Legendary American poet T.S. Eliot once described April as the ‘cruelest’ month. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. With the first rays of Spring sun warming the buds and bringing a riot of color - and sound, and taste, and smell - to the cities, coastlines, and landscapes of Europe’s Mediterranean south, it’s the perfect moment to book that ideal April getaway, making the most of the relative quiet before everyone else ups-sticks for the arrival of summer proper. Even Eliot made his way, eventually, to Europe. But, rather than poetry, we’re simply searching to escape the daily grind and to feel some early sun on our faces, all served with a heavy helping of unparalleled old-world culture.
Hotel Cap Rocet in Mallorca. Black Tomato
White pearls sprinkled in an azure sea, Spain’s Balearic islands offer the ultimate chic getaway packed with sultry beaches, rambling, historic towns (including the rustic squares of Palma’s Arab quarter), and the freshest of food. The former fortress of Hotel Cap Rocat, in the secluded bay of Palma de Mallorca, is only a short hop away from the uncomparable eateries and boutiques of the historic city center. What’s more, Ibiza itself offers a world of relaxation, denting the image of this beautiful island (which is also, appropriately enough, one of the most magnetic places on earth) as a partygoer’s paradise. The truly stunning 7Pines Hotel is just one of the many places where you can experience this uncompromising slice of laid-back luxury.
The Amalfi Coast of Italy. Black Tomato
The period from March onwards sees the swollen yellow lemons of Italy’s Amalfi Coast harvested from their laden branches. And, when life (literally) gives you lemons, it’s time to make limoncello. Bright days and warm, lingering nights, from picturesque Sorrento to the elegant 12th-century Castello del Nero in the Tuscan north, mean that the entire country opens up to beautiful vistas, soft breezes, and truly local food. Many chose the unquestionably rejuvenating duo of Tuscany and Amalfi for a heavy dose of la dolce vita, with access to some of the world’s most glamorous hotels - perched on rocky, sun-warmed cliffs. It’s also road-trip heaven - if snaking between some of the most picturesque villages in the world is your kind of thing.
A Heliskier takes off in Switzerland. Black Tomato
A mountainous, landlocked country, which more readily brings to mind clocks (delicate little mechanisms, nice ringing), and ski slopes (sugar-white powder, extremely downhill), Switzerland also offers up slabs of fantastic outdoorsiness, deep history, and glamorous, refined cities. There is plenty of adrenaline to be found in its great outdoors, for those who fancy living on the wild side. But, for those who want to take the back seat, the country offers a beautiful, lingering summer, where cogwheel trains carry you up lustrous, shining valleys, and where dark forests - wrapped in folkloric curiosity - vie for your attention with luxurious, cutting-edge hotels; not least the jaw-dropping, cliff-perched glory of the Bürgenstock Hotel & Alpine Spa, a mini commute from Europe’s highest railway station, and beautiful Lake Lucerne.
View of the Hotel cap Estel in Monaco. Black Tomato
Ah, France. If winter sees this generous and varied country wrapped in curls of mist, then the warmer months really crank up the sun. For the most part, vacationers head to the country’s gentle, warm, Mediterranean South - from the pink-stoned splendor of old Toulouse to idyllic, luxurious Monaco and Nice. Haute cuisine, grand, spired chateau, and sea-straddling resort towns maintain France’s unparalleled goodness and glamour. From the scented, rocky gardens of exclusive Cap Estel (a stunning hotel in Monaco perched on the edge of the warm Med), or Provence’s Hotel Crillon le Brave (whose boutique buildings date back to the 16th century), the nation has long been the go-to destination for truly world-class cuisine, relaxation, and oodles of culture.
A view of Lisbon, Portugal. Black Tomato
Picture a tile. This is no ordinary tile. It’s bright and old - ripe with floral and geometric patterns. Portugal isn’t just a tile (of course), but these extremely everyday objects - which are found throughout its towns and cities - tell us a lot about a country that is steeped in history, sensitive to aesthetics, and deeply focused on perfecting its crafts (whether culinary or, well, tile-based). Private tastings of local port in the cellars of its endlessly fascinating cities, or tasting the crumbling sweetness of traditional pastel de nata (custard tarts) in its happening neighborhoods, put Portugal’s foodie foot forward. But there’s also grand luxury (at Lisbon’s Four Season Ritz, for example) and the benevolent, rocky, and topsy-turvy landscapes of Portugal’s Alentejo Region. It’s really a destination where your senses come first.
Poolside cabana at the Mykonos Grand Hotel. Black Tomato
As far as myths are concerned, it took ancient hero Odysseus ten years to travel home from war-broken Troy (supposedly in modern-day Turkey). It figures when you consider the amount of clout that this Aegean country contains in its hundreds of islands and unbeatable mainland. Perfect for those true family getaways (many of the islands are reachable only by slow boats), as well as gloriously glitzy romantic vacations, the islands range from tiny and rugged to bustlingly civic. Mykonos is always held in high esteem for this reason, especially when you can kick back in the beautiful boutique spread of the Mykonos Grand hotel - with its cool, white walls accented with splashes of rich sea blue. Here, you can dine everywhere from a world-class branch of Nobu to a traditional taverna, eating only the freshest grilled fish. Others might make the hop across to seductive Santorini, and the breathtaking town of Oia (which you know, I’m sure - with its blue-domed houses overlooking that brilliant, wine-dark sea).
Tom Marchant is the owner and co-founder of The Black Tomato Group, parent company of the travel brands Black Tomato and Epic Tomato.