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A handout photo showing the Aman Sveti Stefan (Courtesy: Amanresorts)
A handout photo showing the Aman Sveti Stefan (Courtesy: Amanresorts)

From the desk of Rupert Wright: Aman Resorts, Rothschilds and Twitter

Focus: Money talks in peculiar ways at Sveti Stefan, a small island off the coast of Montenegro, notes Rupert Wright.

Sveti Stefan has been a place of refuge and intrigue for centuries. It's a small island just off the coast of Montenegro, where pilgrims and fishermen have lived in glorious isolation, disturbed only by the wind and the waves, for generations.

In the 1960s, Marshal Tito, who ruled the then-Yugoslavia, moved the last remaining fishermen off the island and turned it into the most glamorous holiday resort in the region, the Saint-Tropez of the Adriatic. Sophia Loren came and danced on the tables; east European potentates watched and clapped. But after the break-up of Yugoslavia the place turned to disrepair.

The holidaymakers vanished, and once again the seagulls and wind ruled supreme, until the clever people at Aman Resorts decided to take the place over.

They spent millions, with the help of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, ripping the 1960s interiors out of the old fishing cottages and turning them into something Zen.

Out is any form of decoration, no paintings or even seashells. Instead there are white walls, sometimes just bare stone walls, and wood. It's the antithesis of bling, and something resembling a monk's cell for which you are forced to pay from US$700 (Dh2,570) a night.

There is no shortage of punters, for Aman has inspired so-called "Aman Junkies" who will stay anywhere that Adrian Zecha, the Indonesian owner of the company, has touched.

Just as we were leaving, the Rothschilds were arriving. Nat Rothschild, the youngish billionaire with great Russian connections and a fine family, was celebrating both his birthday and the opening of Porto Montenegro, a former naval port that has been turned into what investors are hoping will be the Monaco of the Adriatic just down the coast.

I am often dubious about places that want to emulate somewhere else. For example, for a while I lived in Fulham in London, which was always trying to be Chelsea but never quite getting there, even if house prices climbed satisfactorily.

We left before the fireworks, so we missed Niall Ferguson, the historian, and Peter Mandelson, the former EU trade commissioner turned consultant, and all the oligarchs and businessmen.

But we did see Jacob Rothschild, the aged patriarch of the clan, tottering over the causeway that separates the island from the mainland. He was tall and lean and wearing a belt that spelled out "JACOB" in bright silver, just in case anybody else there failed to realise who he was. They say money talks, but at Sveti Stefan it either spells it out in capital letters, or it whispers.


News of the death of Twitter has been much exaggerated. Apparently the micro-blogging site is struggling to capitalise on its popularity financially, with some of its founders, including Biz Stone, leaving the company. The latest to "Twit-out" from using it is Harry Eyres, the cerebral columnist who shares a spot on the back pages of the Financial Times on Saturday with the dreary Tyler Brule, who is always complaining about luggage with wheels or the size of his hotel room.

Mr Eyres is more entertaining, but I am rather surprised that he failed to get Twitter. I suspect he was hoping for something that combined the poetry of Japanese haiku with the wit of Oscar Wilde. There's no doubt there's a lot of nonsense on Twitter, but as a news source it is second to none. You get the story as soon as it happens, plus assorted witticisms, comment and opinion. Rupert Murdoch may have closed down the News of the World, but he continues to amuse and entertain us on a regular basis.

You can follow me at Twitter.com/rupertus

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