Beach, Italian Style Laluna has a look and vibe that would suit Armani

February 25, 2003

I'll be honest: My wife and I were leery when we saw the last
stretch of road to Laluna, a quarter-mile-long, impossibly
runneled chunk of Caribbean dirt with more ruts than Keith
Richard's face. It was enough to make us wonder if conditions had
improved in Grenada since "the intervention," as locals call the
1983 American-led invasion that made the island safe again for
banana daiquiris and cinch medical degrees. Indeed, as Laluna
co-manager Wendy Potter, the wife of proprietor Bernardo
Bertucci, puts it, "Even now we get calls from America asking,
'Is the war still going on?'"

Happily, Grenada has been at peace for two decades now, and in
Laluna it has one of the region's most tempting hideaways, a tiny
yet tony gem (maximum guests: 32) that's well worth the
chauffeured schlep over a rutted road. Carved into an
oleander-and hibiscus-scented hillside above a nearly deserted
beach, Laluna is the brainchild of Bertucci, a 39-year-old
Italian by way of New York City, where he spent 10 years in the
fashion industry as a consultant to Giorgio Armani, La Perla and
Prada. It's no coincidence that his 16 cottages--cool concrete
dusted in shades of blue, green and cinnamon--are the work of the
same designer who did Armani's European vacation villa.

On an island that was named by the Spanish, ruled by the French
and colonized by the English, it makes perfect sense that
Grenada's most stylish hideaway would be run by Italians, who
have brought a distinctly global flavor. "Everything here has a
story," Bertucci says. The teak four-poster beds, hand-carved
bathroom mirrors and kooky crotch-grabbing fertility symbols?
Bertucci handpicked them in Bali. The Medusa-style light fixtures
and exotic bath creams? Imported from Italy. Why, Bertucci even
thatched the open-air bar and restaurant with 30,000 pounds of
elephant grass direct from Vietnam.

Guests can embark on excursions to the rain forest, visit the
Saturday spice market in nearby St. George's and take spins on a
Hobie Cat, kayak or mountain bike. Or they can do what we did:
lounge on the beach, enjoy in-room massages and watch the sunset
from our private plunge pool overlooking the sea.

Nighttime brings a new cast of characters. There's chef Benedetto
La Fiura, whose Sicilian specialties (with a Caribbean twist) put
the fare at Tony Soprano's favorite restaurant to shame. There's
Wilton, the dreadlocked David Blaine of barmen, who can entrance
you with an industrial-strength rum punch and a bulging bag of
parlor tricks.

Two years after its launch Laluna has turned into a hot spot
among in-the-know fashionistas, to say nothing of urban hipsters
from New York, London and Milan who want to avoid the tourist
hordes that overrun the neighboring islands. (Model Jerry Hall
and former Eurythmics member Dave Stewart are two recent guests.)
Best of all, Laluna is proof positive that you don't need a
flamethrowing, drum-banging floor show to have a memorable
Caribbean vacation. Good food, a gorgeous setting and a chill
vibe: Another U.S. invasion may be coming, only this time it
won't be the Marines. --Grant Wahl

COLOR PHOTO: DIANE SMITH FOUR-STAR GAZING Heavenly bodies float in with the tide at Laluna, which is why Enrique Badulescu was able to get shots of Diaz-Rahi. COLOR PHOTO: JENNIFER KAPLAN [See caption above] COLOR PHOTO: COURTESY OF LALUNA [See caption above]

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON LALUNA, TURN TO PAGE 218.

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