Il Pellicano, Porto Ercole, Italy
12 June, 2019
Porto Ercole's most storied hotel, Il Pellicano proves that old school is new school thanks to lasting charm, sublime food and unending views across coastal Italy.
Unreachable places are magnetic. Going to the ends of the earth for a holiday gives a trip a sense of added value. While a stay at Il Pellicano isn't exactly off grid (or a graft to get to), the property's hideaway status imbues a similarly secluded feel. A beacon of casual luxury, Il Pellicano is an understated playground for affluent Romans and VIP yachters who moor here for lunch. Rub shoulders with longstanding hotel guests (predominantly from the US) who return every year, often to the same suite or cottage. They will gladly tell you why they've returned here for a second, third or even twelfth helping of la dolce vita.
Founded in 1965 by American socialites Patricia and Michael Graham, this cliffside resort was frequented by anyone who was anyone in the 60s and 70s. The Pucci, Missoni and Fendi families, the European jetset and even mister Charlie Chaplin all clinked glasses and nibbled the turn-down chocolates here.
Famed photographs from Juergen Teller (who took a particular interest in the food) and Slim Aarons (who took a particular interest in the guests) captured the stylised surrounds. In recent years, documentary of the hotel and its clientele has shifted to Instagram. Spot impeccably dressed 'grammers craning over the quirky pelican statues dotted around the property and snapping an album's worth of images along the cement sunning area on the bottom of the cliff. It seems that here, old school is new school.
Il Pellicano, Porto Ercole, Italy
All 50 bedrooms - although of varying sizes and types - share common aims: calmness and comfort for their occupants. Beds are on the large size, made up with high-thread sheets and wall-climbing headboards over which circular mirrors are positioned. The Tuscan-toned colour palette is muted on the whole, with certain rooms adding punchy floral prints and intricate tile work to the mix, while wooden ceiling beams nod to the rustic surrounds beyond your suite. Flooded with marble, all bathrooms offer both a shower and a bath - so no need to fight over room allocations - and products are inspired by Il Pellicano's locale, with whimsical names to match, such as "warm summer breeze" and "windswept hair." The cottages are well suited to those who enjoy their privacy, with hedging cleverly constructed to create a tunnel or scrim effect across the property.
What's for breakfast?
Breakfast is served between 7.30am and 10.30am in Il Pellicano. Pastel rainbow pinstripes dominate the decor but scenic as the breakfast room and its adjoining patio are, nothing quite pips the food. Breakfast is a sophisticated spectacle offering everything from sliced mortadella and scrambled eggs with vegetables to thin-crust pear and almond tart. Basically imagine everything you shouldn't have for breakfast but secretly always wanted to eat and you're there.
How about lunch and dinner?
If you're looking for a light lunch or dinner with a sea breeze opt for Pelligrill. Start with the baby cuttlefish salad topped with pine nuts, celery and lemon sauce and pair with the Tuscan panzanella salad, all plated on Richard Ginori delftware finished with a pistachio scalloped edge (which almost sounds like a description of a menu item itself). Lunch on salt-baked catch of the day served with potatoes and tag the pici pasta with Tuscan pecorino cheese to your order for good measure - it's one of the best cacio e pepe we've tried. Finish with tiramisu and savoiardi biscuits for dessert. For dinner, Michelin-starred Il Pellicano is led by chef Michelino Gioia and offers top-notch Italian cuisine made from the best organic produce. Seafood is what you should order here - the John Dory is particularly noteworthy.
Is there a bar?
Yes, there are several. Start off your evening with a Pelican Martini at All'Aperto. The outdoor space (weather permitting) is open until 9pm from June through to September. Bar Roberto, located in the lobby, serves great cocktails in a low-key setting, but for something more elemental, why not head to the beach bar for views of the Tuscan sea and Aperol spritz's galore.
Grab a sun lounger at the Beach Club, positioned at equal distance between the sea-water pool and the Tyrrhenian Sea. Follow with a game of tennis on the hotel's private courts and, when the Tuscan sun gets too intense, retreat to the Pelliclub for a spa treatment or a workout session. Come evening, survey La Cineteca's DVD library selected by Marie-Louise Sció, which is located in the hall's library. We've narrowed our selection down to anything by Ingmar Bergman or Luchino Visconti for a post-dinner binge watch.
Things you should know
The Boutique at Il Pellicano is much more than a hotel gift shop. Browse a well-edited selection of items by the likes of Chinti & Parker and Missoni and you'll soon wish your suitcase had got lost en route. We're picking up classic hotel merch - in the form of the Il Pellicano tote - and a couple of pairs of bespoke Birkenstocks while we're at it.
Within a short walk you'll find
Il Pellicano's private beach, a cemented sunning area on the bottom of the cliff. After having your sunglasses cleaned by attentive staff and downing your morning macchiato, head down to the long wooden dock which reaches out into the sea. If the notion takes you, hire out the hotel's dinghy, which is available for water skiing and excursions along the coast.