Five easy escapes to the country
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A Homeric hideaway two hours from Rome
If you read Circe, Madeline Miller’s brilliant reworking of The Odyssey, then you know Monte Circeo, even if you don’t know you know it: this hunk of limestone overlooking the sea in southern Lazio, connected to the mainland by a slim isthmus of sand, has long been said to be the “island” to which the daughter of Helios – a bit-part witchy goddess in Homer’s telling, who becomes Miller’s valiant protagonist – was exiled.
Just under two hours’ drive from Rome, across green plains long since drained of the wetlands they contained in antiquity, its steep slopes and summits attract hikers from all over the world, and its limpid turquoise waters are warm from June to September. Hotel Punta Rossa sits where a paved road snaking around the peninsula’s perimeter peters out into a private dirt trail. It does not pretend to be modern, or full-on luxury: the flagstones in the breakfast courtyard are a bit wonky, and the rooms are spare and sunny rather than sumptuous (though all have their own terrace or balcony) – think white stucco walls, cotto floors, slipcovered furniture a little faded by sun.
But its old-world charms are ample: bougainvillea is given glorious free rein, the living room’s tiled fireplace is a dream and the beach is a series of rocky platforms tumbling down to gently churning bathing nooks and inlets. Best of all, it’s not really well known beyond the country’s borders, so the late-20th-century holiday throwback feels are real; you might be one of very few people not speaking Italian. puntarossa.it, from €280
Mass appeal in the Berkshire mountains
The Berkshires, in Western Massachusetts, is a favourite weekend haunt of both Bostonians and New Yorkers (a tiny bit further from the latter than it is the former, but still under three hours) who come to enjoy the months of concerts, indoor and outdoor, hosted every summer at Tanglewood, the conservatorium-performance venue-learning centre here. There are a handful of gorgeous resorts in and around the pretty colonial town of Lenox (and a very-buzzed-about one coming in late ’23: the rebirth of the historic 46-hectare Blantyre estate). But one particular arrival seems to answer the Berkshires’ call to relax: Life House Berkshires.
The styling is understated (wood floors, modern and contemporary furniture), with writing desks and reading nooks in the rooms and, downstairs, a bar-restaurant that features a straightforward seasonal menu and a no-reservations policy. The concierges are versed both in the best hiking trails and the most interesting cultural landmarks (there’s a rich literary-history vein here worth mining). All in all it’s the anti-frou-frou, and a refreshing change for the area. lifehousehotels.com, from $192
The Angelenos’ favourite escape
You spend enough time behind the wheel of a car when you’re in LA. So accessing the weekend-away destination should ideally involve minimal driving, which is why Ojai, less than 90 minutes up the 101 highway, has long been the escape of choice. You’re in Ventura County, east of Santa Barbara, with mountains, clean air, a cute Spanish-colonial-revival town boasting everything from delicious Japanese (Izakaya Full Moon) to one of the coolest used and new bookstores in southern California (the open-air Bart’s).
If you’re in it for a spa indulgence and lovely landscaped grounds, and you’re up for a splurge, head to the lovely Ojai Valley Inn. If 1960s California motel is more the aesthetic you’re after (and it’s a good one to be after), Capri – built in 1963, very nicely renovated in 2020 – has a pool, comfortable rooms and universally appealing rates. ojaivalleyinn.com, from $649; caprihotelojai.com, from $229
A play for the pampas from Buenos Aires
You could argue that one of the great things about Buenos Aires as a business destination is how very gateway-ish it is: a flight or drive in just about any direction will take you somewhere scenic, culturally stimulating or both. A justifiably world-renowned case in point: Estancia La Bamba de Areco, 120 kilometres north of BA – one of the oldest estancias in Argentina, whose owners turned it into a stunning boutique hotel back in the 1980s.
It underwent a total renovation in 2009 but lost none of its charm (its owner plays for an international polo team; there are two fields on the property, and the men of La Bamba de Areco regularly face off at Guards Polo Club, in Palm Beach, and beyond).
The 11 rooms vary widely – some spacious with king beds and tubs, others cosy with antique twin four-posters. Each opens out to vast lawns, a lovely pool and miles of plain to ride or walk across; or you can just sit in the restored pulpería and read with a glass of Malbec beside you. la-bamba.com.ar, from $590 (full-board)