Extraordinary Eco Retreats and the Books To Read While You’re There


Not that we need another excuse to daydream our digital day away, but thanks to travel writer Francisca Mattéoli’s new book Escape Hotel Stories: Retreat and Refuge in Nature, we have one that’s valid. Combining two of our favorite escapist pleasures — travel and really good books — the stunning tome available this month from the great curator of culture, Assouline, explores environmentally sensitive retreats around the world through the lens of literature and art.

After previewing the stunning travel book, we thought we’d share some of the goodness with you, dear readers, by paying a virtual visit to a few of the author’s top destinations. From a village of fifteen tents on land that shares an ancient history with Bruce Chatwin’s poetic account of the Australian outback’s aboriginal Dreamtime mythology in The Songlines to a converted limestone refinery on the Swedish island of Gotland and The Magic Lantern, the autobiography of its most famous neighbor, Ingmar Bergman, to a luxurious hideaway in Big Sur, California and longtime resident, Henry Miller’s masterpiece, Tropic of Cancer, click through to check out our favorite pairings from Escape Hotel Stories. For more wonderful pairings and an in-depth look at each retreat, head over to Assouline’s online book boutique and order your copy today. Tell us about your favorite holiday reading material in the comments below!

Longitude 131 in Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Australia + Bruce Chatwin’s The Songlines

Image credit: Johnny Jet; Vintage Classics via Amazon; Glamping Girl

This luxurious tented village sits at the base of Australia’s famous Ayers Rock in the heart of the Uluru-Kata Tijuta National Park, the setting for Bruce Chatwin’s seminal book, The Songlines. Get into the nomadic spirit and gain a better understanding of the landscape’s ancient spiritual history before visiting the waterfalls, caves and the area’s 500 million-year-old mountains.

Treverra Farm Cottage in Cornwall, England + Virginia Woolf’s Jacob’s Room

Image credit: Laura in the Tarn; Melville House Books; Apartment Therapy

Mattéoli describes her visit to Treverra Cottage by writing “it made me think of Virginia Woolf’s descriptions of her beloved St. Ives… breathing in the perfumes of the wild herbs and flowers, of the the salt on the breeze, of the sea, and of clean, damp earth.”

Posada de Mike Rapu on Easter Island in Chile + Pierre Loti’s Journal d’un aspirant de La Flore

Image credit: explora; Christian Perot via Amazon; Touring Buddy

Read the French sailor’s account of discovering this isolated island dotted with monolithic statues to learn more about the UNESCO World Heritage site or to daydream about, as Mattéoli describes it, “an adventure that is, and will always remain, unsurpassable.”

Fabriken Furillen in Gotland, Sweden + Ingmar Bergman’s autobiography The Magic Lantern

Image credit: Peter Guenzel via gessato; Penguin via Amazon

Spend a few days in an Ingmar Bergman movie at this converted limestone refinery on Sweden’s Gotland Island. Read the prolific filmmaker’s autobiography before you arrive or while you’re there to know exactly how to play the part.

Cottars 1920’s Safari Camp in Kenya, East Africa + Isak Dinesen’s Out of Africa

Image credit: Natural High Safaris; Amazon; Quintessentially Villas

Isak Dinesen’s Out of Africa may be the greatest safari adventure ever told, so if you’re planning your own modern day version, it’s the first book you should read. And, after reading Mattéoli’s account, Cottars Safari Camp is surely the only place to stay.

Ventana Inn in Big Sur, California + Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer

Image credit: JDV Hotels; Dreamsville

One could argue that the 90-mile stretch of rugged California coastline named Big Sur is the natural embodiment of Henry Miller’s ideals. Mattéoli tells us that “the child of Brooklyn had found his Eden” when he arrived in Big Sur. Tropic of Cancer is the controversial author’s semi-autobiographical story of living the life of a struggling writer in Paris. Read it before you go to understand exactly why he felt he’d found his paradise.

Banyan Tree Ringha in Tibet, China + Alexandra David-Néel’s Magic and Mystery in Tibet

Image credit: Le Voyage Creation; Amazon

The Buddhist Belgian-French explorer Alexandra David-Néel influenced the likes of Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg with her enlightening tales of travel with the Sikkimese monk Aphur Yongden. Relive the adventure of her most famous book, Magic and Mystery in Tibet, in Shangri-La (it actually exists) at this secluded Banyan Tree sanctuary.

Borgo Santo Pietro in Siena, Italy + Edith Wharton’s Italian Villas and Their Gardens

I mage credit: Borgo Santo Pietro; Rizzoli via The Book Cover Archive

Before Edith Wharton was writing about tragedy and social hierarchy in 19th century New York City, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author was contributing articles on Italian gardens to The Century Magazine, an illustrated monthly publication focused on cultural news at the turn of the century. Collected in book form, Mattéoli writes that Wharton’s Italian Villas and Their Gardens has inspired “architects and landscape designers, gardeners and enthusiasts.” It’s inspired us to look into booking a room at this tranquil villa asap.

Image credit: Assouline; Julio Piatti