Acclaimed filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola’s newest creation is not a movie, but a luxury boutique hotel in the South of Italy. Palazzo Margherita is not Coppola’s first hotel venture though. The director of The Godfather has established a name for himself in the hospitality business with award wining resorts in Guatemala, Belize and Argentina. The Coppola Resorts are a collection of stylish, eco-friendly properties set in beautiful natural surroundings away from the hustle and bustle of world capitals.
The latest addition to his roster is the Palazzo Margherita, located in Bernalda, a small hilltop town in the Basilicata region of Southern Italy. Bernalda is the birthplace of Francis’ grandfather, and it is relatively unknown to recreational travelers. It is just 20 minutes away from the pristine white sandy beaches and the cobalt-blue waters the Ionian Sea. This is not a fancy town, but life here unfolds in front of your eyes in typical Italian fashion, sort of like Italian movies of the 50’s and 60’s. To this date food and wine have remained authentic and untouched by the mass tourism. This gourmand’s paradise is home to a wide array of artisanal foods and wines, and classic trattorias serve fresh local produce paired with grilled meats, fish, homemade pastas and seafood. The local wine is not bad either and makes a nice aperitivo after a quiet siesta or a nice swim in the hotel’s pool.
The Palazzo, which opened in March as an intimate resort, is a 19th century villa imaginatively restored by legendary French designer Jacques Grange. It is located in the town’s square, with large heavy front doors that open onto a courtyard and pool, the setting for Francis’ daughter Sofia’s wedding. There are seven large suites and two garden rooms, featuring frescoed ceilings, palatial bathrooms and meticulously restored tilework, alongside state-of-the-art modern amenities, including collections of the best Italian films ever made. The expansive swimming pool and courtyard garden add to the feeling of the Palazzo as a magical, timeless retreat. The result is part belle époque grand hotel, part family villa.
The surrounding countryside is doted with small towns and villages along the sculpted hills of the Basilicata. Guests can take a bike ride and explore an area that seems untouched and removed but resonates with our dreams of tranquility and bliss. Nearby beaches and golf courses offer recreational options, and the contemporary art scene of Matera complements the historic attractions of this ancient land conquered by the Greeks centuries before the Roman Empire. But even older cave dwellings known as Sassi have been reclaimed as picturesque churches, homes, museums and restaurants. Coppola himself says it best, “there are things to do – or just do nothing.”
There may be more beautiful spots in Italy, but if you are looking for an authentic, luxurious Italian getaway, in a town where the local charm is the main attraction, Palazzo Margherita is the place for you. Ciao Bella! ■