Monteverdi Tuscany

American lawyer Michael Cioffi’s medieval toy town in the heart of the Val d’Orcia is pretty as a picture. The 900-year-old hamlet of Castiglioncello del Trinoro, off a winding gravel road that snakes across the hillside, was largely in ruins when Cioffi stumbled upon it over a decade ago. Since then, he’s lavished it with love, attention and plenty of money, and the results are stunning. Now it’s home to a handful of year-round residents and Monteverdi, a grown-up hideaway.

Eleven bedrooms and suites, as well as three villas, are dotted throughout the quiet streets. All are a short potter across the cobblestones to the remains of the ancient castle or to the infinity pool, with its sweeping views of hills studded with cypress trees and faraway rooftops. In the autumn, mornings can start with a hunt for white truffles in the nearby forest with the help of a local forager and his dog. The gourmet swag will later be put to good use in a cooking lesson with in-house chef Giancarla Bodoni, making fresh pasta by hand while accompanied by endlessly refilled glasses of smooth, plummy wine from nearby Montepulciano. The class turns into lunch and it’s particularly satisfying to eat your own homemade tagliatelle and matriciana sauce with morsels of crispy pork fat. Walk it all off with a gentle hike through the surrounding fields or take a much quicker stroll to the hotel’s new spa.

Set in a thick-walled rustic villa, once the village granary, treatment rooms are simple, with the pink cast of raw plaster or bare stone on the walls and low exposed beams on the ceilings. They feel calm, austere, spiritual even. Which may have something to do with the fact that treatments use cult brand Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella, the Florentine apothecary where potions were first created by Dominican monks in the 13th century. Staff, who are mostly local, use time-tested Italian ways of healing, combining those products with all sorts of natural ingredients from the kit­chen gardens – sage, burdock, lemon balm and sweet orange. The signature candle-wax massage is evocative and grounding, using the molten oil to melt away aches and ailments in a room that is both humble and beautiful. Outside are steaming-hot private stone baths on a terrace with views over the valley.

This is a place to properly recharge your batteries – practise yoga in the lavender gardens, or try an Etruscan mud wrap. For the bedrooms, interior designer Ilaria Miani has used colour palettes of washed stone and muted green to complement rustic fireplaces, free-standing tubs and four-poster beds. Giant shutters open up to panor­amas of the countryside. The restaurant, Oreade, has an incredible commitment to sourcing organic produce, even overseeing each step in the farming process. A rib-eye steak on the bone is typically Tuscan, and ricotta ravioli in butter and sage sauce is rich and satisfying. As you make your way back to your room afterwards, the evening air fragrant with chopped wood, the only interruption may be a chat with a villager or a gorgeous sunset.

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Ermita del Carmen

Historical beauty meets modern luxury at Ermita del Carmen, a fully refurbished 15th Century chapel located in the heart Andalusia. Surrounded by the natural wonders of the Spanish countryside, this was once the site of a Roman temple erected in honour of the goddess Venus.

Stepping inside the 500-year-old building, guests get to see how the architects have cleverly incorporated the majesty of the building into 21st Century living. A large open plan living area has big comfy sofas, TV, book shelves and fireplace on one side and then a dining table large enough to seat 8 people on the other. A fully equipped kitchen complete with fridge/freezer, oven and microwave leads off the room.

There’s also a comfy mezzanine area with a desk and further seating up from the living area. Upstairs there there are 3 bedrooms, all with views of the stunning natural park that surrounds the Ermita, and 2 bathrooms. There is also a double bedroom with its own ensuite.

Large glass sliding doors from the living room lead out onto the natural stone paved patios that can be found around the property. Here there is further seating for al fresco dining or enjoying an evening drink. The house is also surrounded by an olive garden and fruit and vegetable gardens that are harvested when in season. The trees can offer a great escape from the sunshine to sit back and relax under and when it does get too hot guests can take a dip in the 15-metre long salt water infinity pool.

The surrounding area is brimming with things to do for those who want to get out and about. Take a walk or bike ride in the Andalusian countryside, with the park around Ermita del Carmen offering plenty of routes to enjoy. And there are even a couple of bicycles available for guests to make use of. Or for those that want to relax a little more, discover the nearby villages of Carcabuey, Luque, Zagrilla, Zuheros or Priego and have a beer with the locals, or check out the tapas bars. For those who prefer the hustle and bustle the cities of Cordoba, Granada and Malaga are only an hour away and boast shops, cafes, restaurants and much more.

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Monocabin in Rhodes

The Monocabin is a micro holiday home on the Greek island of Rhodes. It is located just 200 meters from the beach in a quiet residential area on the northern tip of the island. The Italian-Greek Studio Mandalaki created this house as a design piece to live in. The prototype reflects their vision of the ideal holiday home you could place anywhere in the world. The house is constructed of modular concrete panels and is easy to build and to expand. Studio Mandalaki planned the Monocabin down to its smallest detail: the furniture is custom-made and the featured design pieces were developed by their own studio or affiliated artists.

With its cubic shape and white walls, Monocabin embraces the architecture of the Cyclades and, with its strict geometry, forms an antipole to organic nature. On its 26 square meters, the house features a kitchen with a dining area, a sleeping area, and a bathroom. Each area is flooded with natural light through large windows, some of which are placed high below the ceiling, allowing for views of the sky while ensuring privacy. Through the many windows that blur the boundaries between inside and out, the monochrome design and the ceiling height of three meters, the house appears larger than it truly is. Even the outdoor space is included in the design: The terrace functions as an outdoor living room, there is an outdoor shower, and even a workout zone with fitness equiment.

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This refurbished guesthouse has a lush garden with an outdoor pool. Bike rentals are available. Free Wi-Fi is available in public areas.

Rooms at Companhia das Culturas are decorated with a mix of natural and modern elements. Each is fitted with a fan and heating. The private bathroom has natural stone walls and comes with a shower and a tub.

A rich breakfast prepared with organic, home-grown products is served daily. It can be enjoyed in the dining room or outdoors on the terrace. The restaurant serves a contemporary gastronomy, based on organic produce.

Guests can relax in the lounge, which used to be an olive mill. It has plush sofas and a library including children’s books and games. There is a hammam, as well as on-request massages and Chinese Medicinal Treatments. There is also an area for the practice of yoga and Pilates.

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Villa in Essaouira

This pristine villa designed by architect Stephan Boeri comes into view like a shimmering mirage in the outskirts of the beautiful port city of Essaouira. Sweeping open-plan spaces enclose a twenty-meter lap pool that appears to dress the arid landscape like an art installation in nature.

Each of the three spacious rooms are light-filled, fitted with large windows that invite the viewer to enjoy the best angles of the villa’s private terraces, the pool, and its surrounding gardens. The Balinese-style bathroom is particularly enjoyable with its rock basins and long bath that opens up to the garden.

Villa L03 is sleek and sexy, yet delightfully approachable. A combination of cool whites and raw textures with injections of color from local hand-woven textiles and playful iconic mid-century furniture create a feeling of friendliness. Oversized photographs adorn the walls, inviting us to travel and stop for beauty.

Spaces are divided into nooks for relaxation: Two living areas with wide and deep sofas are separated by a little indoor tropical garden, sun loungers let you soak up the sun without leaving the pool, and a cushy cluster of Paulin’s Groovy armchairs await sunset cocktails. The fully equipped convivial kitchen island never leaves the chef to labor alone.

Should you decide to visit during the chillier months, an elegant fireplace awaits to keep you warm, and an integrated barbecue pit allows for some warm feasting in the open. Though who ever needs an excuse for a poolside barbecue?

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The Hide

Oozing contemporary minimalist design; a fusion of wood, glass and poured concrete combine at this luxury self-catering hideaway near Perranporth beach in north Cornwall. The Hide is a pared-back retreat designed with tranquillity in mind, taking inspiration from a bird hide immersed in nature. Enjoy a fresh sea breeze from the nearby coast along with verdant valley views over Poldark country at this unique rural idyll.

Ensconced in nature at the end of a winding country lane, this luxury self-catering hideaway is just three miles from Perranporth beach on the rugged north Cornwall coast. The minimalist aesthetic doesn’t compromise on comfort, including intricate design details such as silver wood shingle walls and peephole windows that create a dappled light effect, like sunlight through trees into the modern living space. Vast suspended windows overhang brimming green borders to lend a garden room feel; the perfect sanctuary a world away from the concrete jungle of city life.

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Areias do Seixo (rooms)

In rugged coastal Portugal, Areias do Seixo hotel is a stylish, eco-conscious retreat with an outdoor pool and scenic terraces. A modern, concrete-and-glass creation, it offers hands-on experiences just as cutting edge: guests can learn to pickle vegetables, pluck shellfish from the sea or help tend the garden. Gather around the bonfire to savour a glass of wine and vistas of golden semi-sunburnt land and gleaming ocean.

Sustainability issues shape the hotel, rather than being a secondary consideration. An abandoned chicken farm once occupied the hotel’s perch – when Areias was built, the farm was ground down and its materials reused. The hotel uses geothermal energy and solar power, and recycles as much as possible. Guests can even add green ‘experiences’ to their stay, including a compost circuit or an agricultural lesson with local farmers.

Every night, the hotel hosts drinks where guests mingle around a fire on the terrace or on the gazebo by the pond (free wine lubricates conversations). Keep on eye on the blackboard in the lobby for other activities; the twice-weekly bonfire in the grounds with nibbles and traditional Portuguese folk music is not to be missed.

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