Stylist’s favourite novels act as a travel muse as we explore the beautiful destinations that have informed many literary classics.
CINQUE TERRE, ITALIAN RIVIERA
THE BOOK: Beautiful Ruins, by Jess Walter (£8.99, Viking)
Picture perfect: Pastel stacked houses in Cinque Terre, Italy
THE INSPIRATION The idea behind Walter’s sixth book came when he was hiking across the Cinque Terre, the most unspoiled section of the Italian Riviera, northern Italy. Walter’s mother was dying and when he arrived home, he wrote Beautiful Ruins and its character Dee with her in mind. The novel is epic, but nowhere is it more evocative than in the opening scenes in Italy, as protagonist Pasquale stands “chest deep in the cold Ligurian Sea… chest deep in daydreams”.
WHERE TO GO Cinque Terre was declared a national park and a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1997, consequently, you’ll struggle not to reach for your camera. A hub for writers and musicians, it’s an inspiring place, and a paradise for hikers – its five villages cling to a rugged coastline that is blissfully free from excessive tourism. Each has a different flavour, but don’t skip the steps up to Corniglia on the hilltop, as you’ll miss out on a phenomenal view – and the area’s best wine.
WHERE TO EAT If it smells good, it’ll taste good, and the seafood is perfect. Make a reservation at Osteria A Cantina De Mananan in Corniglia to eat local Monterosso anchovies cooked three ways and dunk homemade focaccia in bright green olive oil. For a special occasion, try the tasting menu at Cappun Magru in Manarola, and if your taste buds crave something sweeter and simpler afterwards, they will forever thank you for Gelateria Cinque Terre’s local honey gelato; for ice-cream lovers, it’s as much of a religious experience as the region’s impressive churches.
WHERE TO STAY If you wanted crisp sheets and luxury, you’d be in Rome or Milan; here, it’s all about rustic authenticity. It’s not easy to access the village by car, car, so stay just outside in Levanto, which is only five minutes away by train. We recommend the Villa Pallastrelli (villapallastrelli. com), an art nouveau-style four-bedroom villa, which should provide the perfect base to sleep off the hikes or one-too-many gelatos.
Santiago, Chile: The multi-coloured wonder of the Andes
THE INSPIRATION Isabel Allende’s novels The House Of The Spirits, Of Love And Shadows and Eva Luna offer a snapshot of Latino culture, knotting magic together with real-life events. She lived in Santiago and many of the houses in Of Love And Shadows are based on its colonial mansions. Her characters live in convents where “doves, thrushes and hummingbirds drink from a fountain of coloured tiles”; kitchens are the domain of women with “whirling cotton skirts and flying hair” and whitewashed haciendas have views of the mountains.
WHERE TO GO Barrio Bellavista, the city’s bohemian quarter, buzzes with boutiques, hip restaurants and avant-garde galleries that occupy colourful mansions punctuating tree-lined streets. At night, it pulses to the music pouring from bars; on weekends, an evening handicrafts market runs the length of Pío Nono. Barrio Lastarria is Santiago’s historic 19th-century hub – the perfect place to read The House Of The Spirits, an epic family saga set during a military coup – and a cultural hot spot. Stop by the Gabriela Mistral Cultural Centre (gam.cl) to find out what’s going on that week.
Read yourself a bedtime story in The Aubrey
WHERE TO EAT Chileans are mad about hot dogs and at Dominó (domino.cl; found all over the city), locals line up for the Italiano, smothered in mayo, tomatoes and creamy avocado. For something traditional, head to El Hoyo (elhoyo.cl). Serving rustic food since 1912, enjoy dishes such as arrollado (strips of pork loin marinated in paprika, cumin and garlic), accompanied by live music.
WHERE TO STAY The Aubrey (theaubrey.com) is a boutique hotel converted from a Mission-style mansion in Bellavista. Its 15 rooms boast period features vamped up with crystal chandeliers, velvet chairs and mosaic tiling; the decayed elegance echoing the atmosphere of Allende’s novels.
SAN SEBASTIÁN, SPAIN
Admire the bright lights and blue waters of San Sebastian
THE BOOK: The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway (£4.80, Thinking Ink Media)
THE INSPIRATION It was only weeks after Ernest Hemingway’s inaugural visit to Spain with his first wife Hadley (covered beautifully in Paula McLain’s The Paris Wife) that he began to write The Sun Also Rises, making the imagery in his debut supremely powerful. As Jake Barnes sits sipping on whiskey and soda, or swimming in water where he felt “as though you could never sink”, any reader’s mind will wander to the idea of tasting this idyll – and the whiskey – themselves.
WHERE TO GO Nothing you do will lack a food focus. Book a foodie tour (sansebastianfood.com) – it’s Brit-run, but in-the-know locals will take you round the markets, food shops and pintxos bars, ending in one of the best lunches you’ll ever sample. For a break, jump on a ferry to Isla Santa Clara and unwind on its tiny beach.
Arzak: Delicious food and a work of art
WHERE TO EAT Where not to eat would be easier… For a special occasion, head to the three-Michelin starred Arzak and try the malt beer-injected lamb; it’s like nothing you’ll ever eat. It’s not cheap, so when your purse is sparse the next day, head to La Mejillonera, a backstreet mussels and patatas bravas cafe that’s big with locals. For lunch and snacks, choose the best of the pintxos with the help of todopintxos.com; a must-visit site when you’re overwhelmed with choice. Wash it all down with the local sparkling white wine, poured into your glass theatrically from a great height.
WHERE TO STAY Get involved with film, the region’s other obsession besides food, and stay at the Astoria 7 (astoria7hotel.com). Rooms are dedicated to stars who have attended the city’s annual international film festival, so you can choose who you share your stay with from actors such as Glenn Close, Michael Caine or Kevin Costner.
Chateau Comtal: The perfect home for Mosse's brave heroine
THE BOOK: Labyrinth by Kate Mosse (£7.99, Orion)
THE INSPIRATION When Kate Mosse visited the walled medieval city of Carcassonne in south-west France in 1989, she was so inspired by its fairytale setting she bought a home there. Then she took her love one step further, setting Labryinth, the first novel in her historical Languedoc trilogy, here. Secret passageways and drawbridges form the perfect backdrop to the archaeological blockbuster, set in both the Middle Ages and modern-day France. Mosse’s heroine Alaïs lives in the 11th-century Château Comtal, and the novel begins and ends in Soularac in the Pyrenees.
WHERE TO GO The city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is atmospheric, especially at night, and it takes about two hours to walk around the central ruins. As the iconic archways fall into shadows and the towers and turrets are eerily lit up, you’ll find yourself joining Mosse’s Pic de Saint-Barthélémy and the Pic de Soularac, both of which feature in the book.
WHERE TO EAT The small but charming Auberge de Dame Carcas (damecarcas.com) specialises in regional dishes – think wood-fire-grilled cassoulet and pork with honey, leaving just enough room for arguably the region’s best dessert, tarte tatin.
Modern day luxury in the Medieval Hotel De La Cite
WHERE TO STAY Hôtel de La Cité (hoteldelacite.com) in the historic citadel is magical. It combines romantic gardens, a Neo-Gothic lobby and stained-glass windows with Michelin-starred dining, its own wine cellar and, suitably, a library bar – the perfect place to curl up with a glass of local red and a copy of Labyrinth.