Photo: Booking

This Portofino Coast Hotel Epitomizes The Best of the Italian Riviera

Italy Epic Stays
by Hannah D. Cooper Apr 17, 2024

No, it’s not a typo, and yes, the Grand Hotel Bristol is as close as you’ll get to everyone’s favorite fictional hotel. Whether the cherry blossom paintwork, dollhouse symmetry, and name were intentional or coincidental is a mystery. One thing is certain: you’ll be the main character at this luxury hotel in the northwest Italian Riviera.

The Grand Hotel Bristol Spa Resort springs out from a tangle of cypresses and azaleas on the azure Portofino Coast. Wake up to vistas sweeping across the Gulf of Tigullio and the Ligurian Sea from the best rooms or get your money’s worth of views by the pool with the summer rays on your neck. Service is attentive and between the superb location and outstanding resort facilities, you’ll not struggle to find ways to fill your day.

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A prime location on the Italian Riviera

There’s nothing alpine about the setting of the Grand Hotel Bristol Spa Resort by R Collection Hotels. This Liberty-style resort is located on the outskirts of Rapallo in the Liguria region of Italy. It’s a 10-minute drive (or 30-minute walk) to the harbor where boats ferry passengers to Portofino and other pretty Italian Riviera towns and catamarans set sail at sunset.

The seaside town itself squeezes a lot of sights into a small area. Once used to shoo away pirates, the 16th-century castle now brings in day trippers by the boatload. Ride the cable car up to the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Montallegro for epic views and make it back down to the lungomare to partake in the Italian tradition of passeggiata, a pre-dinner stroll.

Genoa and the nearest airport sits 20 miles north along the coast. Cinque Terre is a similar distance in the opposite direction and is a straightforward day trip from Portofino. Group tours give you the choice of hiking or riding the Cinque Terre Express train between the villages. There’s also the option of getting there by boat during summer.

Sea-view rooms and suites at the Grand Hotel Bristol

Photo: Booking
Photo: Booking
Photo: Booking

This five-star spa resort comprises 69 rooms and 11 suites, many of which grant gulf views. All units have been recently refurbished and feature hardwood flooring, upholstered beds, and an ambient pastel color scheme. Most rooms have air conditioning and coffee makers and there are options to accommodate couples and families.

Deluxe seafront rooms come with a French balcony and a private bathroom with a tub. Junior suites have comfortable seating areas and panoramic windows to maximize the Italian Riviera scenery. The most exclusive suites come with larger balconies or even a free-standing private hot tub.

Make time for me time

Slide straight into vacation mode at this luxury hotel with a huge swimming pool, a private beach club, and a much-hyped spa.

Teetering off the rocky cliffside, the Marina di Bardi Beach Club is a three-minute journey by complimentary shuttle. All facilities are for the exclusive use of hotel guests and you can enjoy a meal or cocktail with a view from the restaurant and bar in between dips.

The spa is of such caliber that it wriggled its way into the hotel’s name. Erre Spa has an indoor pool, sauna, ice wall, Turkish and Mediterranean baths, hydrotherapy suites, emotional showers, and multisensory relaxation zones. If these aren’t quite enough to banish the tension of a long-haul flight, you can browse a hefty list of massage, body, and face treatments delivered with natural ingredients such as cocoa butter and citrus. Therapists are trained with the latest technologies and techniques.

General admission to the spa at Grand Hotel Bristol Spa Resort by R Collection Hotels costs €58 (around $63) per person. Choose to bounce between the amenities at leisure or devise a bespoke wellness path with one of the technicians.

Italian and Ligurian cuisine with a view

Photo: Booking
Photo: Booking
Photo: Booking

The closest off-site restaurants are an easy 10-minute walk from the hotel and you can select from three restaurants at the Grand Hotel Bristol Spa Resort. Breakfast is a continental buffet of fresh fruits, cereals, pastries, and cold cuts served on the terrace.

Le Cupole dishes up Michelin-starred fare from Liguria and other regions of Italy. Pansotti al Preboggion – Ligurian cheese-stuffed pasta flecked with herbs – is the plate to order. It pairs deliciously with the regional white wines made from Vermentino (Pigato) grapes. La Veranda has a more down-to-earth vibe with shareable plates of toasted octopus and salted cod followed by homestyle pasta and risotto.

Last but not least, The Flamingo is the poolside bar serving Ligurian focaccia and pizza that’s far too good to share.

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