The fishermen are long gone, their simple stone houses reclaimed in the 1950s as a state-run hotel on the orders of Tito, then President of Yugoslavia. Sveti Stefan soon became a celebrity hang out with guests including Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor helping to put it on the “must-go” map.
Over time the hotel fell into disrepair until Amanresorts and designer Jean-Michel Gathy rescued it. In 2011 after four years of painstaking renovations they unveiled the 50-room and suite hotel and the celebrities are back. This is where Tennis World Number One Novak Djokivic was married this summer.
The resort has three curvaceous bays on the Adriatic Sea, five restaurants, and two chapels that come in handy for the frequent weddings celebrated there. Across the causeway on the mainland there are eight more rooms in Villa Milocer, the former holiday home of the Queen of Yugoslavia and a wonderfully calming Spa.
Simplicity is the buzzword matched by the highest level of comfort. The stone facades and terracotta roofs of the 50 village homes have been preserved, the cobbled paths meander up and down and the grounds are filled with 800 olive trees.
At first sight the village looks much as it would have done 600 years ago but look closer and the Aman signature is everywhere.
Each room or suite is in a former cottage, each completely individual. Some have pools or private terraces and all look out across the Adriatic Sea. The interiors are pared back to their very beautiful natural bones: exposed stone walls, chunky wooden roof beams and a pale palette of oak floors, putty-coloured curtains and crisp white linens.
Get the Look:
Less is more is the Aman Sveti Stefan mantra. The furniture was made especially for the hotel in Serbia from Slovakian wood but try Conan Shop for Shaker-style wooden desks, John Lewis and The Natural Rug Store for seagrass matting and Neptune for squat wooden-topped washstands.
Design is by Jean-Michel Gathy, a celebrated master of luxury hotel design who is no stranger to challenging historic sites. His company Deniston International Architects oversaw work on the Aman Canal Grande in Venice, a sixteenth century Palazzo that featured prominently in George Clooney’s summer wedding.
In Sveti Stefan his interiors have a monastic simplicity that is overwhelmingly calming. “There is always structured thinking,” explains Jean-Michel. “Our work is balanced, contemporary, chic and appropriate to the site, culture and purpose. It must work, be practical and yet dramatic.”
Hidden Design Gem:
“The lanterns that hang in the windows are modelled on the lanterns that the village women would light to help guide their fishermen home several centuries ago,” says General Manager Kevin Brooke. “It gives a soft glow and along with the stone walls is a way of connecting with the history of this unique site.”
Splash out on the private pool in the Sveti Stefan Suite. The two-floor suite also has its own secluded rooftop terrace with wide views over the sea.
Aman Resorts: www.amanresorts.com ; 00 800 2255 2626