Three ultimate hotspots for true luxury lovers

Some destinations never lose their sparkle. The editors of travel guide 'Nota Bene' give their pick of the best
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The Independent Travel

St Moritz

This is the Monte Carlo of the mountains: showy, formal, a town as much as a resort. There are plenty of winter visitors who never even go near the slopes - they come instead for the sheer glamour and luxury. And to shop, for although the permanent population here is but a few thousand, there are large branches of Prada, Gucci, Hermès, Cartier, Van Cleef... the list goes on. In February, Christie's and Sotheby's run jewellery auctions.

There are other draws, too: the spectacular, jagged scenery; the sumptuous, if resolutely old-school hotels; and, of course, some do come for the sport. Skiers enjoy around 80km of impeccably maintained, easily negotiated runs on which even beginners can look good.

Although in the early 1990s St Moritz may have no longer seemed quite so fashionable, it's been enjoying a renaissance, and has never looked better. Once again it has become a Nota Bene destination of choice.

Who goes there?

Royalty, Greek shipping billionaires and film stars. More specifically: the Countess of Wessex, Donatella Versace, Elizabeth Hurley and Hugh Grant. Shipping magnates Niarchos and Onassis once made their homes here. Chalets in the exclusive Suvretta area outside of the town are among the world's finest mountain homes.

Hotspots

Stay in Badrutt's Palace. It's reassuringly grand and old-fashioned; a little ostentatious maybe, but it works like a dream. The atmosphere is unstuffy, the staff are excellent, and the attention to detail impeccable. La Chesa Veglia, the alpine annexe, is home to arguably the world's most exclusive pizzeria. Corviglia Club is a private lunch club on the mountain with a membership of scarcely 150: you'll only get a table if you know the right people (or your concierge can pull the right strings). Otherwise, lunch on truffles and Taittinger at La Marmite up in Corviglia. And take tea at the wonderful Conditorei Hanselmann, a veritable St Moritz institution.

When to go

To see and be seen: around Christmas and New Year. Or in February for a series of high-profile jewellery auctions and gala sporting events. (omega)

St Tropez

This remains Nota Bene's favourite resort town in the south of France, bar none. But only at certain times. We love its glamour just as much as its more authentically Mediterranean side.

On the one hand there's the port - shamelessly ostentatious, crammed with enormous yachts that never seem to move from their moorings. But then there's the backdrop of the picturesque old town, with its cobbled alleys, medieval back streets, soft light and houses painted in the colours of sugared almonds. What's more, St Tropez is on one of the loveliest stretches of coastline in Europe. (It is not technically on the Riviera, but the coastline of the Var, which is gentler, less built-up, somehow more French.)

In high season, there are few places as racy and buzzing as this. Acres of sleek, tanned flesh, heaving silicone, giant straw shoulder bags, hipster-cut skin-tight trousers and cropped tops, methuselahs of Cristal, throbbing Latin and Arab music and outrageous pairings. That's St Tropez in party season: a time-honoured playground for the jet set to strut their stuff.

Who goes there?

Pop stars, film stars, the yachting set. More specifically? Hugh Grant and Jemima Khan, the Beckhams, P Diddy, Tamara Mellon and friends, Joan Collins.

Hotspots

The place to stay remains Le Byblos, close to the centre of town. It was designed in the 1970s by Jacques Couëlle in the style of a small fishing village which centres around a main swimming pool and patio, flanked by sunbathing and alfresco eating areas.

While Club 55, on the Plages de Pampelonne, is the place to be seen at lunchtime, when the sun sets party people make their way to Les Caves du Roy, St Tropez's most sophisticated, happening nightclub and part of the Byblos complex.

When to go

To see and be seen: mid-July until the end of August.

Nota Bene's recommendation: if you want parties and pizzazz, visit in high season. But in May, June and September you'll see a very different St Tropez, a place we think has much more magic and refinement. Earlier in the year, the blossom is still out and the light has that extraordinary quality which mesmerised the Impressionists a century ago. While just after high season, the town is a little less crammed, but still the sunsets burn and the air buzzes with the lingering, electric intensity of summer. Even the beginning of October, when the annual Les voiles de St Tropez race is on, is a fine time to go. (omega)

Costa Smeralda

Sardinia's Costa Smeralda is probably the closest that you can get to visiting the Caribbean without leaving Europe - like a St Barth's without the jet-lag, or a Virgin Islands without the long-haul.

While great tracts of formerly picturesque coastline all around the Mediterranean have been spoilt in recent years by the greedy, concrete tendrils of package tourism, the Costa Smeralda has managed to cling on to some of its original, untouched splendour. Its survival owes at least something to the efforts of a group of wealthy Italians who, in 1962, formed a consorzio (or consortium) to purchase the land and save it from precisely that sort of unsightly development.

That's not to say there hasn't been any development here, it's just that the properties that have appeared are tasteful, respectful and well-suited to their environs. Just after the Italian businessmen bought up the land, the Aga Khan commissioned architect Jacques Couëlle to create a private resort. These plans became the basis for the three main hotels along the Costa: Cala di Volpe, Cervo and Pitrizza.

Who goes there?

More or less the same boating set that graces St Tropez are to be seen at harbour in Porto Cervo or lunching at Cala di Volpe. If you missed them back in France, then chances are you'll spot them here.

Hotspots

Hotel Cala di Volpe attracts the biggest catalogue of A-list guests. In high season, demand greatly exceeds supply, so to even be considered for a reservation (and given the outlandish prices) you'll need to work hard to impress your credentials upon the hotel's front office manager, Michele Cantatore.

But it's well worth making the effort. Like Le Byblos in St Tropez, Cala di Volpe is designed like a picturesque traditional fishing village, an architectural masterpiece of towers, terraces and porticoes, lawned gardens, winding pathways and a tremendous panorama. Except here, in contrast to Le Byblos, you are right on the sea in sprawling gardens with a wonderful private harbour. And the staff have a real knack for making visitors feel special.

The only place to go for drinks and dancing is, of course, the Billionaire Club, the epitome of transient opulence, inaugurated by Renault F1 boss Flavio Briatore and Naomi Campbell in 1999. And Nota Bene's favourite place to eat happens to be right next door at Gianni Pedrinelli, an unbeatable spot for alfresco dining and wonderfully fresh local seafood.

When to go

To see and be seen: high season here is exceptionally short. It more or less coincides with the dates when the Billionaire Club is open, which is from the third week of July until the end of August.

Nota Bene's recommendation: we feel that Costa Smeralda is at its most stunning just outside high season, though be warned that it won't be nearly as bustling. Early July is probably the best time to go, or possibly September. s

'Nota Bene', the discerning travel publication, is available by subscription, reviewing the best hotels, restaurants, nightlife and shops in the world's finest destinations. To subscribe or for more information, tel: 0870 240 4089 or visit www.nbreview.com

Directory

Badrutt's Palace

Via Serlas 27, CH-7500 St Moritz, Switzerland, tel: 00 41 81 837 10 00,

www.badruttspalace.com

Billionaire Club

Loc Piccolo Pevero, Porto Cervo, Sardinia, tel: 00 39 0789 94192

Le Byblos

Avenue Paul Signac, 83990 St Tropez, France, tel: 00 33 4 94 56 68 00, www.byblos.com

Cala di Volpe

Porto Cervo 07020, Sardinia, tel: 00 39 0789 976 111, www.luxurycollection.com/caladivolpe

Chesa Veglia

Via Veglia 2, CH-7500 St Moritz, Switzerland, tel: 00 41 81 837 28 00

Club 55

Plage de Pampelonne, Boulevard Patch, 83350 Ramatuelle, France, tel: 00 33 4 94 55 55 55, www.leclub55.com

Conditorei Hanselmann

Via Maistra 8, CH-7500 St Moritz, Switzerland, tel: 00 41 81 833 38 64

La Marmite

Corviglia, CH-7500 St Moritz, Switzerland, tel: 00 41 81 833 63 55, www.mathisfood.ch

Gianni Pedrinelli

Loc Piccolo Pevero, Porto Cervo, Sardinia, tel: 00 39 0789 92436

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