Interview by Juliet Kinsman. 2010
What’s your favourite hotel and what makes it so special? For years my favourite hotel in the world was the Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles simply because it was imbued with so much old-school glamour, dripping with history and home of more than a little intrigue. It’s also one of those rare places that manages to be quiet, busy, fun, discreet and charming all at the same time. But then I recently stayed at Il Convento in Puglia, Alistair McCalpine’s converted convent just in Maritima. It’s his home as well as a hotel and yet it very quickly feels like your home too. Dine in the midst of his amazing garden, marvel at his global collection of artefacts, lounge by the pool, help yourself to wine and snacks from the kitchen. Romantic, friendly, superbly relaxing. And a truly stunning book collection!
Most beloved holiday destinations? I’ve always loved Italy because I appreciate the priorities of the Italians… Food, family, friends. It’s as simple as that.
Describe your dream mini-escape… where you’d go, what you’d do… Hmmm, tricky for the first one, easy for the latter. My dream mini escape would involve a lot of dining, and everything I don’t usually get to do! So, I like to laze about in the mornings, bathe, potter, graze on an easy breakfast and plan lunch. After which I’d amble around for a few hours walking, talking and sight seeing, but with no pre-ordained plan. Then back to the hotel for a nap followed by a stroll to a long boozy dinner somewhere local and authentic (never in the hotel)! Where to go? Actually it could be anywhere, although I recently had a wonderful weekend doing exactly the above in Barcelona, staying in the newly refurbished (by Patricia Urquiola) Mandarin Oriental, which was absolutely sublime, especially the spa.
Describe your fantasy holiday home? Warm, quiet, open, fantastic views, no distractions, no internet, open fireplaces, by the sea or up a mountain, probably designed by either John Pawson, Claudio Silvestrin or Piero Lissoni for the inherent contemplative calm that would come with any of their work, although I’d want it furnished with a mix of Chinese antiques, Larusi rugs and a huge comfy corner sofa strewn with absolutely bundles of cashmere throws and cushions. Must have large, generous bathroom too, with a separate toilet and a double sink!