Burnt orange rectangles framed by symmetrical cream lines are the calling card of Roland Garros. The bitterly fought 2014 French Open final between Nadal and Djokovic, in which Nadal won, paled into insignificance when Djokovic married his childhood sweetheart at the Aman Sveti Resort in Montenegro. All eyes were not only on the bride but the mesmerising views of the creamy rustic outhouses and churches punctuated by; you guessed it, burnt orange roofs, the signature of the original fortified fishing islet of Sveti Stefan.
Djokovic certainly wasn’t runner up here.
The most direct method of getting to this paradise retreat is via Dubrovnik. It’s approximately two hours drive, give or take queues at border control, and as you meander along the Montenegrin coastline you begin to catch glimpses of what lies ahead. Your eyes are blessed with a mixture of crystal blue waters, pink beaches and of course the orange rooftops. This is the twinkle, in to quote F Scott Fitzgerald, ‘little Montenegro’s eye.
In the Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald described how Gatsby’s smile comprehended Montenegro’s troubled history and sympathised with the brave struggles of the Montenegrin people. This contemplation can still be recognised today.
Montenegro has developed its tourism trade a rate of knots since it fell into disrepair during the Yugoslavian war. Such a shame, given that in the 1970’s it was a Mecca for the glitterati, Sophia Loren and Elizabeth Taylor to name a few. Aman resorts came to its rescue in 2008 and have transformed this magical island into arguably more than its former glory; believe it or not this has been possible. Brad Pitt can testify to this.
As you amble across the rugged stone causeway connecting the islet to the mainland, you wonder how this reasonably small rock can manage to juggle all of the little houses without losing one of them to the sea. A little like controlling wayward children with only two hands.
Once onto the island the blissful chaos continues. The island is like a labyrinth, nooks and crannies dictate your method of navigation, feeling your way along the narrow pathways named after local herbs; sans signposts.
One method of sticking to the straight and narrow is to follow the church towers. Sveti Stefan has three, two dedicated to the saint who loaned his name to the island and one, Church of the Transfigurations. Don’t expect shelter once you reach them though, they are held firmly under lock and key by the local priest, only to be opened when the congregation descend for prayer. It is possible to get married here though, as Djokovic is testament to, however you would need to have the deep pockets of a Wimbledon champion.
There are 50 luxury island cottages, an 8 suite villa, 3 beaches, 3 pools, a melange of restaurants and the new spa complex opened in May 2014.
No two rooms are the same, as the island is a world heritage site, the refurbishment had to stay within strict guidelines, causing a bit of a headache for the designer Marylou Thomson. That said, it has not detracted from the opulence that you would expect from an Aman resort hotel.
Rooms are built from the cool thick creamy stone; white walls and leather edged rugs complement the clean lines of the room. The free standing bath tub and handmade linen slippers add to the personal touches, as does the navy beach bag and porcelain toiletry pots. All of which you can buy at the gift shop, no need to spirit these away as you reluctantly leave the luxury of your cave.
Food is of course, fish. What more could you ask for? The catch of the day is as fresh as if you had yourself taken inspiration from Robinson Crusoe, reached into the Adriatic, selected your delicacy and tossed it on a barbeque.
The resort fuses influences from the Adriatic, Mediterranean and Djokovic’s home country of Serbia. Other local specialities include sea bream baked in a salt crust and slow roast lamb.
Make sure to dine in the Piazza. Again a throwback to the islands’ history. This stunning square is the heart of the island’s village setting. It has various places to grab a bite to eat; including an enoteca, taverna and antipasti bar.
The resort’s main restaurant, Aman, serves Montenegrin cuisine as well as international. There are breathtaking seas views; you may even spot the fishing boat that caught your dinner a few hours before.
Just across the bay from Villa Miločer is the resort’s stand-alone Aman Spa. You may need a shuttle to get here, you certainly will coming back, as your relaxed legs would have trouble carrying you the little way back across the isthmus. You might just float though.
The newly opened Luceo spa is 20,000 square feet, punctuated by an indoor/outdoor pool with spectacular views and of course Aman signature treatments such as the reflexology. There are private steam/sauna rooms, ideal for newly weds like the Djokovics.
Sophia Loren wrote of Sveti Stefan –‘it is just as if I have returned to town from the most beautiful fairytale of my childhood’. If you feel the need to recapture a little of your childhood daydreams, let’s face it we could all benefit with a little of that, then venture to Aman Sveti Stefan, like Sophia, you won’t be disappointed.
Aman Sveti Stefan
Sveti Stefan 85315
tel: (382) 33 420 000
fax: (382) 33 420 222