What do you want in a luxury hotel? 6

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While I was in Bolzano a few months I stayed at the Hotel Laurin, a traditional luxury hotel in the region and an absolutely wonderful place to stay. I loved the place for many reasons, but as I sat in the smoking room one night with a cigar in one hand and glass of local red wine in the other, I pondered the question, “what exactly do I like in a luxury hotel?”

First, I’ll take a smoking room please. The bar at the Hotel Laurin had big, comfortable leather chairs and couches, dark wood paneling, a wide selection of wine and liquor, plus bartenders with the perfect amount of reserve, but the highlight for me was the separate smoking room off to the side outfitted with a stand-up humidor stocked full of Cuban cigars. I went down each night for a nice smoke and glass or two of wine and not surprisingly, each and every night there were more people in the smoking room than the regular bar. Bring back the smoking rooms – it’s good for business.

Second, big, wide sweeping staircases. I’m lazy enough to want to take an elevator if I need to go three or more floors, but a big staircase just oozes class. The second time I stayed in the hotel, I was on the third floor and actually managed to walk up and down more than a couple of times, each time letting my mind wander to thinking I was staying there in the 1920s.

Third, high ceilings and comfortable beds. The beds are generally a given in a nice hotel, but ‘o my are they welcomed. The high ceilings seem to correspond with older buildings and given my choice, those are the kinds of places I like to stay. I appreciate a little age in my architecture.

Fourth, a good breakfast and I don’t mean the traditional European thing, which seems to consist of some sandwich meats, breads, and juice. The breakfast at this hotel had a dozen different types of fruit, omelets, bacon and eggs, good coffee, a variety of juices — and the sandwich meat and bread thing.

Fifth, free wifi. I can’t believe how many expensive hotels tack on another $15-20 a day for wifi. unconscionable.

So, lend me a hand — what do YOU like to have when you stay in a luxury hotel? And what are some of your favorite hotels around the world?

bolzano italy from above

Bolzano is the capital of the South Tyrol region of northern Italy, which is one of my new favorite parts of Europe. Although I was there in the only down month of the year (November), that presented less of a problem in Bolzano than the rest of the region.

The above shot is a view of Bolzano and the Dolomite mountains that border the town and dominate the region from the tallest building in town.

south tyrol dolomite mountains near bolzano italy

The area immediately around Bolzano offers plenty of scenic overlooks and fabulous sightseeing. I rented a car for a few days and wandered around, which is the best way to navigate the valleys and mountains in the South Tyrol region.

christmas market bolanzo at night

The Christmas market in the main square in Bolzano. Christmas markets are most traditionally found in the German areas of Europe, but given South Tyrol’s odd bit of history, in that it used to be part of Austria until after the First World War, the tradition finds its way this far south. The locals in Bolzano told me that buses of Italians from further south came in every weekend, full of shoppers.

park in bolzano italy with autumn leave colors

The park right next to the Hotel Laurin. Just to the left of this shot is the train station, which is no further than a few hundred yards from the hotel. Yet another reason I enjoyed staying there — easy to get to.


Thanks to Samsung for sponsoring a few of my activities recently in South Tyrol and gifting me a Samsung Galaxy SIII. All views expressed here are my own honest opinions, and do not reflect the views of Samsung or the South Tyrol Tourism Board, which also assisted me on this trip.

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About Michael Hodson

I’m an attorney that took off on my birthday in December of 2008 to circumnavigate the globe without ever getting on an airplane. After 16 months, 6 continents and 44 countries, I made it all the way back home. Right now, I am back on the road writing about it all.

6 thoughts on “What do you want in a luxury hotel?

  • Jennifer

    It drives me crazy when a luxury hotel charges for wifi. Also, I always wonder who designs hotel bathrooms when there is no plug in the bathroom. Do they not realize women dry their hair and need a mirror to do so?!

    End rant. Did you visit the Ice Man while in Bolzano?

    • Michael Hodson Post author

      I was really happy that this hotel didn’t charge for wifi at all. It makes it a lot easier to endorse, for sure. Didn’t have a chance to see the Ice Man. Might have to go back.

  • Dyanne@TravelnLass

    What do I want in a luxury hotel?

    Uh, not to be insolent Michael, but… uh, nothing.

    Indeed, though (in 30+ yrs. of travel) I’ve had plenty of opportunities to splash out in opulent digs (both as a backpacker and freebies when I was in “the biz” as an int’l tour operator), I must say…

    I avoid such glitzy sleeps like the plague mainly ‘cuz… honestly? I generally find that I don’t care for the kinds of travelers who hang out in them (uh, present company excluded of course) 😉

    Sure, there are exceptions, but generally, I just find that whenever I have found myself in some 5-star, the folks I meet tend to be a bit uppity and whiny – not so discreetly putting down the locals (the very folks who are waiting on them hand ‘n foot.) Not ALL of course (and no doubt YOU, Michael would never dream of such), but still.

    That and, I always feel like a PRISONER of sorts when I’m holed up in one of those classy marble (yes, w/ those awesome looking staircases) and gilded behemoths. They’re generally located in equally upscale enclaves – isolated from the authentic local culture that I seek in my travels to begin with, and it’s difficult to escape solo, without going on an organized tour, shuffled into a pricey taxi, etc.

    Oh yeah, and I too have never figured out why… the hostels and smaller guesthouses, etc. nearly always offer free wifi – while the luxury hotels charge you an arm and a leg for it.

    Don’t get me wrong. I most certainly enjoy, nay favor comfy digs in my travels. But I’ll take a small, locally-owned guesthouse or pensione set amid a neighborhood where the locals go about their day-to-day work/play – over a luxury hotel any day of the week.

    • Michael Hodson Post author

      Totally appreciate that point of view. I don’t do them frequently, but must say that I’ve enjoyed quite a few of them. The sophisticated bar, compared to the ones in the hostels and smaller hotels, are something I really miss from my old work days. Nothing quite like being in a bar with everyone dressed fairly nicely. A good, dark one… with a smoking room 😉

  • Michael Simpson

    My idea of a luxury hotel is the Menger in San Antonio, and on the one occasion when it was sold out during the weekend of the one CLE seminar I attend every August, the Saint Anthony. I appreciate most of the things you mentioned, including free Wifi (which I regret to say the Menger did not have, at least not in 2009) and also a pool like Sofie mentioned. Instead of a smoking room, I’d be happy with a nice small bar where the booze is not too expensive.

    The nicest pensione I ever stayed at on the other side of the pond was the Rigatti in Florence. Unfortunately, it’s out of business (I think the owners are now staying at the Pearly Gates). It had the most important feature of a nice hotel — it was a block from everything.

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