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4 Authentic Small Towns of Lazio, Italy

By By Matt Walker and Zeneba Bowers of Little Roads Europe
January 12, 2022
A view of the town piazza in Soriano nel Cimino, Lazio, Italy
Stefano Valeri
Less than two hours from Rome, discover a world of medieval hill towns where you’ll learn to live like a local.

Italy’s Lazio region includes Rome; but most travelers aren't aware that there's lots to do and see outside of the big city. We spent a week in the north of Lazio, to immerse ourselves in the culture and history of a little hill town, Soriano nel Cimino, and to explore some even smaller villages nearby.

1. Soriano nel Cimino

Soriano nel Cimino sits atop a large hill on the foot of Monte Cimino (hence the town’s surname). The town’s hilltop castle was built in the 13th century; it boasts views of the valley and nearby Mount Cimino. One room houses a display of dozens of antique phonograph devices spanning the history of music reproduction - from Victrolas to jukeboxes. And they’re still working! A museum docent offers demonstrations of many of the devices. The display room is a former chapel; a statue of the Virgin Mary presides over a 1960s jukebox (while we were there, she watched as we listened to The Beatles). From the 1800s until just a few decades ago the castle was used as a prison, and one wing still retains the stark solitary-confinement cells.

Mount Cimino is part of a vast UNESCO World Heritage site, an old-growth beech tree forest. The area is also covered by chestnut trees, and chestnuts are an important part of Soriano’s culture and cuisine - among the town’s frequent festivals is an annual chestnut festival, celebrating this staple food of the region. We happened to be in town for Carnevale (like Mardi Gras, the week before Lent), an afternoon of revelry including large amounts of confetti, silly string, and throngs of people of all ages in costumes of all types.

One of the locals we met described the steep slopes and winding stairways in town: “In Soriano, you’re always either going up or going down.” The only flat spot in the entire town is its central piazza, a bustling center for socializing and daily business (and, as mentioned, confetti-fueled festivals). On one side of the square, the twin bell towers of the Cathedral of Saint Nicholas ring out each hour; at 8 AM, noon, and 5 PM its bells compete with a wailing siren, a holdover from the town’s agrarian past. The cathedral holds relics of Pope John Paul II - a certificate shows that his blood was enshrined there in 2014, a point of religious pride to the locals ever since.

Soriano has a population of around 10,000 people, which by our “Little Roads” standards is a big town. Some of its neighbors are even smaller villages, with many points of interest.

2. Vitorchiano

The medieval walled town of Vitorchiano is flanked on two sides by sheer stone cliffs, which helped it resist superior military forces. The town prides itself on its historical devotion to Rome: In the face of opposition from hostile city states in the 13th century, Vitorchiano was singularly granted the right to bear the emblem “SPQR” - Senatus Populusque Romanus. The town’s gates and coats of arms still bear this emblem.

The cliffs on which Vitorchiano are built are made of a volcanic stone called peperino. (Many towns in the region, including Soriano, are built on and from this stone.) This is the same type of stone from which the Moai statues of Easter Island are carved. In fact, thirty years ago a group of visitors from Easter Island visited Vitorchiano and carved a Moai statue, which today sits in a park overlooking the town’s western cliff.

3. Orte

Orte, another medieval walled hill-town built in part with peperino, was an Etruscan city before being conquered by the Romans. Orte is famous for its ancient underground tunnels and caves, which were used through the ages for storage and irrigation, as a bath-house, and (in more recent history) as bomb shelters during WWII.

4. Bomarzo

Perhaps the most evocative location in the area is the little hill town of Bomarzo. The historic town center is a silent maze of narrow stone streets, reminiscent of some medieval fantasy movie set. We were there on a perfect blue-sky day, and we saw only a single person. (We did, however, see a half-dozen cats, who followed us around for a few blocks, presumably to make sure we weren’t up to anything shady.)

Just outside the town is the Bosco Sacro (“Sacred Woods”), more popularly known as the Parco dei Mostri - the Park of Monsters. This is an open-air museum of several acres of woods, in which are dozens of huge, Renaissance-era stone sculptures, carved from the ubiquitous peperino stone. Dragons, giants, lions, and other fantastic creatures sit among the trees, waiting for visitors to discover and delight in them.

These are just a few of the locations near Soriano nel Cimino that we discovered on our trip; and this area is but one of many fascinating and beautiful parts of Lazio, accessible to anyone who’s willing to venture out of the bustle of Rome.

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5 Things to Do in Halifax, Nova Scotia

Situated directly north of Maine on the eastern seaboard, Atlantic Canada’s Maritime provinces—Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island—are perhaps best known for picturesque coastlines rife with lighthouses and fishing boats, to say nothing of the legendary seafood. The capital of Nova Scotia, Halifax is a walkable city with an active waterfront, five-star dining, and artisan culture galore. It’s also a quick two-hour flight from New York and an even shorter hop from Boston, making it an easy weekend escape for Yanks yearning for a change of scenery. Here’s what to do when you arrive in town. 1. Wander the Waterfront (Debbie Ann Powell/Dreamstime) Nearly two miles of boardwalk wind along the Halifax Harbor, and while it’s an activity better suited for sunny summer days, the brisk winds off the water make for an invigorating winter stroll. Spend some time at the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 (more on that below), then work your way north: Across the street, the Designer Craft Shop (craftnovascotia.ca) carries beautiful pottery, jewelry, and other pieces from local artisans, and down the block, Garrison Brewing Company (garrisonbrewing.com) is good for a pitstop. Book an evening brewery tour for $15, or simply sample the wares in the dog-friendly tap room. Nearby, the Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market (halifaxfarmersmarket.com) is an all-season venture. In addition to the produce, there's a solid selection of local liquors, spice blends, jams, pickles, and more, making it a great place to pick up souvenirs for your food-loving friends. From there, it’s a short jaunt up to NovaScotian Crystal (novascotiancrystal.com), purveyors of heirloom-quality crystal at prices to match. Even if you’re not shopping for mouth-blown, hand-cut investment pieces, the showroom is worth a stop—if you’re lucky, you’ll catch the makers in action. Around the corner is the Halifax Ferry Terminal, and at less than $2 USD, a boat trip is an ideal way to cap off your walk. Take in the skyline and explore hipster-central Dartmouth while you’re across the harbor...and if you manage to time your ride to sunset, all the better. 2. Warm Up With Local Spirits (Maya Stanton) As the home of Scottish expat Alexander Keith, a three-time mayor and mid-1800s brewer whose facility is still in operation today (albeit under the umbrella of Anheuser-Busch InBev), it’s no surprise that Halifax has craft breweries aplenty—to date, there are 12 and counting. But Atlantic Canada's history is also steeped in bootlegging and rum-running, and Nova Scotians have embraced that heritage with a vengeance, making rum one of the most popular tipples in town. Centrally located near the waterfront, Halifax Distilling Co. (halifaxdistillingco.ca) pours tastes of its J.D. Shore rums. Distiller Julie Shore is descended from a 19th-century whiskey-distilling family in North Carolina, and those generations of experience show; her light-bodied black rum is supremely drinkable, with rich caramel notes, and we can vouch for the rum cream, a Bailey’s stand-in that might just be better than its whiskey-based cousin. Belly up to the bar for a drink and a snack, catch some live music, or pop in for a tour on a Saturday afternoon. 3. Get Cultured (Maya Stanton) For a small municipality (around 403,000 people at last estimate), Nova Scotia’s capital boasts a wealth of cultural destinations. On the waterfront at Pier 21, an Ellis Island equivalent for a million transplants from the late 1920s through the early '70s, the Canadian Museum of Immigration (above; pier21.ca) traces the immigrant experience from decade to decade, with interactive exhibits, replica ships’ cabins, and steamer trunks filled with clothing and treasured belongings from children who immigrated over the years. At the family history center, staff members are standing by to help track down immigration documents, ship information, and genealogical data by request. A 15-minute walk along the water’s edge is the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic (maritimemuseum.novascotia.ca), devoted to the region’s marine history, from its ship-building days to naval battles to disasters like the Halifax Explosion of 1917. Don’t miss the model ships on the second floor, or the Titanic exhibit, a highly detailed accounting of the ship’s history, its sinking, and Halifax’s role in the rescue and recovery operation. (Titanic buffs should also make a detour to Fairview Lawn Cemetery on the north end of town: Halifax was the closest port when the liner went down, and more than 100 victims are buried there, their headstones arranged in a configuration resembling a ship’s helm.) A few blocks over, the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia (artgalleryofnovascotia.ca) celebrates the work of artists with ties to the region. The jewel of the collection is the Maud Lewis gallery, featuring the self-taught folk artist’s work as well as her lovingly restored, hand-painted tiny house—just 12-½ by 14-½ feet! The museum has extended hours on Thursday nights, with free entry and tours available. On the other side of the city's circa-1749 citadel, the Museum of Natural History (naturalhistory.novascotia.ca) has all the whale skeletons, animal models, rock and mineral samples, and, through April, animatronic dinosaurs needed to keep the little ones busy and engaged. 4. Break for Coffee (and Great Views) (Maya Stanton) Built in 2014 as a replacement for a mid-century building the city had long since outgrown, the award-winning Halifax Central Library (halifaxpubliclibraries.ca) is a feat of contemporary design. Reportedly “the first piece of modern architecture to be built in Halifax in decades,” the $57.6 million project is an LEED Gold-certified cultural center in the heart of downtown. Check out the displays dedicated to First Nations, African Nova Scotian, Acadian, and Francophone cultures, as well as veterans’ memorials and local-history research materials. The cantilevered-glass exterior resembles a stack of books, and the interior is peaceful and light-filled, with a top-floor café offering expansive views of the harbor and citadel alongside cups of excellent, fair-trade organic drip coffee and from-scratch pastries. 5. Eat Your Heart Out (Maya Stanton) In keeping with its maritime location, Nova Scotia is a haven for seafood lovers, and from Digby scallops and freshwater mussels to the unparalleled lobster of the South Shore, Halifax receives more than its fair share of the bounty. Obladee Wine Bar (obladee.ca) touts flights of Nova Scotian wines and Sober Island oysters, while Little Fish Oyster Bar (littlefishoysterbar.ca) does an all-day happy hour with a selection of local bivalves at US$1.50 a pop. We loved the ones from Cabot, and those from Pristine Bay were true to their name. Upstairs is the Five Fishermen (fivefishermen.com), a sister restaurant serving refined plates. Fortunately, the upscale dining room, a handsomely restored funeral home, shows no signs of its more gruesome days, but a creamy bowl of chowder and a smoked old-fashioned should chase away any lingering ghosts. The city's dining isn't all fins and gills, though. Land-based options include the donair, a uniquely Halifax offering that’s akin to the Greek gyro, Middle Eastern shawarma, and Mexican al pastor, with spiced, spit-roasted meat topped with raw tomatoes and onions, doused with a sweet white sauce, and wrapped in a pita. It’s a messy but glorious concoction, and you can sample it downtown at Johnny K’s, or further afield at King of Donair (kingofdonairquinpool.ca), where the dish originated back in 1973. For a stellar steak tartare and a reasonably priced glass of wine, seek out Bistro le Coq (bistrocoq.ca), then have a nightcap at the Stubborn Goat (stubborngoat.ca), a gastropub with a tempting cocktail list; when it’s on the menu, the Moving To the Country is a dangerously delicious blend of bourbon, peach, and mint. Looking to splurge? With a menu ranging from steamed mussels and house charcuterie to expertly rendered Nova Scotia scallops and luscious lamb pappardelle, Gio Restaurant (above; giohalifax.com) at the Prince George Hotel is one of the best bets in town.

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Hotel We Love: Revolution Hotel, Boston

In the lobby of the Revolution Hotel, there’s a vibrant mural by Tristan Eaton, a well-known West Coast artist. It features JFK, Paul Revere, and all the other individuals that people associate with Boston. But what catches your eye first when you walk in is the white tower in the back of the lobby. It’s a cleverly arranged assemblage of telephones, typewriters, lawn flamingos, a Polaroid camera, Converse sneakers, Bose stereos, and more, all painted white and affixed to a wide column. These seemingly random objects have one thing in common: They were all invented or created in Massachusetts. This hotel, which opened in December 2018, telegraphs a very clear message: Revolutions in the Bay State are not limited in the colonists. It’s a region that cherishes invention, innovation, and disruption. The Story In 1908, the building at 40 Berkeley Street opened as a YWCA, a sanctuary for women working to get their lives in order. In 2018, after a massive overhaul, it opened as a hotel. In addition to the aforementioned lobby design, all things Massachusetts extends to the lower garden level, a work or hangout area for guests around the clock and a co-working space by day (more on that in a minute). Adorned with photographs of Jack Kerouac, Donna Summer, John F. Kennedy, Tom Brady (of course), and dozens more, an expansive wall that's a veritable who's who of Massachusetts notables. The Quarters There are several room sizes and bed options among the hotel’s 177 rooms, but they all fall under one of two categories: Some have in-room bathrooms and others require a walk down the hall to a shared bathroom, which isn’t what you’re likely envisioning. The shared facility has the look of a locker room in a high-end gym, with private compartments containing a shower and toilet and linens neatly arranged for the taking. Rooms without bathrooms feature rubber totes for guests to carry their toiletries down the hall. There are three styles: one king-size bed, one king-size and a lofted twin, and a “quad” with two bunk beds and plenty of outlets within reach of each, an ideal arrangement for friends traveling together. These rooms all come with a desk. Bath-in-room guestrooms do not have a desk. Rooms are compact and space-efficient with well-integrated storage space. Each is equipped with a safe, and all the requisite high-tech amenities, like LCD televisions and a small bedside Tivoli radio that boasts sound quality worthy of a much bigger stereo. Lather bamboo-lemongrass soaps, shampoo, and conditioner in the showers are large pump bottles, a clever eco-minded choice. Wi-fi is complimentary. The company also runs the Revolution Lofts next door, which feature bigger suite-style rooms, each with a bathroom and kitchenette space with a stove, sink, fridge, plates, and utensils. The Neighborhood The hotel is located a few short blocks from Tremont Street, the main artery of the restaurant-dense South End. The neighborhood features a tremendous Whole Foods (allegedly New England’s largest), and a sizable variety of boutiques, trendy eateries, and lively bars. A 10-minute walk in the other direction lands you in Copley Square, the buzzy green space surrounded by the historic Fairmont Copley Plaza hotel, the iconic Trinity Church, and a shopping mall with a roster of familiar stores. One block beyond that is Newbury Street, Boston’s famous retail strip. The hotel is an easy walk to the Back Bay station on the Orange Line and the Arlington Station on the Green Line. If you're heading to or from the airport or the bus/train station, Both the airport and the bus/train station require only one transfer from the Orange or Green lines. The Food A small café counter in the lobby serves complimentary coffee from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. and sells all sorts of pastries, coffee, and espresso drinks throughout the day. A restaurant is scheduled to open this summer, but in the meantime, it’s close enough to a range of notable local eateries that its absence is easily forgivable. All the Rest The hotel’s lower garden level is a spacious room with ample tables, each equipped with plenty of outlets for anyone wanting to hunker down for a few hours. During the day, it serves as a laid-back coworking space that non-guests can use with the purchase of a pass for a day, week, or month. The 24-hour gym, on the same level, is an exercise, if you will, in well-curated fitness spaces. Small yet comprehensive, it features weights, a treadmill, a Peloton bike, and more. Rates & Deets Starting at $175 for bath-in-room quarters; $145 for others. Revolution Hotel40 Berkeley St.Boston, MA 02116(617) 848-9200 / therevolutionhotel.com

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Hotel We Love: Woodlark, Portland, OR

Rose City’s hotel industry is booming—per the tourism board, some 9,000 rooms were available in 2018 and another 1,500 or so are estimated for 2020—and Woodlark is the latest entrant in an increasingly crowded field. But with a buzzy lobby scene, cozy minimalist rooms, and a convenient downtown address pulling in an attractive, youthful crowd, it more than stands out from the pack. The Story Woodlark comprises two character-filled buildings, the circa-1908 French Renaissance-style Cornelius Hotel and the 1912 Woodlark Building, a beaux arts–inspired former drugstore, both of which are on the National Register of Historic Places. Provenance Hotels acquired the properties in 2015, hiring architecture and design firms to rehab and combine the two distinctive buildings into one cohesive unit. The hotel opened its doors in December 2018. The Quarters The accommodations span both buildings, and you’ll find botanical prints from noted photographer Imogen Cunningham, custom wallpaper adorned with plants native to the city, industrial-luxe brass-pipe clothing rods, marble-topped consoles, cush velvet chairs, and handmade artisan wool rugs throughout the 150 rooms. At 230 square feet for a standard king to 665 square feet for a suite, Woodlark's spaces are on the smaller side, though they still allow plenty of room to maneuver. Chances are you didn't come to Portland to hang out in your hotel room, but the amenities are there when you need them: LCD flat-panel TVs, honor bars stocked with a host of local favorites, like Union Wine and Greenleaf trail mix, Bluetooth speakers, and incredibly comfortable down comforter–topped mattresses, not to mention pints of Salt & Straw ice cream on demand. The Neighborhood Centrally located right downtown, Woodlark is a short walk from attractions like the Portland Art Museum, Oregon Historical Society, Lan Su Chinese Garden, and Powell’s City of Books, the local chain’s flagship location, which covers a full block and holds some one million new and used books. The Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall (portland5.com) is just a few blocks over, and that’s where you’ll catch everything from stand-up comedy to the symphony; for something a bit more rowdy, try the Star Theater (startheaterportland.com) or the Crystal Ballroom (crystalballroompdx.com), both of which book a good mix of contemporary acts. Shows aside, the downtown area gets a bit quiet at night, but you’re a quick light-rail, bus, or Lyft ride away from more exciting environs across the Willamette. The Food There are three dining options on the premises: Bullard (bullardpdx.com), a meat-centric eatery with an internationally tinged menu from Texas transplant and Top Chef alum Doug Adams; Abigail Hall (abigailhallpdx.com), a cocktail den with upscale bar bites (think: chips and smoked-salmon dip garnished with trout roe); and Good Coffee (goodwith.us), the bustling lobby café slinging espresso drinks, fancy lattes (matcha-lavender or maple and smoked orange, anyone?), breakfast plates, and kolaches inspired by Adams’s home state. On the next block is the Alder Street Food Cart Pod (foodcartsportland.com), a collection of vendors hawking a diverse array of dishes, and a few blocks north, Maurice (mauricepdx.com) serves pretty, Instagram-ready French-Nordic “luncheonette cuisine,” from quiche and clafoutis to smørrebrød and Norwegian meatballs. Some of our favorite happy-hour spots are also within walking distance: Try Little Bird Bistro (littlebirdbistro.com) for discounted drinks and a spectacular double-patty burger loaded with brie, or wrangle a few friends and make for Luc Lac Vietnamese Kitchen (luclackitchen.com), where the pro move is to order every $3 small plate on the menu and wash it down with a dealer’s-choice cocktail. All the Rest Woodlark features the Provenance chain’s signature amenities, including a pillow menu, a lending library of spiritual tomes, and fitness kits with yoga mats, weights, and iPads programmed with exercise videos. There’s also a gym on-site, with interactive workout mirrors and Peloton bikes in addition to the standard array of treadmills and ellipticals. The property is pet-friendly, and furry friends receive a warm welcome—treats included—when they check in. Rates and Deets Starting at $155. Woodlark813 SW Alder StreetPortland, OR 97205503.548.2559woodlarkhotel.com

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Meet Our Favorite Hotel Pets

From rescue pups and fluffy cats to talkative parrots and a family of penguins, adorable animals are doing double duty at hotels around the country. Not only do they make guests smile with free cuddles, many of them are also hotel "employees," fulfilling duties like leading guests on hikes, ringing the bell at the front desk, and leading philanthropic efforts in their communities. An added bonus? Research shows pets can help alleviate stress, anxiety, depression, and feelings of loneliness and isolation, which is good for hotel staff and guests alike. Get to know some of the cutest hotel pets out there, guaranteed to put a smile on your face the moment they greet you. Oreo at the Armstrong Hotel: Fort Collins, Colorado (Courtesy the Armstrong Hotel) The grand hostess of the Armstrong Hotel (thearmstronghotel.com), a historic property in Fort Collins that will reopen this April following a renovation, can often be found curled up in a window seat in the lobby or stretched out on the front desk. Adopted as a kitten 14 years ago, majestic Oreo is as popular with hotel guests as she is with locals. She has many friends who live in the area and come to visit her each week, and as such, she’s developed a few tricks to keep them entertained, like raising her paw for a high-five (for treats, of course). During winters in Colorado, Oreo tends to get a little stir crazy; come spring, you can find her sprawled out on the sidewalk enjoying the sunshine, much to the delight of Mugs Coffee Lounge visitors next door. Sasha at Bobby Hotel: Nashville, Tennessee (Courtesy Bobby Hotel) Adopted from a local shelter, Sasha arrived at the Bobby Hotel (bobbyhotel.com) in Nashville when it opened in April 2018. As the resident hotel dog (not to mention Instagram star, @ahoteldog), she takes her welcoming duties very seriously—greeting guests as they enter the lobby, playing fetch, and ringing her own gold bellman's bell. Though she’s been in her "forever home" less than a year, she’s already doing her part to give back to other animals who need rescuing: Towels in each guest room embroidered with Sasha’s face are available for purchase, with all proceeds going to the Country Road Animal Rescue, from which she was adopted. She was overjoyed to accompany the hotel team in bringing the shelter a check—along with much-needed items like dog beds, toys and food—after the holidays last year. Sunshine and Chance at The Palms Hotel & Spa: Miami Beach, Florida (Courtesy the Palms Hotel & Spa) These two birds might be the longest-standing residents of the Palms Hotel & Spa (thepalmshotel.com) in Miami Beach. Macaw parrots Sunshine, 18, and Chance, 29, first arrived at the resort as rescue animals 16 years ago, and have since become the property’s sociable mascots. They spend their days in the shade of the Little Gazebo, engaging in friendly conversation (Sunshine often says, “Hola!” in response to a greeting) and posing for selfies with guests passing by on their way for a swim. On at least one occasion, their proximity to the pool has led to the parrots engaging in a game of Marco Polo with kids, chiming in with a “polo!” call of their own. The lovable duo plan on enjoying many more years at the Palms, as the average life expectancy of macaws is about 50 years. Oreo, Nahu, Buddah, Zen, Mai, Tai, and Momi at Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa: Maui, Hawaii (Courtesy Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa) You might not expect to find penguins in Hawaii, but this unlikely group is living their best life in the tropical climate at Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa (hyatt.com). African black-footed penguins, an endangered species, began their tenure on the island in 1985, when the wildlife team at the property rescued George, Waddles, and Oreo. The only remaining resident is Oreo—he’s outlived the average life expectancy of his species (roughly 10 to 20 years in the wild or 30 in captivity), though he now has a large ʻohana --that's Hawaiian for family--to keep him company. Guests can visit them any time in the atrium lobby, though the 9:30 a.m. feedings are a must-see. (Just watch out for Buddah, the bossy one). The resort also has parrots, swans, flamingos, ducks, and African-crowned cranes on the property and offers wildlife tours around the grounds three times a week. Katie and Betsy at the Betsy Hotel: South Beach, Florida (Courtesy the Betsy Hotel) Brought to their home at the Betsy Hotel (thebetsyhotel.com) as puppies by their owners, the Plutzik family, these beautiful golden retrievers (Katie, 14, and Betsy, 3) have become a bedrock of the community there. Officially dubbed Canine Executive Officers, the pair can almost always be found hanging out in the corner of the lobby, especially on Friday afternoons, when they engage with guests during a formal meet-and-greet called “CEO Cocktails with Katie and Betsy.” Both dogs keep a busy social calendar, making regular appearances at corporate meetings the hotel hosts, as well as philanthropic events around the community. Older and wiser, Katie is quite the muse; she even inspired a poem by award-winning poet Gerald Stern when he was a guest at the hotel. Hamlet at the Algonquin Hotel: New York City (Courtesy Algonquin Hotel) Though he’s been at New York City's Algonquin Hotel (algonquinhotel.com) for less than two years, this calm, playful ginger is already a celebrity, surveying the lobby's happenings from his "treehouse” perch atop the front desk. He particularly delights guests when he hops down for a personal greeting while they’re checking in. For a feline, he’s quite the patient little guy, allowing children to pet him, going nose-to-nose with visiting dogs, and occasionally flopping over for a belly rub. But it's not all play: Hamlet puts in long hours as the official DirectFurr of Public Relations for the hotel, a role that includes cohosting an annual cat fashion show for charity in August. Lucky for him, he’s handsomely rewarded for his work—guests frequently send him gifts like cards and toys. Cupcake at Salamander Resort and Spa: Middleburg, Virginia (Courtesy Salamander Resort & Spa) She's only 32 inches tall, but what this miniature pony lacks in size, she more than makes up for in personality. As the equine ambassador for Salamander Resort & Spa (salamanderresort.com) in Middleburg, which has an on-site equestrian center, she’s a star and she knows it. Find her in the lobby Friday and Saturday afternoons, clad in a blue rhinestone halter to welcome guests to the hotel. That’s only the start of her responsibilities, however: She’s in high demand for appearances at conferences and birthday parties (complete with custom cupcakes from the in-house pastry team) held on the property, and she even visits individual guest rooms upon request. In keeping with her diva status, Cupcake has a diva-caliber wardrobe for every occasion—think: red, white, and blue tutus for the Fourth of July, shamrock barrettes for St. Patrick’s Day, and red bows for Christmas. Mr. Nutkin at Deer Path Inn: Lake Forest, Illinois (Courtesy Deer Path Inn) Deer Path Inn (deerpathinn.com) has celebrated the legend of its resident squirrel for nearly 90 years, since the English-inspired manor first opened in Lake Forest. (Don’t worry, the little guy stays outside, though squirrel figurines are scattered throughout the interiors in his honor). Adventurous, curious, and amiable, the current Mr. Nutkin often greets guests at the entrance, standing guard like a British soldier. He's so well-known throughout the community that locals pop by in the hopes of spotting him through the windows of the English Room during afternoon tea service. “His warm and fuzzy presence completes the Deer Path Inn family,” says innkeeper Matt Barba. Notorious for having a full belly, especially in preparation for a Chicago winter, Mr. Nutkin once inspired a turndown snack of chocolate acorns. Zoey at Cloud Camp: Colorado Springs, Colorado (Courtesy Cloud Camp) Ever since she arrived at Cloud Camp (broadmore.com/cloud-camp), a lodge perched 3,000 feet above The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, in summer 2017, 6-year-old Zoey has started her day at 5:00 a.m. Her duties begin with the raising of the flag, followed by leading guests on hikes and welcoming visitors. Trained as a bird dog, she’s incredibly obedient, yet also very nurturing. Zoe once showed her softer side when a woman who was terrified of dogs arrived at the lodge; sensing that she needed special attention, the sweet pup spent time with her each day, gently helping her overcome her fear. The woman called it a life-changing experience, says Cloud Camp staff. When she’s not on duty, Zoey’s been known to mingle with royals. She once had her photo taken with the Baroness Sybille de Selys Longchamps of Belgium, the great-great-granddaughter of hotel's founders.