14 Romantic Hotels
These spectacular, affordable spotssome close to home, some in classic Europeare perfect for a secluded getaway.
Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, French Riviera
Les Deux Frères
Go up—past the crowds, past the noise—to the tiny cliff-top village of Roquebrune-Cap-Martin. Stop to gasp at the panorama from the tiny town square, and notice the lovely dining terrace to your right. It's attached to the restaurant of the intimate Les Deux Frères, in a 19th-century stone building that was once a school. A mahogany bar fills the lobby; a narrow staircase leads up to the nine small, pretty rooms. Each has a name indicating its theme: Provençal, African, Marine, and so on. Views range from lovely to stupendous; depending on your room's orientation, you might look out on the town square, the rugged hills, or—if you get the full frontal—the cliffs, the sea, and, in the distance, Monaco. 1 Place des Deux Frères, 011-33/4-93-28-99-00, lesdeuxfreres.com, from $148.
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Hotel de l'Atelier
Spare yourself the agony of trying to find high-season lodgings in Avignon—there's a great little hotel across the river in Villeneuve, just a five-minute bus ride from the City of Popes. Each of the 23 rooms is a different shape and size—the building was built in the 16th century as a silk workshop—and there are exposed beams and stone walls, as well as painted niches, art deco dressers, Chinese end tables, and antique photography. A few rooms look a bit like they're from a 1940s movie set. The garden terrace is livened up with modern sculptures; hallways showcase paintings by local artists. The new owners are redoing a couple of rooms in Provençal style—let's hope their taste is as refined as that of their predecessors. 5 rue de la Foire, 011-33/4-90-25-01-84, hoteldelatelier.com, from $83.
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Monte San Savino, Tuscany
Castello di Gargonza
On the crest of a mountain enveloped by forest sits a fairy-tale castle, with a 13th-century hamlet curled around the base of a crenellated tower. The hilltop village is Gargonza, fought over for centuries by the Florentines and Sienese, host to an exiled Dante in the early 1300s—and now entirely for rent. Gargonza's 35 houses, which like the castle are built of pale stone, serve as apartments, and most feature working fireplaces, kitchenettes, and 17th-century-style furnishings. There are also eight simple rooms (no kitchens or fireplaces). Converting the place into lodging for tourists was the only way Count Roberto Guicciardini—whose ancestors have been lords of the castle since 1700—could save the decaying village after the last of its farmers and artisans abandoned Gargonza in the 1960s. The central courtyard, with an old well and geraniums spilling from arcaded balconies, is a sort of open-air living room for guests. Likewise, the old olive-press building functions these days as a common room with sofas, a TV, and the breakfast buffet. Just outside the town's medieval walls is a swimming pool surrounded by fragrant rosemary and olive and cypress trees, and the excellent restaurant. Owner Neri Guicciardini, one of the count's sons, adds innovative flair to Tuscan classics. West of Monte San Savino, less than a mile off the road between Arezzo and Siena, 011-39/0575-847-021, gargonza.it, from $170; from $230 in B&B and apartment; from $1,091 weekly apartment rentals.
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Positano, Amalfi Coast
Maria Cinque makes a point of chatting with every one of her guests. She's particularly delighted to meet Americans, as she and her husband, Antonio, lived in the Bronx for nine years. They returned to Italy in 1974 to run a family hotel a five minutes' walk from the center of Positano—and to teach their children "what it means to be Italian," in Maria's words. Six of the 15 guest rooms are in the original 1777 Palazzo Bruno, including four upstairs rooms with 18th-century ceiling frescoes. Many regulars prefer ground-floor rooms 51 to 55, however, because they open directly onto the magnificent, long entrance terrace and enjoy postcard views of Positano framed by ivy trailing off the shady trellis. Each of the California's rooms is spacious and seems even more so due to the minimal furnishings. All guests have access to the terrace, and at sunset small groups gather there to sip wine, plan the next day, and pinch themselves, realizing that they've got the same view as the chichi Le Sirenuse hotel down the street for one third of the price. Via Cristoforo Colombo 141, Positano, 011-39/089-875-382, hotelcaliforniapositano.com, from $223, breakfast included. Closed mid-November to mid-March.
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