Luxury Travel Advisor, a sister publication to Travel Agent, was on hand at The Four Seasons Restaurant in New York on Tuesday, as Rocco Forte divulged further juicy tidbits about his two projects opening this year, The Augustine in Prague and Verdura Golf & Spa Resort in Sicily. The latter is Forte's first golf resort and is located on splendid rugged coastline in southwest Sicily. There will be two 18-hole golf courses and villas that overlook the sea.
In the February issue of Luxury Travel Advisor, Mary Winston Nicklin visited Prague and had the rare chance of seeing The Augustine, months before its opening. An account of her visit is below, along with information on another great Prague hotel, Kempinski Hybernská Prague.
Luxury Travel Advisor has just gone behind the scenes at The Augustine, even though it’s not scheduled to debut until May 1. Here’s what we found at the property, which is the 12th hotel in the Rocco Forte Collection.
The Augustine sits in a cluster of seven historic buildings, including the 13th-century St. Thomas Monastery, where practicing Augustinian monks can be seen in the picturesque courtyard. (Note: The world-famous Charles Bridge, lined with statues of saints, is nearby.) Because of the hotel’s privileged location in the castle district, a UNESCO World Heritage site, the renovations have been meticulous and painstaking. As a result, guests will luxuriate in rooms that retain key historic features.
Descending underground to the cellar, we discovered the vaulted grotto with walls of rough-hewn stone. Formerly the St. Thomas brewery, this neat space will house a bar filled with tailor-made furniture. A glass-covered floor showcases the archeological foundations beneath, and a secret door leads to the Wallenstein Gardens adjacent to the Czech Senate, home to open-air concerts in the summer months. The Western-European-style spa, also located on the basement level, has a steam room, sauna, hammam and four treatment rooms designed with blue-tile mosaics and built-in showers. Upstairs on the ground level, a glass-enclosed courtyard houses the 90-seat restaurant. Three ancient trees were protected in its construction.
Opulently styled under the guidance of the Rocco Forte Collection’s Design Director Olga Polizzi, the 101 guest rooms encompass 10 categories and have unique configurations and special details. No. 235 features ancient decorated doors, one of which opens a window over the bathtub overlooking the monastery courtyard. No. 117 has a painted fresco, and No. 323 (a smaller room category) has original wood beams and a sloped ceiling. Although the hotel exudes a sense of history and place, the interior design reflects Prague today, distinguished by designer chairs and ornamental objects inspired by Czech Cubism. Top Digs: Of the 16 suites, we were smitten with the Ambassador Tower Suite (No. 425), spanning three floors and connected by a spiral staircase. The door opens into the first-floor living room. On the second floor is the bathroom with a free-standing tub and separate walk-in shower. Floating above the city, the top-floor bedroom boasts a stunning, 360-degree panorama over the red rooftops and castle. This suite is ideal for honeymooners, and, in fact, The Augustine promises to lure destination weddings with everything under one roof: the church for the religious ceremony, the fresco-decorated bar for cocktails and ample reception spaces and cloistered terraces. We also liked Suite No. 330 for its high ceilings and castle views. Note: Postcard-perfect views can be found throughout the hotel, but, generally, the higher you go, the better.
In Rocco Forte tradition, each room features beautiful volumes of Czech literature (think Kafka) on the nightstand. Nice Perk: A special package will allow hotel guests exclusive access to the monastery’s marvelous library, filled with 35,000 rare books on the Augustine order of monks, the oldest dating from the 13th century. This library collection is not available to the general public.
Your clients will be delighted by the Rocco Forte Suite Experience, where they will enjoy a slew of exclusive benefits when checking into a suite: in-room check-in, complimentary packing and unpacking, breakfast for two, Internet and in-house movies, dry-cleaning and complimentary use of a mobile phone for all local calls. Early booking requests for VIPs can be directed to Director of Sales and Marketing Tanja Pijfers ([email protected]; 011-42-266-112-245).
Duplex Suites at the Kempinski Hybernaska Prague have spiral staircases separating the living room from the upstairs bedroom
On the other side of the river, the new Kempinski Hybernská Prague occupies a stately Baroque palace in the very center of the capital. Unique for the urban setting is the garden, beautifully landscaped with a Baroque lion’s head fountain and trees that were airlifted in by helicopter. This magical space is only accessible through the hotel. When it opened on October 15, 2008, the Kempinski unveiled the most spacious guest rooms in the city, averaging 538 square feet. And, with only 75 rooms, including 62 suites, the historic-listed building has the feel of a private residence, filled with contemporary art. The stellar service contributes to this ambiance; when we walked in the front door, we felt at home when looked after by the mindful staff. Above all, the hotel is defined by its abundance of natural light. From the glass-topped lobby to the window-lined corridors, the hotel is filled with sunshine. Even the fitness center has an atrium ceiling high above the hardwood floors.
The Presidential Suite on the seventh floor could be the most coveted accommodation in Prague. Sprawling across 2,152 square feet, the suite features sumptuous furnishings from the world’s finest brands, such as the Bioohen fireplace, custom-made glass chandelier from Lasvit in northern Bohemia and whirlpool bath from Caldera. The views from the Jacuzzi on the terrace take your breath away. Your VIPs will also love the Bohemia Suite No. 705, in which a spa-like bathroom has a window for daydreaming while soaking in the tub. All suites have fitted kitchenettes with Nespresso coffee machines, walk-in closets, enormous bathrooms with heated floors and separate bathrooms for guests. There is complimentary wireless Internet throughout the hotel. Though all rooms can be booked over the GDS, feel free to contact Director of Sales Dajana Blichova ([email protected]; 011-42-226-226-136) for VIP bookings.
General Manager Sedat Nemli ([email protected]; 011-42-226-226-111), formerly Kempinski’s vice president of sales and marketing for the Americas in New York, oversees an exceptional team. Executive Chef Marek Fichtner used to cook for the Saudi royal family, and Concierge Marek Pšenika ([email protected]; 011-42-226-226-126) can take care of all requests, such as private chef’s dinners, exclusive shopping experiences with personal shoppers, tickets to sold-out opera performances or private tours of museum exhibitions. Your clients can even enjoy a presentation of Cartier jewels in the privacy of their own room with a professional Cartier sales person. Families will also enjoy the Kempinski; the hotel has special programs tailored to kids and there is a family-friendly garden space.