A blend of modern and historic, casual and luxurious, the sprawling shoreline property features an array of more than 100 distinct, intimate villas, guesthouses, suites and rooms.
The property, which is situated at the mouth of the Connecticut River in the hamlet of Saybrook Point, dates back centuries, first as home to Algonquin and Pequot American Indians and later to the Dutch, who settled Saybrook Point in 1623.
A major center for international trade, the colony would grow and become a notable location. Yale University was first established there and the area would later gain fame as the home of Katharine Hepburn and notoriety as a gambling den.
Under three generations of the Tagliatela family since the 1950s, the Saybrook has evolved into one of Connecticut’s premier luxury vacation destinations, noted for its Italian cuisine, historic architecture and, most of all, its one-of-a kind accommodations.
Among the inn’s most romantic spots, particularly for lovers of the sea, is the Lighthouse, says general manager John Lombardo, who has been with the inn for more than 21 years and helped it to achieve its current AAA Four Diamond status.
While not in actual maritime use, the Lighthouse Suite features a beaming navigation light perched above a dock house in the inn’s working marina. The private accommodation boasts unobstructed views of the Long Island Sound and Connecticut River in all directions. With a living room, dining area and kitchenette, the Lighthouse offers guests a spacious 900 square feet to call their home away from home.
“My father designed it, built it and lived in it,” says Stephen Tagliatela, the innkeeper and managing partner for the Saybrook.
Tagliatela notes that the suite not only provides a unique accommodation, but also rare views of several other lighthouses along Connecticut’s coastline.
“There aren’t many places where you can stay and see four or maybe five lighthouses,” he says.
While the suite may be considered the crown jewel of the Saybrook, the inn’s historical centerpiece is Three Stories. With wraparound porches, private garden and common rooms graced by billiards and books, Three Stories invites guests to unwind and enjoy the tranquility of a completely renovated Italianate home. The property contains eight individually designed rooms, each with a private balcony, fireplace, fine linens and artwork by local artists.
Originally built in 1892 as a single-family home for engineer William Vars, the landmark guesthouse reflects the New England reverence for the past. Each guestroom tells the story of a local resident, from Katharine Martha Houghton Hepburn, the actress’ mother, a suffragist who co-founded what would become Planned Parenthood; to Anna Louise James, who was one of the first African-American woman pharmacists and ran The James Pharmacy, on the National Register of Historic Places.
The luxury and romance of the Saybrook extends beyond its rooms to a host of services and offerings, from an engagement ring slipped into a glass of Champagne for a surprise proposal to paths of rose petals leading into your room.
“We have whole chocolate strawberries, cheese platters, Champagne, wine, assortments of chocolates,” Lombardo says. “A young man called one night and he wanted strawberries with whipped cream and chocolate waiting when they arrived. When they checked in we ran that up and it was sitting in their room, waiting for them as a surprise for the young lady.”
The inn holds upwards of 100 weddings a year, he adds, and proposals are frequent occurrences. Indeed, Innkeeper Tagliatela married his wife there more than 15 years ago.
“We really wanted to get married somewhere else and we just couldn’t find anything that was going to fit what we want to do, so we ended up having it here in January,” he says. “It’s a nice time of year to get married. There is something about the winter here that is very cozy and intimate.”
When not enjoying the comfort of generously sized rooms or touring privately owned shops in the nearby downtown, lovebirds can enjoy a couple’s massage at the inn’s Sanno Spa, which promises a new kind of pampering and indulgence.
Recently renovated, Sanno now includes 11 total-service rooms and Swiss showers. In addition, an expanded spa menu as well as spa products are featured, which allow guests to create tailored visits. Services include massage therapy, facials, body wraps and scrubs, manicures and pedicures.
Rounding out the Saybrook experience is Fresh Salt, the inn’s restaurant, where guests can enjoy drinks by outdoor fireplaces or feast on a fine-dining menu featuring family recipes like Mrs. Tag’s Swordfish, one of the restaurant’s most popular dishes, Tagliatela says.
Tagliatela, whose grandparents emigrated from Italy, says there is a love of food in the family that is shared with guests.
“My grandfather started with a pushcart with fruits and vegetables and built a substantial food chain — Pegnataro’s grocery stores,” he says.
The pride of a family name attached to the inn can be felt in the service and attention to detail, which translates into an unusual experience for guests, Lombardo says:
“You get the opportunity to have the amenities of a luxury resort with the privacy, ambiance and personalized service of a small luxury inn.”