Casa Cartagena

 

The Courtyard at Casa Cartagena
The Courtyard at Casa Cartagena. The hotel has only 16 suites in four different categories.

 

Chances are anyone visiting Cusco, Peru, the ancient Inca capital, will stay just long enough to visit the citadel of Machu Picchu, the Sacred Valley of the Incas and take a city tour. Now there is very good reason to stay longer. It is Casa Cartagena, a 17th-century residence which its Italian owner has restored, leaving original features like the stone walls in view, and adding trendy molded designer lighting and contemporary Italian furniture. Proving, yet again, Italians do it better.

The 16 suites, (the largest in Peru at 430 to 1,292 square feet) in the old and the new buildings have built-in oxygen systems to help with soroche or altitude sickness, and come in different shapes and color schemes. Nine have private balconies and they all look onto the flag-stoned and grass patio, which takes on a fairytale atmosphere at night when the large illuminated globe in the center glows like a toppled full moon.

Owner and General Manager Stefano Boetto (sboetto@casacartagena.com; 011-51-8426-1171) says the hotel was designed with families in mind and recommends the six Master Suites in the old building (860 to 1,075 square feet), which can sleep four to five. In particular, book Suite Nos. 10 and 11, which are connecting, and Suite Nos. 12 and 14, which are bi-level.

Top Digs: The best of the best is the 1,614-square-foot Royal Suite with an arched stone terrace, which has been converted into an elegant living/dining room. The bedroom area is on two levels with a large Jacuzzi and a bathroom behind the king-size bed on the lower level, and two queen-size beds upstairs where there is a second bathroom and a small massage room.

The 1,292-square-foot Presidential Suite, also in the original building and with a private balcony, has a long living/dining room, a TV room and a Jacuzzi behind the king-sized bed.

For families with small children, we suggest Suite No. 5 in the new building (one of the eight 430-square-foot LP Suites) for its cheerful red and white-striped walls. Note: This room opens right onto the patio. For honeymooners, pick Suite No. 10 in the old building, with a bright yellow wall behind the bed, traces of the original frescoes, a small living room and a balcony.

All suites have high ceilings, dark wood floors, desks, dining tables, flat-screen TVs, air conditioning and heating, and cordless telephones (local calls are complimentary). Nice Touch: The Peruvian aperitifs and hors d’oeuvres served in the suites at sundown.

 

Luxury Properties Suites
Four of Eight Luxury Properties Suites have private balconies.

 

The bathrooms are spacious with WCs and separate bidets behind a sliding glass partition, bathtubs and separate shower stalls. And ladies will appreciate the oodles of space for personal bottles and jars on the dark wood units around the sinks.

Concierge Cersar Oliart (coliart@casacartagena.com) arranges the butler service, airport transfers and personalized guided tours. Tip: He is the one to ask about events and shows in town and for the best shopping.

One reason to stay longer is to indulge in the Qoya Spa which has an XL Jacuzzi, a sauna and an all-glass wall looking out on the hillside bohemian district of San Blas, which, at night, becomes a twinkling crib. Spa Manager Ninet Rodriguez (nrodriguez@casacartagena.com) says relaxing massages are popular and so is the Metaphorical Massage consisting of head, hand and foot treatments.

Luxury travel advisors would do best to book at least two months ahead, but six months out is best for the Easter Holy week, Christmas, New Year’s and the June Intiraimi winter solstice festival week. Note: Keep Fido at home; pets are not welcome.

For VIP requirements, contact Boetto or Assistant General Manager Jose Carlos Canales (jcanales@casacartagena.com). They will also advise on availability if your clients want to take over the entire hotel.

Dine Time: In the mid 1900s, La Chola Restaurant was a haunt for both artists and intellectuals alike. Nobel laureate Pablo Neruda wrote some of his poetry here and Che Guevara is said to have been a patron. The Lomo saltato a la Cartagena signature dish and cui, or roast guinea pig, are two of the local favorites on Chef Darcy Rene Quispe’s fusion Peruvian-international menu. Note: Ask for one of the small tables out in the patio if you are looking for a romantic dining experience. Meals can also be arranged in the privacy of one’s suite or out on the balcony.

The homey lounge has a wood-burning stone fireplace.  Quirky Touch: The three sinks in the restroom are green, white and red, the colors of the Italian flag! For eating out, Boetto suggests the nearby Cicciolina, which specialises in tapas, Mediterranean and Peruvian Andean cuisine, and has a well-stocked wine cellar.

 

The Three-Level Qoya Spa
The Three-Level Qoya Spa has a view of the Artisan neighborhood of San Blas.