 21km (13 miles) west of Siena in a tiny village. The owners have restored their ancestral 1888 home and are now receiving guests in antiques-filled rooms.
There has been an explosion of private residences being converted into B&Bs or pensioni to receive paying guests. One of the best is Bed and Breakfast Corte Campana, Calle del Remedio, 4410 Castello (tel. 041-5233603), on the third floor of an old apartment building near Piazza San Marco. Occupants of the bedroom share a bathroom, but it's one of the most reasonable accommodations in high-priced Venice.
Another affordable choice is Ca'della Corte, Corte Surian, 3560 Dorsoduro (tel. 041-715877), near Piazzale Roma. This is a 16th-century palazzo with its own courtyard that has been restored and modernized. Much of the original architecture has been retained, though modern conveniences have been added.
Some Venetian restaurants have been around since Casanova. But the city can offer modern dining, as exemplified by Lineadombra, Ponte dell'Umilta, Dorsoduro 19 (tel. 041-2411881), facing Canale della Giudecca. Freshly made dishes are inventive and sublimely prepared by a well-trained staff.
This chic resort on the eastern coast of Sicily has a new government-rated, five-star hotel with the opening of Grand Hotel San Pietro, Via Pirandello 50 (tel. 0942-620711), which is surrounded by such luxury touches as landscaped gardens, a huge terrace, and a panoramic pool. Guest rooms, including suites, are among the most elegant--certainly the most modern--in town, rising six floors on a hillside overlooking the sea.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.