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We couldn’t forgive ourselves if we didn’t begin 2012 in style. Luckily, this month’s exploring unwrapped some super new Smith hotels in Somerset, Shropshire and Naples.

First we checked into The Swan Wedmore, a pub with poise (and a darn good restaurant) in Sedgemoor, a quiet, pretty patch of Somerset. Here we discovered real ale, the best black pudding we’ve ever tasted, rooms with village views, and some inventive decorative flourishes, including cheese-strainers and framed corkscrews in place of pictures.

Next up was Shrewsbury in Shropshire and the Lion & Pheasant, a 16th-century coaching inn with candle-lit nooks, Philippe Starck Ghost chairs and a rustic restaurant. We lingered in the loft rooms admiring the beamed ceilings, enjoyed dinner in the glittering dining room, then sipped zingy Town of Flowers cocktails by the crackling fire in the bar.

The only thing worth leaving the Lion for was Romeo Hotel, in grand but gritty Naples. This bayside beauty has a covetable stash of art and antiques, Vesuvius views, a ninth-floor pool and the glossy Dogana del Sale spa: salt room, five treatment rooms, three Jacuzzis and two saunas. There’s even a virtual golf room…

Have a taste for the tropics? Check back next month: our hotel hunters are just back from CambodiaFiji and Bali, and they’ve found some very special stays…

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