^ One of the perks of staying at Locanda is access to the private beach club 10 minutes up the road, Il Cavallone, each guest gets their own private cabana, and the club has a delicious lunch spot so you don’t have to worry about wandering halfway through the day to find food.
^ some rooms have fireplaces pre-stocked with kindling for cooler nights. I loveeeed this touch.
When I sat down by the pool on our last day in Camaiore to start writing this blog post I felt stuck and turned to Porter and said, “I feel like this blog post is inevitably going to come up short.” “Why?” He said (while scooping little leaves out of the pool). “Because you can’t smell a blog post.”
As soon as I said that, I realized I had my opening, and that sometimes confessing what you can’t put into words says more than trying to. So I’m starting here: at the smell, the source of our first impression of this place and, in a way, the overwhelming essence that’s punctuated what has to be the four most beautiful days we’ve had on this trip so far.
Locanda al Colle is impeccably our taste. It’s the kind of place people return to year after year, with an appreciation for being there radiating off of everyone (the staff included) and an attention to details I had never thought to look for during all of our other stays in Italy.
Usually, I would list things here, make neat lines and record efficiently and effectively what we loved abot a hotel, but to limit Locanda to those lines feels like a disservice, so instead I’m going to ramble, and hopefully in my rambling a sense of this place will emerge that’s clear enough that you understand why we’ve loved it here so much and can share in our affection.
So, back to the smell, one of multiple sensory impressions this place immediately had on us and one I realized I’d never thought to look for elsewhere. Do you know the way your house smells when your mom is home cooking for a special occasion dinner, maybe there’s chicken roasting but later in the day in late-afternoon you smell pecan butter cookies or rum cake; the day kind of unfolds around these different smells, and segments itself into different moods depending on what’s in the oven. That sort of intangible experience is here at Locanda, every minute of every day, the smells which are so incredible that I must have said to Porter “That smell” nine times in the first hour we were here, radiate through not just the kitchen and the main house (which is only 12 guest rooms) but across the grounds, even all the way out to the pool (where we smelled heavenly onions and tomatoes roasting late one afternoon).
What’s more, it always feels like whatever you’re smelling is exactly what you wanted to smell at that exact moment, you just didn’t realize it until you did. Fresh chocolate croissants, plum pie, orange zested pastries, things you’ve never tried and don’t know the name of but find yourself reaching for three or four of after following your nose from your bedroom to the lobby.
One of the biggest things I’ve grown to love about Locanda is their duel open kitchens. The entryway leads into a lobby sitting area, but open doors both to the left and right lead to big open air kitchens with kitchen islands where the chef, who comes to meet you and shake your hand when you arrive, creates fresh pastries nearly all day long which are complimentary and available to the guests whenever they find themselves incapable of resisting having more (which, let’s be real, is almost all of the time).
But this place is so much more than just the smell. There’s soft piano music playing all day long, and every light fades in and out rather than flicking directly on or off, adding to the “you can relax now, no really, even you” vibe that the decor sets. Every artistic detail is meticulous and even though a little more eclectic then Porter and I typically go for, it just works.
The beds have huge linen down comforters and huge white bathtubs and double vanities (which was so nice, that little bit of extra space in the bathroom I think is something most women would feel more relaxed for having on vacation). The pool has a kind of dark marble looking bottom to it that just feels like it belongs indoors at a spa, and the water is like bath water. Our second day it was cold and raining on and off and Port and I stayed in the pool for an hour and a half without getting out. At all. They turn the heat up on colder days and steam rises off of it and it was exactly what we both were needing, just simple details that instill a calmness the bigger things just can’t equate to. We love hotel pools in general (who doesn’t) but this one was something special.
And now onto the formal dinners – which the chef hosts twice a week with a three course menu and where guests are given the option of sitting as a pair or at a long “party” table. This was so incredibly refreshing and hopefully, without being insulting, so wonderfully European. Porter and I are in no way sick of each other, but when you’re each other’s sole companion for 17 days having dinner with an eclectic array of interesting people from all ages and backgrounds feels so refreshing.
There’s a general sense at Locanda that you aren’t just here to be a guest but to be a guest to other guests, to get to know one another and to say good morning. The hotel policy of no food in the rooms adds to this because everyone eats their meals and snacks and tea and coffee in the same area and because it’s such a small hotel faces become familiar quickly. We celebrated the 81st birthday of a Frenchwomen and her English husband alongside a German couple and a pair of journalists due to get married in that very same garden next summer. It’s the sort of thing you imagine people used to do (have communal dinners at hotels or clubs) but somehow, in America especially, just isn’t prioritized anymore. This is a real loss. I know Porter and I will remember that dinner so clearly when all our traveling is said and done, and it’s a memory that so easily could be stacked beside many dinners like it, but there’s just an experiential hole there.
This area of the world is so special to both of us. It’s where we came on our first ever “all grown up” travel excursion with our two best friends (who later went on to be our best man and maid of honor) the summer we were eighteen after spending time in Rome and Florence. It was my first real taste of self-dependent travel, and I think because we had such a blast it planted the seed that moving from here to there in Europe, and in Italy, especially, is fundamentally fun. While we were in Camaoire, Porter and I walked around the streets where, six years ago, we’d explored with our friends, getting dinner at the same restaurant every single night because it was cheap and they had a dessert pizza the boys couldn’t get enough of then riding our bikes along the beach back to where we were staying.
Maybe because I’m already a little nostalgic about this area, I was fated to love Locanda, but I think even out of context it’s a place very difficult not to fall in love with. It’s the kind of place I’m really hoping we get back to someday, hopefully with a few close friends in tow.
It’s three am and the alarm has just went off for us to get ready to drive to Rome and catch our flight.
Now onto Croatia…
Anna Lisa & Porter
*Thank you to Locanda al Colle for sponsoring this post, as always all thoughts and opinions remain our own.