Tucked in the heart of the city, but with a Mediterranean village charm, Bulgari’s sparkling new jewel of hospitality is the perfect island retreat for those seeking the sun, the sea and the city

Bold, striking and with a touch of Italian heritage in its contemporary design—these are just some of the characteristics of a Bulgari high jewellery, whose creation starts with the search for the perfect gemstone as only the most exceptional will do for the Italian jeweller. The same is true when it comes to its hotels and resorts. “Every project starts with an amazing location, which is like a rough stone that you cut, polish and craft into a beautiful jewel,” said Silvio Ursini, group executive vice president of Bulgari Hotels & Resorts.

Like its high jewellery creations, these locations are exclusive, as evidenced by Bulgari’s portfolio: Milan, which opened in 2004, Bali in 2006, London in 2012, and Beijing last September. Ursini explained, “When I look at a site, I think about the size, the views, the sunrise and sunset—physical attributes that make it special. Then there are ‘irrational considerations’ or what we call genius loci. It’s a feeling.”

One of the locations that held this attraction for Ursini was the man-made seahorse-shaped island on Dubai’s Jumeira Bay, on which sits the collection’s fifth and newest property, the Bulgari Resort Dubai. We were privileged to be among the first to discover this urban oasis last December.

1. First Impressions 

Dubai is a city of skyscrapers, where everything is bigger, taller and glitzier, capped by the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, which loomed in the horizon during the 20min drive from the airport to the resort, its glittering lights as if a beacon across the evening sky. We left Downtown Dubai behind, and crossed the 300m bridge that connects the city and the island, and minutes later, the “understated low-rise architecture”, as Ursini calls it, of Bulgari Resort Dubai comes into view.

Designed by Antonio Citterio Patricia Viel, the renowned Italian architectural firm behind all the Bulgari hotels and resorts to date, the building is exquisitely layered, bathed in golden lights that reflect on its coral-inspired brise-soleil, juxtaposed against the arabescarto marble exteriors. This quiet elegance provided the perfect contrast to the buzzing Dubai skyline, and set the tone for the rest of our stay.

While check-in happens in the comfort of your room, suite or villa, there is a good reason to spend some time in the hotel lobby, which is one of my favourite spots for its modern Italian design reminiscent of an apartment living room, and not that of a hotel. The stunning 1963 image of Italian screen siren Monica Vitti, wearing the Bulgari Seven Wonders necklace (named for it seven Colombian emeralds), is matched only by the striking booth-matched breccia medicea marble on the wall, which immediately draws you into the space.

2. Do Not Disturb

Design is at the heart of the Bulgari Resort Dubai, which is anchored by 101 rooms and suites split into four floors across two wings, alongside 20 villas. Inspired by the vintage constructions of the 1930s, the architects had their hands in every little detail from the interiors to the exteriors, taking the bold and contemporary Italian style typical of the jeweller and fusing it with local sensibilities. Designer Italian brands such as Maxalto, Flos, Flexform and B&B bring a touch of home, as do the custom-designed “trunk” minibar filled with Italian nibbles; while Enzo degli Angiuoni cashmere blankets and wild-wool Beni Ourain rugs from Morocco add the finishing touches.

Each room and suite comes with all the creature comforts you would need in a home away from home, from walk-in wardrobes to a spacious bathroom with a marble bathtub and separate shower, providing a sanctuary of calm you can retreat to after a day traversing the gold and spice souks in the city and the sand dunes on a desert safari; or where you can spend a languid afternoon doing nothing at all. The floor-to-ceiling sliding doors bathe the space in natural light and open up to a private balcony, where I spent many an evening admiring the sunset over the Arabian Gulf and the spectacular Dubai skyline at nightfall, while enjoying the cool breeze.

3. The Extras

Bulgari brings the Roman spirit to all of its properties, and the Bulgari Resort Dubai is no exception. There are Bulgari design codes, with subtle references to Roman heritage, such as the Maglia Pantheon mesh screens in the lobby; the signature eight-pronged star at the lobby entrance; and the green and real gold mosaic of the spa’s vitality pool that recall Rome’s Caracalla baths, which inspired Bulgari’s Divas’ Dream collection. Then there are the archival drawings, snapshots of celebrities in the Dolce Vita era, and vintage advertising within the rooms and the hallways.

The resort is joined by six residential buildings of 173 sea-facing apartments and 15 private mansions, which are set to take occupany this year, as well as Bulgari’s first-ever Marina and Yacht Club with 50 berths, recreating the seaside feel of a Mediterranean village. Savouring a sundowner at the ilCafe terrace, while watching the luxury yachts bobbing in the water, before sailing on a sunset cruise along the Dubai coast evoked a luxurious weekend in yachting spots the likes of Porto Cervo or the Amalfi Coast.

4. Food & Drink

Both Italian and Emirati conviviality is cultivated at the dining table, and the resort wields its secret weapon in the form of chef Niko Romito of three Michelin-starred Reale restaurant in Abruzzo, Italy. The self‑taught chef curates the menu at the resort’s Il Ristorante bringing true, authentic Italian cuisine to the table, with a focus on simplicity, technique, as well as humble ingredients. Go on a gastronomic journey of Italy with his “recodified” versions of dishes such as tagliatelle with ragu; veal Milanese; broken pasta with octopus and potato; preserved tuna; and tiramisu.

Meanwhile, buffet breakfasts are eschewed at the resort’s Il Café, in preference for bringing a spread to the table. From Italian favourites to Arabian mezze, there are plenty to satiate our taste buds. But what made our stay even more memorable was the impeccable hospitality, especially from the breakfast crew, with the simplest things such as remembering my preference for juice instead of coffee, or my favourite breads.

Other dining options include La Spiaggia on the beach for light meals; and the Yacht Club Restaurant for a seafood-focused Italian menu; along with six independent restaurants to open this year along the marina promenade.

5. Tatler Tip

The best time to visit Dubai is in its “cooler” months from November to April. During this time, the city sees blue skies and perfect weather for lounging on the beach and dipping in the turquoise waters of the Arabian Gulf or the outdoor swimming pool at the Beach Club. A cool breeze gently blows in the evenings. But when the weather gets too hot, you can cool off in the 25m indoor pool at the Bulgari Spa, which offers oceanfront views.

While the resort’s rooms and suites are perfect for couples or business travellers, those on family vacations will do well in one of the 20 villas that line a stretch of white sandy beach. Each villa comes with a large living area, a lush garden and a private outdoor pool, along with a personal butler to cater to your every whim and fancy. The top of the line Bulgari Villa also has a private entrance and its own private beach.

Besides design, Bulgari Hotels & Resorts is also known for its bespoke service. Its expert team of concierges is on hand to organise trips and excursions around the city, whether to the galleries in the nearby Alserkal Art District and the newly opened Louvre Abu Dhabi; or a helicopter tour of Dubai, which in my opinion is best viewed from the air—how else can you appreciate the seahorse-shaped island that is home to the Bulgari Resort Dubai. 

A destination that combines the sun, the sea and the city (and even the desert!) definitely appeals to an urbanite like me—and the Bulgari Resort Dubai is all that, and more.

Next stop for Bulgari Hotels & Resorts: Shanghai in March and Moscow in 2020; while Rome, Paris, New York, Beverly Hills and Tokyo are on the cards. Just like us, architect Patricia Viel is looking forward to a Roman property. Her vision: “It should be in an existing 1930s building overlooking the river—because Rome was probably the most modern city in Europe then.” We like the sound of it already.

© 2022 Tatler Asia Limited. All rights reserved.