As you approach The Diplomat Resort Country Club & Spa, it seems as if you've been transported to coastal Italy. The resort looks more like a posh, Mediterranean villa than a hotel.

But this is Hallandale Beach, Fla., not the Italian Riviera. Nonetheless, the Country Club has indeed returned glamour and glitz to the old landmark Diplomat hotel. Back in its 1960s heyday, The Diplomat, located between Miami and Fort Lauderdale, was the “in” place to be and often hosted celebrities like Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. The legendary hotel was closed in the early 1990s, and then imploded in 1998 to make way for a new dual-tower hotel complex. The new Diplomat Resort will include 1,000 guest rooms and a 217,000-square-foot conference center when it opens in early 2002.

Already open is the more intimate Country Club, located around the corner from the main Diplomat hotel and worlds apart from the construction zone. It offers 60 lavish guest rooms, a 30,000-square-foot, European-style spa, a casual restaurant called The Links Grill, and The Royal Palm gourmet dining room. The spa is one of the resort's biggest attractions, with 17 treatment rooms to pamper guests. Spa goers can also relax at the private pool set amid gardens, sip herbal tea in the outdoor patios, or take a dip in the Jacuzzi.

The Country Club is surrounded by an 18-hole championship golf course, which reopened last spring after a two-year renovation by architect Joe Lee. A weight-training and cardio studio lets guests look out over the golf course as they take a kick-boxing class or pump iron. Meeting facilities at The Country Club accommodate groups of up to 100 in three breakout rooms and an 8,000-square-foot ballroom.

When the $600 million, oceanfront Diplomat Resort opens next year, it will attract much larger groups, who will still be able to take advantage of the luxurious amenities at the Country Club. The property has already booked meetings as far out as 2009 and it anticipates 70 percent of its business will be generated by groups.