Combining class and sophistication and also Swahili with Italian, Malindi is, for many, the pick of Kenya’s resort towns.

Italian chic is in evidence almost everywhere in Malindi, from its smart and inviting ristoranti and trattorie to coffee shops where the morning cappuccinos and espressos are always perfectly made to shops selling dazzlingly priced homeware.

Italian connections Maintaining its Italian connection, Malindi moved up another level in 2013 with the opening of flamboyant Flavio Briatore’s much heralded Billionaire’s Resort, a project covered in the very first edition of ’540’ magazine. Briatore was already owner of the fabulous Lion in the Sun property.

Luckily, Malindi still retains close links with its Swahili heritage and is a good place to buy, for example, basketware, kikoys and sandals.

WHAT TO SEE

Malindi is a ‘doing’ destination, with fabulous beaches and a marine park, rather than a place with lots of visitors sights.

The Vasco da Gama Pillar: Perhaps the town’s most widely recognised landmark. Portuguese explorer da Gama originally tried to land in Mombasa, but this spot in Malindi is where he actually came ashore in 1498. There is also a church dating from around this time.

Malindi Museum: Open each day from 9 am to 4 pm.

Ruins of Gede: Just outside Malindi, but worth a visit. Gede was a medieval village that thrived until the 17th century but has long since been abandoned.

WHERE TO STAY

Ocean Beach Resort and Spa: Newish beachfront property.

Nice rooms and wonderful Italian cuisine. The resort’s spa gets top marks.

Driftwood Beach Club: Simple rooms, friendly atmosphere and a devoted following by both Kenyan and foreign tourists.

Che Shale: The ultimate in chic with an unusual but interesting design. Rustic beachside charm with spot-on seafood.

Kilili Baharini: Top-drawer Italian-style property in a delightful beach setting. The spa takes some beating.

WHERE TO EAT IN MALINDI

The Old Man and the Sea: Although it doesn’t look too promising from the outside, this restaurant is justly famed for its seafood, especially lobsters, which are cooked alfresco in a variety of styles. Nice atmosphere. Minimalist decor. Number one rated on TripAdvisor.

La Rosada: Excellent Italian cuisine, but on the pricey side. Nice setting by the beach, though.

Driftwood Beach Club: Good and consistent food at reasonable prices in unpretentious surroundings.

Jahazi Bar & Restaurant: Made from dhow wood. An excellent location. Informal. Also serves good coffee.

I Love Pizza: As the name says, perfect pizza.