James Lohan and Tamara Heber-Percy are Mr
& Mrs Smith - collectors, and curators of great hotel experiences.
Why the name 'Mr & Mrs Smith? The moniker
has less to do with the Angelina and Brad film, and everything to do with
romantic getaways. 'Mr & Mrs Smith' is the classic dirty-weekend pseudonym
that clandestine couples often use to reserve their accommodation.
Lohan and Herber-Percy began the company in London, searching for high end boutique hotels close to town. Their local list proved so popular that they decided to stretch across the pond to Europe and then throughout the rest of the world.
In Italy, there are 98 hotels and villas
endorsed by Mr & Mrs Smith, and gaining the pair's approval is no easy task
for a hotelier.
“A hotel needs to be unique, and special,
we specialise in ‘special,” says Lohan.
Every hotel is visited by a Smith team member,
and is reviewed anonymously (and thoroughly) by a couple. Following their stay,
the 'Mr’ and the 'Mrs’ both contribute to an evocative first-person tale of the
hotel experience - “Mrs Smith thought the Italian linen sheets thread
count just right, while Mr Smith couldn’t stop gushing about the complimentary
Chianti and canapés waiting in the room on arrival.”
From Sicily to South Tyrol, Mr and Mrs Smith
spend days eating, drinking, sleeping, and spa-ing themselves to put hotels
through their paces.
“Italy is a special destination for us,“ says
Lohan. “The Italian properties in our collection range from palazzos where
movies have been made, to apartments,“ he says. "All of them are
somewhere you might make memories.”
In the north, Lagaci√≥ Hotel Mountain
Residence lies in the shadow of the Dolomites, with ski slopes at the front
door. On the shores of Lake Como, Grand Hotel Tremezzo is elegantly old-school,
complete with spa and lakeside bars that drink in the view. In Venice Aman
Grande Canal is the romantic choice.
In Tuscany, Castello del Nero, a
12th-century castle complete with Mediaeval frescoes and marble-and-mosaic bathrooms
is set on 740-acres of Tuscan countryside, while in Rome, Residenza Napoleone III is
an opulent boutique apartment, tucked into the corner of a palace on Via Condotti.
On Sicily's south coast, couple Silvia and
Giuseppe Mandranova play hosts at
Azienda Agricola Mandranova, a working olive farm where Giuseppe presses olives to make award-winning oil, taking guests for a drive through the grove in his vintage Land Rover, while Silvia teaches local recipes to guests. The highlight of a stay is dinner time, when Giuseppe sets long tables in the pebbled garden and guests dine under candlelight.
“Luxury comes in many different
guises,” says Lohan.