On the wisteria-covered loggia of the Villa Miločer, dinner is served to the sound of waves gently slapping the beach. I ask for Njeguski prsut, a delicately flavored, air-cured Montenegrin ham that tastes just as delicious as I remember from my first visit. The ham comes with kaymak (a house-made cream cheese) from the same mountain valley and a glass of Vranac, the local red wine. Between courses I chat with headwaiter Vule Peric, one of the few senior staff to be kept on from the old days. Of all his nostalgia-tinged stories about serving Hollywood royalty (Sophia Loren; Orson Welles; Kirk Douglas; Elizabeth Taylor), the best concern former Yugoslav dictator Marshal Tito, who stayed in what is now the ground-floor library. The great man’s dogs slept in an upstairs room, and it was Peric’s job to save them the juiciest bones.
The next morning, Baratin takes me on a tour of the complex. We cross the causeway to inspect the elegantly revamped cottages and suites (the number of rooms has been cut from 124 to 50), including the Sveti Stefan Suite (where Loren once stayed), with its own black swimming pool and spectacular views over the Adriatic. Baratin points out what’s been dubbed the Piazza, where guests can gather for cocktails: the idea is to reinvent the village square. The island’s historic exteriors have been preserved, the church immaculately restored, the once unreliable plumbing modernized—I’m left in no doubt that the “pearl of the Adriatic” has regained its luster.
Aman Sveti Stefan, Sveti Stefan, Montenegro; 800/477-9180 or 382-33/420-000; amanresorts.com; doubles from $822.