La Guardia hotel, on the enchanting Tuscan isle of Giglio, is a stand-out amid waters with the clarity and colour of tourmaline to topaz, mighty prows of granite rock, and ascendant clusters of Mediterranean greenery, simply by fitting in so seamlessly. Parts of the hotel are carved into a granite cave above the Tyrrhenian, and a design team that hails from Greece, Italy and Uruguay – using covetable and custom furnishings from the likes of Ethimo, concrete flooring and local handicrafts – have understood that there’s no competing with the view. So, they’ve used a subtle palette and unique minimalist look to overtly state ‘Look, out there!’. And, when you’re not attending to aperitivi on the terrace or awakening your kundalini energy, you will be out, basking on warm sands or biking to fertile vineyards.
Get this when you book through us:
A glass of wine each from the Tuscan archipelago on arrival or in the evening; SilverSmiths and GoldSmiths get a wine-tasting experience instead
11am, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 2pm.
Double rooms from £165.03 (€194), including tax at 10 per cent.
Rates usually include a buffet breakfast. There’s a minimum three-night stay in June and July, four nights in August and two in September.
As part of the hotel’s eco efforts, in your room you’ll find beach towels made out of recycled plastics and – in post-Covid times – there’ll be pencils with sachets of seeds attached.
Each year the hotel closes from mid-October to the end of April.
At the hotel
Direct access to the public beach, garden, terrace, free WiFi. In rooms: satellite TV, minibar, free bottled water, air-conditioning and heating, and Ortigia bath products.
Our favourite rooms
The Junior Suite with Beach Access quite literally gets into the bedrock of the island: its dramatic bathroom is hewn into the granite cave below and its terrace, perched above, has some of the best views in the house. Alternatively, surveying the waters from the Deluxe with Balcony will make you feel like you’re perched on the prow of a yacht. All of the rooms and suites wear the island’s beachy minimalism well, but if you’re looking for eye candy, bear in mind that the Premium Ground Floor rooms, while cosy, have limited views.
Nature? Nurture? There’s no distinction at La Guardia, where Zen shiatsu kneading and Ayurvedic massages scented with the island’s flora are carried out beneath an olive tree in the ‘dry garden’. In fact, you’re so at one with nature here that alongside the susurrus of the waves, the sound of the palm leaves rustling has been synthesised into soothing background music. And in a veiled pavilion by a wall of cacti, the hotel holds hatha and kundalini yoga sessions to get the positivity flowing through you; workshops are held with different teachers in May and September and with the in-house teacher through June to August. Places are limited so book before you arrive.
Pack your best shoes made for walking because the island may be small but you’ll cover a lot of ground. And bring your most breathable yoga gear for sunset sessions.
While the hotel is wheelchair-accessible with two dedicated rooms, the island’s rough terrain and ancient paths aren’t easy to navigate for guests with mobility issues.
The only weeping you should hear at La Guardia is that of someone moved by the island’s beauty. Staff can accommodate kids, with highchairs and adapted menu items, but really, this is one for lovers.
Powered by solar and built using Earth-kind materials, the hotel does its bit to keep Giglio island beautiful. The windows are designed to reduce energy consumption, the hotel is entirely plastic-free and they recycle dutifully; La Guardia holds an ISO14001 certificate in recognition of its efforts to reduce its environmental impact. Dining also ticks all the boxes for sustainably sourced food: produce is organic and ingredients hail from either the island or Maremma. And, the owners are invested in the Gigliese community, getting involved in beach-clean projects, employing local staff and partaking in a Pro Loco association, which supports cultural events and tends to the upkeep of the island's trails.
Watch the water go through the entire spectrum of blues throughout the day from a table on the beachside terrace, or pile onto the bar’s L-shaped sofa to compare tasting notes with friends – or maybe make some new ones.
Take inspiration from the sea: mermaid hair, sailor-striped tees, deck shoes… If you’re donning a doublet you’ve gone a fathom too far.
Chef Milena Andreetto at La Terrazza has collected recipes from islands across the Tuscan archipelago and beyond, with dishes from the Aeoilian Islands, Ischia and even Crete). The result is a simple yet elegant menu of Mediterranean heritage dishes that change with the seasons, such as calamarata pasta (large chunky rings) served with tomatoes and a calamari sauce, courgette and mint bites with roasted vegetables and cremolato (an ice-cream-like dish crafted from summer fruits). Herbs are plucked from the hotel garden and a bakery churns out warm pillowy breads and tempting tortas. The wine list works its way merrily across the Med, many rare and grown in difficult conditions, these include some neighbourly Ansonicas and select picks from cellars in Pantelleria, Ustica, Favignana, St Pietro, and even Santorini and Porquerolles in France.
Set your alarm for 6.30pm, the hotel’s aperitivo hour, where wines from small suppliers in the surrounding islands, traditional Venetian Select Spritzes and cocktails made with local fruits and botanicals (mojitos, Montenegro sours) are served with bruschetta, arancini and local antipasti (slices of onion-topped pizza and ‘fisherman’s toast’ with mozzarella and anchovies). The interior is cosy and cool with its wicker-wrapped bar, beamed roof, concrete flooring and custom table made from 200-year-old oak, but the terrace trumps it with 180-degree views over the Tyrrhenian, natural bay and harbour.
Breakfast is served from 7.30am to 10.30am, dinner from 8pm to 10pm. The bar serves up snacks, spritzes and wines from 10.30am to 7.30pm.
You can take breakfast in bed or have drinks brought to your door for a €7 charge, but dinner can only be taken at the restaurant.
La Guardia hotel sits on Giglio, the second largest island in the Tuscan Archipelago. This beautifully renovated villa sits by natural Lo Scalettino beach and the historic harbour – the gateway to picturesque mountainous wilds.
Rome Fiumicino Airport, where flights arrive direct from most European cities, is just under a two-hour drive away from Porto Santo Stefano along Via Aurelia; from there you can catch the ferry to Giglio. Transfers can be arranged from €380 one-way for up to two passengers, €450 for four to six passengers.
From Rome Termini you can catch the 90-minute train to Ortobello Station. From there, you’ll need to catch a taxi to Porto Santo Stefano (a 20-minute drive) to catch the ferry to Giglio. Book tickets via Trenitalia (www.trenitalia.com).
If you’ve been road tripping around Italy, then a car will help to reach the mainland port, which is a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Florence and two-hour drive from Rome. However, with cars banned until the 1950s, the petite island has very few roads – and those it does have are better navigated by bike or one of the vintage Ape Autos you’ll see skittering about – and visitors’ cars are banned throughout August. So, we recommend leaving your ride at the carpark in Porto Santo Stefano (€15 for the first day, €10 for each additional day) for the duration of your stay. Once the ferry docks on Giglio, the hotel is just a five-minute walk away.
Ferry lines Toremar (www.toremar.it) and Maregiglio (www.maregiglio.it) both run frequent services from Porto Santo Stefano. The journey takes around an hour and it’s one filled with visual poetry, cleaving through the sapphire Tyrrhenian and coming into view of Giglio's band of pastel-hued houses, historic lighthouse and rugged green hills. If you’ve chartered a private boat, the hotel can help you make arrangements with the port on the island.
Worth getting out of bed for
The Barbary pirates of the Mediterranean clearly followed the ‘location, location, location’ mantra when it came to marauding. Much like them, since we’ve discovered the gloriously picturesque island Giglio in the Tuscan archipelago, we’ve been itching to sail over and give it a good invading (in a manner of speaking, that is). It’s just 20sq km, but packs in maquis-shrouded mountains, sculptural granite rock formations, dense pine forest, opalescent bays and quiet sandy beaches – all of which have brought it under the aegis of the Tuscan Archipelago National Park. Around 50km of higgledy-piggledy unpaved trails ramble over the scenic landscape, cliff faces lend themselves to rewarding climbs, and beneath the cleanest and clearest waters in Italy there lie wrecks and submerged caves for scuba-ing about, while above you can hire a boat for lazy pleasure trips. We’d also advise renting an e-bike for wobbly rides to the island’s untouched parts. And the terra lends itself well to vine-cultivating: swathes of sea-facing terraces – many accentuated with buildings from the distant past – are dedicated to Giglio’s Ansonaco wine; the hotel can arrange cellar-hopping tasting tours on request. Giglio Porto, the main settlement, has handsome ice-cream-coloured buildings, a 13th-century Medieval castello and a lighthouse that overlooks a harbour built of stone. It runs parallel to Lo Scalettino beach, which lies on La Guardia’s doorstep, and is in perfect position for you to swish in and out of the bar as frequently as the waves lick at the shore. There are sandy stretches for tan top-ups alternated with wilder rocky patches, and there’s a shower to hop into post-swim. Vistas of juniper, rosemary and lavender and flecks of Roman relics will beckon you out but you could learn a few Gigliese cookery tips in a class at the hotel (for four to seven people), take a restorative yoga class and say arriverderci to stress with an alfresco shiatsu massage.
Neptune smiles kindly on Giglio’s restaurants – from fat prawns to sweet-salt mussels, to meaty sardines, he gives generously – alongside a hefty donation from the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Find miraculous combinations of seafood and pasta at La Vecchia Pergola close to the hotel and get stuck into beastly lobsters at L'Angolo di Napoli, or head inland to Ristorante Da Maria. A high point of island dining, quite literally, is Da Santi, where the seafood is in top form and the terrace makes a wonderful lookout for psychedelic sunsets.
When it comes to views, the hotel’s terrace really does have a monopoly on one of the best, and its wine list gives you a run down of the regional bests.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this stylishly modern stronghold on the heartbreaker of an island, Giglio, and taken a moment to readjust to reality, a full account of their ‘take me back to the Tyrrhenian’ break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside La Guardia hotel in the Tuscan Archipelago…
Much like the fortified towers of the past that protected the natural wonders of Giglio island from pirates, La Guardia hotel surveys the ever-changing-blue waters of the Tyrrhenian, sturdily built atop a granite cave, with some spaces carved into the rock below, cosied up to the beach. It’s a stand-out on the island for several reasons: it's the tallest building there (but, still far from a high-rise) and a dedicated international design team have brainstormed custom furnishings (live-edge tables crafted from centuries-old oak trees, woven-wicker lamps, sculptures made of carved wooden fish) and sleek furnishings from the likes of Ethimo, with concrete floors and beamed ceilings, to make a look that’s aesthetically fresh, but in keeping with tradition.
But, really, the only time you’ll likely spend indoors is for aperitivo hour (at 6.30pm sharp), to sample the chef’s simple yet stunning regional dishes (and even then you’ll take to the terrace) and snooze off the efforts of exploring the island. For, there’s much to explore, whether you’re scuba-ing to snoop around an old wreck, ‘val-de-ri-val-de-ra-ing’ your way over the island’s ancient unpaved trails, or clambering up to the old castello. For a place where time appears to move in languid fashion – Giglio barely looks a day over the 13th-century – passing the time can move at a remarkable pace. So don’t forget to hit snooze once in a while, with a spell on the beach, watching for dolphins and whale calves in summer or just seeing the boats roll in and out. La Guardia will be there, standing tall and proud as the safekeeper of sublime island breaks.