Johannesburg - Montecasino was designed to replicate an old-world Tuscan hilltop village - although it’s probably a fair bit bigger. Say what you like about imitations, but this impresses in many ways.
It is a 24/7 “world at play” with buskers and entertainment around every corner. There is a real buzz and vibrancy - all protected from the elements under an enclosed arching evening sky.
As the name suggests, there is a casino area with more than 1 600 slot machines and 82 gaming tables, as well as five-star conferencing and event facilities.
The 1 830-seater Teatro at Montecasino is a world-class venue built at a cost of more than R100-million and is the largest theatre in the country. As a bit of an audiophile I recommend it purely for its sound system - the best I’ve ever heard.
There is also the more intimate Pieter Toerien Theatre, with its smaller 150-seater Studio Theatre and the 400-seater Main Theatre. Both the Teatro and Pieter Toerien host hit productions week in and week out.
Moviegoers have 15 screens to choose from in the cinema complex, including the Il Grande Theatre, the largest cinema screen in the southern hemisphere.
There are attractions such as the Magic Company family entertainment centre and the Montecasino Bird Gardens. Then there’s the huge Montecasino Piazza, complete with its musical fountain and giant screen.
You can shop till you drop with 19 retail outlets. For the hungry, there are 26 restaurants and coffee shops and 13 fast-food outlets.
One of those restaurants - Aarya in the vibrant Sunsquare Hotel on the Piazza - is run by the first MasterChef SA winner and ex-Durbanite, Deena Naidoo. Aarya’s menu reflects what MasterChef was all about - bringing people from diverse cultures together through delicious and innovative food, with a most genial host, to boot.
Punchinello’s Italian Restaurant, with its undeniable culinary flair, offers stylish dining. Chef Jade Sullaphen has garnered praise from icons like Sting, Prince Charles and Bill Clinton.
There are a number of culinary events at Punchinello’s, which include “Chefs of Distinction” as well as the legendary Sunday Lunch, with live entertainment.
The showcase, the palatial five-star Palazzo hotel, is a regular recipient of numerous accolades, including the World Travel Awards. The Palazzo was recently voted the Best Luxury Casino Hotel on the African continent in the coveted World Luxury Hotel Awards for the sixth consecutive year.
Expect welcoming and personalised service and world-class facilities, including a variety of tastefully decorated rooms that vary from the lavish 600m2 penthouse to the luxurious presidential suite, executive, deluxe and superior rooms.
The hotel has been a special place for many since it opened in 2000. Never resting on its laurels, comprehensive refurbishments have included the transformation of all rooms as well as the addition of a beautiful new restaurant and function venue called Rosa, aptly named due to its location overlooking the rose gardens, which provides an elegant venue for breakfast and afternoon teas.
The walls of the Palazzo are massive and even if Joburg collapsed down a mine shaft, I imagine the hotel would remain intact. Those walls are a beautiful light honey colour, adorned with decorative Italianate art.
The rooms are sumptuous, with all the bells and whistles you could wish for. I particularly liked the concealed tea and coffee station, with its own coffee machine, which silently glides out from the TV cabinet.
Guests can enjoy leisure time in the magnificent outdoor swimming area which offers a light menu as well as African-inspired massage treatments available at one of the four poolside gazebos.
Dining is a true culinary experience in the Medeo Restaurant, serving the flavours of the Mediterranean and carefully selected South African and international wines.