Island fortress turned luxury retreat
Not far from Budva, one of Montenegro’s most photographed and alluring destinations is the tiny rocky islet of Sveti Stefan, attached to the coast by a narrow isthmus of sand that fans out into two idyllic sandy beaches. Once a fortified village dating back to the 1400s, the island has seen its fortunes rise and fall over the centuries.
In its heyday it supported a population of 400, and after the Second World War there was talk of it becoming a painters’ colony, but it was the idea of turning the island into a hotel that took root, and saw its subsequent transformation into a favoured retreat for royalty, politicians and celebrities in the 1960s and 1970s.
Now Sveti Stefan is set for its second renaissance as a luxury resort under the management of Amanresorts. Its historical character and charm in tact, the red-roofed sturdy stone buildings of the village will host guests in cottages and suites that have been restored and updated with every modern luxury.
Like every ancient village it has a church, and at its heart an open-air square – The Piazza – where inhabitants can mingle, drink and eat at various venues. For breakfasts and beyond there is The Pasticceria (bakery) serving traditional pastries and bakes while The Taverna offers simple European and American fare as well as fresh and pastoral Mediterranean dishes for lunch and dinner.
Ideal for tapas and drinks, the Enoteca offers a sea-facing terrace and cellar-like interiors hung with hams and cheeses. Adjacent lies the Antipasti Bar, a lively convivial space, which opens in the early evenings. The Cigar Room, a masculine haven of wood and leather offers a selection of fine Cuban cigars as well as rare cognac, vintage Armagnac and single-malt whiskeys.
The island will also offer spa treatment suites featuring a range of signature Aman Spa therapies, and has its own pink sandy beaches, which complement the beach of Villa Milocer on the main land overlooking the islet, and Queen’s Beach, so-named because it was the favourite beach of Queen Maria of Romania.
Already launched as phase one of Aman Sveti Stefan is the beautifully restored Villa Milocer, a royal summer residence set in a large estate surrounded by olive trees, cedars and pines, and furnished with six elegant suites.
A further two one-bedroom Queen Marija Suites are located on the Villa’s grounds.
For dining venues at Villa Milocer guests can choose between the intimate and refined atmosphere of The Dining Room, the wisteria-covered Loggia, and the spacious, luxurious Living Room looking onto the gardens and beach.
The resort has three other restaurants on the main land, each offering a different experience and atmosphere.
Local cheeses, garden-fresh salads and homemade pastas are served on the expansive sun-terrace along with cocktails and choice local wines.
Olive Tree is a casual, laid-back venue invoking the ambience of a beachside brasserie. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, the restaurant offers indoor and outdoor seating overlooking Sveti Stefan island and its beaches, as well as a bar. Olive’s menu features a large selection of cut-to-order meats and seafood prepared on its two wood-fired grills and its antique olive-wood-fired rotisserie.
Tucked into a cove near Villa Milocer and shaded by cypress trees and century-old olive groves, the Beach Café provides informal dining throughout the day with a simple café menu and light snacks.