What's Hot in Italy Right Now
Here's where to go during and after the fest, from Francis Ford Coppola's newest venture to the hotel once rented out entirely by Johnny Depp.
WHERE TO EAT: The place to power lunch during the festival (Aug. 31-Sept. 10) is likely to be the bistro-style NARANZARIA, on the edge of the Grand Canal and owned by Agnelli heir Count Brandino Brandolini d'Adda. Wash down the swordfish carpaccio with some Friuli wine from the count's nearby vineyards (Sotoportego del Erbaria,San Polo, naranzaria.it). Make a reservation for dinner at the city's newest star-spotting hub, RISTORANTE QUADRI (Piazza San Marco 121, caffequadri.it) on St. Mark's Square. Its Michelin three-star chef Massimiliano Alajmo this year turned a stuffy old cafe into a buzzy gourmet destination. Make sure to order the eight-course tasting menu (€180) when Venetian-style risotto is on the bill. On the Lido, where festival screenings take place, Italian director Tinto Brass (La Vacanza, Caligula) recommends OSTERIA AL MERCA (Via Enrico Dandolo 17/A, Lido, +39-041-526-4549). "Fresh fish prepared well. It's unpretentious and friendly," he says.
WHERE TO STAY: Thanks to his hideaway in Lake Como, George Clooney is literally an Italian-American, but he also has a favorite spot in Venice -- the bar at HOTEL CIPRIANI (Giudecca 10, hotelcipriani.com, doubles from about $1,350), the only real rival to the industry-heavy private bar at the Hotel Excelsior on the Lido. The cocktail Clooney invented at the Cip, the Buonanotte (vodka-cranberry spiked with muddled ginger and cucumber), caused such a stir a few years ago that it has become a staple of the menu. The just-renovated hotel oozes the same Old Hollywood glamour Clooney does; its 100 rooms and suites are timelessly chic and crammed with mosaics and marble. Bonus: The Cipriani is practically paparazzi-proof because it's on a private island reachable only by the hotel's launch. But for contemporary design, follow Johnny Depp's lead: He commandeered the entire 26-room PALAZZINA GRASSI (San Marco, palazzinagrassi.com, rooms from about $500) when he lived in Venice to film The Tourist. Clearly, Depp's a fan of Philippe Starck's surrealism as the French maverick oversaw the overhaul of this 16th century palazzo (think transparent closets and thousands of oversized mirrors) when it reopened 18 months ago. During the festival, Palazzina G transforms into a pop-up of the much-missed New York boite Bungalow 8. Expect high-caliber crowds like last year, when Quentin Tarantino and Harvey Weinstein stopped by the rooftop bar.
WHERE TO STAY: Director-hotelier Francis Ford Coppola has returned to his roots in the rustic southern region of Basilicata, opening his latest hotel in Bernalda, the tiny hilltop village from which his grandfather emigrated to America. The 12-room PALAZZO MARGHERITA (Corso Umberto I 70, coppolaresorts.com, doubles from about $575) is a converted 19th century villa designed by Jacques Grange that's set to open this year and feature a new gourmet restaurant. Sofia Coppola will inaugurate the hotel in late August with her wedding to composer Thomas Mars.
WHERE TO EAT: Woody Allen's latest film-cum-travelogue -- The Bop Decameron, which he's shooting with Ellen Page, Roberto Benigni and Penelope Cruz -- spotlights Fellini-era Rome. The director has been spotted more than once at PIPERNO (Monte de Cenci 9, ristorantepiperno.com), known for its "Jewish style" artichokes, which are fried whole. Drive from the city center to the landmark LA PERGOLA (Via Alberto Cadlolo 101, romecavalieri.com/lapergola.php) inside the Rome Cavalieri hotel. Michelin-star-hogging chef Heinz Beck serves six- and nine-course tasting menus (€175, €198) that usually include his deconstructed carbonara -- pouches of pasta filled with bacon and barely cooked egg. Otherwise, a grimy, authentic place to try spaghetti carbonara is the trattoria PERILLI (Via Marmorata 39, +39-06-574-2415) in the working-class Testaccio neighborhood. For beautiful-people watching, head to trendy new ELLE (Via Vittorio Veneto 81, elleristorantecaffetteria.com), a favorite of Italian actress Clotilde Courau.
WHERE TO STAY: The Eternal City's best hotels are boutique hideaways away from prying eyes -- there's a reason the word "paparazzo" comes from Italy. Located on luxury shopping drag Via del Babuino, the 14-room BABUINO 181 (Via del Babuino 181, romeluxurysuites.com/babuino, doubles from about $315) offers Frette-sheeted bedrooms, marble baths and a rooftop bar. Minutes from the iconic Piazza Navona, there's the similarly low-key, high-style GIGLI D'ORO (Via dei Gigli d'Oro 12, giglidorosuite.com, doubles from about $310), a year-old hotel with six all-white rooms in a renovated 15th century palazzo.
WHERE TO STAY: There's no finer base on the Tuscan Riviera than IL PELLICANO in Porto Ercole (Localita Sbarcatello, pellicanohotel.com, doubles from $540). Opened in 1965, the hotel is the subject of the new Rizzoli picture book Hotel Il Pellicano ($60), which includes vintage Slim Aarons photos of the sun-tanned likes of Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and designer Emilio Pucci. Set on a cypress-dotted cliff, the terra cotta-roofed hotel features 50 rooms and suites, a saltwater pool and a private beach. It continues to lure high-profile guests: Darren Star (celebrating his 50th birthday) and Graydon Carter were spotted on the same weekend in July. "It's luxurious, but it also feels retro. There's a jet-set vibe," says Project Runway exec producer Desiree Gruber, a recent guest. "It's a family-run hotel, and you can feel that."
-- Eric J. Lyman contributed to this report