Are you a lover of five-star hotels? What about boutique hotels? Luxury amenities? World class décor? Then have I got a portfolio of products to introduce you to!
I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Tara D’Agastino, Owner and Managing Director of the destination management company WanderLuxe Destinations who was more than excited to tell us all about the amazing properties she reps all around the globe. And I am super excited because having Tara as a colleague means she and I can curate some amazing itineraries for you! You just tell me where you want to go and what you want to do and between the two of us, we can make it happen.
So – grab a drink – some champagne perhaps? – have a seat and be prepared to be wowed!
Seez Travel Greece
Tara feels that this is simply the best destination management company in all of Greece. The owner – George – is absolutely amazing and they offer five-star luxury travel over all of Greece. Plus, they know the ins and outs of the best beach clubs, the great fishermen who will take you out on a fishing trip and more – all those really unique experiences that you would only be able to get if you “knew someone.” And let’s face it – everyone knows or has heard of Mykonos and Santorini – but there are so many other islands throughout the Greek Isles that are really special places. Places you would want to explore because they’re not mainstream. And you might not know how to get there on your own but thanks to my relationship with Tara who works with a company like Seez – they’ll know what hotels to put you in. So even if there’s not a five-star hotel on that island – no problem – they know all of the great four-star properties as well. They literally know people on the ground everywhere which means that you’re going to be very well taken care of and you’ll get to see what’s much more special out there than just the typical tourist attractions. And Tara also noted that post COVID and moving forward it’s not just about the luxury experience because in reality anyone can do a luxury transfer and stay in a beautiful hotel. It’ really about experiential travel – having these amazing, authentic experiences that you will remember for the rest of your life and that’s what we can do for you. We’re traveling now with a purpose. We’ve been in quarantine too long and we need that wellness aspect of reconnection.
Italy with Class
Tara shared that she had the pleasure of visiting with the owners of Italy with Class recently – which is an Italian destination management company –and was in awe that their office is literally across from the Pantheon in Rome – so cool! Those owners are the brother and sister team of Salvatore and Marilena Barberi and they have been in the industry for 25 years. They can open the doors for you anywhere in Rome. Literally. You want a private tour of the Sistine Chapel with no one there? They can actually make it happen! Plus, they own three cooking schools – two in Rome and one at Castel Gandolfo. Now, Castel Gandolfo is 55,000 acres of property right outside of Rome that is actually the Pope’s summer estate and farms. At the cooking school here, they use all products from the farm, cows and chickens and surrounding area. And since the Pope’s palace and museum is there, we can set up private dinners in the museum or perhaps set up a private cooking class outside overlooking Rome! Tara added that if you’ve been to the Vatican or not be sure and come here because this could be an in addition to or an in lieu of the Vatican making it an amazing experience overall.
American Guests is a destination management company based in the United States. The owner – John Williams – lives in New York and this one is really geared for those of you who do corporate events – think meetings, incentives, groups, etc. Now I know a lot of that isn’t happening right now but when you’re putting something like that together, it can get kind of crazy so to make it simple come to your Travel Guru! I can work with Tara and American Guests to make sure that meeting or incentive or corporate group event or whatever you are planning comes off without a hitch. And not just for the United States either – they can do events in Mexico, the Caribbean and they even work with some partners in Europe – so again just a great company to work with if you’re doing an event. And corporate retreats ARE going to come back, and boy do we need team bonding because Zoom and phone calls can only take us so far!
Baden-Württemberg Tourism Board
Baden-Württemberg is in Southwest Germany and if you are a foodie and you’re into gastronomy and you’ve done Spain, France and Italy – do Southwest Germany! Tara divulged that there are more Michelin starred restaurants in this little portion of Southwest Germany than in all of Germany combined! She also told us that she was there two years ago and it’s the Black Forest region – so it’s Freiburg and Stuttgart – and here she discovered Pinot Blanc from the Alsace region in France which is right across the border and promptly fell in love with it. Bonus – this area is really a year-round destination as well because you have your Christmas markets in the winter and you have amazing outdoor events the rest of the year The food and Germany sometimes gets overlooked but Germany is such a beautiful country and they have so much to offer – especially here with the gastronomy and wine. It also has a lot of areas that are really very magical and on top of that it’s really easy to do a drive so if you really wanted to do a self-driving adventure, I can help you coordinate all of that.
Carmel Valley Ranch
So, this one is right in our own backyard in Carmel, California. This is an amazing family hotel, it’s an amazing couple’s hotel – heck it’s an amazing hotel for anyone! They boast of beekeeping, a goat cheese maker and they produce pinot noir on property. They also feature the only Pete Dye-designed grass golf course in Northern California, family pools, adult only pools, a spa and so much more – it’s pretty much a playground as anything you could want, you have here. Plus, its truly an opportunity for great social distancing. But Tara says that what is so wonderful about this property is the scenery as it’s situated in the completely picturesque the town of Carmel.
Ventana Big Sur
This is the sister property to Carmel Valley Ranch and just getting there is a magical bucket list drive along State Route One. They’re only about 20 miles apart – but it takes about an hour to drive and what a stunning drive it is! Now – it’s important to note that Ventana is only for adults – and it’s really important to note that it also has the only clothing optional pool in the United States! They boast the fact that they have the only open-air spa to the Redwood Forest thanks to its location and the fact that it actually sits high above the treetops – like a bird’s nest looking out over the Pacific Ocean. One of the really cool things that can be found at Ventana is a glamping site on the forest floor. Here you’ll find the Surstream for food and drinks as well as the option to eat at the Big Sur Smokehouse for breakfast, lunch and dinner. And to answer that all important question – yes – each tent has running water. And yes – there are bathrooms – marble bathrooms that are super nice. So this really is glamping luxury style – not your typical old school camping!
Castle Hot Springs
You’ll find Castle Hot Springs to be about a 90-mile drive north of the Phoenix airport with the last seven miles into the property being a riverbed – meaning you need a high-profile vehicle to get in. It also means that they are closed in the summer because that riverbed actually becomes a river! This really is an exclusive product and it’s really just about getting away from it all and detaching – social distancing here we come! Tara exclaimed that this property is super cool. It’s over 100 years old but it did withstand a fire in the 70s and a few years ago an Arizona billionaire came in and bought the property. What is so interesting about the property is that it has lithium springs – three lithium springs. Now most springs in the world are sulfur and they have an odor to them – but lithium doesn’t smell. In fact – they feature lithium water in the room, and they make a lithium lager on property thanks to that fact. Accommodations include beautiful sky view cabins as well as stunning spring bungalows. For activities there’s a Via Ferrata adventure course, horseback riding, plenty of hiking and more. As for food and drink they have a chef who appeared on Top Chef and making this property unbelievable in terms of gastronomy. They also have their own agronomist on site as well as an amazing mixology program. Note: To stay here you do have to be age 16 or older.
Peter Island Resort and Spa
Heading over to the British Virgin Islands – the story here is that the eye of Hurricane Irma sat over Peter Island and did destroy the hotel three years ago which was really tough, but they are in the process of rebuilding and looking at a re-opening date probably sometime in 2022. Tara said that when it’s re-opened it will have everything and anything you could imagine – including connecting rooms and private villas. And – it’s going to be better than ever – so stay tuned!
Round Hill Hotel and Villas
Round Hill is located in Montego Bay, Jamaica so first off, it’s easily accessible from the airport. Tara relayed that what’s beautiful about the property is that it is steeped in this old-world Caribbean charm. Round Hill opened in the early 1950s and when you go into the bar there are pictures of all of the amazing celebrities from old Hollywood and politicians adorning the walls. Fun Fact: JFK wrote his inaugural speech at Round Hill! It’s just steeped in this wonderful tradition and history and the staff is amazing and if you haven’t experienced Jamaican hospitality, you have to experience Jamaican hospitality. And I certainly agree that Jamaican hospitality is above and beyond and one of the pleasures of life that everyone should experience! The property itself is a small boutique hotel – just 38 rooms total and 26 villas on property ranging from two to six bedroom with the option in the villas to have a chef serve every meal should you choose! They also have been farm to table before farm to table was a thing – so you know you are going to be eating very well!
KENSHŌ Psarou and KENSHŌ Ornos
So, moving on now we’re popping across the Atlantic – to Greece and Italy – which are the two hotspots in Europe. First up – the party island of Mykonos. There are two hotels in Mykonos Tara reps. The first hotel is the KENSHŌ Psarou which is a 35-room boutique hotel with a four-bedroom villa available for those needing more space. Fun Fact: Leonardo DiCaprio stayed there in 2019! This is a beach hotel – in fact, you are right on the beach. And you’re right next to Nammos and right across the bay from Scorpios – which just might be the most famous beach club in the world! Oh, and you are surrounded by all of these yachts in the bay too! The chef here is an amazing James Beard award-winning chef and people have said they’ve been all over the world and the sushi here is the best sushi they’ve ever had. So, for those of you who like to be in the thick of the party every day – because Mykonos is really a day party scene – KENSHŌ Psarou is the perfect place for you!
Now if you like it a little more on the quiet side there’s KENSHŌ Ornos which sits up on a mountain top and it overlooks Ornos Bay. This is also a boutique hotel with a six-bedroom villa option. This is definitely where you would want to stay if you want your surroundings to be a bit quieter and relaxed but still want to be close to town. The views are just stunning thanks to its mountain top perch. They feature a wonderful chef on property here too. And Tara echoed my sentiments that you’ll never go hungry because the food in Greece is amazing. It’s just so clean and there are no GMO’s, and she always says a tomato in Greece or Italy is what a tomato should taste! I totally agree – it’s mouthwatering!
Grand Hotel Minerva
On to Italy – Florence to be exact! Tara shared that not just because she reps it, but she really does believe it’s the best hotel for families. They have this rooftop pool overlooking the Duomo and its literally a ten-minute walk from basically anywhere in Florence making it an amazing location. The hotel recently celebrated its 150-year anniversary and is stunningly beautiful. The family who owns are very much into art, so you’ll see gorgeous art all over the hotel – it’s just a stunning property. Plus, when you book through me one of the best things about this hotel is that I can get you guaranteed connecting rooms at time of booking! They also have an awesome chef at Grand Hotel Minerva who is just 27 years old, but Tara shared that she literally dreams about the food she’s eaten here!
Villa Roma Imperiale
This is the sister hotel to the Grand Hotel Minerva and is located in the Roma Imperiale neighborhood of Forte Dei Marmi about an hour north of Florence. Tara explained that many Americans haven’t discovered Forte yet, but it literally means “the fortress of marble” due to the fact that behind it are the Carrera marble mountains where the David was taken from – so it’s like looks like snowcapped mountains but it’s actually Carrera marble! No big deal, right?! You’ll also find a sandy beach here as well as amazing beach clubs. And Tara joked that they say the two main means of transportation in Forte are the bicycle and the Ferrari – so they’ll give you your bicycle! The story behind this property is that the owner really wanted this to feel like an extension of her home so although they don’t have a named restaurant, they have two women who cook for you. So, you sit down and it’s like do you want pizza, pasta, salad – etc. – such a unique dining experience! While here you can choose to walk through the beautiful garden or get on your bike and hit their beach club or Forte’s amazing markets- where the most sold item is cashmere. Now this is a seasonal destination – April through October – but if you’ve been everywhere in Italy Tara insists you need to come here as it’s a true off the beaten destination right now where you won’t have all of the high-end crowds – and all of that because it’s not discovered yet by Americans. Need more reasons? There are five Michelin starred restaurants in this little town and it’s also the perfect trifecta in Tuscany – because you have city, beach and the country!
Toscana Resort Castelfalfi
And speaking of the country we head to our next property that is also amazing thanks to the fact that it sits on 2000 acres! So basically, when you are on property – as far as you can see – is the property. The town of Castelfalfi is a running, working town where you will find sweet little shops that you can shop in for local goods. Toscana is a five-star hotel with 20 villas on property all with amazing views. Tara shared when she was there in September and watched the sunset that it was one of the most beautiful sunsets she’s ever seen in her life. They also have 27 holes of golf here – which is very uncommon in Europe – as well as horseback riding and vineyards – so you can do your wine tasting – and an olive oil grove. Plus, its less touchpoints – you can do everything you want to do in the Tuscan countryside encompassed in their 2000 acres which is so amazing. There’s so much acreage of land that you’ll be able to explore for days!
Monastero Santa Rosa Hotel and Spa
On to the Amalfi coast and here Tara exclaimed she is so proud to represent this hotel as it was Conde Nast Readers’ Choice number one hotel in 2019 and it was the number three in 2020. She also advised that you contact me ASAP because you will definitely want to do your itinerary around the availability of this hotel as it is a 15th century converted monastery with only 20 rooms! This one is adults only, so it is really great for girls’ trips, guys getaways and couples too. Per Tara the services are beyond fabulous. They have a one-star Michelin restaurant on site as well as an amazing mixologist. But what is so beautiful about it is they were able to renovate but they had to stay within the confines of what the monastery, so you’re on this cliff with these amazing views. So amazing that they have people who come and stay with them to see the Amalfi coast and they never leave the hotel because they love it there so much. But should you want to venture out they are really centrally located so it’s easy to get to Ravello, it’s easy to get to Positano and the town of Amalfi is just below them so you can hike down there or it’s just a two-minute drive. So, you’re out of the hustle and bustle of everything but your clearly able to get everywhere on the coast if you would like. Oh, and did I mention the infinity pool overlooking the Mediterranean?!
Fregate Island Private
The great thing about Fregate – which is located in Seychelles – is it combines nicely – especially for Americans – with a pre or post safari. Tara mentions that she is taking her family post safari because they have flights from Nairobi and Johannesburg, and you can helicopter you over to Fregate island – it’s about a 15-minute chopper ride. Featuring 17 villas and seven beaches Fregate is all about sustainability and conservation. Fun Fact: They have a giant tortoise sanctuary with 4000 giant tortoises. It’s a very high end and exclusive property with each villa coming complete with a private pool, a golf cart to get around and a private butler! The one-bedroom villa can house a family of five and you cannot see anyone else from your villa. But they don’t want you eating in the room – they want you eating on the beach or in the treehouse. It’s a small island but it’s just a wonderful – it’s like a place that is unlike any other place in the world. In addition, 80% of everything you’re eating is coming from their gardens or shores – and that includes products in the spa too! They’re not buying coconut oil – they’re taking coconut oil from the coconuts in their trees. And when the avocados are in season, they’re making avocado masks. So, it’s really a very pure place on earth and again it’s a great place to head after the excitement and adventure of a safari where you can finish your trip off in a relaxing mode.
Updated COVID-19 Information: As each property resides in a different destination please check with the Office of Foreign Affairs or Ministry of Health in the destination you are interested in visiting for up-to-date entry requirements.
And there you have it – all of the properties that Tara represents. Pretty amazing, huh? And I have to say here that one of the things that is important that you guys remember is that it’s all about sustainability. And I’m really working with Tara to make sure that everything is completely sustainable and equitable. We want to make sure that that your tourism dollars are really focused on staying local and that’s particularly important to her and obviously to me as my business mission is to make sure all of that happens.
For more details on the fabulous WanderLuxe Destinations, their price points and more – contact your Travel Guru! Oh, and if you need a payment plan to fund your travel adventure – we got those too!