Oprah's Travel Planners Offer Tips on Where to Go in Italy

Tyson Sadlo/Courtesy of Subject
A view of the Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo, where Richard Gere has stayed.

Take a page from the book of father-son duo Angelo and Simone Amorico, who own Access Italy, a Rome-based service that specializes in highly customized and private tours enjoyed by the likes of Winfrey, the Obamas, Ben Stiller and Penelope Cruz.

After two weeks of meetings and premieres in Venice, many industry insiders opt to extend their stay in Italy, and head south to Rome and Sicily to decompress. Take a page from the book of travel planners Angelo and Simone Amorico, a father-son duo who own Access Italy, a Rome-based service that specializes in highly customized, private tours (from $500 a day).

The Amoricos have hosted Oprah Winfrey, the Obamas, Ben Stiller and Penelope Cruz, among others. Says Winfrey: "In the early '90s, my lawyer  said to me, 'If you're going to Italy, I know the guy you should meet, he'll take good care of you.' Angelo seems to know everybody in the whole country." 

The Amoricos' recommendations:

ROME

Opt to have the Vatican Museums
and Sistine Chapel all to 
yourself at night, like 
Cruz and Stiller. Through a side door just off the chapel, gain access to the cardinals-only rooms, which hold centuries of papal garments. Adds Josh Gad: "Perhaps one of
the greatest opportunities in my life occurred with a private tour of the closed Pantheon — an indescribable feeling."

Order Oprah's favorite dish, the brick chicken, at Sora Rosa, or head to 
Pierluigi, where the Obamas, Jamie Foxx and Quentin Tarantino have dined. Owen Wilson and his son learned how to make gelato at the bustling Giolitti. Twirl pizza dough at Sharon Stone favorite Restaurant Il Corallo.

Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez have all slept at the newly renovated Hotel Hassler (Piazza della Trinita dei Monti, 6; from $548). Both Madonna and Muhammad Ali, who refused to don a tie to enter its rooftop restaurant, reportedly have been turned away from 
the tradition-steeped site.

The Aurora Terrace Suite was Ingrid Bergman's choice at the reopened Hotel Eden (Via Ludovisi 49; from $519). Its spa 
offers facials by Beverly Hills' own Sonya Dakar.

SICILY

On an unassuming road near Taormina, a hilltop town on Sicily's east coast, sits Baron Franco Platania's Castello degli Schiavi, or the Godfather II villa. Platania gave Winfrey, Al Pacino and Robert De Niro private tours, and still receives an annual case of wine from Francis Ford Coppola, who shot there.

In Taormina, two properties — the Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo (Via Teatro Greco, 59; from $480), with its views of the Ionian Sea, and oceanfront Belmond Villa Sant'Andrea (Via Nazionale, 137; from $480) — have lodged Amy Adams, Liam Neeson 
and Russell Crowe. "Italy is my favorite place on the planet," says Richard Gere, who spent back-to-back summers at the Timeo.

For great eats, check out Da Cristina, on Via Strabone, for the best arancini in town. Terry Gilliam and Jeremy Irons have dined at Lancia 
Cafe, and Bam Bar is said to serve the best granita,
a local shave ice with cream.

This story first appeared in the Aug. 22 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.