The strong euro isn't much of a deterrent for the sophisticated world traveler. The reason? Few vacation spots offer the luxury seeker what they'll find in countries like Portugal, France and Spain.
Take Italy. "It hits all the passion points for luxury travelers," says Misty Ewing, director of public relations at Virtuoso, a network of 7,000 luxury travel consultants. "Food, fashion, art history, adventure, and of course, wine."
At I Casali di Monticchio in the region of Umbria, guests focus on their passion for all things culinary. The seven-room, two-cottage resort hosts an organic farm where every course is grown or raised—from the tomatoes in the pasta sauce to the beef for the Tagliata (a thick, tender slice of meat cooked rare). Also nearby are grape and olive vineyards, which produce stunning red wines and rich cooking oils.
The Italians know how to cook a good pasta dish, but travelers that want to venture away from Europe's well-traveled path are also considering a destination beyond the boot.
John Clifford, president of International Travel Management, a San Diego, Calif.-based luxury travel consultancy, says that spa resorts are becoming increasingly popular from France to Finland. "Destination spas have always been around, but now they're targeting a new clientèle," says Clifford. "More men, particularly C-level executives, are indulging in a facial or massage during their holiday."
In Europe, they've got quite a variety of spas to choose from.
At the Murano Urban Resort in Paris, a guest can enjoy a manicure or haircut in the privacy of his or her suite, and personalized microdermabrasion facials and body peels at the in-house spa.
At the Loisium Wine and Spa Resort in Langenlois, Austria, aestheticians combine the property's best assets to offer vinotherapy—a practice that uses grapes and grape seed oil to improve the skin. The menu includes a "grape elixir" facial with grape extracts and grape seed oil to refresh the skin, as well as a "salt glow" body peel, which uses a glass of sparkling wine for exfoliation.
For those looking to work muscles rather than relax them, the Omnia in Zermatt, Switzerland, doesn't disappoint. There are 300 kilometers of ski trails, guaranteed snow and over 70 lifts. Plus, you'll have the chance to ski through the Alps, over the border, into Italy. Hikers aren't neglected either, with 4,000-meter peaks to climb.
Of course, every luxury resort must include fantastic accommodations. At the Omnia, each of the 18 rooms and 12 suites has a panoramic view of the Alps, and all suites include a wood-burning stove, fireplace and telescope. The new suites at the Park Hotel Weggis on Lake Lucerne, Switzerland, offer panoramic views of the lake, Treca de Paris beds, B&B Italia furniture, satin linens, surround-sound systems and flat-screen TVs.
But the award for "most luxurious" might go to Alva Park Resort and Spa in Girona, Spain, recommended to us by Virtuoso. The motorized Super Cad Bed from Treca is the crown jewel of each suite. Along with goose and duck feather pillows sprinkled on a thick mattress, which is covered in 300-count Egyptian cotton sheets, the bed electronically adjusts for the perfect ergonomic fit. If you're just looking to catnap, there's a daybed and flat-screen TV in the bathroom—yes, that's right—along with a round, hydro-massage mini pool, Jo Malone bath oils and Yves Delorme terry bathrobes. The ultra-luxe suite also includes a dressing room, an automatic trouser press, Swiss yarn kimonos and a safety deposit box. Because if you're camping out at this place, there's little doubt you'll have valuables to store.
While Italy might be hot, there's ample evidence that these spots sit just as high on the luxury meter.