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A Day in LA (If You've Been There Before)

Mable Yiu

Oh, LA. You are so beautiful.

New York winters are harsh...for west coast transplants. Not because of the cold, but because it's just not the same—there's so much space. For those looking for a quick end of winter trip to LA, with options other than going to the beach everyday or seeing the Hollywood sign, read on. 

Photo courtesy of Chicken or the Egg

9:30 am : Breakfast at The Chicken or the Egg

This spacious LA eatery makes for a quick breakfast to fuel up and get your day started. If you're looking for a slow serviced brunch, this may not be for you, but for fast and friendly service, The Chicken or the Egg is the place. Their menu offers both comfort food and typical brunch options like crispy chicken sandwiches, maple brussels sprouts, sweet potato waffle fries and avocado toast. Pair your meal with some Stumptown coconut cold brew and you're good to go.

11 am :  View the Broad Museum's latest contemporary art exhibitions

If you love going to museums and have already been to the Getty, the Broad is the cool place to visit. They opened their doors recently in September 2015, and have a very impressive collection (think Warhol, Lichtenstein, Kelly, Rauschenberg and Twombly). It is also the current home for Yayoi Kusama's Infinity Mirrored Room, so make sure to check it out before the installation ends in October. Things to note: 1) the museum does offer free general admission, but it's faster to reserve tickets in advance and 2) it is closed on Mondays.

3 pm : Optional snack at Platform

At this point, we were still pretty full from our breakfast at The Chicken or the Egg, but there are plenty of places to pick up a snack at Platform, since we are headed there anyways. Between Sweetgreen, Blue Bottle Coffee, Roberta's Pizza, and The Cannibal—you'll be sure to find a little something for everyone. 

4:30 pm : Discover fun household objects and stationery at Poketo

If you like art and pretty things in general, you'll fall in love with Poketo's light and plant-filled location at Platform. They're all about "art for your everyday," which we love, and offer really great price points. They've collaborated with cool brands and artists such as HAY, Casetify, Atelier Bingo, and Dusen Dusen to create unique and functional accessories. Now we'll just wait for them to open a store in New York...

6:30 pm : Dinner Options

After some shopping, it's time to get some dinner. With so many choices in LA, you're bound to find something you're craving at the moment. We'd recommend Gjelina for some of the best wood-fired pizza, République for French bistro vibes in an eye-catching space, or Coni'Seafood in Inglewood, which specializes in Mexican seafood (and happens to be near LAX).

So there you go—a day in LA. Now that you've absorbed enough Vitamin D to last you through the rest of winter, it's time to head back to New York, which is a pretty cool city, too. 

By Mable Yiu

Photos courtesy of Mable Yiu, Chicken or the Egg and Poketo. 

Fairweather Travels: Kaua’i

Mable Yiu

I recently had the opportunity to travel to the beautiful islands of Hawaii, my favorite of which was the island of Kaua’i. Also known as the Garden Island, Kaua’i offers lush scenery as well as breathtaking beaches. Check out some of my favorite places on the island.

Where To Stay: The St. Regis Princeville Resort This 5-star resort complex on Kauai’s picturesque north shore offers countless amenities in a luxurious setting. Be sure to stop by the renowned Halele’a spa for a massage, or spend the day exploring Hanalei Bay.

Where To Eat: The Beach House Although the menu changes daily to reflect the fresh local catch, the macadamia crusted mahi mahi is a staple at this appropriately named ocean front restaurant. 

What To Do: Helicopter tour The best way to experience Kauai’s unrivaled beauty is from above. Take a tour over some of the island’s most beautiful landmarks such as Waimea Canyon and Hanapepe Valley.

By Kim Chmura

Photo courtesy of St. Regis Princeville Resort

Honeymoon Heaven

Emily Allen

There’s always been a lot to love about Puerto Rico as a honeymoon destination: a quick fight, no passport required, and stretches of perfect beach; great food that reflects diverse Caribbean, Spanish, and American influences; and plenty of natural wonders like El Yunque Rainforest. 

But the St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort, Puerto Rico, has delivered the island’s frst super-luxury experience, including two miles of private beach, the ultra-luxurious Remède Spa, a golf course on the Atlantic coast, and even a Jean-Georges restaurant, Fern. And perhaps the coolest part is that the resort has just seriously upped the luxe factor: Be Here, Be Now is a wellness experience developed in partnership with meditation expert Michael Miller, a teacher of Vedic Meditation (a simple practice that aims to relax the body and mind and release stress) and Director of New York Meditation Center and London Meditation Centre.

Honeymooning couples will love the opportunity to indulge in the Bahia Beach Resort’s rejuvenating natural environment (a Gold Audubon International Signature Sanctuary on a former coconut plantation between El Yunque Rainforest and Espiritu River) while receiving easy yet powerful tips and techniques developed by Miller for fnding the most relaxing and mindful moments and locations on the grounds. Miller says the program is intended to help guests quickly leave behind stress and easily relax in the resort’s natural setting.

Be Here, Be Now is ideal for both those who are new to meditation and those who are more experienced. You’ll love unplugging from your mobile devices and seeking out designated Be Here, Be Now areas around the property for practicing simple physical and mindfulness exercises, and you’ll also return home with techniques for preserving the tranquility you fnd at the resort (a post-honeymoon challenge for some).

By Esther Santiago 

Photos courtesy of St. Regis Baha


High Class Luxury At High Altitudes

Emily Allen

Sergey Petrossov, founder of JetSmarter, has recently made headlines with the first semi-private flight to London. We caught up with him and asked him a few questions. 

How and when did your passion for aviation begin?

My background is in tech start-ups, and in 2009 I began flying private after selling my first IT Company and quickly came to realize that the private jet industry was very archaic; its brick and mortar process of picking up the phone, waiting hours and speaking to numerous different people in order to charter a jet was outdated and inconvenient. In 2012, I spoke to the carriers I had established relationships with and discussed how large of an impact an app to charter a private plane would have on the industry. In August 2012, I made it a reality and created the beta version of JetSmarter, sharing it with an exclusive group of industry experts and frequent private jet users. In March 2013, JetSmarter launched globally.

What sets JetSmarter apart from other private jet experiences?

We’re a member’s only service, and we’ve not only lowered the cost for entering into private aviation, but we’ve fundamentally rewired the marketplace, reinvented an industry for the on-demand economy, and made private jet travel more accessible for consumers. We offer a unique business model unlike any other private jet venture, as no one else has services like we offer such as our JetDeals, JetShuttles and JetCharter. The breakdown of each service is as follows:

JetShuttle: Shared private jet flights; members can search for and book a seat on an already scheduled route.

JetCharter: Members can customize and create their own charter flights. Within this option, they can book an entire jet to themselves, or create a “shared charter” flight, which allows them to purchase individual seats, that are then opened up into the shuttle section of the app, therefore creating a shared flight.

JetDealsExclusive one-way flights on private jets, where members can book a flight to a new destination city daily. 

What are the perks of a shared private flight?

Our typical user is anyone from entrepreneurs growing their business to real estate brokers traveling from city to city making deals. With JetSmarter, our members are able to share a private jet with like-minded individuals for an entire flight – a lot of our members have made business deals and even lasting friendships just from using our services.

Can you tell us what we can expect on a typical JetSmarter flight?

Members are able to sit back, relax and enjoy the ride as every flight is on a luxurious and spacious private jet.

Why is London such an exciting new development in JetSmarter’s repertoire?

We’ve seen a high demand for our JetShuttle service in Europe, especially in the London area. For us, it only made sense to connect our two most popular regions with a convenient JetShuttle, so we’re launching a New York to London route with the first flight set to take off on August 26. Members already have access to several flights out of London to other parts of Europe including Nice, Ibiza, Milan, Moscow, Paris, and Geneva.

How has the shared private flight transformed the face of flying?

We’ve been able to lower the entry cost to fly private significantly. We’ve partnered with 800+ carriers across the globe and offer around 4,000 free flights each month to our members who have access to these flights daily. Our JetShuttle routes, which is our shared flight option, were purposely created between the most popular and traveled cities within the U.S., Europe and Middle East to make flying private easier and more convenient. Members are able to book a seat on a scheduled flight with other members heading to the same destination, which allows for a great networking opportunity with other like-minded individuals 36,000 feet in the air.

What are some of your favorite places to jet off to?

My all-time favorite cities to visit are New York, Singapore, London, and Dubai.

How can we be a part of this great experience?

You must be a member in order to use this service, out of our different membership tiers, we offer our members a variety of savvy options to fit their travel needs. In addition to travel, our membership also includes 24/7 customer support, as well as access to JetSmarter’s Concierge Service, provided by the Member Experiences Team, which provides clients with a variety of services including hotel accommodations, exotic car rentals, access to exclusive events, premium tables at fine restaurants, and much more.

By Emily Allen

Photos courtesy of JetSmarter

Eat, Drink, Love: Napa Rehearsal Dinner

Emily Allen

Not long ago, the by-the-book wedding rehearsal dinner was strictly a family and wedding party-only affair. However, as destination weddings mushroom in popularity, traditional “night before” gatherings are evolving into larger, more casual, “welcome receptions,” to include those far-fung relatives and friends who’ve made the trek to attend.

To wow a rehearsal dinner crowd with history, romance, extraordinary food, and amazing wines, head to Napa’s historic Inglenook Winery, one of the oldest and most distinguished wineries in the Valley. Built in 1879, in the style of a grand European chateau, the winery is surrounded by vine-covered hills, setback about a quarter-mile from the Valley’s main artery, Highway 29.

Ride up the driveway to arrive at Inglenook’s picturesque grounds, which ooze romance and drama from every “pour”—hardly surprising given that legendary filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola owns the (certified organic) vineyards.

The output includes some of the most highly regarded wines in the Valley, most notably its “Rubicon” label, an award-winning blend of Bordeaux varietals that, at $210 a bottle, is sure to impress everyone in your party, oenophile or otherwise. 

By Kate Doyle Hooper

Photo Courtesy of Inglenook Winery

Serenity meets Adventure at Primland Resort

Emily Allen

As the concrete jungle and long work weeks tire city dwellers, the search for rest and recovery becomes paramount. Thankfully, Primland, a resort unlike any other, offers a beautiful antithesis to the hustle and bustle of city life. 

Primland, which resides on over 12,000 acres of land in the colorful and sprawling Blue Ridge Mountains, located in Meadows of Dan, Virginia, is a place of physical and mental retreat. Here, resort-goers can escape the rest of the world by vacationing in a place surrounded only by nature. The Lodge at Primland offers 26 guest rooms and suites, all with rolling views of the mountainous landscape. If guests wish to have an even more remote experience, Primland additionally offers cottages, full-sized homes, suites reminiscent of chalets, and tree houses. Especially exciting for guests seeking a luxurious and home-style experience are the two story Pinnacle Cottages recently debuted. 

No matter which style of lodging guests choose, the amenities abound. The Primland campus includes a beautiful full-sized golf course designed by Donald Steel to challenge even the most experienced golfers. For those who especially love the great outdoors, Primland offers a variety of hunting, fishing, and shooting activities, as well as kayaking, nature walks, swimming, tree climbing, and various other exploring adventures. For an indoor counterpart to these activities, the resort also boasts a state-of-the-art spa, as well as a plethora of wellness and fitness activities. Perhaps the most beloved activity of resort guests happens when night falls, as the altitude and clarity of the sky position Primland as the perfect stargazing destination. The resort celebrates its unparalleled views of stars, planets, and other celestial bodies, and features its own Observatory Dome for guests to study the night sky. 

What Primland really wants its guests to take away from the experience is a harmony with nature. Appreciating and protecting the natural world is Primland’s mission, and this commitment is more than apparent. Didier Primat, the resort’s founder, planned and created the site in an eco-conscious manner, which makes Primland’s status as a renowned LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) registered property no surprise. 

Primland provides an experience that revitalizes and renews its guests through a re-connection with nature. The peace and stillness that surround this luxurious destination, along with its unique accommodations and mission, are sure to provide a serene yet adventurous getaway.  

By Emily Allen

Photos Courtesy of Primland Resort

Q&A with Jonathan Plutzik, Owner of The Betsy - South Beach

Mable Yiu

By Allie Lavine

In 2005, you and your wife purchased The Betsy Ross, a historical hotel on Ocean Drive, and completely renovated it, renaming it The Betsy-South Beach. What is the backstory? 

Our Hotel was originally called The Betsy Ross, as it was built right before WW2, during a time of great patriotism and homage to Americana. We purchased it in 2005, renovated it floor to ceiling and reopened it in Fall 2009, with a brand that embraces global culture, and a design that is reminiscent of some of the world’s great Colonial Style hotels.  Our goal was to create a place that feels like home – yet a home with unforgettable grace an embracing atmosphere, and understated elegance. We also wanted to create a gathering place where people could convene to talk about ‘things that matter.’ We’re pleased that our Lobby provides the perfect place to relax, whether one chooses to read, attend a concert or salon, or engage with a special friend.  Most remarkably what we actually hear from our guests over the years has been that when they step through the doors, they feel like they are coming home. 

I heard that your father was a poet. How did he influence and inspire your love of literature? 

My father died when I was only seven years old.  To be honest, there was all kinds of culture in our home. From poetry, for which my Dad was a three-time Pulitzer Prize finalist, to music, which all four of us siblings studied and shared, to great art on the walls. I was raised to believe that there was no higher calling than the gifts of creativity offered by artists and the arts. 

My mother is just three years short of her 100th birthday, and to be honest, she’s been the biggest influence in my life in terms of valuing arts and culture.  She is still an avid reader and an advocate for the power of the arts to bring people together and to address the most important issues of our time. Her perspective on ‘what’s important’ has shaped my life tremendously and inspires our PACE work at Betsy.  (PACE is our cornerstone Betsy program that weaves Philanthropy, Arts, Culture, and Education into everything we do.) From where I sit, the creative process and lifestyle are both true measures of success above and beyond conventional definitions of the term.  

April is National Poetry Month. Can you tell us a little about the PACE programs, and how art, literature and culture are expressed in the hotel? 

Betsy’s PACE programs take place year round and embrace all arts disciplines. We’ve hosted almost 100 salons featuring visiting artists, since 2009. We also annually produce and present events as unique as an a cappella festival, a conference on Jewish Literature, a jazz festival, and a summer classical music festival. But even with all of this, it’s no secret that we have a special place in our hearts for poets and poetry. 

We feature signature programs during National Poetry Month like Soapbox Poetry from our Front Porch - an exhibit that links visual arts and language, and an annual poetry reading hosted by South Florida Poet and MacArthur Genius Award Winner, Campbell McGrath, called Under the Influence.  Throughout the month of April (and actually all year long) we take pride in knowing that our hotel is full of people who write. From Juan Felipe Herrera (current US Poet Laureate) who visited us in January 2016, to Obama inaugural poet Richard Blanco (March, 2016), to any number of poets whose audiences are just emerging, we admire and want to support them all. 

Guests who visit our hotel are also embraced by the written word in many ways.  When they retire at night, we place a bookmark on their pillow. Rather than encourage sweet dreams with the traditional, expected, piece of chocolate, we inspire with a poetic phrase by a great poet. Guests who choose to visit the spa will find that there’s a poem attached to every treatment, representing a broad range of world cultures.  Finally, a library in every room makes it easy to read during their stay, whether they wish to read on the beach, on our roofdeck, or in the privacy of their rooms. 

My father’s life as a poet, and his poetry are deeply connected to The Betsy story.  It’s at his desk, ensconced in our writer’s room, that all of our visiting writers work. And it’s his poetic line that we attach to our hotel logo: Expect no more. This is happiness.

The Betsy has been very active in a number of charitable organizations. What has been some of your most meaningful philanthropic work? 

We’ve worked with 250+ charitable partners to date, and our efforts have been rewarding in so many different ways. From large to small organizations, including local, national, and international entities, the work of the charitable sector, both in terms of the people served and those that do the work, is so inspirational.

Our model for philanthropy is somewhat different from the norm, as we seek to partner with organizations at an organic level sharing ideas and human resources.  We are always excited to work with organizations that are aligned with The Betsy’s core principles of ‘giving back and sharing fruits of success in South Beach and beyond.’ 

The Writer’s Room, a working studio space for visiting writers housed inside the hotel, sets Betsy apart as the “only literary arts hotel,” as described by CNN. Can you tell us more about this program and who has participated? 

Early on when we were rolling out the concept of The Betsy’s PACE program, it became clear that one of the things we wanted to cultivate was a space for writers. In preparing to create the space we called together members of the distinguished local writing community to hear their advice on how to create the best workspace. 

We’re proud that we were able to accommodate their ideas, include some of our own and create a final design of a simple elegant space, fashioned after a 1950’s NY studio. What pleases us the most is the awareness that great work has already been created in that space. To date, more than 300 creatives have stayed in The Betsy Writers Room, where they are invited to write at my father’s desk, representing a literary arc of past, present, and future. It also brings attention to South Florida as a wonderfully conducive place to write – with ocean breezes, sun, sand, and sky as key influences.

Typically residents of our Writer’s Room stay with us for about five days. Their only obligation is to do a community-facing event because we want them to meet our local community. For example they might teach a Master Class at the local high school or University or they might discuss their work in a Betsy breakfast salon. 

Past guests have included well known writers like Amy Tan, Christina Baker Kline and Ben Mezrich, award-winning poets like Gerald Stern, Jan Wagner, and Reginald Dwayne Betts, and thought leaders like Michael Berenbaum (a founder of the US Holocaust Museum) and Emilia Sosa (Tony-award winning Broadway Costume Designer).  A complete list of alumni of our program are listed on our website

The Betsy is known for being an environmentally friendly hotel. What have been some of the hotel's “green initiatives?”

The Betsy is ‘green solution’ oriented wherever possible, with energy conscious decision-making from the inside/out. We call our ongoing efforts The Betsy ‘Going Green’ Initiative, because we recognize that we are on a pathway toward ‘Green.’ For example, we use green liquid care products, implement a linen and towel reuse program and use non-toxic cleaning supplies. We understand that we are on a continuing journey to become as green as we can.  We are particularly pleased that our current property expansion initiative has created new opportunities to implement green programming. 

Given the Betsy’s commitment to the arts and wonderful South Beach, Miami location, it seems like the perfect place for art lovers and collectors to stay for Art Basel. Are there any special events that take place at the hotel during that time? How else do you get involved with the art fair? 

Yes, there is a natural synergy between The Betsy and Art Basel. We offer the perfect place to stay for collectors, curators, and discerning guests who love visual art and want a luxury hotel experience.  We always mount our own shows during Basel as well, with recent exhibits in 2016 that included the 20th century artist, Grace Hartigan, and a unique commissioned light box installation by Trinidadian artist Christopher Cozier, as well as the work of South African artist Judith Mason.  Dr. Leslie King Hammond has been our Betsy curator since we reopened the hotel in 2009, and always hosts a series of salons during Art Basel – as well as curating shows all year long. 

What are the Betsy's plans for the future? 

Opening in Fall 2016, The Betsy will expand into the adjacent historic Carlton Hotel, creating a single unified property. This project joins the work of two historically significant architects, L. Murray Dixon and Henry Hohauser, who laid the groundwork for Miami Beach’s celebrated Art Deco aesthetic.

This careful expansion of The Betsy – South Beach is about more than just creating additional rooms, it’s about enhancing the Betsy guest experience while staying true to our commitment to a high level of intimate, personalized service.  Of particular importance to the Betsy family is that we will be able to further expand our PACE programming which weaves philanthropy, arts, culture and education through every aspect of the hotel experience.

When complete, the new footprint of the Betsy Hotel will have a total of 128 hotel rooms including 35 suites. Thirty of the rooms and suites will feature balconies, a unique characteristic typically not found on historic properties. The expansion will also carve out substantial additional event and performance space.

Allan T. Shulman of Shulman + Associates is the architect of record.  Mr. Shulman is an award-winning Miami architect, professor and author with a distinguished record of historic preservation. Diamante Perdersoli and Carmelina Santoro are returning to provide interior design services reflective of the award-winning work they did in connection with the renovation of the Betsy – South Beach in 2009. 


All photos courtesy of The Betsy - South Beach

Playa Grande Beach Club, Dominican Republic

Mable Yiu

If you're anything like us, you're constantly dreaming about that Caribbean getaway. Next destination on our wish list is in the Dominican Republic at the magnificent Playa Grande Beach Club. Stay in the luxurious bungalows on the property with spectacular views of the ocean, and savor traditional Caribbean cuisine made from organic, local ingredients. Soak up the sun at the cabanas by the pool, and forget about that hectic city life.

If you are looking to relax and get pampered, you can head to the Susana Day Spa. Looking for some more adventure and a chance to enjoy the serene environment? Hike along the trails on the hills of Playa Grande, a national nature preserve. You can also take part in a unique archeological excursion and learn more about the history of Playa Grande with an experienced tour guide. For some beach-related activities, there's a plethora of options, from surfing, to paddle boarding, to body boarding, right on the property.

We can hardly wait to pack up our bags and head over to the Playa Grande Beach Club. See you there!

You can learn more about the Playa Grande Beach Club and all it has to offer here

By Allie Lavine

Photos courtesy of Playa Grande Beach Club.

Trio of Islands, Poised for Grand Legacy, hit the market for $100 Million

Mable Yiu

A rare trio of islands off the coast of Panama offering 50 pristine beaches stretching along more than 19 miles of the islands’ coastline and encompassing approximately 1800 acres will be introduced to the market for the first time in 35+ years for $100 Million. 

The islands are the premiere flagship of Pangea World, a landmark new transnational sustainable development endeavor that will offer the buyer instant status as a global player on the world stage, with access to work directly with heads of state and leading institutions of the highest caliber. Top officials at the United Nations, the National Academy of Sciences, the Smithsonian, heads of state, and business leaders have all endorsed Pangea World.
If you are the lucky owner of the islands, you might build a stunning new private residence and a few luxury, eco-friendly beachfront resorts and use the revenue to fund scientific exploration. This might include exploring the coral off the islands to see if they have medicinal value or scientists surveying the islands and surrounding waters for new species and natural resources. Perhaps it’s looking at how diverse animals have migrated across the Pacific Ocean.
“We aren’t selling a property, we’re selling a legacy,” says Dr. Hana Ayala, who is the visionary and co-seller on the deal.  “The new owner will leave a lasting benefit to the environment and to humanity.”
There’s a precedent for wealthy individuals investing in real estate with ambitious environmental objectives. Oracle founder Larry Ellison spent an estimated $300 to $500 million on a Hawaiian island in 2014 with plans to turn it into “the first economically viable 100% green community.” Ellison envisions a form of sustainable utopia with renewable energy, electric cars and desalination. Leonardo DiCaprio also acquired an island off the coast of Belize, and is now planning to open an eco-resort there.
“It’s very beautiful, it’s applaudable,” says Ayala of these efforts. “What we are doing is in a totally different league.”

As Ayala sees it, the economic development model she is championing can be introduced across the Pacific Island region, as a way of raking in tourism dollars while also protecting unique natural resources and spearheading basic research. 

Her vision and strategy, which have already gained the support of heads of state in the region, are to explore and value the islands' geological and ecological connections with various distant parts of the Pacific Island nations as a foundation for building a transnational knowledge economy.

While Ayala is co-seller and face of the project, the islands are actually owned by German businessman Claus Mittermayer, 57, whose family bought them in the 1970s. A mutual friend connected Ayala with Mittermayer in 2006, at her request. “I sort of intended to have a ten-minute courtesy call, but several hours later we were still talking.” He was so taken with Ayala’s vision he rejected a $30 million offer for one of the islands several years ago, saying he didn’t want it to be turned into an overdeveloped tourist spot. ”The islands are uniquely suited for what Hana has in mind,” says Mittermayer. “It’s the highest and best use of the real estate.”

The islands are being introduced to the market by two exclusive Christie’s International affiliates, the Beverly Hills-based Hilton & Hyland and Christie’s Panamanian-based Panama Premier Estates. To learn more about the islands and Pangea World, please click here

By Alexandra Fairweather

Photos courtesy of Herbert Holzer.

Travels with the Fairweathers: Capri

fairweather enterprises

It was amazing to explore Capri. I've included a few of my favorite photos from my recent trip. After taking a boat to the island, we stopped by Il Riccio for lunch. Next we walked around town and visited the Capri Palace. We also found a fantastic place to get custom sandals made and were surprised to find Fairweather Magazine on the walls of the shop right next to a photo of Jackie Kennedy Onassis. At the end of the day, we enjoyed limoncello and Italian desserts with new friends before heading back to Positano. 

By Alexandra Fairweather

Travels with the Fairweathers: Mallorca

fairweather enterprises

Staying at Cap Rocat, a former military fortress located in a secluded area of the bay of Palma de Mallorca. It is stunning. And the spectacular picnic style for breakfast is is the perfect way to start the day. I will definitely return. 

By Alexandra Fairweather

Intimate Italy

Mable Yiu

By Evan Hughes

Su Misura means “tailor made” in Italian, and the unique sensory experience delivered by the luxury travel company are truly one-of-a-kind. 

When Gabriella Contestabile, co-founder of luxury travel company Su Misura, watched her guests—travelers who had booked a “bespoke” vacation experience tailored to their tastes and interests—savor the sights, sounds, scents, and tastes of Florence at an artisans event at the Four Seasons Firenze, she knew it was an early highpoint in her fledgling company’s history. “I saw something more than cursory interest,” she recalls, describing how Su Misura’s guests mingled with the perfumers, jewelry designers, chocolatiers, and leather craftsmen. “I saw a desire to get inside the story, to connect on a human level with that artisan cutting stones using a 15th-century instrument, or a young shoemaker molding leather, or a young woman weave silk on an 18th-century loom.” She sensed a palpable and visceral energy in the room and knew that Su Misura as a concept “had legs.”

Sensory Journeys

It’s totally appropriate that Contestabile’s five senses were key in determining the success of the artisans event. After all, Su Misura was founded by two well-traveled NYC-based women with a deep background in Italian crafts, art, and food. Contestabile’s mother was a seamstress and her father an Italian consulate representative, and she regularly visited her Italian hometown each summer, where the family’s clothing was made by hand. Norma Frassa-McGrody’s parents ran an upscale Greenwich Village eatery, where she learned that food was an art. Su Misura represents its two founders’ artisanal sensibility—the notion that well-made clothing, visual art, perfume, wine, and food are all part of what they have called an “experiential mosaic.”

Idyllic Itineraries

A typical Su Misura travel experience—between five and 14 days, for groups of six to 12 women—includes lodgings at luxurious JK Place Firenze (Piazza di Santa Maria Novella, 7; and visits to artisanal perfume-makers, emerging Italian designers (including consultations with stylists and tailors on finding your own personal style), the Oltrarno artisan district, Florence’s oldest silk mill (where the craft of luxury silk-weaving is still practiced and taught), the city’s oldest and most revered leather school, master mosaicists as they create radiant images with colored stones, and even a fashion-forward factory outlet store. Countryside excursions include unforgettable landscapes, castles, the distinctive Tuscan light—chiaroscuro—that has drawn artists to the region for centuries, and a private winery tour and tasting and seasonal olive oil tasting. Museum visits include the legendary Alinari Museum of Photography, the Gucci Museum’s iconic shoes and handbags, the Ufzi’s “secret” collection of Medici art via private tour, the Masac- cio, Lippi, and Masolino frescoes in the Brancacci Chapel; and Florentine must-sees such as the Palazzo Pitti, Boboli Gardens, with your very own art historian accompanying you. Meals—at JK Place and other fine dining locations—include tutorials on entertaining Florentine style and conversation with local artisans, art historians, fashion consultants, and other sensory experts. The Su Misura Daily Passport allows you to strike out on your own and explore a variety of museums, restaurants, artisan studios, and boutiques.

Beyond History

Su Misura’s “bespoke” itineraries are determined by each traveler’s own wishes and priorities via online questions and customized service (see “Bespoke Travel Made Easy,” opposite page). But the trips are much more than a living history lesson. Contestabile is consistently delighted by Florence’s fresh, contemporary vibe. “The Florentines draw on their artisan heritage to craft brilliant and innovative solutions and cutting-edge works of modern art,” she notes, citing such examples as the new Antinary winery, the photography of Massimo Listri, the new opera house, and La Strozzina Center for Contemporary Culture. “This is not so much a surprise to me as an affirmation that art matters; it is the vital thread to our collective consciousness. Art is more than a celebration of the past; it’s a path to a more innovative future.”

Transformative Travel

If the idea of putting together one-of-a-kind travel experiences for clients who expect the very best seems challenging, you are correct. But Contestabile is inspired rather than daunted. “The biggest challenge is what makes this fun,” she enthuses. “Delving into the desires and expectations of a truly passionate and curious traveler while respecting privacy and spontaneity.” The passionate co-founder of Su Misura must remain nimble and imaginative, and on top of whatever is happening in Florence at any given time. “But that’s why we travel, isn’t it?” she notes. “I once heard the director of Palazzo Strozzi say, ‘One should never walk away from a work of art unchanged.’ It’s the same with travel: We should never come back the way we left.”