Subject: Re: luxury hotels

We're not too fussy about where we sleep so long as the room is clean, though gone are the days when we can tolerate a room like the one we had in Madrid on the Piazza del Sol where the action started at midnight! Usually we seek out pensiones and B& Bs but splurges are good for the soul. These two splurge hotels are expensive but what hotels they are!

The Hotel Gattapone in Spoleto is where we try to make our first night when in Italy. It is the perfect antidote to jet lag. Gattapone is in a spectacular location overlooking the Monteluco hill. Spoleto controls car access in the town but as a hotel guest you can drive your car up the narrow roads into the area. Its major appeal is its size - 15 rooms. The building is 17th century and was redecorated in the 1960's as a private residence by an artist, so there is plenty of light. We always ask for the same room whose windows open to the hills and the Via del Ponte. We hear birds singing, horses neighing and goats clinking along the sides of the hills and watch the hotel cats loll around in the sun. The friendly, helpful desk staff speak English and breakfast is tasty and plentiful. Many walking tours use Gattapone for their clients because it is located where the trail for this area ends. So breakfast conversation can be very interesting.

There is a large terrace hanging over the hill for evening cocktails before wandering into town for dinner.

A second lovely experience is the Hotel Relais Ducale in Gubbio. As the name suggests, it is the annex to a former ducal palace, situated on the main square of town. Apparently the original owner, the Duke of Montefeltro, welcomed his guests to the annex. Again, though the hotel is on the main square, it is quiet. Rooms are decorated in antiques - the current owner also owns an antique business. There is a lovely terrace at the back of the hotel for sipping your favourite beverage and reading.

Both these hotels are in busy tourist towns, but once inside you will find yourself in a quiet oasis. Lucy, Toronto