Morocco’s theatre of dreams
Dar Ahlam – the name means “house of dreams” in Arabic and, thanks to the attentions that Thierry Teyssier, the owner of this 200-year-old fortified house in southern Moroccan palmeraie, lavishes on the guests, it is a place of dreams indeed. The design is, of course, beautiful – the bedlinen hand-embroidered, the ceramic lamps hand-shaped, the Louis Benech-authored gardens that stretch behind the house just unmanicured enough in their splendour. But it is the sense of theatre that dazzles: more than 100 staff look after only 30 guests, curating exceptional moments: staging secret dinners lit by hundreds of candles, erecting bivouacs on desert-hike routes, and weaving magic into the weft of one’s days. Teyssier has other alluring hospitality projects – from La Route de la Memoire, a seven-day road exploration of southern Morocco’s empty reaches, to 700,000 Heures, his travelling “pop-up” hotel, which this summer alights on the shores of Lake Como (watch this space for more on that). Dar Ahlam, though, resonates long after you’ve left; it stays with, and in, you – the highest travel praise there is, and why it’s worth a place on the long-planning list. maisonsdesreves.com; from £1,067 a night
Sonoma, so good
Rebirth, resilience, rebuilding: they’re nothing new to residents of Sonoma County in California. With its traditions of organic farming and animal husbandry, and its vulnerability to earthquakes and forest fires, Sonoma is a place where nature’s cycles are writ large on the land. And what land: the proximity to the Pacific brings year-round spectacles of atmosphere; the inland reaches are furred in evergreens and vineyards, while its coastline is rough, pounded by a frigid ocean. Architecture aficionados will know that coastline through the Sea Ranch community, the seminal mid-20th-century development that sparked a national passion for buildings that find a natural place in their setting. An unnamed Bay Area tech fund purchased the 19-room Sea Ranch Lodge in 2019; no renovation plans have yet been announced (here’s hoping they don’t sacrifice its lo-fi perfection in pursuit of too many luxury trappings). Inland, places to stay are those that skew small and thoughtful: just outside Glen Ellen is Beltane Ranch, a farm stay-winery whose six-room house dates to 1892 and has been run by the same family for six generations. To the north is The Farmhouse Inn, where the cottages have curated wine fridges, there’s a gleaming food truck in the drive serving baja fish tacos, and sommeliers from the Michelin-starred restaurant lead private tasting tours.
Tuscany’s blooming heirloom
In 1924, Iris and Antonio Origo purchased La Foce, a 2,800-hectare estate on a hill above Tuscany’s Unesco-protected Val d’Orcia. An English-born American heiress newly married to a marquis, Iris set about restoring the property’s late-15th-century villa, commissioning Cecil Pinsent to design its garden – today, one of the most popular in central Italy. The Origos brought optimism and grit to this severely beautiful corner of Italy; when war erupted, they harboured resistance fighters and refugee children (a harrowing but rewarding period Origo brought to vivid life in her classic 1947 memoir, War in Val d’Orcia). The villa, available for holiday lets and events, was restored in 2018 by Origo’s daughter, Benedetta (garnering it a multi-page spread in The World of Interiors). Now Benedetta and her own daughter, Katia Lysy, have turned their attention to the estate’s cottages, once homes to workers who farmed La Foce’s grain and olives. The one called Montauto – remade with lush textiles, antiques and a joyous colour palette, sleeping 10 people comfortably – was first to be renovated; the others are following. May sees this corner of the world come to outsized life: the skies mercurial with spring winds, the hills undulating green with alfalfa, crimson poppies painting the gullies between them. It’s a landscape that lifts the heart, and vantage points on it don’t get better than La Foce. lafoce.com; Villa Origo, minimum three-day rental, from €21,000; Casa Montauto, from €4,500 a week