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These heartthrob hotels offer more than a room with a view

Travel Editor Elizabeth Hansen shares the destinations at the top of her list when the world opens back up

Terracotta rooftops and Roman Empire walls make Lucca one of Tuscany’s most scenic cities
Image Credits Lucca: Photography courtesy of Turismo.lucca.it Santa Fe Opera: Photo courtesy of Santa Fe Opera, Robert Godwin All other photography courtesy of Adams / Hansen Stock Photos

I love exploring the world and I have a particular fondness for great hotels. Normally this means luxe places with designer decors, but now, after sleeping at home for more than a year, I find myself dreaming about hotels that provide the things I’ve missed the most. As we dare to speak of “opening up,” I’m not thinking about polished marble floors and turndown treats.

In Search of Exotic Surroundings

So, what does quicken my pulse? I have a desperate desire to go somewhere I don’t speak the language, don’t recognize the names of all dishes on the menu, and am likely to get lost no less than once a day. I’m not ready for the developing world or super-crowded cities, but Italy — specifically Lucca — feels like the perfect destination. Giacomo Puccini was born in this mid-size Tuscan city in 1858 and the rooms in my favorite lodging, Hotel Palazzo Alexander, are named after works by the master composer. 

Lucca is the birthplace of Giacomo Puccini and has a rich musical history
Lucca is the birthplace of Giacomo Puccini and has a rich musical history

The hotel is located on a narrow lane in the old part of the city and is challenging to find. The only time our family stayed here, we had to SOS for directions, which prompted the desk clerk to venture out on foot after midnight looking for us. Once found, we were hungry, so he booked a table at Osteria del Bastian Contrario, a neighborhood bistro with amazing food. After dining, we slept well in our rooms “La Bohème” and “Madama Butterfly.”

The building stands on walls that date back to the Roman Empire and it was a boarding school in the 1800s. I love the period furnishings, the breakfast pastries from nearby ovens, and the warm hospitality. hotelpalazzoalexander.it, bastiancontrariosteria.it

In Search of Performing Arts

Spare me another virtual performance. I want to sit in a real theater, enjoy a beverage during the interval, and clap at the conclusion of the show. In past years, my husband and I have enjoyed New Mexico’s open-air Santa Fe Opera, and I’m happy to report that their 2021 season is scheduled for July 10 to August 27. More good news: seating will be socially distanced. The state-of-the-art theater is located 15 minutes north of Santa Fe and draws 40 percent of their audience from outside the state. santafeopera.org 

Santa Fe Opera enjoys a breathtaking open-air setting
Santa Fe Opera enjoys a breathtaking open-air setting

Las Palomas, a wonderful little inn three blocks from the central plaza, is our favorite Santa Fe place to stay. Owner Neil Rosenshein is a renowned tenor who discovered the property the summer he was in town to sing Pinkerton in Madame Butterfly. He’s no longer performing, but remains a great source of insider info on the various productions of Santa Fe Opera and beyond.

Rosenshein’s cozy B&B is a collection of adobe casitas surrounded by colorful pocket gardens. Every room has a king bed and a fireplace. Original artwork and sculptures around the property add to the eclectic Southwestern charm, and a delicious breakfast is served in an attractive shared space. laspalomas.com

Las Palomas is a cozy inn offering Southwestern charm and delicious breakfasts
Las Palomas is a cozy inn offering Southwestern charm and delicious breakfasts

In Search of Personal Pampering

I’m so ready for a spa! Social distancing ruled out massages, facials, and other wonderful indulgences. I know I can enjoy these procedures in San Diego, but as soon as it’s safe, I’m heading to Amangiri Resort in Southern Utah. aman.com/resorts/amangiri 

My first view of this gorgeous — yes, luxe — lodging literally took my breath away. It’s located on 600 acres in red rock and sandstone boulder country near Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Bryce Canyon National Park, and Lake Powell. 

Guests at Amangiri enjoy stunning scenery and a renowned spa with Native American therapies
Guests at Amangiri enjoy stunning scenery and a renowned spa with Native American therapies

When I stayed there pre-pandemic, I loved hiking through the stunning scenery, but this time I’m going to spend more time in the resort’s Aman Spa. This area includes five candlelit treatment rooms, two outdoor treatment pavilions, a yoga space, fitness center, water pavilion, and a large flotation pool. Amangiri spa experiences reflect elements of the Navajo culture and healing traditions. Treatments are designed to restore hózhó, which means “beauty, harmony, and health.”  

The spa menu is extensive and I’m not sure which treatments I’ll choose, but I remember from my last visit that I loved the flotation therapy. It may take a while, but this time I’m staying in the warm water until my hózhó is fully restored.


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