Fasano Fifth Avenue isn't a hotel — it's a lifestyle.

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I first encountered Fasano when I stayed at the Hotel Fasano Rio de Janeiro during the 2016 Summer Olympics — because when planning the trip, multiple Brazilian friends told me, "It's the only place to stay in Rio."

The rooftop at Fasano Fifth Avenue
Credit: Courtesy of Fasano Fifth Avenue

Even in the city's heightened state of Olympic buzz, I could tell why. The restaurant, Fasano Al Mare, cooked up fabulous Mediterranean-style seafood and was packed from morning until midnight. Throngs of beautiful people clamored to get into the Barreto-Londra bar each night for caipirinhas and dancing. There was a spa, my room offered views over the expanse of Ipanema Beach, and the rooftop pool overlooking the Dois Irmãos mountain was one of the most stunning hotel spaces I've ever seen. The day after I checked out, allegedly, Gisele Bündchen was spotted poolside, playing guitar and enjoying the Brazilian sunshine. I mean, come on — casual Gisele sightings? As far as boutique hotels go in South America, Fasano is in a class of its own.

Exterior of Fasano Fifth Avenue
Credit: Courtesy of Fasano Fifth Avenue

So when the famed South American hotel brand announced its expansion to North America earlier this year, with the opening of Fasano Fifth Avenue, I had huge expectations for how this carioca concept would tackle Manhattan. The first thing I learned about the expansion? Just because Fasano is largely known as a hotel brand in South America doesn't mean their North American presence cultivates the same reputation. Fasano Fifth Avenue markets itself not as a hotel, but as a members-only lifestyle.

The privilege of membership, for now, is granted free of charge to friends of the brand — primarily jet-setting Fasano customers from all over the world. You simply have to know someone. Members can access Fasano's ground-floor restaurant and lounge, Barreto; use the club's gym and sauna; enjoy VIP access to top auctions and pre-sales at Christie's; capitalize on preferential reservations at Fasano Restaurant New York when it opens in 2022; and, of course, book any of the club's exclusive clubhouse suites or duplex residences.

The view from the living room at Fasano Fifth Avenue
Credit: Courtesy of Fasano Fifth Avenue

From the street, as with many buildings on this stretch of the Upper East Side, you'd never know what luxury awaits on the inside. Coco Chanel famously said that "elegance is refusal," and Fasano's nondescript exterior is an embodiment of those words. Located on a tiny block of Fifth Avenue, it doesn't have the same splashy marquee or curb appeal as its neighbors The Pierre, The Carlyle, or the Loews Regency. But for an understated door mat bearing the Fasano name, you'd hardly even know the building was there — lending to its residential, discreet ethos. It curates the "members-only" atmosphere even from the street.

The stairwell inside Fasano Fifth Avenue
Credit: Courtesy of Fasano Fifth Avenue

Fasano's two accommodation categories, clubhouse suites and duplex residences, are both deeply chic. With a blend of glossy black walls and neutral finishes, the interiors offer the kind of luxury that whispers, rather than screams. The rooms and residences are finished with Loro Piana cashmere walls, marble bathrooms with heated floors, automated Toto commodes, custom furniture hand-picked by designer Thierry Despont, and artwork from the personal collection of the founder, Rogério Fasano himself. Most of the accommodations feature extraordinary views of Central Park and walk-in closets with windows overlooking Fifth Avenue — a glimpse of decadence in which very few people get to indulge.

A dining room at Fasano Fifth Avenue
Credit: Courtesy of Fasano Fifth Avenue
A bedroom at Fasano Fifth Avenue
Credit: Courtesy of Fasano Fifth Avenue

To comply with its New York City Certificate of Occupancy, Fasano has minimum stay requirements and only offers overnight accommodation to its carefully curated member list. This is not a "hotel" per se. Even if you're in-the-know enough to procure a membership, Fasano's accommodations don't come cheap. The price for a nightly stay in a clubhouse suite allegedly hovers at $7,000 per night (a representative declined to confirm or deny, citing that "rates are only disclosed to members"), and the duplex residences are rented on a monthly basis for $100,000 (supposedly).

So, while Fasano Fifth Avenue doesn't have the come-and-go as you please, destination hotel element that made me fall for its original Brazilian locations, it's the perfect Manhattan pied-à-terre for fans (or friends, rather) of the brand. Aspiring friends of the brand can inquire about qualifying membership on their website. Just note that Gisele sightings might not be included in your nightly room rate.