Choose Your Bliss
Wander the Coast (or Countryside)
With a labyrinth of cave dwellings dating back to the Paleolithic period, picturesque ancient hilltop cities, and stunning stretches of coastline overlooking the Ionian Sea, it feels as if time has stood still in Basilicata. That this region, nestled along the arch of Italy’s boot, is not well known outside the country only adds to its mystique. Director Francis Ford Coppola recently opened his fifth luxury property, Palazzo Margherita (from $530; palazzomargherita.com), in his grandfather’s hometown of Bernalda. The lavishly converted nineteenth-century palace has only nine spacious rooms—one suite features hand-painted frescoes, a clawfoot tub, and a Juliette balcony overlooking the manicured gardens below (it was inspired by Coppola’s daughter, Sofia, who wed at the hotel last year). Or really step back in time at Sextantio Le Grotte della Civita ($130 to $885; sextantio.it), where Italo-Swedish hotelier Daniele Kihlgren has transformed actual caves into a rustic, yet elegant, hotel. Stay in Suite 13, which has a sprawling bathroom complete with fireplace and views of the River Gravina. Spend nights sipping local wines in the property’s eerily beautiful deconsecrated church and days strolling the nearby white-sand beaches or countryside. Explore the old and new in Matera, where you can tour the Sassi (eighth-century cave dwellings, designated a UNESCO World Heritage site) and the MUSMA contemporary sculpture museum. Basilicata is also home to the Pollino National Park, Italy’s largest natural park, and the abandoned medieval village of Craco.
While the cities of Lisbon, Porto, and Guimarães (designated 2012’s Capital of Culture by the European Union) have all become big tourist draws, Portugal’s countryside and postcard-perfect Southern coastline are equally destination-worthy. An hour outside Lisbon is the Imani Country House (from $170; imani.pt), a quiet retreat ensconced in the temperate (330 days of sunshine yearly) wine-producing Alentejo region. Learn about the eponymous local varietal (the property boasts its own wine school), lounge by one of the pools, or visit the historical landmarks nearby: the ancient city of Évora, the castle of Monsaraz, and the Almendres Cromlech, a megalithic complex.
From the Winter 2013 New York Wedding Guide