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The medieval castle near Rome that’s now a hostel

An affordable stay in a magnificent setting just 40 minutes from Rome is perfect for mixing sightseeing with days on the beach

Gauzy curtains blow in the breeze, framing a perfect view of the sparkling Mediterranean. The sun’s rays fall across our big white bed as we stand at the tall window, gazing down at a rocky shore, and right to a wide curve of beach. We could be in a five-star hotel. The setting, a 14th-century castle of pinkish stone overlooking golden sands 50km up the coast from Rome, is gorgeous enough to catch the beady eye of some property developer, but we’re actually staying in a new hostel, opened last summer in Castello di Santa Severa by the Lazio regional government.

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Mountain maestros: the Alpine retreat that stages world-class concerts

At Schloss Elmau in southern Germany top classical musicians ‘play to stay’, so guests can enjoy performances between spa sessions, yoga and amazing views

We were halfway to the spa when something stopped us. We’d been padding along in slippers and pastel-coloured towelling robes, staring idly at the snowy mountains outside. And then we heard it. The sound of a violin: a few snatched phrases, soaring, uplifting, broken up by short periods of silence. Somebody with considerable skill was practising. In the hotel.

Later that morning, having enjoyed a soaking in the largest hammam this side of Istanbul, we wandered past the main staircase in our hotel’s reception. A family was gathered on the stairs, chatting. The patriarch – a man in his 70s with wild grey hair – carried a cello on his back. We’d seen him the night before, the man with the cello. Playing Brahms, Schumann and Schubert, accompanied by his talented children, the youngest a boy of 14.

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